How to Remove Scratches From a Car at Home (A DIY Guide)

Nothing is more disappointing than walking towards your car and finding a long streak of lines across its body. The reasons are many — it may be due to your negligent driving, or you were simply the victim of a stray shopping cart.

Even when you leave your car in the parking lot, it is never totally safe. You could simply be a victim of some neighbor kids who enjoy keying cars for fun or it could be a falling tree branch causing scratch marks.

In any case, having your car scratched is a serious issue. Your very first thought is, “How much is it going to cost me?

You are probably worried that it might cost you a few thousand dollars to fix the deep scratches in your paint. That’s true!

But you don’t have to pay that much. I was in the same situation once, and I managed to fix it without spending hundreds of dollars. How? I bought some supplies and tools, and it did the trick for me. My car was looking almost new again.

So if you are experiencing the car scratch for the first time and don’t want to pay a visit to your mechanic, I can help. In this article, I will guide you step-by-step on how to fix a car scratch by yourself.

Before we proceed any further, it is important to know about different types of scratches so that you can easily deal with them.

A guide to removing scratches from a car at home.

Types of Scratches

Basically, there are three types of car scratches, depending on the severity of the damages caused. They can lower your car’s value and, in some cases, promote corrosion if the metal part is exposed. That’s why you should get it fixed immediately.

Clear Coat Scratches

Clear coat scratches are light surface scratches. They only affect the clear coat layer, which lies on top of the paint job and is the very top layer of your car’s body. Clear coat protects the paint job from numerous weather elements such as hail, snow, rain, sunshine, and others. If it is a clear coat scratches, you can breathe a sigh of relief as it means that your car paint is still protected and these are the easiest to fix.

You should fix your clear coat scratches before the paint is exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Primer Scratches

Primer is another layer just beneath the clear coat, which protects the car’s paint. At this point, it may look like the scratch has damaged the look and color of the paint job, but it is just the primer’s color that is coming through. So you don’t have to worry. The body of your car is still protected from rust. In order to fix the scratch, you will need some supplies which we will discuss in the article later.

Paint Scratches

Paint scratches are the most severe ones. They penetrate the clear coat, primer, and paint, leaving the metal part exposed. To fix such types of scratches, you will have to do some painting. If left sitting for a long time, rust may begin to form. These are typically caused due to vehicle collisions or when the paint is scratched hard enough with objects like keys and stones.

Now that you know the different types of damages, let’s talk about how you can fix them yourself without having to spend a fortune at an auto repair shop.

Supplies You Will Need to Fix the Scratches

Before you sit down to work on your car scratch, make sure that you have all the essentials required. Otherwise, a missing item can cause inconvenience in the middle of the cleanup.

Here is a complete list of things you will need:

  • Cloth — Always get a soft and clean microfiber cloth.
  • Toothpaste/Shoe polish — In case it is only a light surface scratch, you might need toothpaste for a quick fix. Alternatively, you can also use shoe polish.
  • Masking tape — Get a quality duct tape that will not cause any further damage to the original paint while being removed.
  • Sandpaper — You might need different types of grain paper, depending on the depth of the scratch. It is usually between 1500–3000 grit, and it is better to have two types with different coarseness.
  • Primer — You need a primer if the cut has penetrated the second and third layer of the car paint job.
  • Paint — It is really important that you get the paint that perfectly matches your car’s original color. You will find thousands of shades on the market so choose carefully. If you want a more natural look, I recommend using spray paint. Other than that, you can also use a paint bottle and apply it using a touch-pen.
  • Clear Coat — Buy a clear coat spray can for an extra layer of protection. Sprays are easy to apply.
  • Brush — The brush should have a fine tip so that it can be easily applied on small touch-ups too.
  • Polish and wax — Get a high-quality wax for perfect shine and durability.

A Guide to Removing Scratches From Your Car at Home

1. Addressing Your Car Scratch

The first step is identifying the severity of the damage caused. For that, you will need to wash the affected area of your car to get rid of the dirt. It will not only help uncover additional scratched areas, but it will also ensure that the dirt doesn’t make the damage look worse than it really is.

Once done, use a clean microfiber cloth to dry it. Feel the scratch with your fingernail. If your fingernail gets caught on the edges of the scratch, it means it has passed the clear coat and reached into the paint. But if the scratch feels relatively smooth, that’s good news — it is a light scuff mark and you don’t have to go the extra mile to fix it. For deep scratches, you will need to take care of the prime and paint job to fix it. Let’s discuss both in details.

2. In Case of a Surface Scratch

You can easily fix a surface scratch using toothpaste.

Step 1: Apply a Quarter-Sized Amount of Toothpaste

Get a microfiber towel that is soft and clean, so that you don’t further damage the scratch. Wet the towel enough so that it is damp and then put a quarter-sized amount of toothpaste on it. Make sure that the amount you take is able to cover the scratches.

Usually, whitening toothpaste is preferred, but you can use any toothpaste you have at home.

Step 2: Rub It into the Affected Area

Once the cloth is ready, start rubbing it evenly onto the scratched area. Do it in a circular motion while applying steady pressure. Make sure that you have covered every portion of the affected spot.

Step 3: Rinse It off and Dry It Using a Clean Cloth

After rubbing it off, wash the area properly to remove the toothpaste and dry it with another clean microfiber towel.

Check the area and if you can still see the scratches, repeat the entire process.

Alternatively, you can use shoe polish to remove the surface scratches. You don’t need to have a color match. You can use white polish for dark surfaces and a dark polish on a red finish.

3. Using a Shoe Polish to Remove a Car Scratch

Step 1: Rubbing the Shoe Polish Over the Scratch

After washing and drying the scratch, rub the shoe polish all over the scratch. It will spread and even out the scratch marks. It will easy to remove the lines this way.

