remove scratches car

The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Remove Your Car Scratches

All cars have scratches regardless of how well they are taken care of. A paint scratch can occur during washing, by someone rubbing up against your car, opening the door with your keys in your hand, and much more. No matter how they occur, clear coat scratch repair can be done easily at home.

There are two ways to repair clear coat car scratches depending on the severity of the scratch. One method is extremely easy and can take a few minutes using scratch remover products and a microfiber towel.  The other method is a bit more involved and will take longer using a professional scratch removal product like the 3M Scratch Removal Kit and a microfiber towel. If you’re more experienced, you can use a power waxer or buffer. Just make sure you know how to use a buffer before attempting it.

Regardless, it will save you money by fixing car scratches by yourself than taking it to an auto body shop.

Identify the Scratch: Light Scratches or Deep Scratches

Not all scratches on your car are equal, as there are several layers to your car’s paint.

You should understand these layers before attempting any kind of scratch repair, as this will help you identify the type of scratch you have and how to repair it.

Most importantly, you should understand the clear coat layer of your car. It is highly recommended to read the article: Car Clear Coat: What Is It?

Types of Car Scratches

There are two different types of clear coat scratches that this guide will teach you how to fix.


scratch identifying graphic

Light Scratches

The first type of scratch, also known as surface scratches, which are identified on the graphic as “A” is very easy and quick to fix. This is a light scratch on the car’s surface, often only touching the first level of the car’s clear coat. You can often polish this surface with a polishing compound, instead of commercial grade scratch removers, to repair the paint.

Deep scratches

The second type of clear coat scratch, deep scratches, identified as “B“, is a slightly deeper scratch that is a bit more difficult to repair, but can still be done by yourself pretty easily. This is a deep scratch in the paint job. You will need scratch removers to repair this car scratch, or take it to your local body shop. Deep scratches often go through all three layers of paint to touch the bare metal of your car.

This guide will not teach you how to repair a color coat scratch (labeled as “C“), as this will require touch-up paint and a car scratch repair kit.

You can read more about the different types of car scratches here.

How to Identify the Scratch

Run your fingers over the scratch while the surface of the car is clean.

  1. If you cannot feel the scratch, it is a minor scratch that can be fixed with the items included in a scratch repair kit or used separately, such as glazing putty with a spreader tool, buffing pads, and some elbow grease. It is easy to remove scratches with the proper know how.
  2. If you can feel the scratch AND your fingernail does not catch easily on the scratch, it is a deep clear coat scratch that should be fixed professionally. Deeper scratches in the car’s clear coat can be fixed at a body shop. These professionals will use car scratch remover products, like Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound, along with the right tools including a buffing pad and rubbing compound to remove surface blemishes in the scratched area

If your fingernail does catch on the scratch, it may need to be fixed with a more advanced method using touch-up paint, an abrasive compound, and a scratch repair kit.

Small Scratch Repair


Mothers 08408-6 California Gold Scratch Remover - 8 oz, (Pack of 6)


Now that you have identified a light scratch on your car, you’ll wash the area and prepare the surface with masking tape to contain the abrasive compound. You will then polish the paint with a scratch remover product and a microfiber towel.

I recommend using Mother’s California Gold Scratch Remover. It is a polishing compound designed specifically to remove scratches on car paint, as the name suggests. I use this product often and it has helped me remove or reduce many small scratches on my car without a visit to the body shop.

Read my full review of the product here.

Repairing minor scratches in the clear coat with Mother’s scratch remover is extremely easy and only takes a minute or two. This product can be found at most auto supply stores.

Follow the process below to remove light scratches from your car:

  1. Make sure the surface, and surrounding area, that you are working on is clean and dry.
  2. Apply a small amount of the scratch remover product to a clean microfiber towel and polish the scratch in a back and forth motion. If it is a larger surface area, use a spreader tool to evenly distribute the product.
  3. Apply moderate pressure while attacking the scratch at multiple angles, using both circular and side-to-side motions.
  4. Wipe the excess with a clean, dry microfiber cloth in a circular motion. Be sure to change microfiber towels as they get dirty so you don’t put a new scratch in your paint.
  5. Inspect the scratch to see if it has improved. Repeat as necessary for heavy scratches.

[Related Article: 10 Best Electric Buffer For Car Waxing And Buying Guide]

Deep Scratch Repair


3M Scratch Remover System Bundle with Microfiber Cloth (2 Items)


To fix deep scratches on your car, you will need a scratch removal product like the 3M Scratch Removal Kit with a microfiber towel.

The product has fantastic reviews on Amazon and is used by many people to fix deep paint scratches easily.

This is a brief overview of the steps involved in removing deep clear coat scratches from your car.

Be sure to follow the detailed process guide provided with the kit.


  1. Clean and dry the scratch and surrounding area. Removing scratches must be done with a clean surface or you will wind up with swirl marks and more scratches than you started with.
  2. Sand the scratched area with the sandpaper included in the kit. Lubricate with water, moving in a circular motion until the scratch has been removed. Not using enough water will compromise the car’s finish and expose bare metal in the extreme. It is smart to use masking tape to protect any accidental contact with other areas of the paint.
  3. Apply a rubbing compound to the scratched area using a drill and the compounding pad provided with the kit.
    Apply three layers of glazing putty. Remove excess putty until you’re left with a light haze. Polish the scratched area using a clean microfiber cloth with a back and forth motion. If you apply too much product, you can use rubbing alcohol to clean the surface and start again.
  4. Apply the polish to the car’s paintwork using a drill and buffing pads provided with the kit until the desired shine is achieved.
  5. Follow by applying a layer of paste wax to restore shine.


Preventing Scratches

Car paint is something that wears over time. Therefore, commonly touched areas like door handles are the first place on a car to check for small scratches.

This is because your nails may scratch the paint, or you’re holding keys or other items while opening the car door.

Car scratches can occur during washing, whether you wash your car by hand or at a car wash. This is why it’s important to always use the right tools with a clean microfiber cloth to protect your car’s paintwork.

Touch car washes should always be avoided! They pick up dirt from all the cars that pass through, then create swirl marks and other surface blemishes in your paint.

You must also be cautious when washing your car by hand. Washing a car with microfiber towels that are not clean can create more scratches in the paint. Depending on how hard you polish the car, the initial scratches could wind up being slightly deeper than you expected. Clean your microfiber towel after each wash to protect your car’s paint job.

You should look out for areas that are commonly scratched on your vehicle and be aware of them to protect your paint. Just remember that your car is a utility vehicle and will not stay perfect forever. A new scratch here and there will not be the end of the world. Just treat your car well and remember that..

Not every car scratch can be prevented, as it is a part of owning a vehicle, but we can be more cautious to protect our car’s paint. I accomplish this by washing my car frequently and taking frequent trips to my local auto parts store. Remember that some care and elbow grease goes a long way in taking care of surface scratches on your car.

Check out the list of recommended scratch removers that kept my car squeaky clean and shiny.

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