Small scratches in the paint of your car can be unsightly, and if left untreated they may result in rusting that can cause serious damage to the body of the vehicle. Repairing scratches in the paint will not only improve the look of the car, but it will prolong the lifespan of the body’s components. First, assess the severity of the scratch, and then take corrective action to repair it.
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Preparing to Repair Scratches
Assess the depth of the scratch. The proper way to touch up a scratch is best determined by the depth and severity of the scratch. In a well-lit area, inspect the scratch. Determine how many layers of paint the scratch has penetrated. If it is just through the clear coat, you may be able to buff it out. If it is down to metal, the process will be different.
Look for signs of bare metal or any rust that may have developed on the scratch.
Scratches in the clear coat can be buffed out, whereas scratches through the paint will need new paint applied.
Purchase the correct color touch up paint. Automotive touch up paint comes in a wide variety of colors, so the best way to find the right replacement paint is to look for the paint code in your car’s owners manual. Once you have the paint code, you can purchase touch up paint with the identical code and rest assured that they will match.
Heavily faded vehicles may not match with their original paint code, but this shouldn’t be an issue for small touch ups.
You may also be able to find your car’s paint code inside the driver’s door on the same panel as the VIN number.
Clean the area around the scratch. Use automotive soap and clean water to wash the scratch and the area immediately surrounding it. Make sure there is no debris or dirt stuck to the scratch. Once done, rinse the area thoroughly.
Use a hose to rinse the entire area and ensure there is no dirt or debris stuck to the car’s paint.
Dry the area completely using a towel, or just wait for it to dry.
Use sandpaper to remove any rust that developed. Use 120 grit sandpaper to sand away any rust that has developed on the paint or metal. Be extremely careful with where you use the sand paper to avoid damaging the surrounding paint unnecessarily.
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Remove all rust from the metal before repairing a scratch; otherwise the rust will continue to spread beneath the touch up paint.
If the rust has penetrated the metal, that panel will need to be professionally repaired or replaced.
Choose the right conditions to repair it. It is best not to touch up scratches while working in direct sunlight. Instead, find a shady area to work on the vehicle, or choose an overcast day. The shade will allow you to choose how to light the area to best identify and repair the scratches, as well as keeping things like soap from drying on the paint.
Allowing soap to dry on the paint will dull its finish and possibly damage the paint.
Direct sunlight could make the metal on the car hot, which isn’t optimal for applying touch up paint.