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How to Successfully Buff Out Scratches on a Car

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If you’re reading this, the chances are that the unthinkable has happened, and you’ve got a scratch on your car. Regardless of the age of your vehicle, a scratch is frustrating, unsightly, and houses the potential for long-term damage. So, your car has a scratch (or two). Now what?

Depending on the depth and severity of the scratch, you can go a few different routes to remove it. In this guide, we’ll detail—pun intended—how you can buff out scratches on your car and restore it to its original shine.

Why Buff Out Scratches on Your Car?

To understand how to remove scratches from your car, you’ve got to understand the anatomy of your vehicle’s paint job and why taking care of scratches is so important.

Your car’s paint is three layers: primer, base paint, and topcoat. Any time your car gets scratched, the paint is compromised. As scratches go deeper into each layer of paint, dirt, water, and other elements make their way into the crevice and can cause serious long-term damage.

If a scratch goes deep enough to break through the primer and hit the metal car body, it’s only a matter of time util rust develops. By then, you have an entirely new and quite costly problem on your hands. Once rust forms, it’s difficult to stop the progress and remove it. You’ll almost certainly need professional help, and what was once simply a scratch with an easy fix has become a serious issue.

Even the slightest scratch that only disrupts the top clear coat will severely devalue your car. And of course, the deeper the scratch, the more it lowers the value of your vehicle, especially if you ever decide to sell it. Buffing out these paint scratches will help your car retain not only it’s aesthetic value but its dollar value as well.

How to Determine the Severity of the Scratch

All scratches are not created equal, but you should address them all and buff them out until they no longer exist. Determining the severity of a scratch on your car is simple. And you already have the tool you need to do the job.

When evaluating the scratch on your car, simply run your fingernail along the paintwork. As you drag you nail over the scratch, feel its depth. If it’s thinner than a sheet of paper or if your nail doesn’t catch the scratch at all, your clear coat is likely the only layer of paint that’s been damaged.

However, if the scratch is thicker than a sheet of paper or if your nail catches it, the scratch runs deeper than the clear coat, and you’ll need to address the scratch accordingly.

How to Remove Light Scratches from Your Car

Taking care of light swirls or scratches on your car’s surface is easy and affordable. Sometimes an automatic car wash can leave light marks on your vehicle. Even fingernails can scratch the surface around door handles. You can easily remove these surface-level blemishes with a little time, a little elbow grease, and a scratch remover product. The process is simple:

  1. Wash and dry the car.
  2. Apply the scratch remover to a microfiber towel. Spread the product over a 2-foot by 2-foot square.
  3. Apply firm pressure and rub the area for about 60 seconds, then let it dry to a haze.
  4. Remove the dried product with a microfiber towel.
  5. Repeat the process until the affected area is buffed clean.

A scratch remover product allows for a one-time application to remove light swirls and scratches. It works by both cleansing and polishing, taking care of light marks on your car’s paint. These products will easily take care of scratches on your vehicle.

How to Remove Deep Scratches from Your Car

In some cases, you’ll have a scratch so deep that it’s surpassed the clear coat into the base paint. Tackling these deeper scratches takes a little effort, but if you’re willing to put in the time and energy, you can save yourself a trip to the body shop and buff out the scratches right at home. When you conduct the fingernail test on your car’s coat and your nail catches, you can use the method we’ll outline here to take care of it.

  1. Wash your car and dry thoroughly.
  2. Using 2,000 grit sandpaper, sand the scratched area until you come to your car’s metal panel. Sand with the scratch in one direction. This step might make you feel uneasy, but trust us, this will help you buff out those deep scratches!
  3. Tape off the sanded area, then apply automotive primer using a paint sprayer.
  4. Once the primer is dry, paint over it using your car’s matching paint. You can find your car’s paint code inside the driver’s door, or you can call your dealer for help to ensure you correctly match the color.
  5. Once the paint has cured, polish the repaired area with a polishing compound until it matches the shade of the rest of your car.

This method of buffing out scratches is perfect for new scratches that have yet to rust. If a scratch has dug into your car’s metal body, or if rust has set in, you will want to bring your vehicle into the shop. At that point, if the repair isn’t done perfectly, you risk the spread of rust and further damage to your car.


In most cases of light to moderately-deep scratches, you can buff them out right at home. However, if a scratch has made its way to the primer level or even to the bare metal of your car, a professional should address it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you can fix the issue with a little time and effort. With this guide, you have all the information you need to buff out those scratches on your car, making it look as good as new.

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