Car Advice

How to remove minor car paint scratches

Does your car have swirl marks in the paint or maybe a little scratch from a car park ding? Here’s how to remove minor car paint scratches.

Unless you keep your car in a hermetically-sealed garage with someone to regularly keep it washed and polished then the paintwork is going to get damaged. Whether it’s just some brush marks from when you tried to squeeze down a track too narrow, or some swirls in the paint from your washing sponge picking up grit from the bottom of the bucket, to a car park ding then your car’s paintwork can become grazed. And that can ultimately effect resale.

Sure, sometimes you’ll need to seek out a professional and in no-way are we suggesting that major repair work should be carried out on the driveway. So, if you’ve got a major dent or you’ve got a scratch down to the metal then an expert will be your best bet. Rather, this article looks at some of the common, minor scratch types that have broken through the clear coat rather than anything that’s broken through to base coat, and what you can do to fix them.

Ever tried parking in a tight multi-storey spot and nudged a concrete pillar on the way in or out? Maybe you nicked the wing mirror, or someone bumped your car when they were parking. As long as there are no dents that require, say, a paintless dent repair specialist (DIY kits are available online too) you can use some over-the-counter scratch repair products from your favourite automotive outlet.

Comprehensive Car Insurance

Now, let’s knock on the head a few myths straight up and the first one is that you can use toothpaste to remove scratches in your car’s paint work. People also claim that you can use toothpaste to restore, say, a porcelain sink. Let me tell you, it doesn’t work…all the toothpaste does is clean the surface because of the very, very, very fine abrasive nature of it. So, the cleaner surface looks as if the scratch has been reduced. It hasn’t. Trust me, I’ve tried it.

Another claim is that you can use something like WD-40. Again, all this does is clean off some of the muck from the scratch; it might remove some of the paint, or dirt, from whatever you’ve bumped, that’s become stuck in your car’s clear coat. So, again, it looks like you’ve reduced the size of the scratch but all you’ve really done is clean the surface. Let’s get into this.

The most important thing to do is to clean the ‘scratched’ area because if you don’t and you then go to use the off-the-shelf scratch remover then you could make matters worse by rubbing particles into the paint and swirling the surface. Once you’ve washed and dried the car you can take your off-the-shelf scratch repairer and then follow the instructions on the box.

Most of these systems have a sanding few pads inside them; they’re usually numbered so you know which ones to use when. Most kits will also have a clear coat applicator, lubricator for when you’re sanding and then a rubbing compound for when you’ve got to give it a final buff.

The first thing is to apply the clear coat being careful not to lay down too much. Let that dry, most kits suggest 24 hours. Use some good quality masking tape to mask off the area. Then you can start using your lubricator and sanding pads working your way down through the grades. Once you get to the final pad you should remove the masking tape because you’ll need to sand lightly beyond the area you’ve been working on to blend the paintwork.

Once you’ve blended the section where the scratches used to be you can then use the rubbing compound and a micro-fibre cloth to start buffing the area. Once you’ve given it a good buff the scratches should have either disappeared or been greatly reduced depending on their severity. Once you’ve done that then give the car a good wax and polish to protect the area.

If you’re trying to get rid of swirls in the paint then other off-the-shelf scratch remover kits can be used. These are usually an abrasive spray that cuts into the clear coat to remove the marks. Make sure you don’t use too much or rub too hard as you could go through into the paint itself. A sure-fore tell that you’ve touched the paint is if your cloth starts to change colour.

So, thank to off-the-shelf products it’s possible to remove minor scratches and swirls from your car’s paint work. But for anything more severe, and you can usually tell the severity of a scratch, if not with your eyes then by rubbing a finger nail across it to see if it catches, then you’re best off seeking the assistance of a professional because once you start using wet and dry sandpaper and electric buffers you can end up doing more harm than good.


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.