How To Safely Remove Deep Scratches From Your Car

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Found a deep scratch on your vehicle? It’s a bummer! How do you get deep scratches out, preferably at home? Deep scratches are never a good look, especially on a premium or luxury car. If you are proud of your vehicle’s appearance and paint color, we have some information that will help you restore it to its former glory.

How To Safely Remove Deep Scratches From Your Car 1 How To Safely Remove Deep Scratches From Your Car

Table of Contents

How do you remove deep scratches from your car’s paint?

Deep paint scratches can be removed before cleaning the area around the scratch and using a rubbing and buffing compound to loosen up the paint and spread it. You also might want to have touch-up paint on hand. The process can be done in your garage easily with a little time.

We’ll explain the process behind getting deep paint scratches out of your car in more detail. We’ll also explain the potential need for touch-up paint.

Our experience comes from dealerships, body shops, and getting scratches out of nice cars. People don’t like scratches, and neither do we!

What is a deep scratch?

Yes, there are different levels of scratch on a vehicle. Rubbing your fingernail across a deep scratch will catch the fingernail because enough paint has been moved to create a less than smooth surface. 

A deep scratch is also indicated when you can see color besides the paint present. These are most commonly caused by rocks or hard, sharp objects – unfortunately, sometimes including keys. They can also be indicators of soft paint.

If your fingernail doesn’t catch, the scratch likely only goes into the clearcoat, which is nice and makes things easier to repair. The clearcoat is an external paint layer meant to protect your actual paint.

Cleaning the car first

Start by cleaning the area right around the scratch with car washing soap. Ideally, you shouldn’t use anything harsh because your vehicle already has a scratch and doesn’t need that scratch torn up by chemicals. 

The purpose of cleaning the area first is to keep debris, dust, and anything else out of the scratch so it doesn’t get mixed in with the final result.

If the extra junk is sticky, you could use a cotton swab and a bit of rubbing alcohol to loosen things up and make sure it is extra clean.

Filling in the scratch

How To Safely Remove Deep Scratches From Your Car 1 1 How To Safely Remove Deep Scratches From Your Car

You’ve got some options when it comes to what to use to actually fill in a scratch or otherwise repair it. You can get a scratch repair kit at most auto parts stores that most often includes a repair pen and polishing pads that help sand and smooth out the rough part of your car’s scratches and blend the paint back together. 

Instead, you could get a scratch remover and polishing compound that does about the same thing as the scratch pen, only in a larger quantity, potentially with more quality.

Put some compound on the buffing pad and rub it around the scratch. Move in small, fast motions – you don’t even need to full-on wave your arm when working with a small, but a deep scratch, and only really want compound in the scratch.

While you are rubbing, keep an eye on the colors on the pad and the car. A compound is capable of removing paint, so if you are seeing any on the pad or come off the vehicle, don’t rub so hard.

Till it disappears

Keep rubbing and polishing until the compound or product isn’t visible anymore – as it has been integrated with the car and paint. Hopefully as the compound disappears, the scratch will be filled.

What does the compound do?

You are polishing and rubbing in the specific area for a reason: Removing small amounts of old paint and moving good paint around in an effort to refill the scratch. Compounds can do wonders for both purposes – and you will likely also see a new shine in the existing paint because some old paint was removed or moved. 

The compound is basically like sandpaper with a more friendly touch and different purposes.

Do I need a buffer?

A buffer is a handheld tool with a pad on a spinning bearing. The movement replicates that of your arm, but a buffer or polisher can move much faster and more precisely than your hands. You don’t really need a buffer or polisher to get scratches out, as many will be fixed by hand with a microfiber cloth. 

If you do use one, you’ll want to be extra careful about pressure and removing paint as doing so can happen way faster than with your elbow grease.

If you enjoy polishing your vehicle with wax on a regular basis, this can be a helpful investment that saves time as well.

Can I use toothpaste to remove a scratch?

A shallow scratch, maybe. Toothpaste can indeed help move paint, but it won’t work as well as specifically designed compounds.

Do I need touch-up paint?

If using a buffer pad and compound isn’t getting the job done to your liking, or you don’t like the process of fixing it, touch-up paint is another option.

First, you’ll need touch-up paint. This can sometimes be acquired at a local dealership. Other times you’ll want to search for a nearby automotive paint store.

If you think you are in need of touch-up paint, you’ll need to understand one important element here: you are going to need to prime, then paint, then apply a new coat of clear coat to the area, then wax it. This can take more than a bit more time and supplies. At this point, you might want to consider getting an estimate from a local auto body shop on how much parts and labor will cost to get it done professionally.

Before using touch-up paint, apply it to a semi-hidden part of the outside of your vehicle to ensure the color actually matches – especially if your current scratch is in a prominent area. This ensures that you don’t apply poorly matching paint to a more visible spot.

Does covering up a scratch have a long-term impact on a vehicle?

Your vehicle does have a limited amount of clear coat and paint. Clearcoat is the exterior coat that protects the paint itself and helps give it a shine. 

We don’t suggest trying to buffer up your clear coat or paint all that often, as you can rub away too much and be left with less protection and shine, short of repainting the vehicle.

You can also make your vehicle’s paint last longer by using touch-free car washes, as touch car washes can also gradually wear away at your paint.

If you end up with scratches on repeat in the same area either because the paint is weak or you just don’t have the best of luck, consider taking the vehicle to a body shop. A body shop can measure how much clearcoat you have left so you don’t wear all of it off.

Can I just jump into using touch-up paint?

We would not do that, only because there is more work involved in using touch-up paint. It’s worth noting that if you didn’t like the look of a scratch, you’ll probably also notice the result of poorly done touch up paint. Try to do buffing and compound first before going straight to touch up paint.

How long will this take?

Depending on your patience, skill, and equipment, it shouldn’t take long – maybe an hour to work out one scratch. The harder question is how satisfied you’ll be with the work. If you want to get extra detailed, you can take longer and do a bit more work to make it look just right. You’ll also probably spend some time waiting for wax and paint to dry or work itself in.

Would a body shop be more expensive?

The easy answer is probably, especially for small scratches. The difference here is that if are particular about how your paint looks and don’t want to risk messing up – and would rather push someone else to do a better job, you should consider an auto body shop. 

You also might end up needing to pay the deductible, which is surely more than you will spend on materials to do so at home – unless you buy a very nice buffer and polisher for future use.