Nearly every car since the early 1990s has been finished with a layer of clear coat. Clear coat is exactly what it sounds like: a clear coating of material designed to protect the paint on your car from fading, weathering and exterior damage. The clear coat is designed to take the brunt of any damage to your car, and so it will occasionally need to be repaired from dings, scratches and other surface harm. Use the proper tools and techniques to repair damaged spots in your clear coat to avoid larger damage to your car.
Run your finger perpendicular to the spot on your clear coat. If your fingernail catches the edge of the mark, it is a scratch; proceed with this section. If the spot is a mark from rubber, paint or other surface effects, proceed to Section 2.
Mix soap and water together in a small bowl until it forms suds. Wash the scratched surface of the car with a soft rag or cloth soaked in soapy water. Dry the area thoroughly with a clean towel.
Apply a colourful fill-in compound to the scratched areas. For instance, if you car is red, use black shoe polish; if the car is black, try white shoe polish. Rub a thin layer of your chosen material over the scratched area; the material will fill in the scratches, but not mar the rest of the clear coat. This colourful marker will help you know when the scratches are removed.
Wrap a piece of 2000 or 3000-grit wet/dry sandpaper securely around a sanding block. Both of these materials are available at automotive stores that sell materials for bodywork. Soak this piece of sandpaper in clean, cold water for at least two minutes.
Sand lightly across the surface of the scratches, moving back and forth across the scratches and changing your angle of approach to ensure an even sanding. Re-wet the sandpaper when necessary; the paper should be wet at all times to ensure that the sandpaper does not make the scratches worse.
Continue to sand until the areas of contrasting colour have disappeared. Dry the area thoroughly with a clean towel and inspect to make sure all scratches are gone.
Apply rubbing compound to the surface to remove any light marks left by the sandpaper. Rubbing compound can be found at hardware and automotive stores. Rub the compound into the surface with a soft cloth in circular motions until all marks are removed.
Buff the area with a completely clean, soft cloth to remove any residual compound.
Mix soap and water together in a small bowl and clean the marked area. Dry with a soft towel.
Dampen the corner of a clean, soft rag or cloth with an acetone cleaner or lacquer thinner. These cleaners are available at most hardware or automotive stores.
Rub the cleaner onto the marked spot on your clear coat in circular motions, extending two inches beyond the damage on each side. Reapply cleaner to the rag as necessary. Continue to rub until the spot is removed.
Apply rubbing compound if cleaner alone will not remove the mark. Rub the compound in a circular motion with a soft cloth just like you did the cleaner, until the mark is removed.
Buff the newly-cleaned area with a clean section of your rag, or with a separate clean soft rag. Move in straight back-and-forth motions instead of circles to remove any buffing marks.
If you cannot get a professional acetone or lacquer thinner, try a dab of nail polish remover to clean the marks off of your car. Add one to two drops of dish detergent to your cold water when soaking your sandpaper if you want to ensure a more slippery, smooth surface.
Only sand the scratches of the car until the fill-in colours have disappeared. If you sand through the layer of clear coat to the paint, it will need to be professional repaired.
Tips and warnings
- If you cannot get a professional acetone or lacquer thinner, try a dab of nail polish remover to clean the marks off of your car.
- Add one to two drops of dish detergent to your cold water when soaking your sandpaper if you want to ensure a more slippery, smooth surface.
- Only sand the scratches of the car until the fill-in colours have disappeared. If you sand through the layer of clear coat to the paint, it will need to be professional repaired.