Damaged Audi- Fixing A Keyed Car Featured Image

How To Fix A Keyed Car: Easiest Ways (Save The Trouble)

Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by Chase Manhattan

Having your car keyed can be a frustrating and emotionally distressing experience. It not only causes unsightly damage to your vehicle but can also affect its resale value.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore different types of car scratches, how to assess the damage, and various methods to fix a keyed car, including DIY solutions and professional help. So lets get to it!

Chase Manhattan

silver car that was keyed alongside the driverside door used as an example to show how to tell when a car is keyed

How Can You Tell That A Car Was Keyed?

Among the many common causes of car scratches, a key scratch is unfortunately common.

A keyed car will typically exhibit a long, deep scratch or series of scratches, often running along the side of the vehicle. The scratch will usually have a rough, jagged appearance, indicating that it was made with a sharp object like a key.

The clear coat and paint layers may be exposed or even penetrated, reaching the primer layer or bare metal beneath. If you have a plastic bumper that was keyed or scratched, removing scratches from black plastic bumpers follows an entirely different process.

Is It Worth Fixing A Key Scratch On Your Car?

Whether or not to fix a key scratch on your car depends on several factors, including the severity of the scratch, the age and value of your vehicle, and whether the scratch affects the structural integrity of the car. In most cases, it is worth fixing the scratch to maintain your car’s appearance and protect it from potential rust and corrosion.

Can You Fix It Yourself?

Depending on the depth and severity of the scratch, you may be able to fix it yourself using DIY methods such as touch up paint, scratch repair kits, or buffing machines. However, when removing a scratch that is particularly deep or extensive, professional intervention may be necessary.

Will My Insurance Company Fix My Keyed Car?

Your insurance coverage for a keyed car depends on your policy, insurance agent and the type of coverage you have. Generally, comprehensive insurance will cover vandalism, including key scratches. However, you should check your specific policy and discuss the situation with your insurance provider to determine the extent of your coverage.

rusted car fender amongst other scratches to show what happens if you don't fix a key scratch

What Happens If You Don’t Fix A Keyed Car?

If you don’t fix a keyed car, the exposed paint and metal can become vulnerable to the elements, leading to rust and corrosion. This can ultimately cause further damage and reduce the value of your vehicle. Additionally, leaving a “someone keyed my car” scratch unaddressed can make your car less visually appealing, potentially affecting its resale value.

Different Types of Car Scratches

There are two main types of car scratches: light scratches and deep scratches. These can vary in severity and require different methods to repair. They are based solely on the depth of which they enter the car’s clear coat.

infographic showing what happens when you get a clear coat scratch

Light Scratches (aka Clear Coat Scratch)

Light scratches are superficial and typically affect only the clear coat layer of your car’s paint job. They are often caused by minor incidents such as brushing against a bush, contact with another car’s car door while in a parking lot, or accidental contact with a sharp object.

Can It Be Fixed At Home?

Yes, a clear coat scratch, or other light scratches, can usually be fixed at home using a variety of DIY methods, including polishing compounds, rubbing compounds, and scratch repair kits. These methods can help to remove the scratch and restore the clear coat to its original appearance.

infographic showing what happens when you get a scratch in the car's primer coat

Deep Scratches

Deep scratches penetrate beyond the protective clear coat, and can reach the paint, primer layer, or even the metal beneath. These scratches are often caused by more significant incidents, such as vandalism, collisions, or aggressive contact with sharp objects.

Can It Be Fixed At Home?

While some deep scratches can be addressed using DIY methods like touch-up paint, more severe damage may require professional intervention. In these cases, a body shop can help to properly repair the scratch, ensuring the best possible outcome for your vehicle.

body shop professional using a buffer which is a common way to fix a scratch by yourself

How To Fix A Keyed Car By Yourself

There are three main ways to fix a key scratch by yourself:

  • use a touch up pen
  • use a buffer
  • use a scratch repair kit

Now, let’s get into more detail on each method.

Using A Touch Up Paint Pen

This is one of the more common methods of fixing a keyed car; however, in my opinion there are better methods to accomplish this. While a touch up paint pen may be an easy and convenient method, it is only a temporary solution and will degrade over time. In order to maintain your car’s appearance and resale value, I would suggest taking a look at the other methods here so you can adequately fix the issue and go on with your life.

