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Removing car paint scratches

Written By Andrew Brady

Car scratched parking
  • We explain all about repairing scratches on your car
  • Find out how much professional scratch repair will cost
  • Can you repair scratches yourself?

Scratches on your car’s paintwork are every motorist and car-lover's worst nightmare. But whether you’re selling a car, buying one, or simply want to get your car back to looking its best, it can be surprisingly easy to get scratches out of a car. And it doesn't need to be expensive, either.

What kind of paint scratch is it?

Repairing scratches on a car depends on how deep the scratch is. Cars have three layers of protection covering the body panels. These are the primer, base coat and clear coat.

The primer protects the bare metal. The base coat gives your car its colour. And the clear coat is the final protective layer, a bit like a varnish over stained wood.

How much will scratch repair cost?

This obviously depends on how bad the scratch is. Do the job at home and it might not cost anything. Or you could buy a kit from a motor retail shop which could cost anywhere from £10 to £50.

If you decide to use a professional, the price will go up depending on whether you use a mobile operator or take your car to a proper paint shop. But you get what you pay for, and a professional finish will make your car look as good as new. It could increase its value, too.

DIY scratch repair

If a scratch is in the car’s clear coat or not too deep into the paint, it is possible to deal with it yourself. But the deeper the scratch, the harder it is to fix.

As with many things in life, fixing a scratch might seem simple. But it’s easy to make the damage worse. For a start, painting a car is a skilled job. The paint needs matching and, the older a car is, the more chance there is the original colour will have faded slightly. And you don’t want to start with a touch-up kit and end with an entire panel needing a respray.

If you’re in any doubt or worry about fixing the problem, you can always take it to a professional.

Where can I get scratches repaired?

If you decide not to tackle a repair yourself, what you do next depends on how bad the scratch is. If it’s deep and over several panels – perhaps if the car has been vandalised with a key – you should take it to a garage that has a proper paint shop.

If it’s just a couple of relatively small bits of damage, there are numerous companies that specialise in what are known as SMART repairs. This Small and Medium Area Repair Technology enables dents or other damage to be filled, paint colours properly matched and cars made good as new without a complete respray.

For maximum convenience, mobile operators will come to your home or workplace and do the job there and then. If you do go down this route, make sure you use a reputable company, ideally one that belongs to a professional body or nationwide chain that will guarantee its work. And make sure to get quotes from more than one company so you can find the best possible price.

How to remove scratches from a car at home

If it’s a small scratch and you want to fix it yourself, you could try using toothpaste. This is a well-known hack for repairing general scratches and works on cars too.

First of all you need toothpaste, not gel. And if it’s the sort of toothpaste that promises to whiten your teeth, that’s better still.

The toothpaste has gentle abrasives in it for cleaning your teeth. The idea is that you use this to rub away some of the clear coat. Doing this levels off the area around the scratch, making it disappear.

All you need to do is wash and dry the area of the scratch thoroughly, then apply a small amount of toothpaste to a microfibre cloth and rub gently in a circular motion along the scratch.

Finally, wash the toothpaste off, and the scratch should be gone. If it’s still there, give it another couple of tries.

Using a scratch remover

Toothpaste may work for some small scratches, but you can’t beat using a properly developed product. And you’ll certainly need one of these for deeper damage.

The technique is usually similar to toothpaste, but make sure you read the product’s instructions thoroughly.

Once you’ve finished, it’s important to remove any product that is overlapping the scratch, or it may mark perfectly good paintwork. If you’re not satisfied with the first go, check the instructions to make sure you can give it a second try.

Deep scratch repair

Some scratches will go beyond the clear coat and base coat and into the primer or worse, down to the metal.

Cars get their shiny finish by having layers of paint built up. It’s very difficult for those without expertise and the right equipment to repair deep scratches. If the scratch is too deep, it’s well worth having a professional check it over.

See also: 

Grey is the UK's favourite car colour

Ensuring your car passes its MoT

Should you get a used car warranty