Different Types of Scratches on Cars and How to Fix Them
A scratch on your car isn’t just annoying, it could potentially expose your paint or the metal beneath to the elements and lower the resale value of your vehicle. Luckily, paint scratches won’t damage your car in the long term if you know how to take care of them. There are a few different types of scratches, and how you approach fixing each type varies depending on the depth of the scratch.
The factory finish on any new or late-model car consists 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, and finally one or more applications of a clear coat for protection and shine.1 How deeply these layers are penetrated dictates the best method of fixing the scratch.
Marks and Minor Scratches on Cars
Marks and minor scratches affect only the surface and clear coat level of a car’s paint job. Because they don’t penetrate too deep, these are the simplest types of scratches to fix.
Marks are paint or rubber smudges left on the surface of your car’s paint job when an object, say another car’s bumper or the rubber corner of a shopping cart, scrapes your finish but doesn’t penetrate the clear coat. Put some lacquer thinner or acetone on a cloth and the mark should rub off easily. If some of the mark remains, try using a polishing compound.1
Learn everything you need to know about repainting your car here.
Minor scratches only affect the clear coat layer of a car’s finish. These are the easiest types 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. Similar to marks, these scratches require using a polishing compound to buff out, or polish, the clear coat.2 Be sure to use a light hand and don’t polish too hard, as this could damage the clear coat.
Base coat scratches, or paint scratches, extend down into the enamel color layer of your car’s finish. Repairing them usually requires rubbing out the scratch with a fine grit sandpaper and an abrasive compound before reapplying a clear coat using an aerosol spray. There are car scratch repair kits that contain all the products necessary to repair paint scratches—just be sure to follow the instructions. Here are the basic steps to fixing one of these types of scratches3:
- Wash and thoroughly dry your vehicle.
- Apply a small amount of scratch remover onto a foam applicator pad.
- Rub the scratch remover into the scratched area, gently working it into the scratches.
- When finished, buff the area with a clean, dry terry cloth or microfiber cloth.
- Finally, polish the area with a paste or wax to restore your car’s shine.
Remember, these instructions can vary depending on the kit you purchase. Be sure to purchase the highest quality scratch repair kit you can afford, or consult employees of an auto parts store for the best option.
Deep scratches, or primer scratches, extend down into the primer layer and often into the bare metal of your car. If this is the case, car scratch repair consists of cleaning and filling the scratch, applying a new layer of enamel paint and clear coat, and buffing.2 Be sure to use a light hand and don’t polish too hard, as this could damage the clear coat. Unless you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer, these deep types of scratches are best fixed by a professional repair shop.
Keeping your car in tip-top shape on the outside is just as important as the inside. A professional car detailing typically includes polishing the paintwork to remove any scratches and swirl marks and buffing on a wax coat to protect the paint. Fortunately, you can use the Synchrony Car Care™ credit card for all your automotive needs, including professional detailing and repairing deep scratches. Apply now Be sure to use a light hand and don’t polish too hard, as this could damage the clear coat. so that you can easily manage all your car maintenance—whether it’s routine oil changes or unexpected repair work. Conveniently manage your account online 24/7 with secure account access or download the mobile app.
Use our locator to find an auto parts store or repair shop near you that accepts the Synchrony Car Care credit card.
Here's why you should get your car detailed.
- Car Scratch Repair – Pros and Cons of Touch-Up Paint Auto Support Forum Auto Support Forum
- The Dummies’ Guide to Covering Car Scratches Roberts Automotive Roberts Automotive
- How to Safely Remove Fine Scratches from Your Car’s Paint It Still Runs It Still Runs
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