How to Remove Scratches from Your Car’s Paint

Few things are as annoying as getting back to your car in the parking lot to find that someone has dinged their door against yours, leaving a paint scratch on the car, or let a shopping cart scrape the bumper of your beloved car. We’ve probably all experienced this and wondered about various ways to remove scratches from your car.

There are many causes of paint scratches on your car, Some damage can be sorted out at home, while others will require professional attention that a DIY scratch repair may even worsen. In this article, we’ll discuss how to sort them out.

An easy way to tell how severe a scratch is is with the nail test. If your fingernail can “grab” or get “stuck” in a scratch, it is classified as a deep scratch. These cannot be removed with buffing and polishing. If you can’t feel the scratch with your fingernail, then the scratch is light enough to be corrected. However, the depth of the paint can play a role, since polishing is literally the removal of a layer of surface paint. Thus, if there is too little paint remaining and you try to remove the scratch anyway, you could go down to bare metal or otherwise compromise the integrity of your paint finish. If there is plenty of paint, wet sanding can be resorted to instead of spraying.


protective clothing

filtered mask


Car Shampoo

Polisher and Pads

Various Polishing Compounds


Primer and Paint

Surface Scratches on Your Car


  1. Preparation

The first and most important part of correcting lightly scratched paint is to clean and prepare the paint. Carry out a thorough wash and dry of the affected surface.

  1. Cutting

The first step in the process, commonly referred to as polishing, is actually cutting. This is where you’ll use your polisher with its most aggressive, softest pad and the most abrasive compound.

  1. Buffing and Polishing

This may seem like the final part of the process, but you’re far from done at this point. Once the cutting process has removed the “valley” of the scratch, you need to equalize the paint surface. Buffing and polishing the paint with a less aggressive pad and compound combo now reveals the fresh paint beneath the surface that you have just cut away. Now you can begin to polish up the paint on your way to a clear finish. This part of the process also helps with swirls and imperfections that the cutting phase has not sorted out or that the cutting process itself has caused.


How to Remove a Deep Scratch

  1. Preparation

As with polishing light scratches away, you need to clean the surface that is affected by the large scratch(es) and surrounding areas to avoid issues post-painting. Rubbing alcohol on the car paint is helpful here too.

  1. Sanding

Depending on the severity of the scratch, some medium-depth scratches can be removed by wet-sanding. This process involves keeping the sandpaper and paint surface wet to avoid causing more damage. However, you will need to be very careful to avoid any damage at all, and this is not something that we would recommend carrying out on a car that you’re very fond of unless you have past experience. Sanding is also important for smoothing the surface before painting.

  1. Masking

This is very important. Before any paint or primer can be applied, it is important to avoid allowing wind, rain, or sunlight anywhere near the car. Once the car is sufficiently insulated, you need to ensure that you don’t get any unwanted overspray, so mask off windows, rubber, wheels, tires, and panels that you won’t be painting.

  1. Primer

Once the surface is flat (and if necessary, filled with body putty), it’s time to lay some primer. You’ll want to keep the spray pattern even and apply from side to side, avoiding excessive application so that you don’t develop drip marks.

  1. Base Coat

Once the primer has dried and set, you can examine it for any fisheyes or other imperfections. Should you be happy with the finish, it will then be time to lay some paint, in the same manner as the primer.

  1. Top Coat

This is the layer that you want to make as perfect as possible, but that can only happen if the preceding steps have been followed and there are no imperfections in these other layers. Following the same spray technique used on th

e primer, remembering that less is more, you can now apply the top coat.

  1. Clear Coat

This is the most important part of keeping your paint looking good. A clear coat is hardier and is designed to provide protection while adding gloss and shine. This must also be applied in a light, careful manner with a fluid spraying movement and even distribution.

  1. Polishing

Assuming that your finish is now near perfect and free of fisheyes and orange peel, you can now follow the refining stage of polishing. Finish this up with a coating for protection and you’re golden. Note: it is important to research how long the paint you have applied takes to cure. In some cases, this can be two weeks, but all gasses in the paint should have dissipated after around two months. It is important to try to avoid getting the car dirty, washing it unnecessarily, or otherwise affecting the paint during this period or you’ll make more problems and can develop fisheyes long after the painting is complete.