How to Rub out Scratches in Car Paint

Updated February 21, 2017

Car paint is highly susceptible to scratches. Scratches occur any time a car comes in contact with another object, such as a shopping trolley or the door of another vehicle. The exterior of modern cars are comprised of four levels: the clear coat, the paint colour, the primer and the metal base. Deep scratches can reach all the way to the primer or even to the car's base. With a few simple tools, you can rub out most scratches from your car paint in no time.

Clean the surface around the scratch with a rag and a bucket of warm water and soap to ensure debris does not get into the scratch while you are removing it. Use a towel to dry the area.

Apply a small amount of adhesive remover to a clean, dry rag. Gently rub the rag against the scratch in a circular motion.

Place a small amount of lacquer thinner or acetone on a clean, dry rag, and gently rub the rag against the scratch in a circular motion.

Clean the area again with warm water and soap to remove any traces of adhesive remover or acetone if the scratch is still present. Use a towel to dry the area.

Apply rubbing compound inside and around the scratch with a buffing tool. Use circular motions to buff the scratch with the rubbing compound. Continue buffing until the scratch is removed. Once the scratch is gone, use back-and-forth motions to remove the circular marks left by the rubbing compound. Rub the remaining rubbing compound off your vehicle with a clean, dry rag.

Apply polishing compound over the areas where the buffing compound was used. Using a clean buffing tool, gently rub the polishing compound on the vehicle in circular motions. Continue to buff the polishing compound onto the vehicle until it vanishes into the paint.

Apply a thin layer of liquid or clay wax over the entire area affected by the scratch, including any places you put rubbing or polishing compound. Use a rag or buffing tool to apply the car wax, and rub in small circular patterns until the wax vanishes into the paint, leaving a shiny surface.


Use a new rag each time to prevent old products from coming in contact with the car's surface again. Use gentle pressure when applying the rubbing compound. Rubbing compound can damage the paint if not used carefully. Use quick motions when waxing the vehicle. The wax will dry quickly and be difficult to remove.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean rags
  • Bucket
  • Soap
  • Towels
  • Adhesive remover
  • Lacquer thinner or acetone
  • Rubbing compound
  • Buffing tool
  • Polishing compound
  • Car wax
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About the Author

Amelia Jenkins has more than eight years of professional writing experience, covering financial, environmental and travel topics. Her work has appeared on MSN and various other websites and her articles have topped the best-of list for sites like Bankrate and Kipplinger. Jenkins studied English at Tarrant County College.