4 Easy Steps To Remove Deep Scratches From Car Paint

How annoying is it that when you're walking to your car to notice a deep scratch right in your line of view!

Maybe that's exactly why you have searched and found this blog post? 

If so I am pleased to help you with these simple tricks and ideas to cure minor or deep scratches on your car paint.

So let's get started by teaching you to define the different types of scratches that may occur on car’s paint and how to deal with the most severe or deep scratches without going to a body shop.

Scratches on a car surface

The Scratch Definition List.

Firstly it is important to establish what type of scratch you are dealing with. As each type requires a slightly different method to sure.

Take time to look and feel the damaged area to define if the scratch is:

  • Swirl mark
  • Branch scratch
  • Minor scratch
  • Deep scratch

Swirl Marks

These are fine circular marks created by fine particles of grit that get trapped in sponges, wash mitts or microfiber cloths when the car has been washed.

These are easily removed with a good swirl remover, microfiber cloth and steady circular motion.

Branch Scratch

Branch scratches are caused by roadside foliage and are the next step up from swirl marks but just as easy to remove. They are often simply a “marr” of the surface with some deposit from the plant causing the mark.

These can easily removed by using WD40 sprayed onto the damaged area and buffed off with a microfiber towel.

Scratches on a car surface

Minor scratches or light Scratches

The next level of damage is a minor scratch penetrating the “Top Coat” of the car’s paint but not through to the base coat. These light scratches are slightly more tricky to remove and results are achieved with a scratch remover kit.

Deep Scratches

These are identified by the primer coat being visible (Usually white or light color) This means the offending object cut right through the topcoat, base coat and into the primer, and even through to the bare metal.

Deeper scratches are the most difficult to remove or repair. You may consider a body shop if you don’t have the right tools but read on to discover how to cure these annoying scratches and save yourself a few dollars.

Here is a rough diagram I have done to show the layers of primer, base coat, and top coats of paint on a car panel.

Diagram showing layers of paint affected by a deep scratch on car paint

The V shape represents how a deep scratch cuts through the layers and exposes the “White Primer” coat. This defines a Deep Scratch which I will cover how to repair in the section below.

Step 1. Clean the affected area

This is the vital first step for best results as you do not want to create further scratches or swirls whilst carrying out the repair.

If you're buffing an area of automotive paint that has a layer of dirt or grit on it then all you will be doing is creating more scratches.

Start by hosing the damaged area with cold water or ideally snow foaming the whole car. Either way, try to remove the initial dirt and grime without human contact as it the act of dragging grit across a surface that causes the problems.

Bucket and Wash mitt to Wash deep scratch area

Once the biggest is removed, wash the area with a good microfiber cloth or wash mitt and some good car wash shampoo.

If time is in short supply then you can just clean the damaged area with some rubbing alcohol.

Step 2. Use a scratch removal kit

These are complete kits of all you will need to repair a deep scratch. They include buffing polish and an application pad.

There are many different types of scratch removal products and the costs vary between $10-30.

Here are a few of the most popular and what I consider the best car scratch remover 

Turtle Wax T-234KT Scratch Repair Kit

Complete Scratch Repair Kit

This product from Turtle Wax the evergreen car detailing supplier contains 3 2”x2” color-coded restoration pads, 4oz spray lubricant, 4oz paint clarifying compound, and a 3oz clear coat finish pen.

  • Color and Drive Scratch repair

  • Deep Scratch Repair Kit

    Color and Drive kit contains a bottle of touch-up paint tailored to the color of your car, rubbing paste, and carnauba wax.

  • Meguiars G17216 Ultimate Compound

  • Bottle of Meguairs compound to remove scratches from car

    I have put this in even though it isn't a kit because it can certainly be worth a try if the scratch isn't overly deep and not down to the primer.

    Step 3. Smooth out the groove

    Once the area is clean the next step is to sand down the deepest parts of the scratch. This will be where the primer or bare metal is visible.

    To do this effectively fold a piece of dry sandpaper in half so that a thin edge is formed. This will enable the sandpaper to reach into the depth of the scratch and sand the primer and bare metal. 

    You are aiming to end up with something similar to the diagram below.

    Diagram to show the preperation of a deep scratch on car bodywork

    It will also to an extent smooth the jagged edges of the base coat and top coats, making the next stage a little easier.

