DETAILING MY CAR > Scratch Repair and Touch up

Scratch Repair and Touch up

There is nothing worse than a big fat scratch on your car. Fix it right

 Touch up Paint for Cars

Horror of all horrors. You come out of the grocery store and see a scratch in your car’s paint – no certified car nut can take this. It makes me sick to my stomach. But that’s your favorite car nut talking. In this article I will cover several methods I have used to get minor surface scratches and scuff out of cars’ paint. Car scratch repair can be done with a power buffer, hand polishing, wet sanding and touch-up painting. I will cover both professional and at home tricks and tips. Don’t worry, many times a scratch isn’t the end of the world for us car nuts.

How Todays’ Cars’ are Painted – it’s all about the layers

To begin leaning about scratch repair it is important to understand how modern cars are painted. Todays’ paint jobs consist of thee coats. First there is a layer of primer. This is covered by coats of colored paint. On top of this is a layer of clear paint. This is called base coat – clear coat. The biggest advantages of this method are a superior deep shine and durability. This type of paint is very resistant to fading from exposure to the sun and natures elements.

Car Paint Scratch Repair

I want to begin by covering the most common type of scratch. These are minor scratches and light scuffs that are confined to the top clear coat layer of your paint job. Scratches that go too deep into the color layer or down to the underlying primer require some more in depth techniques that I will cover later in this post.

Paint Touch-Up Methods for More Minor Scratches

The first thing to do when you get a scratch is to gauge its depth. Run your fingernail across it. If you can really catch your nail in the scratch it could require some heroic measures to remove. For our example lets’ consider a minor scratch that you can just barely feel with your fingernail.

At my detail shop we would tackle surface scratches like this with a power buffer, a foam buffing head and some clear coat buffing compound. This works extremely well but requires a great deal of practice and knowledge to accomplish at home. However, today there are some incredible products you can purchase to use at home – without needing a power buffer and everything that comes with it.

There are hand polishing compounds that you can use to rub out the scratches. A couple of my favorite ones are NuFinish Scratch Doctor Scratch Remover, Turtle Wax Scratch Repair and 3M Scratch Remover Polish.

These compounds work by leveling out the paint – smoothing the scratch out so that it removes the sharp edge. This makes it almost invisible to the eye. If your scratch is minor you won’t even be able to catch your fingernail in it. Just be sure not to rub with too much pressure or over one spot too long. You don’t want to go all the way through the clear coat.

Handling Deep Paint Scratches That Require Paint Touch up

Now lets’ go over how to get out deeper scratches. At the detail shop if the scratch was too deep to get out with a buffer we would use some wet/dry sand paper. The wet sandpaper is rubbed over the scratch to get down to a clean layer of paint below it. It levels out the paint in the scratched area. In some cases a little power buffing is then needed. It is very helpful to mix up a little soap and water to soak the sandpaper in before you begin. This acts as a lubricant.

The next step is to rub out the now dulled paint so it shines like the rest of the car. You will need to visit your local auto body paint store to get the proper grades of wet/dry sandpaper for the job. Ask the staff for the correct combination for your car. Once again use some caution so you don’t rub all the way through the paint. Wet sanding can be a little intimidating.

Paint Touch up Kits

The good news in this situation is that there are now some complete kits you can buy for removing scratches. One of my favorites is Turtle Wax Scratch Repair Kit. This kit includes four grades of wet/dry sandpaper, polishing compound and a tube of clear coat paint. On scratches that are all the way through the clear coat but not the color coat you can use this touch up paint to fill the gaps. By using the touch up paint stick you will fill in the scratch with clear paint so it will disappear.

Dealing With Serious and Deep Scratches

Now let’s say the scratch is down to the primer or even down into the metal. There is still hope. You need to go to your car dealer or an auto parts store and pick up a touch up paint kit. This consists of a tube of color matched paint and a tube of clear paint. Simply apply a thin layer of the colored paint, allow it to dry for thirty minutes and then apply the clear paint. This works pretty well. To make the job look even better go over the new touch up paint with some clear coat polishing compound to really smooth it out. It makes the repair very hard to notice.

Tips for Automotive Touch Up Paint Methods

One trick I used at my detail shop included the use of masking tape. Before we started putting on any touch up paint we applied masking tape right up to the edge of a scratch. Tape off both sides of a scratch – leaving just the gap where the paint is missing. This prevents you from putting too much paint on the surrounding areas – leaving the touch up paint only in the wound. Remove the masking tape about a minute after you apply the touch up. You don’t want the paint to dry the tape to the car. One quick tip – use blue painters tape for this. It is available wherever they sell house paint. It doesn’t leave any glue behind on the car.

The next step is to go over the freshly painted area with a thin coat of clear paint. Once again I normally waited at least half an hour for the colored paint to dry. Once the paint had dried we would hand rub it with a soft towel and some polishing compound (Mequires Machine Glaze works great).

You can also purchase matching touch up paint in aerosol cans from companies like Dupli-Color. I prefer the hand touch up method over spray painting – you don’t have to worry about overspray getting on the rest of the car. But on large areas it can be a big help.Once the scratches have been either hand rubbed, power buffed, wet sanded or touched up it is time to rub out the area with some clear coat compound. Next apply a coat of wax so the area you have worked on shines like the rest of the car.Now we have learned the various ways to remove scratches – it all depends on how deep they are. No matter which one you choose it will always look better than an ugly scratch on your baby.


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