Car Dent Repair: Buffing Out Scratches

  • 1-6 hours
  • Beginner
  • 35-100
What You'll Need
Buffing compound
Matching spray paint

Having to deal with a car dent repair is a task most car owners have at one time or another. When your car has been dented, scratched, or scraped you need to decide whether you want to have the damage repaired by an auto body repair shop or whether you can repair the damage yourself. If you choose the self-repair route, you'll need to know something about the tools, materials, and methods used needed to repair your car.

Step 1 – Determine Scratch vs. Mark

Before you begin repairing a scratch on your car's paint, you should be sure it is really a scratch, not simply a mark. Often what appears to be a scratch may, in fact, may be only a removable mark.

Step 2 – Remove a Mark with Commercial Products

You can usually identify a mark by rubbing across it with your fingernail. If some of the mark comes off, you can usually be assured it is a mark. You should be able to remove a mark that is from plastic, rubber, or paint with an adhesive remover or tar remover.

Step 3 – Remove a Mark with Rubbing Compound

If you can't remove the mark, using one of these removal products, try applying acetone, fingernail polish remover, or lacquer thinner with a soft, absorbent cloth. As a last resort, try a rubbing or polishing compound, after you've cleaned the surface with a solution of mild detergent and water. Apply rubbing compound, and rub with your cloth in small circles. When the mark is gone, remove the buffing marks by rubbing in a straight line. Use a clean cloth to buff over the area where you've applied the compound. Finally, apply car wax to seal the surface.

Step 4 – Repair a Shallow Scratch

A true scratch may have penetrated only through the clearcoat. The clearcoat is a coat applied by the auto manufacturer over the actual car paint. This coat is intended to protect the paint from UV rays. You can identify a scratch that penetrates only the clearcoat layer by a close examination. A paint scratch will penetrate the paint, leaving the color of the primer beneath. If the scratch penetrates to the metal, you'll need to paint the scratch. You can remove a superficial clearcoat scratch with the same process as you use for removing a mark.

Step 5 – Repair A Deep Scratch

Wash the surface with detergent and water, then let dry. Use a 200- to 300-grit wet-dry sandpaper placed on a sanding block, and rub the sandpaper against the scratch until the top paint surface and the primer or metal surface are evenly level. Then, wash the surface and let it dry.

Step 6 – Paint the Area

Paint the sandpapered spot with an aerosol paint that matches your car's paint color. You can typically get this paint in an aerosol can supplied by your dealer. Hold the can about 12 to 15 inches away from the car's surface and carefully move it back and forth across the area to be painted. Allow it to dry for 24 hours, then light buff and apply a coat of car wax.