How to Repair a Vehicle Scratch From Home
Updated: Feb 2
Unless you keep your pride and joy in the garage 365 days a year, you’re going to find yourself having a few scratches on your vehicle.
They're impossible to prevent, but there are a few best practices to remove them and protect your paintwork, one of the best, being paint correction.
The whole process will leave your car looking better than the day it was made…you can read more about vehicle detailing.
Your car usually finds itself picking up loose pebbles, dirt, grime, the occasional ex-wife’s car key.
Left unsolved, deep scratches can leave the bare metal exposed causing it to rust.
How to repair a scratch on your car
To repair a scratch on your car, you will need a bit of skill, time, and touch-up paint. For any car detailer with a bit of knowledge, removing a light scratch should be no problem, the deeper the scratch however, the harder it is to remove.
Follow the steps below and your vehicle will be looking pristine in no time.
Assess the situation
Clean the paintwork
Apply the colour coat
Apply the clear coat
Level the area
Restore the paintwork
Most scratches can be machine polished out. Deeper scratches do require more time and attention, and not to mention, skill.
If you would prefer to leave the headache and risk to someone else, you could always contact your local car detailer.
Wet and dry sand paper (2000-2500 grit)
1. Assess The Situation
Assessing the situation is an essential first step to gather your bearings and see what exactly needs to be done, a plan brings everything together.
Fixing a car scratch yourself tends to be the cheaper option, especially if your already worrying about those body shop repair fees. Just remember, it’s not always a straight forward and easy job.
And the first place you’re going to want to start is from afar.
It’s a matter of finding the right paint for touch up. The last thing you want to do is have a patch of a different shade of paint where you repaired the scratch.
If your paint is either black or white, this should prove an easier job, however, red proves to be the most difficult.
If you are looking at that ex-wife key scratch, you’re going to need to spend a lot more time on the removal process.
Now this is generally where the problem arises if you’re choosing to repair the scratch at home.
Polishing your vehicle isn’t exactly…practical, if it’s performed by hand. You’re going to need a dual-action polisher, and again, this is something your local detailer or body shop will have. Generally the former being a specialist set of tools.
When on the hunt for your paint colour, make sure this is an exact match, there are thousands of different colours and shades of them, so be positive you have the right one before you commence work.
You can always test it out before applying it directly to your car.
To find your cars paint colour, you might want to check your manual or the paint sticker usually located in the door jam or engine bay, or you can use a handy tool like the one from drcolourchip.
2. Clean the paintwork
Cleaning the paintwork is the next step, and ideally you will want to clean the area with an IPA or a panel wipe.
This isn't necessarily a long process, but an integral one at that.
Once you have finished, make sure the area is clean and free of any mess.
Don’t get too carried away now and jump straight to applying the paint will you! Even if it seems to work at first…it won’t, inevitably failing as the day goes by.
3. Apply the colour coat
To apply the colour coat to your vehicle you’ll first need to find the exact match of colour if you haven’t already.
It is essential that you do so otherwise your car may end up look worse than when you started.
If your scratch is minor and not exposing the bare metal, you can safely move on to this step, however, if it is exposed, you MUST use primer beforehand.
You can read more about how to apply primer here.
If you have a touch up pen, this step is likely going to be a lot easier and cheaper for you to do it at home. However, the results will not be replicated of those here at Black Country Detailing.
Touch up pens are much more accurate to apply to the affected area, and a lot easier to control also.
Personally we tend to use a fine artist brush or a cocktail stick.
To use your touch up pan, or other product, press the touch up pen to your scratched area. The key here is to start out with a thin layer, and apply a small coat each time.
If you don’t have a touch up pen you can try using a cocktail stick or an artist’s paintbrush.
Each layer of colour coat you apply will need to set and dry before you can move on.
This will usually take between 10 – 20 minutes, depending on the temperature of the room.
We mix this with a drying agent to speed up the process.
Note that this process should NEVER be completed in an area that’s less than 15.5’ C.
Remember, you’re going to need to apply clear coat next, so don’t apply the colour coat too thick; ideally fill the entire scratch with paint.
4. Apply the clear coat
If your vehicle doesn’t have a clear coat, not to worry, you can skip this step. Just make sure you have applied enough colour coat to form a small blob of the scratched area, like the image below.
If in fact you are applying clear coat, you’ll want to do the same thing as above.
Apply the clear coat in small thin layers until you have filled enough to create a blob that sits just above the surrounding paint. As before, leave some time between each coat to ensure it has dried.
Don’t fret about getting it too right at this point, as later on we will level the blob out and polish the paint work.
Ideally you will want to leave this for around a day for the paint to harden before we move on.
5. Level The Area
Second to last, we need to level the area of the paintwork.
At this point, providing you have done everything right, you will be left with an eye sore of a blob on your paintworks affected area.
If you have, great!
So, what we need to do now, is level the blob to the rest of your paintwork, so that it won’t be noticed and will blend in with the rest of your car.
To do this you can use a fine grit wet and dry sand paper or a cutting compound. You should start with a 2000 grit and use a sanding block to keep the paper flat. Depending on the depth
Make sure you either soak your sand paper for at least 20 minutes before hand or spray a bottle of water on the area as you go.
Use the sand paper in a straight line! Go with the direction of the vehicle and not in a circular motion.
As we want to make sure your paint is flattened and level with the rest of the paintwork, it is ideal to dry off the area and check your work every now and again to see where you are.
If you think you are done with the process, run your fingers across the blobbed area to check if the paint is level, if it’s not, it needs more work.
Once you have finished this step, you will notice the sand paper has left a few scratches on the repairing area, no worries! For now we use the magic of polish. So prepare for the next step by grabbing the Mr.Sheen from under the sink.
(We’re joking! Jeez!)
6. Restore the paintwork
To restore the paintwork you will want to start by using a cutting compound to remove the scratches left from sanding.
As we mentioned at the start of this post, polishing by hand doesn’t necessarily leave you with that high quality finish you were hoping for, so, if you can get your hands on a dual-action polisher, great! If not, not to worry, the process remains virtually the same.
Firstly you will want to apply the compound to a compounding pad ready to fit to your polisher (or a polishing cloth if your doing it by hand).
Make sure to use your machine polisher in a gentle fashion to avoid pulling the paint off.
Using the compound you will want to direct the motion towards the affected area and the surrounding area, preferably 2-3 inches around. Again moving your polisher with the direction of the vehicle.
Having the correct tools and specialist products to hand will no doubt help make the process easier, particularly when it comes to the deeper scratches.
By now your scratch should be non-existent and your paintwork left looking with a professional finish.
If you do take up the process of trying to repair the scratch yourself, remember to take note, if you’re polishing just the area of your vehicle, it may leave the rest of the paintwork looking a little…dull.
Unfortunately you will always notice where the scratch has been unless you have the whole panel repainted.
If you want that perfect finish or need any other advice, it might be time to take a trip to your favourite car detailer in the West Midlands.
We hope you have enjoyed the article and taken away some valuable information, as always.
If you need any help with advice or enquires please don't hesitate to contact me via email or mobile (see the bottom of the page)