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Exploring the anatomy of car scratch repair.

The factory finish on your new or late-model car or truck is comprised of several different layers—typically a primer is sprayed over the bare metal, followed by one or more applications of an enamel base coat for color, followed by one or more applications of clear coat for protection and shine. How deeply these layers are penetrated determines the best way to remove the scratch on the car.  

Types of scratches1, 2, 3

Minor scratches (also called clear-coat scratches) only affect the clear-coat layer. These are the easiest auto scratches to repair, as they can be rubbed or polished out without needing to be repainted. If you can’t see any metal underneath the scratch, it’s probably a clear-coat scratch.

Base-coat scratches (also called paint scratches) extend down into the color layer of the finish. Repairing them usually requires rubbing out the scratch and then reapplying clear coat using an aerosol spray.

Deep scratches (also called primer scratches) extend down into the primer layer and often into the bare metal. Car scratch repair in this case will take filing the scratch, a new paint layer, a new clear-coat layer and buffing. Unless you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer, this kind of deep gouge is best fixed by a professional repair shop. If your comprehensive insurance doesn’t cover the repair, Synchrony Car CareTM can help with special financing for automotive repair work. No interest if paid in full within 6 months on purchases of $199 or more.*

Marks are paint or rubber smudges left on the surface of your finish when an object (like another car’s bumper) scrapes your paint but does not penetrate the clear coat. They can usually be cleaned off with lacquer thinner or acetone.


*No interest will be charged on the promo purchase if you pay the promo purchase amount in full within 6 months. If you do not, interest will be charged on the promo purchase from the purchase date. Depending on purchase amount, promotion length and payment allocation, the required minimum monthly payments may or may not pay off purchase by end of promotional period. Regular account terms apply to non-promotional purchases and, after promotion ends, to promotional balance. For new accounts: Purchase APR is 29.99%; Minimum Interest Charge is $2. Existing cardholders should see their credit card agreement for their applicable terms. Subject to credit approval.


*Minimum monthly payments required.


Tip: To accurately identify the paint type on your car, look for the factory-paint code somewhere under the hood or near the door sill. 4


1 Car Scratch Repair- Pros and Cons of Touch-Up Paint

2, 4 The Dummies' Guide to Covering Car Scratches

3 I Have Foggy Headlights! What Do I Do?

Learn More

How to Fix a Car Paint Scratch

Additional Sources

How to Fix a Car Paint Scratch

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