How To Touch Up A Scratch On Your Car

Over the course of owning a car, it’s inevitable that you’re going to pick up a few scratches here and there. Whether it’s bushes along a country lane, stones flying up off the road or some ne’er-do-well doing it on purpose, scratches are almost unavoidable.

Read more: Car Security – Is Your Car Begging To Be Broken Into?

And it’s important that you get do something about them sooner rather than later. Not only do they not look great, but if left they can lead to rust and other degradation over time. They may also reduce the value of your car if you’re looking to sell it.

So if you’ve noticed a scratch on your car, here’s how to go about fixing it.

Assess the scratch

The first thing you need to do is actually assess how deep the scratch is. The paint on your car has four layers: clear coat, colour and primer. Under the primer is the steel of the bodywork.

If the scratch is just in the clear coat then it shouldn’t be too tricky to deal with. You’ll know if the scratch is deeper than the clear coat because it’ll show a different colour. Here’s how to touch up clear coat scratches…

Clear coat scratches

Step one – Clean the area

The first thing you need to do is clean the scratch and the surrounding area. Any dirt on or around the scratch could end up making it worse when you’re buffing later on.
And don’t just use the sleeve of your jumper. Use a lint free cloth with soap and water and then let it dry completely.

Step two – Apply rubbing compound

Rubbing compound is used for smoothing and blending paint surfaces so is ideal when it comes to scratches. Apply a small amount (about the size of a 5 pence piece) to a lint free or microfibre cloth and polish a small area slowly and firmly.

Once you’ve done about 20 or so strokes, check to see whether the scratch is still visible. If so, then repeat the process.

CarPlan Rubbing Compound

This rubbing compound from CarPlan is a great choice.

Step three – Apply swirl mark remover

When using the rubbing compound, you may find some swirl marks appear where you’ve been rubbing. If this is the case then you can use swirl mark remover to get rid of them. Alternatively, if you use a product like Turtle Wax Color Magic, then this deals with swirl marks in the first instance.

Step four – leave to dry and clean

Once the scratch is no longer visible, leave everything to fully dry. Then give it another wash just to be sure.

Using a scratch touch up pen

Another option for dealing with minor scratches and chips in the paintwork is to use a touch up pen. This essentially ‘colours in’ the offending scratch, also offering protection from oxidation.

If using a touch up pen, clean the area as described above, carefully apply and then leave to dry. These should only be used with minor scratches – if the scratch has gone through to the steel then you’ll need something a bit more comprehensive. But for your everyday scratches, they’re fantastic.

T-Cut Scratch Magic Touch Up Pen

This Scratch Magic touch up pen from T-Cut is a fantastic product that works with all paint colours and finishes.

Using sandpaper

For the slightly more adventurous, it’s possible to use sandpaper to help you get rid of the scratch. As long as you’re careful, obviously.

When sanding, your aim is to go just through the clear coat and no further. If you go too far down then you’re going to have a problem reapplying primer or colour. Here’s a quick guide on how to do it…

  • Wrap 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper around a sanding block
  • Lightly sand in the direction of the scratch.
  • Regularly brush the area clear so you can see how you’re getting on.
  • Rinse the area making sure it is clear and dry.
  • Use rubbing compound to smooth the area out and polish.
  • Wax the area to seal the paint.
  • Wash the area.

Touching up scratch on car

Colour and Primer Layer Scratches

Unfortunately, if the scratch has gone through the clear coat and then through the colour and/or the primer layers then things get a little more complicated and it’s not quite as simple as just buffing it out. But you can still get it sorted with a bit of work. Here’s how…

Step one – Clean the area

As we mentioned above with clear coat scratches, it’s essential that you thoroughly wash and dry the area around the affected area to prevent further scratches from dirt. Again, use a lint free microfibre cloth. You may also want to give the area a clean with a solvent to rid it of any oil or wax.

Step two – Apply primer or colour

If you’ve gone right down to the metal then you’ll first need to apply primer. Carefully do so and leave to dry before giving the area another clean to ensure it’s free from dirt.
Then carefully apply the colour. Try to stay within the scratch as much as possible. It’s OK to have some overlap onto the rest of the paintwork, but try not to get too much. Leave to dry overnight.

Step three – Sand the area

As described above, you then need to lightly sand the area. This will remove any paint raised above the surface and overlapping onto the rest of paintwork. Sand slowly and delicately, cleaning regularly to see how you’re getting on.

Step four – Use rubbing compound

Again this part is similar to a clear coat scratch. Use rubbing compound to better smooth the area over and blend the new paintwork with the old.

Step five – Add more paint if necessary

If you have any parts of the scratch that aren’t properly filled, repeat steps two, three and four until the scratch is filled and level.

Step six – Use polishing compound / colour restorer

The sanding will likely have cause the paintwork to become slightly dull, but don’t worry. This can easily be restored using polishing compound or colour restorer. Using a small amount of this and rubbing in with a lint free cloth (again making sure the area is clean) will bring up your car’s original shine.

NOTE – please take care when doing this yourself. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, get someone with more experience to help or do it for you.

If you’re going to have a go and repair scratches on your car, check out our full range of scratch repair products.