If you’ve ever found yourself on the receiving end of a sociopath with a set of keys who has applied them to the paint of your car, do not fret over the damage since most scratches can be repaired fairly quickly and easily.
To prevent car dings and scratches from happening in the first place, try to park your car (especially if it’s a vintage variety) in the farthest reaches of a parking lot where it is usually empty.
But if your car happens to get a scratch anyway, realize there are four layers to the surface of your car: the clearcoat, the color, the primer, and the steel.
Some damage that looks like a scratch may actually be a “rub” in which a softer object has deposited material on the surface of your car and it’s actually on top of the paint, not below the surface (simply rake a fingernail over the area to tell if it’s a scratch or a mark). Rubs are best to have since they can usually be removed with an adhesive remover, or a rag dipped in lacquer thinner, or a rubbing compound and some hand-buffing (be sure to wash the area well with soap and water first).
If you encounter an object harder than the surface of your car, it will gouge into the surface and cause a scrape. Hopefully the scrape only goes into the clearcoat layer and perhaps some of the underlying color beneath, but the primer and metal remains untouched.
First, determine how deep the scratch is and see if it’s “uniform”, meaning its level of deepness stays the same from beginning to end. For shallow scratches that go into the first two surfaces only, you can simply sand down all the paint surrounding the scratch until everything is at the same level, and the damage will no longer be visible. Of course the trick here is not to sand down into the lower levels.
The best way to gauge the depth of your sanding is to apply some black shoe polish to the scratch and stop sanding the area as soon as the polish is entirely gone (Wite-out or another material will also work if your paint is darker in color). Make sure to use ultrafine wet/dry sandpaper of 2000 to 3000 grit, which can be purchased at body shops and auto supply stores. Use a wood block and dip it in cool water after adding a few drops of dish soap to make the sanding slippery and improve the abrasive action. Use shorter movements in the sanding process and move down the full length of the scratch, stopping periodically to rinse out the sand paper (Be careful not to go down into the next layer).
Once the shoe polish is entirely gone, dry the area thoroughly, then use a power buffer and buff the area to get all the tiny sanding scratches out (a wash cloth and rubbing compound will also work if you don’t have a power buffer). When the sanding scratches are eliminated, wash the area again with water and then polish with a swirl mark eliminator, or use a light buffing cloth to bring the shine back to the paint (again, on this step you’ll still have to be careful not to go into the lower layers). Finally add a coat of car wax to seal up the paint and you’re finished! Once again your car will look brand new.
This article on fixing scratches in your car was supplied by Jason Earls from Constant Content.