There are few things more annoying than discovering a scratch on your vehicle. Once a scratch is noticed it sticks out like a sore thumb and will become more irritating every time you see it. The first thing that goes through a motorist’s head when they see any kind of cosmetic damage to their vehicle is money. The cost of having a professional repair your paintwork can be astronomical. It is worth remembering that every scratch is different and there are many that you can, with a little confidence and some time to invest, tackle yourself.
Identifying the Scratch
The first step is to understand what type of scratch you are dealing with. The paint on your vehicle is made up of four different layers and the plan to minimize the appearance of a scratch will depend on the extent of the damage to these layers. The top coat on most modern cars is a clear coat that is there to protect the paint underneath. If it is just this layer that has been scuffed, then repair is relatively simple as the vehicle’s paint is, in fact, still intact. More noticeable are minor scratches that have bitten into the next layer down; the colored paint. You may be able to see layer 3; the undercoat or primer. Again, this is relatively easy to deal with. More difficult, but not impossible, is repairing deeper scratches that leave the metal bodywork exposed.
An excellent way to see the extent of scratches to be repaired is to rub a little shoe polish over the affected area. This will show up the marks beautifully so that you only sand the areas you have to. Your finger nail is the best tool for deciding whether you are dealing with a mark on the paintwork that can just be cleaned off, or a scratch needing repair. Once you have decided what the extent of the damage is, it is time to get down to business.
The main things to remember when dealing with car scratches are:
- The importance of cleaning the affected area completely,
- Do not rush and
- If your repair requires it, matching the paint.
Most manufacturers will be able to tell you exactly what shade of paint is used, or if you are lucky, there will be an information panel near the door latch that will give you the exact shade. Best guessing is absolutely not to be recommended.
It is also very important to deal with a scratch promptly. If a scratch, however minor, is left untreated, dirt particles can get into it expatiating the problem , or worse, where metal is exposed rust will soon take hold and bubble up under the paint. The treatment of a new and old scratch is much the same, but the preparation time will be far greater for old damage.
For scratches in a vehicles clear coat, nothing more may be required than a vigorous buffing with a good quality car wax applied after a thorough wash and dry. If things look a little more serious, but are still just the clear coat then you will require a super fine grade of sandpaper, good quality car polish and ideally a drill that you can fit foam polishing discs too. You will need to thoroughly clean and dry the area before using touch up for clear coat in a pen form which can then be carefully applied in the scratch. Once dry, use the sandpaper to gently buff down the edges of the scratch so that it blends into the surrounding area. If you go too far, you will end up damaging the colored paint layer, so be patient and gentle. Once you are satisfied the scratch is filled, polish the area and you will hardly be able to see the mark.
If the damage is in the colored layer, then touch up paint is likely to be required. This should not be daunting and nothing more in the way of tools is required than a toothpick or artist’s brush and some fine grade sandpaper. Again, the area must be thoroughly cleaned. If the chip or scratch has gone down to the metal, then the area must be primed before applying color. If this is not done, the paint will soon flake off and the metal will not be protected. For chips, amazing results can be obtained by placing a toothpick in the center and allowing paint to flow from it until the chip is filled. You will need to be careful that nothing runs over the edge of the area being repaired. Once dry, it can be sanded and clear coat touch up used to complete the disappearing act.
Scratches in a car’s paint job take away from its beauty and value. Removing car scratches requires patience and thoroughness, especially if you want to remove car scratches by yourself. It is important to remember that scratches which do not penetrate past the primer can be repaired at home. If you can see bare metal at the bottom of the scratch, it is best to have your vehicle examined by a professional detailer.