Repair Minor Car Paint Scratches and Chips With Touch Up Pen

minor scratches

Minor car paint scratches and chips are very easy to repair. These scratches damage the paint layer leaving primer layer intact.  Usually, these damages are caused by road debris, branches, or little stones from the driveway.

Compared to small chips and scratches that can be easily fixed with some touch-up paint, long scratches require more work. If you try to brush a long scratch with paint, the surface will look uneven. The best way to repair it is to carefully sand the area and then spray it with touch-up paint.

Keep in mind, that if you have a lot of small dings in one area, spot painting might make it look like spotted leopard. It would be also much easier and much more professional to spray paint the entire area.

Today, I will tell you how to repair minor paint scratches and chips by using a touch-up paint pen.

Items You’ll Need

  • Wet/dry 1,500 grit sanding paper
  • Primer Pen
  • Touch Up Paint Pen – Custom paint matching your car.
  • Clear Coat Pen
  • Prep solvent – It removes oils, road grease, dirt, car wax, and other surface contaminates and also improves adhesion to the surface.
  • Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound – You can use any rubbing compound you like, just make sure it is clear coat safe. Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound is the best car scratch remover I’ve ever tried. It removes light-to-deep clear coat scratches, swirl marks, stains, and heavy oxidation in just a few minutes. It’s clear coat safe and inexpensive.  It is formulated to level imperfections and leave a smooth finish. You can use it by hand of with a polishing machine.

Optional Items:

  • Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish How to Repair Deep Car Scratches For Only $50 – Use your favorite polishing compound. I like Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish because it uses diminishing abrasive technology, meaning the tiny abrasives break down gradually as you rub. The paint color will look bolder and brighter with a smooth, sleek shine. It is high quality, inexpensive, long lasting, and clear coat safe.
  • Meguiar’s Tech Wax – Use your favorite wax. I like Meguiar’s NXT Generation Tech Wax. This product is amazing because not only it gives the deepest and clearest shine you’ve ever seen, but is also acts as a paint sealer giving your car long lasting protection. It is not recommended using it over another sealant or wax. To remove old wax use soapy water with few drops of dishwasher soap.
  • Soft Microfiber Cloth Car Paint Repair   Clearcoat Scratch – Avoid using other material such as bath towel, paper towel or wash cloth, as they might leave scratches on the clear coat. This towel will last you for years. It is great for car washing and drying.
  • Applicator Pads – For applying rubbing compound, polish and wax.
  • Meguiar’s Dual Action Polisher

Video on How to Repair Minor Car Paint Scratches and Chips

Step 1: Temperature

Before you begin, make sure the temperature is at least 55F degrees. If the temperature is less than 55F degrees, it might take forever for the paint and the clear coat to dry. On cold days it is better to work in the garage. The perfect temperature for this job would be 72F. Temperatures above 85-90F might compromise the repair job. Also, avoid painting in direct sunlight.

Step 2: Getting the right paint

This is the most important step. Having the right matching paint is half of the job well done. Before ordering touch up paint, you need to obtain car’s paint code. Even experienced painters can have a difficult time finding the paint code, because not all car manufacturers keep paint code locations consistent. For color code start by looking on the side of the door jamb. If you don’t find it there, check other places like glove box, trunk, under the hood, passenger side door, inside engine bay area, or under the spare tire cover.

Don’t go to the mega store or auto parts store for touch-up paint. These stores usually carry some small number of universal colors. You need to get a custom touch up paint made specifically for your make and model. You can buy custom paint at the dealership or to save time and money order it online. I buy all my paint from Automotive Touch-Up because they have low prices and high quality paint.

Tip: When it comes to touch up paint, you have multiple options depending on the size of the scratch you are trying to repair. Touch-up paint comes in spray cans, paint pens, or in a bottle with a brush. Do not try to use a paint pen on the areas larger than a pencil eraser. For areas larger than a dime, you need to use spray paint because if you try to brush it with a paint, the area will look uneven.