Step 2: Sand the Scratch

After that, use 2000 grit sandpaper to sand it over. Soak the sandpaper in water and sand it over until the polish disappears. Don’t apply too much pressure.  

Step 3: Wash and Dry It

After sanding, wash it off and use a clean and soft microfiber cloth to dry it. If you still see any marks or scratches, repeat the whole process again.

Step 4: Wax the Affected Area

The final step is to apply wax on the impacted area. And then rub the area with a soft microfiber cloth, or you can also use a buffer pad until your car’s surface looks shiny.

4. In Case of Deep Scratches

If you are unlucky enough to get stuck with deep scratches, here’s what you need to do.

Step 1: Taping the Scratch

You will need painter’s tape to outline the area that surrounds the scratches. It is to make sure that you do not damage any original paint while sanding.

Take the painter’s tape and carefully tape the outline of the scratch so that nothing but the scratch is visible. If you ask me, I would begin by doing the bottom of the scratch first and then go up to the top. You should take your time doing that. If you cover the scratch part, it will not get painted and all that work will go to waste. And if you leave an area uncovered, then an extra layer of paint on it will only make your car look bad.

Consider yourself lucky if you have a perfectly straight line of scratch; otherwise, it will take a whole lot of time to cover a wider area. You can also use a newspaper for covering if you don’t want to get new paint anywhere else on your vehicle.

Step 2: Using the Scratch Remover

You will need sandpaper to remove the scratches. If it is a clear coat scratch, you can use 2000–3000 grit sandpaper. Begin by wetting the sandpaper and then sanding over the scratches until they are barely visible. To make it easier for you, try keeping the sandpaper flat with two fingers and then rub it in a circular motion. Apply gentle pressure.

Don’t try to rush it — do about 1 inch at a time. In fact, before you move to the next spot, give the area enough time to cool down.

If the cut has reached into the primer or paint area, start with 1500 grit sandpaper. Once you feel the cut is even, clean the area and start over again, this time with 3000 grit sandpaper. Continue sanding in a circular motion until the surface is even.

Depending on the depth of the scratch, it may take some time.

Step 3: Applying the Primer

If you are dealing with a deep scratch, then you will probably need a primer. Most manufacturers advise applying at least two–three coats of primer within 10 minutes of each other. You should give each coat enough time to dry completely.

Also, you don’t want your coat to be too thick. Keep it thin and even while going a bit thicker for the last coat.

Step 4: Applying the Paint

Once you are done applying the primer, the next thing you need to do is apply the touch-up paint. You can either opt for pens and dropper-sized bottle with brush included, or you can go for spray paint.

Whatever you decide to use, make sure you apply even layers.

If you are using spray paint, the best way is to hold the can 5 to 7 inches away from the damaged surface and spray it. Don’t worry if your first coat hasn’t covered the entire scratched area. You can repeat the process until the layers are even. However, make sure that you give each coat enough time to dry before you begin with the next.

Moreover, it is really important that you get the exact color of the paint as your car. Otherwise, the whole thing is going to look like a mess. There are thousands of shades for a single color available on the market. Be careful when choosing.

Step 5: Applying the Clear Coat

After applying the touch-up paint, it is time to apply the clear-coat for some extra protection. The rules are the same as for the touch-up. However, you should always check for instructions in regards to how quickly you should apply the coats. Every product is different.

Once you feel the layers are all even, then carefully and slowly start pulling the tape off. At this point, you might not be happy with your work. It might create a raised bump but trust me — you have nothing to worry about. After polishing it out, it will look new again, and this brings us to our next step.

Step 6: Applying Polish and Wax

So this is the final step. After applying the clear coat, grab the polish and apply it to the scratch. Work on small areas at a time — you can either use a buffer or you can do it hand. Always make sure to follow the instructions given on the polish bottle. You can apply two coats of polish.

If it is only a surface scratch, you can move on to polishing right after sanding the scratch. In case of deep scratches, you will have to follow every single step to get to the finish line.

After polishing, wax the affected area the same way you applied the polish. If you want a great shine, opt for high-quality wax with long durability. Allow it to dry and wipe it with your microfiber cloth.

That’s it. You can now take a step back and enjoy your hard work. You no longer have any cuts or marks on your car.

Final Thoughts

Before you begin fixing those scratches on your car, always remember that it is not a job for the impatient. If you want a perfectly looking car once again, go slow and complete each step neatly.

With the right tools and supplies, it can certainly be done. The first step to dealing with the car scratch is knowing the different types of scratches and then working on how to remove it.

Also, what really concerns me is that most of you don’t feel the need to immediately remove the scratches, especially if they seem to be just scuffs. I don’t blame you; it feels like a lot of work. But a cut, no matter how light it is, can really affect the overall look of the car. Not only that, but it comes with other disadvantages too. Here are a few benefits of fixing your car scratches:

  • It Protects Your Car from Environmental Elements

The paint layers are to protect your vehicle from environmental elements like dirt, snow, rain, and other weather conditions. If these layers are compromised, the metal part is exposed. If it is left unattended, it can cause the metal to rust.

  • It Helps Preserve the Value of Your Car

If you are planning to sell your car in the future, you should definitely get it fixed to get a good value. Even a slightly visible scratch mark scratch can affect the selling price and bring down the sale value. That’s why you should consider spending a few dollars to remove the car scratch.

  • It Keeps Your Car Secured at All Times

If the scratches were caused by an accident or collision, it’s quite possible that more serious damage is hidden underneath. Removing car scratches will help you uncover any further issues with the car so that it can be fixed immediately, ensuring the stability of the car while on the road.

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