Using A Buffing Machine

Similar to waxing your car with a buffer, a buffing machine can be an effective tool for removing light scratches from your car’s clear coat. With the right supplies and technique, a buffing machine can help to restore your car’s appearance and remove unsightly key scratches.

Supplies You’ll Need For The Buffing Machine

To use a buffing machine to fix a keyed car, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • A buffing machine or polishing machine
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rubbing compound
  • Polishing compound
  • Masking tape
  • New paint (if necessary)
  • Primer layer (if necessary)

Using A Scratch Repair Kit

Scratch repair kits, Like Mother’s Scratch Remover Gold, are designed to help you fix light to moderate scratches on your car’s clear coat. These kits typically include various abrasive materials, such as sandpaper and rubbing compounds, as well as clear coat applicators and polishing tools.

Using a scratch repair kit can be relatively straightforward, provided you follow the instructions carefully and work patiently. It’s essential to take your time and ensure that you’re using the correct materials and techniques to achieve the best possible results.

How To Fix A Keyed Car With An Insurance Company


When considering whether to fix a keyed car through your car insurance company, several variables can impact your decision. These include your policy coverage, your deductible, your claim history, and the cost of the repair.

Did You Get A Police Report

In some cases, your car insurance policy may require you to file a police report if the cause of the scratch on your car was from the actions of another individual. However, if you have a comprehensive insurance policy you can likely just claim it as your own. Keep in mind, doing this frequently has the potential to affect your insurance rates.

Your Policy

As previously mentioned, comprehensive insurance typically covers vandalism, including key scratches. However, you should confirm the specifics of your coverage with your insurance provider to ensure that your comprehensive coverage policy will cover the cost of repairing your keyed car.

Your Deductible

Your deductible is the amount you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in. If the cost of repairing your keyed car is close to or less than your deductible, it may not be worthwhile to file a claim with your insurance company.

Your Claim History

Filing a claim for a keyed car could potentially impact your insurance premiums, depending on your claim history and the specifics of your car insurance policy itself. Consult with your insurance provider to understand how filing a claim for a keyed car might affect your rates.

car buffer being used to demonstrate a common way that professionals restore trim and remove scratches

How Professionals Would Fix A Keyed Car

Professional repair shops and body shops have the experience, tools, and expertise to properly fix a keyed car. They can assess the damage, determine the best course of action, and perform the necessary repairs to restore your vehicle’s appearance and protect it from further damage.

Repainting The Scratched Area

New sanding and painting can be an effective method for repairing deeper scratches that have penetrated the clear coat and paint layers. By carefully applying touch-up paint to the affected area, you can help to restore your car’s appearance and protect the smooth surface of the underlying metal from rust and corrosion.

How Long Does New Paint Last?

New paint can last for several years if properly applied and maintained. However, the longevity of touch-up paint can be affected by factors such as your car’s exposure to the elements, the quality of the paint, and how well it matches your car’s original paint.

Will The New Paint Match My Paint Job?

New paint is typically designed to match your car’s original paint as closely as possible. However, variations in color and finish can occur due to factors such as age, sun exposure, and paint formula differences. To ensure the best possible match, consult your vehicle’s manufacturer for the appropriate paint code and purchase touch-up paint from a reputable source.

How Much Does It Take To Fix A Keyed Car Professionally?

The cost to fix a keyed car professionally can vary depending on the severity of the scratch, the type of vehicle, and the repair shop’s rates. In general, professional car scratch repair can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the extent of the damage and the required repairs.

Wet Sanding

Wet sanding is a technique used by professionals to remove scratches and imperfections from a car’s clear coat. This process involves using fine-grit sandpaper and water to gently wet sand the affected area, smoothing out the scratch and restoring the clear coat’s appearance.

What Does Wet Sanding Do To The Clear Coat?

Wet sanding can help to remove scratches and imperfections from the clear coat, restoring its appearance and protecting it from further damage. However, it’s essential to use caution when wet sanding, as excessive pressure or improper technique can damage the clear coat or even expose the underlying paint or metal.


In conclusion, fixing a keyed car can be a challenging yet rewarding process. By understanding the different types of scratches and the various methods for repairing them, you can choose the best approach for your specific situation. Whether you opt for DIY solutions like touch-up paint and scratch repair kits or seek professional assistance, it’s crucial to address and fix keyed car scratches promptly to protect your vehicle’s appearance and value.

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