How to remove scratches from your car

How to remove scratches from your car

Finding a scratch or scratches in your car is devastating but, if you could fix it yourself instead of taking it to a garage, it might not be so much of a blow. Take a look through our guide to find out what to do if your car has been scratched.

Firstly, understanding how bad the scratch is. Paint on a car is made up of multiple layers. In order to tackle the damage successfully, you will need to understand the purpose of each layer.

Understanding the layers of a car

First of all, there is the body panel itself, then, this is painted with a primer. The primer is sprayed on the body panel in order to create a protective layer between the material and the painted surface. On a metal panel, this is also to prevent corrosion. The primer forms a surface that the paint can adhere to effectively.

The next layer is the colour itself. There are various paint finishes, including gloss, metallic and pearlescent. This is sprayed onto the primer and is the layer that gives the vehicle its chosen colour. Often sprayed on in multiple layers to achieve an even distribution of paint with a uniform finish.

The lacquer is the next layer to be applied (sometimes referred to as a clear coat). This is a colourless layer that offers a durable and protective layer to the colour beneath. This layer has to combine elements required to provide scratch resistance, UV protection and gloss. This layer also gives the paint its clarity.

There is also an option of adding additional protection to the lacquer by using coating. This bonds to the surface and helps prevent micro scratches and oxidation to the lacquer.

How to know what type of scratch you have

Scratches in the lacquer

Scratches in the lacquer are common. These are often caused by things like poor washing technique or drying the vehicle improperly. These are often referred to as swirl marks or micro-scratches. Generally so small that you won’t be able to feel them if you were to run your nail over them.

Scratches in the colour layer

If the scratch is slightly deeper you may notice that it appears to be a different colour underneath. This is where the painted colour layer has been damaged. Often the case with stone chips that you’ll see on the front bumper or bonnet, as they’ll appear white, which is the primer becoming visible. These kinds of defects can be felt fairly easily if you were to run your nail over the scratch.

Damaged primer

The deepest type of scratch is where the base material is visible. If this is on a metal panel, you’ll typically see the shiny surface below. As the primer has been damaged, the base material will have no protection so these types of scratches are prone to rusting if not treated as soon as possible. This type of damage is more typical of deliberate acts such as having your car keyed. These imperfections will be extremely noticeable.

How to fix a scratch

If the scratch is only in the lacquer, then this can be removed with an abrasive polish or through wet sanding. The reason that this works is that these actions allow the clear coat to be levelled. Which produces a flawless reflection. A polish is an abrasive compound that effectively takes any of the sharp edges off the lacquer making it completely smooth. To remove a scratch, it’s always best to start with the least aggressive method. So, start with a fine polish and if that doesn’t remove it, then it’ll need to be tackled with a more coarse polish. If this still hasn’t been removed, then wet sanding is the next option.

This is done by rubbing the lacquer with wet and dry paper. There is only a certain amount of lacquer on a vehicle so prior to wet sanding it’s important you check how much is on the car. This can be done with a paint thickness gauge. Once you know it’s safe to sand, start with a fine grade of paper (1000 grit upwards) and apply even pressure whilst sanding. You’ll end up with a hazy finish and the scratch should no longer be visible. As sanding is an abrasive process, you’ll need to finish up by polishing that area back up. This can be done by hand however, it is much easier with a machine polisher.

If the scratch has penetrated through the lacquer and paint then you’ll most likely need to visit an approved body shop as they will be able to respray and re-lacquer the damaged area.

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