Finding out that your car is in need of some car scratch repair is never fun. A car is a big investment, so it should be kept in good condition to reflect its value. If you’ve found a scratch on your prized vehicle, these steps may be able to help you remove it without resorting to the expense of a body shop.
Step 1: Assess the Scratch
In some cases a perceived scratch may not be a scratch at all, but only a mark of raised material. You can test this by scraping your fingernail against the mark or scratch perpendicular to its direction. If it can be scraped off, it’s simply a mark and may be removed with a polishing cloth. If it is in fact a scratch, determine how deep it goes. There are four layers to the exterior of a car: First the clear top coat which gives the paint its glossy finish, then the color, primer and steel body of the vehicle. If a scratch does not penetrate to the primer layer, it’s possible to sand it out. If it does, don’t try the following sanding method, but instead skip to step 6.
Step 2: Prepare
In order to sand out a scratch, you’ll first need to prepare your vehicle by gently washing and drying the scratched area. You will also need shoe polish with a color that can be easily seen against your vehicle’s paint, ultra fine sandpaper (somewhere between 2000- and 3000-grit) which can be used wet or dry, a bowl of cold water with a few drops of liquid detergent in it, and a buffer and rubbing compound. Fill the scratch with the shoe polish, as this will help you ensure you don’t sand too deep. Dip the sandpaper in the cold detergent water, which will help it to sand more smoothly.
Step 3: Sand
Gently, with short strokes, sand the scratch with alternating 60-degree angles. Every few strokes rinse the sandpaper in the cold water and assess your work, as over sanding may cause damage that will require a body shop to repair. Continue slowly and carefully sanding until the shoe polish mark has disappeared. Use a soft cloth to dry the area and see if the scratch has disappeared. If not, re-fill it with polish and repeat this step.
Step 4: Buff
Once the scratch has disappeared, you can polish up the area with a buffer and rubbing compound. Don’t buff too long or hard as you’re only trying to remove the evidence of the sanding, not wear the paint down.
Step 5: Finish
If the scratch went through to the paint level, you will need to spray a new patch of clear coat over the area. If not, simply protect the area with some car wax.
Step 6: If You Can’t Sand It?
If the scratch gouged to the primer level or deeper, you will have to take your car to a body shop to have the panel repainted. The Internet or phone book can help you find reputable body shops in your area.