Car Scratch Repair 101

Depending on the type of scratch you have, you will need to use a different car paint repair method. Scratches can go through 4 layers: clear coat, paint, primer, and metal. Most scratches go only into the clear coat without damaging the paint layer.

Sometimes, it looks like you have a scratch, but really it could be just a mark. To make it easier for you, I put together step-by-step tutorials with detailed instructions, photos, and product recommendations for each type of scratch.

The first thing you need to do, before repairing any type of scratch, is to wash your car. The goal is to get rid of all the grease and wax around the scratched area without removing wax from the rest of your car.

Use dishwashing soap or auto detergent designed to remove waxes, oils, and sealers around the scratch. You want to start your car paint repair with a clean and dry area free from any contaminants. After washing, dry completely.

Next, follow one of the tutorials below:

How to Remove Residue Marks
Some scratches are really just residue marks. If an object that is softer than the car’s paint, like the bumper of another car, the rubber bumper of a shopping cart, or a wooden post, rubes against the car’s body, it will deposit material on top of the paint surface without going through the clear coat. The residue mark is the easiest thing to remove.

How to Repair Clearcoat Scratches
Most scratches only damage the clear coat leaving the paint layer unscathed. If an object harder than the car’s paint brushes against the clear coat, it will leave a scratch. This kind of scratches can be caused by bushes, keys, and fingernails around the door handle, by drive-through car wash, etc. Clear coat scratches are easy to remove.

How to Repair Minor Paint Scratches and Chips
These are chips and scratches that went through the clear coat and the paint but didn’t damage the primer. The fact that the primer is intact is important because once the metal is exposed to air, rust can set in.

This kind of chips and scratches can be caused by road debris, branches, little stones, or by negligence of others. To repair them, you will need to do some paint touch-up and sanding. It will take you slightly longer than fixing clear coat scratches but is still relatively easy to do.

How to Repair Deep Paint Scratches
Deep scratches and chips can penetrate not only the paint but also the primer. Some of them might even go into the metal. Repair these scratches as soon as possible to avoid permanent rust damage. This is a medium-difficulty repair.