So you scratched your car. Relax. It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes, what appears to be a big scratch is just debris from an impact or bad weather. It can also be a raised line, which happens when your vehicle smashes into a bumper or any kind of object with a much softer coating than your car’s paint. Or it can really be a deep scratch—the kind that makes your stomach turn whenever you see it.

However, there are ways to fix these scratches, and it’s really not that difficult to do. All it takes is a bit of effort and time on your part, and soon, your car will be back to normal. Here’s how to fix car paint scratches:

Assess the scratch

It’s important to know what kind of scratch it is, since it will tell you what kind of repair you need to do. A car has four layers: the clear coat, color (base coat) primer (prepares and protects the metal, and helps bond the paint to the surface better), and steel. Some scratches can affect only the top, clear coat, while some affects other layers as well. The deeper the scratch goes, the more intensive the repainting will be. Basically, they fall under two categories:

  • Clear coat scratch / Light Scratch

Clear coat scratches barely make it through the clear coat, so it will be much easier to get rid of. Most of the damage is on the surface, which can be polished or re-sprayed with a new, protective top layer.

  • Base coat / Deep Scratch

This type of scratch goes far deeper, and may involve getting not just on the clear coat, but also through other deeper layers, such as where the color and primer reside. This damage is more serious, so you may have to sand the scratches, add a fresh, new layer of top coat, matching car color, and primer on your vehicle again.

How to repair light scratches on vehicles

  1. Clean the car’s surface and remove possible debris.
  2. Get a tape (masking tape is ideal) to cover areas near the scratch.
  3. Apply a bit of polishing compound to the microfiber cloth.
  4. Polish the scratch.
  5. Use a microfiber or terry cloth to dry the area.

If the scratch almost goes through the clear coat, you can try to use polishers that also act as scratch removers, such as:

  • Turtle Wax
  • 3M Scratch Remover System
  • Mother’s California Gold Scratch Remover
  • 3M Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit
  • Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound

How to repair deep scratches on vehicles

  1. Make sure you buy the same paint color. You can do this by looking for a little plate found on your car’s firewall. There should be a body number and paint code number written on it. If you can’t find it, contact the dealer where you purchased your vehicle.

  2. Wash and dry your car very well. This is important, since dirt and other debris can cause more scratches when you do your repair. When you clean your car, focus more on the damaged areas.

  3. Sand the area. Buy a 2000-grit dry or wet sandpaper and wrap it around a sanding pad to begin sanding. You should sand only enough to get through the clear coat, and nothing more. Use only one direction when sanding. You can rinse with water periodically when sanding. This helps you to see clearly how far to sand. If the scratch goes slightly deeper than the clear coat, you need to use a 1500-grit sandpaper first and then shift to the 2000-grit sandpaper. Rinse the area again, and wipe the surface dry. You should only use a microfiber cloth when doing this, since others can cause small, light scratches on your vehicle’s surface.

  4. Get tape (a masking tape is ideal) to cover areas near the scratch. This will ensure that the primer only goes to the scratch—and nowhere else.

  5. Apply a thin dab of primer on the scratch. Wait for it to dry off completely.

  6. Mix the paint color. You can use a touch-up bottle for this.

  7. Apply the paint, and cover the surface of the scratch entirely. Work from the edges, inward. If the surface is extremely small, you can use a matchstick or toothpick to apply the paint. Be careful not to add too much paint. If it’s thicker than the surrounding areas, then get a small tissue and very lightly place it on the surface of the paint so it will absorb the excess.

  8. Allow the paint to dry completely for several days.

  9. Wax and polish the entire car so the paint will be thoroughly blended. It will also give it a great shine.

Other Important things to remember when fixing car scratches:

  • Wait until the clear coat dries thoroughly before you add in another one.

  • If you’re not confident of your DIY skills, just hire a professional service to do it. However, it’s not cheap. Basically, it costs around P2,500 to P3,000 to paint an entire car panel. It’s expensive because they will repaint the car’s entire panel area, not just the scratch itself.

  • Check other parts of your car for other scratches before you start doing your repair. That way, you don’t have to waste time because you can combine all your repairs in one sitting.

  • Car paint is dangerous—keep it away from children and pets. You should also, protect yourself while doing it: wear rubber gloves, masks, protective goggles, and even respirators whenever possible. Also make sure to do it in well-ventilated areas.

  • If you’re really strapped for cash, use Fix It Pro Magic Pen or a simple whitening toothpaste as alternatives. However, they are only effective for small, light scratches.

  • Scratches are an inevitable part of any vehicle’s life, so don’t fret about it. Just follow these steps, and you’ll soon have your car back to normal once again.

You could even consider some tricks to avoid scratches in the future.