Step 3: Wash Your Car

You need to wash the scratch area before starting the touch-up process. Use dish soap or auto soap that is designed to removed wax, sealers and oil. To ensure the best quality paint job, follow it with prep solvent that is designed to remove grease, dirt and other contaminants. You want to start with a clean, otherwise touch-up paint won’t adhere properly. Dry the area completely.

prep solvent application

Step 4: Apply Primer

Primer makes the paint stick better to the surface and prevents metal from developing rust. Apply a thin coat of primer using a primer pen. Wait for 30 min before applying touch up paint. Do not use prep solvent to clean the area.

primer application

Step 5: Apply Touch Up Paint

After primer is dry, you are ready to apply the paint. Shake the touch up pen first. Next, test the paint in the hidden area to make sure the color is matching. You want to apply multiple thin layers, giving them enough time to dry. Dab the touch up paint pen into the middle of the chip or a scratch carefully spreading the color. Each layer should be very thin. Wait for at least 5 min before applying a next one.

This process requires some patience. A lot of people make a mistake of doing all the layers at once. This will results in a paint bubble, because the top layer dries faster than the bottom layers. Keep in mind, if the temperatures are less than 70F it might take a little longer for the basecoat to dry.

Tip: To speed up the paint drying process, use a blow-dryer.

touch up paint application

Step 6: Applying Clear coat

Touch-up paint without clear coat will look slightly duller than your car’s paint. Wait for about 1-2 hours for the paint to dry. When the paint is dry, apply a clear coat.  Clear coat makes the paint shiny just like the rest of your finish. It also protects the paint from friction, weather, chemical resistance, and from chipping.

Use clear coat pen to apply 2-3 thin layers, giving each layer 20 min to dry. Drying time should be indicated on the label of the product. Surface should be smooth and look wet on each coat. After 3 coats the surface should be as smooth as glass. Leave the clear coat overnight to dry. If the temperatures are less than 70F it might take a little longer.

Step 7: Sanding Clear Coat

After applying clear coat, the filled area might have a slight bump on the surface. To get rid of the bump, you’ll need to sand it. Very gently sand the area with fine wet/dry sandpaper 1,500 grit to smooth all imperfections. I like to use wet sanding.

Place the sandpaper in the cold water for 10 min. Next, wrap the sandpaper around the sponge to avoid finger marks on the surface. Using sweeping motion gently sand the surface without applying too much pressure. Use a lot of water with few drops of dish soap, periodically checking with your fingers the smoothness of the surface.

Filled area should be on the same level and blend in with the rest of the paint. A lot of people get scared of the concept of sanding the paint thinking that it will scratch up the repaired area. Don’t worry about scratching surrounding paint, if you use enough water these marks will come right off when you polish. You are almost done.

Step 8: Rubbing Compound

After sanding, you might still see the scratches. Rubbing compound makes the surface smoother, shinier and is also great for removing oxidation from the finish. Rubbing compound works like an extremely fine sandpaper.

Use foam applicator pad and automotive rubbing compound to polish the area. Don’t use bath towel, wash cloth or any paper products. Wood fibers of the paper products will scratch the paint. Place a few drops of the rubbing compound on the foam applicator pad and make few sweeps. Keep rubbing over the scratch using a firm circular motion until the rubbing compound is dry. Remove remaining product with a clean microfiber cloth.

Step 9: Polishing Compound

To give your paint repair area more shine and paint protection use polishing compound.  You can apply it by hand or buffing machine. If you want a showroom shine, you will need to get a buffing machine. I personally use Meguiar’s Dual Action Polisher.  It really does magic when it comes to polishing. I also use it to apply rubbing compound and wax.

clear coat application

Step 10: Wax

Wait for about one month before applying wax.

~Mike Davis

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4 thoughts on “Repair Minor Car Paint Scratches and Chips With Touch Up Pen”

  1. Mike, your advices were so helpful so far, and I truly thank you for them. I just have one question: Aplying touch paint in several layers, in order to fill up the chip, I got little bump of paint arround the chip too. Should I sand them with 2000 grit wet sanding paper before aplying clear coat? Or should I buff them with rubbing compound? I am afraid if I aply clear coat right away I will not be able to fix it later. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Aleks. This is a common problem if you use too much touch up paint or don’t give layers enough drying time. Don’t worry. It can be easily fixed with some sanding. Gently wet sand it with 2,000 grit sandpaper. Use a lot of water. When the surface is smooth and even, apply clear coat. Hope this helps. ~Mike Davis

  2. Hey Mike,
    I am really anxious to touch up my car with paint and primer and I really needed some advice on something. I was wondering if I could show you a picture of some of the problems I have on my car and give me some advice. I know these are minor paint scratches because it looks like the primer is still intact but with no clear coat and some paint degradation. I have a 2000 honda accord and I would really like to keep it nice and neat. Thanks.


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