How To Remove Scratches (Easy 11-Step Guide)

Wondering how to remove scratches on your car? Don't worry, we've got you covered!

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • How to evaluate scratches to see if you can repair them
  • Price ranges for scratch repair
  • Supplies you'll need for scratch repair

And much more!

How to Remove Scratches

One universal truth about owning a vehicle is that at one point in time or another, it will get scratched. 

We have all been there. You exit the grocery store and walk to the parking lot, only to be greeted by a new scratch on the exterior of your car, that did not exist 15 minutes ago when you arrived. 

This aggravating situation presents us with a total of three options going forward; live with the scratch, take the car to a body shop for professional repair, or take matters into our own hands and give DIY scratch repair a try.

Unless staring at your vehicle’s newly acquired scratch seems doable, further action, in one form or another, will be required.

So, if you want to figure out how to remove those scratches, keep reading to learn our step-by-step process!

Should You Seek Professional Repair Or Attempt DIY Scratch Repair?

When deciding whether to take your vehicle to a body shop or to repair a scratch yourself, most individuals will base their decision upon two factors.

  • How extensive is the scratch?
  • How comfortable am I in attempting this repair?

As a general rule, the deeper a scratch is, the more involved the repair will be. The depth and complexity of the repair itself, generally influences whether or not most individuals are comfortable with going the process alone.

This makes it quite valuable to know the different stages of scratches and what they mean to those tasked with repairing them. There are three types of scratches:

Clear Coat Scratches 

These are the most minor of scratches, and also the easiest to repair. These shallow scratches do not extend through the paint’s clear coat sealer, and generally only require buffing with fine abrasive to even out the imperfection.

Paint Scratches 

These scratches penetrate completely through a vehicle’s clear coat layer, and damage the actual base coat of paint itself. Damage to this extent will require both clear coat and paint surfaces to be sanded with sandpaper to smooth the damaged section. Both paint and clear coat will then be reapplied.

Primer Scratches

These are deep scratches that have removed clear coat, paint, and primer, exposing the bare metal beneath. Repairs of this nature require all three layers to be sanded to prep the area. Taping off of the area is then required, followed by the reapplication of all three layers of paint and sealer.

Read More >> How to Clean a Spark Plug

Did you know: Depending on the severity of the scratch, a car's resale value will generally only decrease by a few hundred dollars due to scratches.

What Are The Price Ranges For DIY Scratch Repair?

The amount of money that you will spend on repairing a scratch directly correlates to how deep the scratch being repaired is. The deeper a scratch, the more prep work is needed, and the more supplies will be consumed. In any event, the cost involved with repairing a scratch is seldom very extensive.

Low-End: $30-$40

Average Cost: $35-$50

High-End Cost: S40-$60

Supplies Needed For DIY Scratch Repair:

  • Painter’s Tape
  • Assortment Of Fine Sandpaper (500-3000 grit)
  • Paint Safe Soap
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Paper Towel
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Filler Putty
  • Rubbing Compound
  • Toothpaste (for minor scratches)
  • Touch Up Primer
  • Touch Up Paint (matching your vehicle’s paint code)
  • Touch Up Clear Coat
  • Swirl Remover
  • Car Wax

What Are The Prices Of Professional Scratch Repair?

If you do not feel comfortable repairing your vehicle’s scratch, or simply do not have time, that is completely understandable.

However, by performing DIY scratch repair at home, you can save yourself a substantial amount of money in the long run. Just how much will depend on the depth of the scratch, but in any event, savings will be substantial, because you will be avoiding costly shop labor fees.

The following are average prices that you can expect to pay when having a scratch on a single vehicle panel professionally repaired.

Low-End Cost: $120-$140

Average Cost: $200-$250

High-End Cost: $300-$500

Steps For DIY Scratch Repair

The following are the steps for repairing a scratch to your vehicle’s paint. These steps may vary in your specific case, as no two scratches are the same. 

  1. Wash The Area
  2. Assess The Damage
  3. Wipe Area With Rubbing Alcohol
  4. Use Rubbing Compound If Minor
  5. Tape Off Area If It's A Deep Scratch
  6. Sand Surface
  7. Prime Surface
  8. Wet Sand
  9. Apply Paint
  10. Clear Coat
  11. Buff

Step 1 - Wash The Area

Before any repair process can begin, you must clean the affected area to get a better idea of the situation at hand. This can easily be accomplished with the use of an automotive soap or wash, and a clean towel, such as of the microfiber variety.

Step 2 - Assess The Damage

You must now assess the damage to see how minor or severe it is. This will directly dictate how you move forward. Discern which of the above-mentioned scratch levels you are dealing with.

Step 3 - Wipe Area With Rubbing Alcohol

Wipe the area clean of any soap or wax residue with the use of rubbing alcohol and a paper towel or clean cloth.

Step 4 - Use Rubbing Compound If Minor

If the scratch in question does not penetrate through the vehicle’s clear coat and will not catch a fingernail when rubbed across it, a rubbing compound or scratch remover can be used to remove much of the damage.

These compounds can be purchased at any auto parts store, and be rubbed into the affected area in a circular motion.

Alternatively, many individuals have used excess toothpaste or baking soda to remove light scratches, to much success.

Step 5 - Tape Off Area If For Deep Scratch

If the scratch is found to be deep, penetrating through the base coat or primer, further work is needed. You will now use painter’s tape to tape off the area as close to the scratch as possible.

Step 6 - Sand Surface

A deep scratch requires the sanding and repainting of the surface. You will use 500 grit sandpaper to scuff only the affected area.

When doing so, attempt to feather the edges of the scratch, creating a smooth transition between paint zones. If a gouge exists, it might be necessary to use filler putty to manage the void.

Step 7 - Prime Surface

The surface you have prepared must now be sprayed with primer. This can be done with an aerosol style spray primer. Apply a thin even coat and allow to stand for 1-2 hours. If an additional coat is needed, repeat this step once more.

Step 8 - Wet Sand

You will now wet sand the area until smooth. You will use finer grit sandpaper than that used in step #6. When finished, the primered area should present a glass smooth texture throughout.

Step 9 - Apply Paint

Paint can now be applied in a similar manner as you previously applied primer. Lightly spray the area with color code matched aerosol paint.

Next, allow your new coat of paint to dry thoroughly. If needed, apply a second coat of paint similarly.

Step 10 - Clear Coat

To seal in the newly applied paint, and give the surface a remarkable glossy look, spray the treated segment with a thin layer of clear coat. You will now leave the sealed surface undisturbed until it has completely dried.

Step 11 - Buff

After the surface has been allowed to dry in its entirety, it can be thoroughly buffed with the use of a polishing compound. Continue buffing until your repair blends seamlessly with the rest of your car’s paint and no visible surface scratches remain.

Read More >> Best Car Paint Protection

Scratch Repair Made Easy

Although dealing with a scratch to your vehicle’s paint is indeed aggravating, those that are in the know can equip themselves to address the situation, and restore their vehicle to its previous splendor.

Not only does DIY scratch repair save you a substantial amount of money over choosing professional repair, but the satisfaction gained over a job well done is worth every second spent to obtain it.

Here's more information on removing scratches.

About Your Mechanic

About Josh Boyd

I’ve been an ASE Certified automotive/heavy equipment technician since 2010. I began my career performing basic automotive maintenance at a service center before working as a Toyota technician at my local dealership.

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