Car scratches are extremely common and nearly impossible to avoid entirely.
You probably have a handful of scratches on your car, but they are likely not all the same, as there are several different type of scratches.
These different types of scratches affect the paint in different ways and require different methods of fixing.
While some minor scratches can be fixed within minutes using a single product, others may require a lot more time and advanced techniques.
The 3 different types of car scratches are:
- Clear coat scratches are light scratches on the outer layer of the car.
- Color coat scratches are medium-depth scratches that remove color from the car.
- Primer scratches are deep scratches that expose bare metal.
This article will explain these types of scratches and the paint layers that are affected.
Understanding the Paint Layers
There are 3 layers that make up your car’s paint.
The primer coat is the first paint layer on your car. It is applied to the metal surface of the car to prepare the surface for the remaining paint layers. It also adds a layer of protection to the metal beneath it.
The color coat, also called the base coat, is what gives the car it’s color. It is the thinnest layer of paint and its main purpose is to provide color.
The clear coat layer is the outermost part on your car’s paint. It is thick, transparent, and provides two main functions:
- Protects the paint layers beneath it from abrasion, sun-damage, and more.
- Gives the car a glossy, shiny appearance.
Now that you fully understand the paint layers and their functions, here are the 3 different types of car scratches.
Clear Coat Scratches
Clearcoat scratches do not extend into the color (or base coat) layer, therefore do not remove any actual color. Rather, it reflects light unevenly from the surface, therefore becoming visible.
Due to the thickness of the clear coat, these can be light or deep scratches. Both require different products and methods to fix but can be done by yourself at home.
For light scratches, you can either use toothpaste or apply a commercial solution kit in a circular motion over the scratch using a microfiber pad. Do it for a few minutes before inspecting the scratch again
These are the most common type of car scratches, as the clear coat is the outermost layer of your car’s paint.
They can be caused by many different things, such as improper washing, contact with the car (such as leaning against it), or grabbing a door handle with keys in your hand.
It is very easy to scratch the clear coat, therefore you should be careful to avoid contacting it unless you’re washing the car.
Color Coat Scratches
Color Coat scratch is deeper scratch than clearcoat scratches, but do not expose the bare metal of the car.
A color coat (or base coat) paint scratch will remove the color from the vehicle’s paint.
This means it will be more difficult to repair than a clear coat scratch, as the spot will need re-painted.
Although it is more advanced and may be better left to a professional, it can still be fixed at home with touch-up paint and a few other materials.
Paint scratch are caused by moderate-heavy contact with hard objects. For example, they can be caused by hitting branches on the road while driving or someone “keying” your car.
Color coat scratches are typically unpreventable since they aren’t caused by simply rubbing against the paint or washing incorrectly.
They are usually caused by accidents or intentional damage from others.
These are the deep paint scratches which can cause much more damage than simply looking bad compared to the other types of scratches.
Primer scratches will rank as the worst scratch for your vehicle because it expose the bare metal of the car which rusts very quickly. If a primer scratch is left untreated, even for a few days, rust can start to form.
This can cause irreparable damage and make your car unsafe to drive over time. It will also affect the resale value of the car, as rust is extremely undesirable.
Primer scratches are caused by the same situations as color coat scratch, but they just extend further into the paint. Car accidents will typically yield deep car scratches, such as primer scratches.
If you think the primer scratch is not serious, you can try to use a body filler to level out the scratch with the rest of the car.
Otherwise, it is best to send the car for examination by the body shop immediately. It is important to stop rust from forming on the scratch as soon as possible.
[Related Article: 10 Best Electric Buffer For Car Waxing And Buying Guide]
Common Causes of Car Scratches
Car scratches are extremely common and there are many different causes.
Here are a few of the most common causes for car scratches.
Washing your car incorrectly is probably the most common cause of car scratches.
Your car’s paint is much more delicate than you’d think, and it can become scratched very easily.
If you don’t use proper methods when washing your car, dirt can become trapped on your sponge, scratching the paint.
Additionally, using the wrong materials, such as an old t-shirt as a wash rag instead of soft microfiber cloths damages your paint immensely by filling it with scratches.
Not only is your car susceptible to scratches during hand-washing, but automatic car washing can also cause a ton of damage to your car’s paint. You can read about this in detail by clicking here.
Rocks and Road Debris
Scratches and chips are commonly caused by rocks and road debris.
Obviously, rock chips occur when pebbles and stones are launched into the air by another car, then hitting your car and leaving damage.
Flying rocks are not the only way your car can become scratched while driving, as road debris can also damage your paint.
Hitting road debris, such as a stick in the road, loose tire tread, or similar items can cause scratches when they come in contact with your car.
These can often be avoided by paying close attention to the road while driving, but sometimes are unpreventable.
You can also consider getting a paint protection film with a ceramic coating which will be able to protect your vehicle from all the flying rocks and road debris mentioned above.
This is the most obvious cause of car scratches, as you can’t really get into a car accident without resulting in many scratches.
They are caused by the car’s surface coming in contact with a solid object, such as another car.These scratches are often concentrated in the area of impact and extend deep into the paint.
If you have insurance, the repair cost for any deep scratches and dent will most probably be covered by them
Although scratches are very common, you can take steps to help avoid and prevent them.
A great way to help protect the paint from light clear coat scratches is to apply a wax layer.
A wax layer will add a thin protective layer to further protect your car’s clear coat. Although it won’t protect against deep scratches, it may help prevent against light scratch.
You can either do it using your hand or use an electric buffer which is faster and more effective.
Another way to prevent scratches is to learn how to wash your car properly. Hand washing incorrectly is one of the most common ways for a car to become filled with scratches.
Hand washing is not the only way your car can become damaged through washing. Improper washing techniques used by automatic car washes can also cause massive amounts of damage and severe scratch to your paint, especially touch car washes.
You should also be aware of areas that are commonly scratched, such as door handles. Identify the areas where your car is scratched and try to figure out what might be causing the scratches.