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How To Remove Scratches From Your Car Paint

a car with scratched paint

Remove scratches from your car by using shoe polisher on small jobs, or special tools for bigger damage.Own a car long enough and it will endure its share of scratches, dents and discoloration. Washing and waxing your ride may restore it to its former luster, while bodily abrasions require special attention. Fortunately, when the time comes to remove scratches from your car, you may be able to handle the job yourself, with a variety of tools at your disposal.

What exactly is a scratch? It is any mark or small cut across your vehicle’s surface. The easiest scratches to handle are those that affect the top clearcoat only. Any deeper and the scratch may travel through the next two layers — color and primer — or even down to the steel or aluminum body. Light scratches are typically seen, not felt. Deeper scratches leave behind a jagged area or rough surface along with discoloration. You’ll want to take care of this problem sooner rather than later to avoid rust formation. With the latter, run your finger across the scratch and you’ll feel it.

Use Shoe Polish for Surface Scratches

Scratches that haven’t cut down to the paint are the easiest to handle. In some cases, shoe polish gets the job done. Further, you need not have a color match to accomplish your work. In fact, dark polish works well on a red finish, while white polish handles dark surfaces. Here’s how to remedy surface scratches:

  1. First, wash and dry the affected area.
  2. Then, rub the shoe polish over the same section.
  3. Next, use 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper and water to sand the polish until it disappears — a variable-speed random orbit polisher hastens the process.
  4. Then, apply rubbing compound to remove the remaining scratches. Lastly, follow up with light buffing to remove the lingering compound.
  5. Repeat this process for other scratches, then follow up by washing and waxing the impacted area.

Tackle Deep Scratches With the Right Tools

Scratches that run deeper than the surface need special tools, including rubbing alcohol, shop towels, matching touch-up paint and brush, a foam block, filler putty, a squeegee and a paint leveler. Here’s how to tackle deeper scratches:

  1. First, clean out the scratch with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Then, apply glazing filler putty next to the scratch, using a small squeegee to spread the putty evenly across the affected area.
  3. When dry, wrap a wet sanding block with a shop towel, applying liquid paint leveler to the towel. The leveler removes all putty outside of the scratch, while leaving putty inside the scratch.
  4. Next, dab touch-up paint with a fine brush on the putty.
  5. Let dry overnight. If needed, add a second coat or apply clear coat on top of the paint.

Light scratches are the easiest to remedy. Once done, you won’t find signs of a scratch. However, deeper scratches are difficult to fully obscure. Waxing the affected area after accomplishing the work may effectively conceal the results. Otherwise, wax the entire car for uniformity.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to remove scratches from your car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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