Car Paint Scratch Repair
Tips for better results!

Like it or not but car paint scratch repair will come knocking on your door eventually! Life is a jungle and people suck wherever you go!

Yeah I said it!

Ask anyone who has ever gotten a door ding while parked at the market or mall on their brand new ride.

The reality is that door dings, scrapes, scratches, and miscellaneous damages to your car are just a matter of time; nobody is immune. My experience in the world of professional auto detailing has taught me that most people do not realize the options available today; many of which were unavailable just a short time ago.

Even the most basic of car paint care can be an overwhelming and scary task to many inexperienced people. With so many choices and conflicting opinions, often people choose to simply do nothing. Even a starting point can be difficult, never mind a viable solution to the many forms of paint damage that we can be faced with as car owners.

Not All Scratches Created Equal

As the saying goes, "Not all scratches are created equal". When it comes down to it; no two scratches are created equal, just as no two paint chips are created equal.

car paint scratch repair

This single scratch to the right represents a common problem to many car owners, and represents a scratch with different levels of depth. This means that one single solution may not be the remedy for this particular car paint scratch repair. Most people automatically assume that reaching for some car touch up paint is always the solution to paint scratches in your car. We will examine the options available for the "Do-it-Yourself" strategy.

Car Touch-up Paint

car paint touch up paint

I will start here since this is the most obvious to people and represents one of the easiest forms of car paint scratch repair. These types of touch-up car paint applications can be purchased at the dealership of the make of your car. Generic forms of this paint can also be purchased at retail car care outlets, like Pep Boys for example.

  • A rather quick and easy solution to paint scratches of substantial damage.
  • Use for the deep scratches where there is actual room for the paint to be laid into.
  • Also a solution for rock chips frequently found on the leading edges of car.
  • This form of car paint touch-up can be problematic due to inconsistency of the paint in the applicators; often the paint will either be too thin and runny, or too thick and sticky.
  • Vertical panels will be more difficult as the paint will run due to the effects of gravity.
  • Finger nail polish does a pinch.
  • Permanent markers can also work in a greater pinch.

Car Paint Scratch Removers

These types of products can be as simple as finding a polish with abrasives, to kits designed to do what is called wet sanding. The wet sanding kits are the most aggressive form of car paint scratch repair. Kits come complete with the necessary items for sanding and polishing away scratches. Since every scratch is unique, some car paint scratches can be removed completely by sanding and polishing, while some scratches can merely be diminished or camouflaged.

The graph to the right illustrates the cut-away of the different layers in regards to car paint. As a rule, any car built since 1990 will have a 2-stage paint job; color coat followed with a clear top coat. (white cars built during this time are about the only exception and may be what is called single stage paint; no clear coat) Clear coat as a rule will range from 3-5 mils in thickness. (This is thinner than a Sticky Note for some context)

When scratches are thinner than the clear coat itself, the scratch can be sanded away using a technique called wet sanding to first remove the, then the sanding marks are then polished away using compounds and aggressive polishes, then finished using fine grade polish.

The area is then finished with a layer of what you would consider to be your choice as the best car wax. Most experts follow what is called the fingernail test; if you can catch the edge of the car paint scratch with your fingernail, then most likely it is too deep for complete removal; at this point, diminishing the scratch is all that is possible.

Even as a professional with decades of experience, I never know exactly what is possible until I am there dealing with it. Like I said a the beginning, every car paint scratch repair is truly unique and must be dealt with on a case by case judgement call.

Darren's Recommendations

One of the best tips I can offer people when it comes to attempting to remove or fix car paint scratches of any kind is to keep a realistic perspective about the limitations of the moment.

The ultimate fix would be to visit your local body shop and get an estimate that will likely send you running the opposite direction. Once a person realizes how expensive paint and body can get, the idea of a fix that is less then perfect sounds rather appealing!

And the choices I have listed below offer just that...a cost effective alternative to the cost and expense of traditional paint and body.

Professional Grade Car Paint Scratch Repair

Turtle Wax: Premium Scratch Repair Kit

Turtle Wax T-234KT Premium Grade Scratch Repair Kit

  • Blends a basic, DIY car paint scratch repair kit with professional level "tools" that other basic kits do not include.
  • Comes with 4 levels of sanding discs to perform what is called wet sanding.
  • Comes with rubbing compound to remove sanding marks after you have sanded areas of damage.
  • Comes with clear coat pen to fill in deeper scratches that cannot be sanded away, but have not gone all the way through to bare metal.
  • Ideal as no power tools are required for truly professional results.

Langka Paint Chip Repair Kit: Use with factory touch-up paint

LANGKA Complete Paint Chip Repair Kit

  • This kit is meant to be used in conjunction with OE touch-up paint from the dealership.
  • Enables you to get better results from OE paint applicators that often look more like colored bird droppings than actual car paint chip or scratch repairs.

3M Scratch Removal: For use with common drill motor

3M 39071 Scratch Removal System

  • Trusted name in car polishes and compounds.
  • Sanding discs and polish pads attach to any typical household drill motor.
  • Same concept as the Langka kit above, except that you get the added benefit of drill motor attachments.

3M Scratch Remover: For use by hand

3M 39044 Scratch Remover - 8 oz.

  • Very mild form of abrasive polish.
  • Not recommended for any scratch you can catch your finger nail with; would not be aggressive enough.
  • Convenient to have around for use on the endless superficial scratches your car naturally accumulates (like the light scratches under and around door handles, bumpers, etc.)

Car Paint Scratch Repair Summary

At this point you should have more than enough information to make an informed decision in dealing with the type of car paint scratch repair or chip repair on your car. Just remember, not all scratches are created equal and even professionals like myself can't remove every scratch; it truly is a case by case and any of these kits can deliver excellent results.

You can help me by paying it forward and sharing this information to your favorite social media site and let others learn from the information I have spent much time compiling.


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