Scratch Removal Made Easy
How to give your car’s clear coat paint a smoother finish
Today’s two-part urethane paints consist of a clear coat on top of the color coat. While this system preserves the color by protecting against UV rays, and also provides a brighter shine, it can get scratched fairly easily. Just rubbing your rag on a dusty surface, or having grit in the cloth itself, can leave fine lines and swirls.
If polishing and waxing isn’t producing the smooth finish you’d like to see on vehicle, but you can’t feel the scratches with your fingernail, then a simple liquid scratch remover might do the trick.
Note, however, that not all scratches are the same. Some marks might be due to rubbing against a bumper from a car or shopping cart. The material coming in contact with your finish might be softer, and simply leaving behind a bit of material on top of the paint.
If that’s the case, it may come off easily with an aerosol spray for removing tar, bug and adhesives. Be sure to use a chemical specifically designed for marks on paint, as acetone or types of solvents might damage the paint. If the mark is still there after using the spray cleaner, try hand rubbing with a soft grade of polishing compound (it’s easy to penetrate the clear coat, so don’t overdo it). You’ll need to use a polishing compound to remove any fine scratches left by the rubbing compound then finish by sealing the surface with a good car wax.
Medium-depth scratches that you can feel with your fingernail require a more aggressive method designed to minimize defects that don’t penetrate the clear coat. (Bad scratches that penetrate to the color coat, however, require touch-up paint, and perhaps professional care.)
For the medium scratches, we use a scratch remover kit. The system is fairly simple to use, requiring basically three separate steps and a common household drill. As with the rubbing compound mentioned above, less is more. The idea is to take off a very thin layer of the clear coat, but still leaving enough on to protect the paint. And you’ll need to protect the finish with a good wax or synthetic polish to bring back the shine.
1. If buffing and polishing, or even rubbing compound, doesn’t get them out, a more intensive approach might work, as long as the scratches don’t penetrate to the color coat. A quick way to evaluate the depth of the scratch is to run your fingernail over it. If you can feel the scratch but your fingernail doesn’t catch, you can probably repair the damage.
2. After washing the affected area with soap and water, spray water on both the finish and the abrasive pad.
3. Even though the 3000-grit pad in the kit we used feels soft, rub gently on the scratch until a bit of foam appears. After about 10 seconds of rubbing, wipe off the slurry with a wet paper towel to see if the scratch has disappeared. Don’t overdo it, as the clear coat is not very thick.
4. The area being rubbed will dull slightly, depending on the angle of the light. The following steps will eliminate this discoloration.
5. Insert the buffing wheel into a standard household drill (note that a variable-speed trigger makes it easier to control the speed of the buffing wheel, as it’s important not to let it heat up).
6. To prevent splattering, smear the compound around by hand, before starting the drill.
7. Use only a light to medium pressure (enough to slightly compress the pad at a flat angle), operate the drill at a slow to moderate speed. Overlap the area slightly until the compound begins to dry, using progressively lighter pressure.
8. Remove any residue with a clean, dry microfiber towel. Make sure there’s no dirt or grit in your towels, or you’ll just make things worse.
9. Switch out the pads (they can be rinsed for re-use), and apply the remover to a clean pad. Scratch remover is typically thinner than the compound, so use care when squeezing it out, or you’ll have too much on the pad.
10. Again, first smear the liquid without turning on the drill to minimize splatter.
11. Using a light speed setting, polish the compounded area, overlapping it slightly.
12. Buff the area with another clean microfiber towel, until the finish matches the surrounding paint. Look at the area from various angles to ensure that all the scratches and compound have been removed. Repeat the previous step if needed. Protect with a polish or wax as a final step.
send them straight to your Inbox so
you can stay up to date and not
miss a thing!