    NOTE: Before you start any of the sanding masking tapes should be placed around the scratch area to within a few millimeters. This will ensure none of the surrounding areas of good paint is damaged but the sanding process.

    Next, the outer areas of the scratch need to be smoothed out to allow the touch-up paint/primer to be applied and fill up the scratch.

    To do this wet the area with soapy water and again use sandpaper. But this time do not fold it to the acute edge suggested earlier for sanding deep within the scratch.

    This time fold it but do not pinch it tight but leave it with a wide curve at the bottom. This will allow it to smooth the edges of the base topcoats.

    Sanding deep scratch area with sanding block

    Next, the outer areas of the scratch need to be smoothed out to allow the touch-up paint/primer to be applied and fill up the scratch.

    To do this wet the area with soapy water and again use sandpaper. But this time do not fold it to the acute edge suggested earlier for sanding deep within the scratch.

    This time fold it but do not pinch it tight but leave it with a wide curve at the bottom. This will allow it to smooth the edges of the base topcoats.

    NOTE: A good idea here is also to wrap the sandpaper around a small sponge to ensure more even pressure is applied to the whole area. 

    If you sand with your fingers then uneven pressure can often occur and leave an uneven surface making it more difficult to get a good finish.

    Diagram to show how layers of touch up paint fill in and stand proud of paintwork in a deep scratch

    Step 4. Fill up with touch up paint

    Now the fun part begins as we use the paint pen to apply the first coat of primer/paint to the scratch. Check that your touch-up paint does include primer, especially if the deep scratch is down to the bare metal.

    It can take up to four coats or more to fill up the scratch. The aim here is to fill it up so that it stands above the surface of the original paint.

    Apply each coat thinly and allow it to dry before applying the next paint layers. This will gradually fill up the scratch and then stand proud above the original car paint.

    You want it to stand very proud to allow the next process to create the best results.

    Once the touch-up paint layers have dried then you need to remove the tape, very slowly. If you try and do it fast then there is a possibility it could pull the paint off with it, so taking your time is the best way.

    Once removed you will see the area standing proud and you will be able to feel it by dragging your fingernail over the smooth surface.

    Your aim now is to sand the “Paint Mound” down gradually until it is level with the original automotive paint.

    For the sanding downstage you should start with a relatively coarse 800-grade sandpaper and again use a sponge or soft sanding block to wrap the paper around to ensure even application of pressure.

    Use some soapy water and a damp cloth to lubricate the surface as you start to wear away the proud layers. The 800 sandpaper will soon wear them down and the soapy water will help attain a smooth finish.

    Once down to the required level you should apply some clear coat to the scratch and let it dry for one hour.

    You can then sand again using 1500 sandpaper and swap to 2000 sandpaper once the finesse is achieved. Remember to apply soapy water ideally from a spray bottle before changing the dry sandpaper each time. This will greatly assist in attaining a smooth surface.

    Finally change to 3000 grit and then 5000 to really blend the whole scratched area in. You need to finish off with a fine polish to achieve a smooth surface and optimal results.

    The ideal type of polish would be a finishing polish such as Meguiars Mirror Glaze polishing compound, which is a type of rubbing compound. 

    Meguiars Mirror Glaze polishing compound

    Typical Cutting Compound Polish

    This can be applied using a buffing pad to the larger area around the car scratches to completely blend in the whole area causing the scratched area to disappear. Use heavy pressure on the buffing pad for this final stage.

    Any scratch removal product will come as a complete kit that includes all the grit papers, touch-up paint or pen, and clear coat.

    But if you have some of the products and want to just buy the remainder then I have compiled this checklist you can use to ensure you are fully prepared.

    1. Touch Up Automotive Paint or Paint Pen matching your car color
    2. Tin or tube of Clear Coat
    3. Primer (If it is not included in the touch-up paint)
    4. Dry Sandpaper 800 grade
    5. Masking Tape to protect the surrounding area
    6. Small sponge for use as a sanding block
    7. Soapy water
    8. Sponge to wash panel
    9. 1500 grade sandpaper
    10. 3000-grade sandpaper
    11. 5000-grade sandpaper
    12. Compound Polish
    13. Microfiber cloth
    14. Microfiber towel

    I hope this post has helped you gain confidence in your ability as a car owner to remove deep and small scratches and save yourself hundreds of dollars in body shop bills. 

    If you require any further information then please leave a comment below and I will endeavour to reply as soon as possible.