Scratches seem to land on our cars like moths come to a flame. Whether someone grazes it with a shopping cart at the grocery store or nicks it with a car door in a parking lot, you have a few options to remove the scratches.
The depth of the scratch will largely determine what method you choose, so starting with the most shallow scratch removal, here are some DIY solutions to buff out scratches on your car.
The toothpaste method for surface scratches
First, run your finger over the scratch on your car to see how deep it is. If your fingernail doesn’t catch on it, then it’s likely just a surface scratch that you may be able to get out with toothpaste. Otherwise, the scratch is probably deep enough that you’ll need to use a professional scratch removal product at the very least.
Clean the area thoroughly with soap and water and dry it off completely. Next, apply a quarter-sized dollop of toothpaste to a dampened microfiber towel. Whitening toothpaste tends to be the most effective.
Begin rubbing the toothpaste on the scratched surface in a circular motion until the toothpaste covers the area. Apply a little pressure, but not too much. You don’t want to damage the clear coat of the car’s paint.
Once you’ve buffed out the scratch, rinse the area thoroughly with your hose or a wet microfiber towel. If the scratch is already gone, then you’ve successfully buffed it out. If it’s still visible, you might need to repeat this process one or two more times.
Don’t exceed three total applications as this could damage the paint coat.
Professional scratch removal product for deeper scratches
Initialize the process by rinsing the scratched area thoroughly. If there’s any debris surrounding the scratch, leaving it on when you buff could cause more scratches.
Purchase a scratch removal kit from a hardware or auto store, and if you need help choosing the right product, ask a store associate and describe (or show pictures) of your scratch.
Follow the instructions on the product with regards to how much to apply, and make sure it’s evenly distributed on your buffing pad or microfiber cloth.
In a circular motion, work the product into the scratched area. Apply light to medium pressure.
After buffing the area, wipe away any excess product with a clean microfiber cloth. The product you use might have specific instructions for how to remove the excess, and in that case, follow them.
You might need to reapply the scratch removal product 2-3 more times in order to fully remove the scratch, but use your discernment when evaluating the surface.
Painting for the deepest scratches
The deepest scratches will require some more attention, and you likely won’t be able to simply buff them out with toothpaste or a scratch removal product.
In these cases, you’ll need to once again rinse the affected area thoroughly so it’s clean and dry.
Now, here’s where the process will vary from other methods. You’ll need to lightly sand the scratched area with a 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper (used on a sanding pad). Evaluate the area after every 10-15 seconds of sanding to see if you need to keep sanding.
Make sure to sand in the direction of the scratch so that you don’t create opposing scratches, and rinse the area throughout the process so you can better check your progress. For especially deep scratches, you might need to use grittier sandpaper to start before working to a finer grit like the 2000. Keep the scratched area free of debris while sanding or this could cause further scratching.
Once you’ve completely sanded out the scratch, rinse the area with water and a microfiber towel.
Now, you’ll need to apply a sandable primer to the previously scratched surface. Choose a primer as close to your car’s paint color as possible.
Spray multiple coats of the primer onto the affected area that you’ve just sanded. Spray in an even, back and forth motion to keep the paint application consistent.
After waiting 5-10 minutes for the primer to dry, spray on another layer. Repeat until you’ve done this 3 times in total.
Once the primer has dried, you’ll effectively repeat the process with a spray paint. Apply 3 times, waiting 5-10 minutes between coats.
Carefully select the paint that matches your car best, and if possible, check with your car’s manufacturer so you can get the exact same shade. If it’s a relatively common color, you might be able to get it from your local auto supply store. Otherwise, it might need to be special ordered from your vehicle’s manufacturer.
Now that the scratch has been removed and the surface has been repainted, you’ll need to wax the area so that the paint is sealed. Use a high-quality carnauba wax on the affected area and buff it with a microfiber cloth.
Your local hardware or auto store will sell wax kits with everything you need, and it will come with exact application instructions. The process will be familiar as you’ll use roughly a quarter-size amount of wax, apply in a circular motion with medium pressure, and distribute until the surface of the car looks shiny.
Voila! You have a scratchless car
Whether your scratch is shallow or deep, you now know how to get rid of scratches on a car. Use the method that suits your specific needs, and if you ultimately decide it’s beyond your expertise, seek professional help.