How to repair scratches on a car

How to repair scratches on a car

Coming back from a road trip or a trip to the shops and finding your car scratched can be a pain. Whether you accidentally scraped against a bush or drove down a gravel road, a scratch can be unsightly.

Scratches can be fixed though, so it’s not time to panic. We’ve outlined everything you need to know about repairing scratches on your car below.


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Can you repair scratches yourself?

If you feel like doing a bit of DIY, repairing a scratch by yourself should be possible. It’s certainly not illegal to carry out simple scratch fixes on your car, and fixing it  yourself can be a fairly easy and affordable option for most small surface scratches. You might want to talk to a garage for deeper gouges, but we’ll get to that shortly.

For more DIY blogs, you can check out ‘How to stick wing mirror glass back on’ and ‘How to clean leather car seats


How to repair scratches on your car

Most cars have three layers of paintwork on the main body of the car: clear coat (top layer), base coat (middle layer), and primer (base layer). The process for fixing a scratch varies depending on how deep the scratch goes into those layers. The deeper the scratch, the more technical the process. The easiest way to check the depth of a scratch is to run your finger over it. If you can’t feel the scratch, it’s light. If you can, it’s deep.

If you’re going to try and repair a scratch yourself, you’ll need to do a few things first:

  • Thoroughly wash your car (make sure there’s no grease or dust around the scratch)
  • Check how deep the scratch is (to decide on your method)
  • Gather your safety materials (gloves and goggles)
  • Get the right product for the job (once you’ve decided on your method)

How to repair light scratches

As a general rule, scratches that affect the top layer tend to be possible to buff out. For really light scuffs and scratches, you can use a simple car polish. Some people even swear by toothpaste for polishing, but that will usually only work for really tiny scratches.

Whatever product you decide to use, the method is pretty much the same:

  • Make sure the scratch is as clean as possible
  • Put a small amount (about the size of a pound) of your product onto a clean microfibre cloth and gently work it into the scratch
  • Be careful to only polish the scratch, not the surrounding area
  • Wipe away any remaining residue

You can try again one or two times if the scratch isn’t gone, but try not to do more than that as it can start to damage your paintwork. If the scratch persists it might be deeper than you first thought.


How to repair deep scratches

For deep scratches you might want to use something called a cutting compound or a scratch repair fluid. Cutting compound is basically a tougher polish that’s usually used to smooth out an area after a paint job, but used in very small amounts it can help with scratches. A scratch repair fluid will actually fill up the gap in the paint, so it can be a good option if you don’t want to touch up the paint afterwards. Whatever product you decide to use, it’s a good idea to read all of the information from the manufacturer before you use it on your car.

To repair deep scratches on your car you can:

  • Make sure the scratch is as clean as possible
  • Put a small amount of your product onto a clean microfibre cloth and work it into the scratch and the surrounding area
  • Clean the surrounding area to remove any excess product
  • If you are using cutting compound, you may need to touch up the surrounding area with a touch-up pen and then polish it using the method for light scratches

All of the products used in the methods above usually need a bit of time to set and do their work. It’s best to do your repairs in good weather, away from direct sunlight and try not to drive for 24 hours afterwards.


Getting scratches repaired at a garage

Really deep scratches that go right down to the bodywork might need the whole area sanding down and repainting. In these cases, or if any of the methods above don’t seem to be working, you can take your car to a professional garage or body shop. They’ll take care of cleaning, sanding, priming, painting, lacquering, and polishing the whole panel around the scratch. A good body shop can give really great results, so if you’re having trouble shifting a deep scratch it can be a great option.

If you’re sending your car into the garage and fancy getting a service as well, you can check out our blog ‘How long does a full car service take?’.


Looking for cover against potential future knocks and scratches?


How much does it cost to get a scratch repaired?

The cost of getting a scratch repaired can really vary. If you’re repairing the scratch yourself, it might cost you around £30 for the materials you need, and then it’s just a case of taking the time to do it. For a professional scratch repair at a garage or body shop, you could pay as little as £50 for a light scratch. For deep scratches you’ll likely be paying around £150 to £200, depending on how big the scratch is. If the scratches spread across multiple panels on your car, you could be looking at a bill of £500 or more. For bigger jobs it can be worth shopping around to find a well-reviewed body shop to take care of the work. You may pay a little more but a spotless paint job could be really worth the money.


A few final tips…

Repairing a scratch on your car can be a fairly simple process, just how simple might depend on whether it's a chunk or a scuff. Here are a couple of final things to keep in mind if you’re repairing a scratch on your car:

  • It’s always important to read all the information from a manufacturer before you use their product on your car
  • If you’re not sure about a product or a method, you can ask an expert in a garage or body shop
  • Deep scratches tend to need more effort to repair, so you might want to take your car into a garage if you’re not feeling so confident in fixing it yourself
  • Depending on how big your scratch is, you should have your car back from the body shop in just a couple of days

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.