How to Remove a Scratch on Your Car




About: If it breaks, fix it. If it works, take it apart. If it can be bought, make it. If it doesn't exist, create it.

The inevitable nicks & scratches can happen to your car.
But sometimess, a person can be walking by... with a key in hand.... scratching from front to back... 
I couldn't justify spending $$$ to respray, but on the other hand, it was so difficult to look at.
If this happened to your baby, here's a quick way to "remove" it.

This is not an instructables on how to achieve a concours finish.

Tools required
Masking tape
Various grits of sand paper (**600 and higher Automotive only)
Clean bucket of water 
Spray bottle
wash sponge
Microfibre cloths
Rubbing/polishing compound.

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Step 1: Mask

Mask about 1" away from the scratch.

This will be the perimeter you very lightly wet sand within.

Step 2: Start Wet Sanding

With your bucket of clean water.
Wet the sand paper. 
Spray the body panel with water.
Start lightly sanding.

Notes & Tips:
This was my first time doing this. 
I found that starting with your highest grit (I only had 1000)
allows you to get a feel for how much clear coat you are removing.

If you find that your highest grit is filling up fast.
Try using a coarser grit (ie:600grit) with less pressure

It's not recommended but you can get away without using a sanding block.
After all this is a DIY and in reality you are blending the scratch.

While you're sanding with one hand, spray the surface with the spray bottle.

Use the spray bottle to clean your sand paper.

Step 3: Take a Step Back.

So you're sanding right?...
You're in the thick of it.
You're focused on that square inch of space.
Take a step back.
Look at your work.
Did you take too much off?
Is it time to switch to a finer grit?
Are you done?

Step 4: Remove Masking Tape and Inspect Work.

Remove masking tape
Spray area clean with water
Dry with microfibre

The hazing is ok as it will be removed with the rubbing compound/polish.
The area where it gets a bit darker was where the key went through the clear coat.

Step 5: Polish & Wax

Polish with rubbing compound/polish.
I didn't have a buffer at the time.
So this was the first pass by hand with microfibre cloths.
I'm sure you could achieve better results with a buffer.
Lay on some wax.
and voila... 

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    15 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 5

    what brand of rubbing compound and polishing compound did you use?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

    I used 3M rubbing compound for this scratch.
    I now use this brand called Menzerna,
    they have many different "cut" levels. (I'd go for their intensive polish.)

    Add a drop or two of liquid dish soap to the spray bottle. Helps keep the paper cleaner and provides better results.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I wouldn't use 600, and you have to be very careful not to go through the clear (compound will do it too). It looks like you might have on the door.

    Also, I don't see a reason for the tape, unless the scratch is close to the edge of a panel.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You did a great job! I got a small scratch on my husband's new car (from trying to wipe off bird crap with a too-rough paper towel at the service station), and you've reminded/inspired me to buff it out this weekend. Thanks for a great instructable!

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    No need for sanding with those shallow scratches, just make sure it's clean and go at it with the rubbing compound.


    If you don't mind spending $20-$30, get Meguiars or Mothers clay bar kit, give the car a decent wash, use the clay bar, and if need be, rubbing compound on the area, then of course wash again and the paint will have that showroom finish again.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice Instructable.

    Not sure what brand this guy used, but I've had great results using either Meguiars or Mothers products. Either of their rubbing compounds work fine. Not so sure I'd use toothpaste though. When you are dealing with the finish of your car, it's best to do it 100% right the first time.

    Another thing to consider after you're all done, is to wash the car and run over the entire surface with a clay bar to get all the grime and dirt off and give the whole car a showroom quality feel.

    But that's just my own opinion on what to do.

    Also, you won't find this high of a grit of sandpaper at HD or Lowes. You'll need to hit up an auto parts store, (Kragan, Auto Zone, Checkers, etc..)


    7 years ago on Step 5

    You can use toothpaste as an alternative to rubbing compound....polishes your teeth, and works great on oxidization on your car paint.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I've worked on the technical end of vehicle refinishing for nearly 20 years, and your process is exactly right.

    A warning for those following this process: GO SLOWLY! If the car has a basecoat/clearcoat finish (most in the US do), the sanding dust should be white. If the dust color suddenly changes to that of the car, you've gone through the clearcoat and can no longer repair it with rubbing compound.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    @hells-oui; Hi! I'm impressed that Isimoni's impressed. Agree with avoiding $$$ while still being able to restore the look. Tweeting you now. Cheers! Site


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructable! It's kind of hard to believe this is your first time doing scratch removal, very impressed.