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How to remove car paintwork scratches

Updated April 17, 2017

Finding a scratch on your precious car can be enough to ruin the day. Paintwork scratches not only detract from the appearance of your car but they can also affect its part-exchange or resale value when you come to sell the vehicle. Deep, penetrating scratches can also lead to rust. For major scratches, you may need to get your vehicle repaired at a specialist bodywork centre. You can treat surface scratches and scuffs yourself by sanding down car panel paintwork to the same level as the scratched area.

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  1. Clean the scratched area with warm water and detergent. Pat the scratched area dry.

  2. Apply boot or shoe polish to the scratch. Choose a polish colour that stands out from your car’s paintwork. For example, for black or dark-coloured vehicles, choose a light-coloured polish. Rub the polish into the scratch with a dry, clean cloth or duster. Remove any excess polish with the cloth.

  3. Sand the area scratch and surrounding area with ultrafine sandpaper. Use only 2000-grit or 3000-grit ultrafine sandpaper. Wrap the sandpaper around a rubber or wooden sander block and then moisten the sandpaper with water. Sand the scratch using short, gentle strokes at slight angles to the scratch. Change the direction for each stroke. Continue sanding until you have removed all the polish. This indicates that you have sanded the paintwork to the same level as the scratch.

  4. Place a small amount of rubbing compound on to a clean, dry cloth. Polish the sanded area with the cloth in a circular motion. Wash off the rubbing compound with clean water and a cloth.

  5. Apply car wax to the repaired panel to seal the repair. Use a cloth to rub in the wax and then polish in a circular motion.

  6. Tip

    You can also use a buffing wheel to polish the car after you have applied rubbing compound.


    Apply only small amounts of polish or wax. Both contain abrasives that can damage your car's paint finish. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

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Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Detergent
  • Boot or shoe polish
  • Cloths
  • Ultrafine sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Rubbing compound
  • Car wax

About the Author

Adrian Grahams began writing professionally in 1989 after training as a newspaper reporter. His work has been published online and in various newspapers, including "The Cornish Times" and "The Sunday Independent." Grahams specializes in technology and communications. He holds a Bachelor of Science, postgraduate diplomas in journalism and website design and is studying for an MBA.

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