How to get the scratches out of your car

Written by samantha volz
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Scratches on cars all have one thing in common: they can ruin the style and beauty of your automobile. However, Popular Mechanics magazine states that not all scratches are the same. Some damage termed a scratch is really just paint transfer; some scratches penetrate only the clear coat of your car, while others can go deep into the paint and primer and may even hit the steel frame of your car. If your scratch is shallow, you may be able to fix it yourself without serious detailing work.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Soft rags
  • Water
  • Car soap
  • Towel
  • Shoe polish
  • Wet/dry sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Dish detergent
  • Rubbing compound
  • Terrycloth or microfiber towel
  • Car wax

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  1. 1

    Dampen a soft rag in a mixture of warm water and car soap. Wash the scratched area thoroughly to remove dirt, gravel or other debris that can affect your scratch removal. Rinse the area with clean water to remove residual soap, and then dry thoroughly with a clean, soft towel.

  2. 2

    Rub shoe polish onto your car’s scratched surface with a clean rag. Choose a shoe polish colour that contrasts with the colour of your car; for example, if your car is red or white, use black shoe polish. Rub until all the scratched areas are full of contrasting colour; this will help you determine when the scratches have disappeared.

  3. 3

    Wrap a piece of wet/dry, ultrafine (2000-grit to 3000-grit) sandpaper around a sanding block. Soak the sandpaper in cold water mixed with two drops of dish detergent for 10 minutes. The water and detergent will act as lubricant to make for more effective and safe sanding.

  4. 4

    Sand the scratched surface lightly, alternating your passes at 60-degree angles so that you do not cut the same area over and over. If the sandpaper begins to dry, immediately wet it again in the water. Continue until you see the shoe polish disappear.

  5. 5

    Dry the area and inspect your work; if you can still see shoe polish, continue to sand until it is all gone. If all you can see are small marks from the sandpaper, continue to the next step.

  6. 6

    Spread rubbing compound onto a terrycloth or microfiber towel. Buff the repaired area in circular motions with the compound to remove the small scratches left by the sandpaper. You will see a haze begin to form; continue buffing until the haze is gone.

  7. 7

    Wipe the area with a clean rag or towel to remove any residual rubbing compound. Wash the area again with soap and warm water.

  8. 8

    Apply car wax with a clean terrycloth or microfiber towel. The car wax will seal the newly cleaned and repaired area and help to prevent future damage.

Tips and warnings

  • Find all materials needed for this project at automotive retailers or hardware stores.
  • If the scratch penetrates the primer and goes into the steel frame of your car, you will need a professional to restore the area for you. If you are unsure about your ability to remove scratches, consult a professional, as mistakes can create more damage to your car’s surface.

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