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How to Repair a Scratch on a Car's Bodywork

Updated April 17, 2017

Scratches on a car's bodywork detract from your car's beauty. Taking your car to a professional bodyworks garage means costly repairs, so many people just ignore any scratches and learn to live with them. Most people do not think that they are capable of fixing the scratched themselves. However, quite often, these scratches are easy to repair with a few simple steps.

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  1. Assess the scratch. You want to make sure that your car is really scratched before proceeding. There are times when something that is soft, which transfers paint onto your car without actually cutting into the paint, hits your car. So, you should run your fingernail over the scratch to see if there is an indention in its paint. If so, you have a scratch.

  2. Determine the depth of the scratch. Most modern cars have a clear coat on top, then a layer of coloured paint, then a primer underneath it all. You need to determine how deep the scratch goes before trying to fix it. If you see white or metal through the scratch, then it is scratched down to the primer or frame. This means more extensive repair, including paint matching, better left to professionals. Most of the time, the scratch is just in the clear coat, which can be fixed with a few simple steps.

  3. Wash the scratched area and dry it thoroughly. Dirt acts as an abrasive and may cause you to sand more deeply than you want.

  4. Apply a contrast material into to the scratch. You need some kind of guide so that you do not sand deeper than the scratch. Shoe polish is one example of something you can use.

  5. Sand the scratched area. Use a wet/dry sandpaper of at least 2000 grit or higher. Make sure that you keep plenty of water handy and dip the sand paper in it as your work. Add a little bit of dish soap to the sandpaper to make it slippery and glide across the car's body easier.

  6. Keep an eye on the contrast material. When you see it disappear, you know you have gone deep enough.

  7. Apply a rubbing compound. You can use an electric buffer to do this quickly. If you do not have one, just use a soft cloth, and rub in a circular motion. This step smoothes out the sanded area.

  8. Wax the area. This helps to seal the repaired area.

  9. Warning

    During the wet sanding phase, pay attention to the colour of the water as you dip the sandpaper into it. If you notice any colour in the water, then that means you have sanded past the clear coat layer. The clear coat will need to be resprayed in these cases.

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Things You'll Need

  • Soap
  • Water
  • Wet/dry sandpaper, 2000 grit or higher
  • Contrast material
  • Electric buffer (optional)
  • 2 or 3 soft clothes
  • Rubbing compound
  • Wax

About the Author

Heather Mckinney

Heather Mckinney has been writing for over 23 years. She has a published piece in the University Archives detailing the history of an independently owned student newspaper. Mckinney holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from University of Texas at San Antonio.

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