&39Tis But a Scratch: Misadventures in Automotive Scratch Repair

&39Tis But a Scratch: Misadventures in Automotive Scratch Repair

Dream Cheeky will help you know How To Fix Minor Scratches On Car 2022: Should Read

Video How To Fix Minor Scratches On Car

The scratch was small, maybe half an inch long. Hard to even see unless you knew where to look. But once you knew, it was the only thing you could see. It was all I could see, anyway.

I had only had the car for two weeks when the scratch appeared. I’d gassed up just once by the time I saw it, right there on the hood. How could it have happened? A mishap at the car wash? A passerby I’d wronged? Some kind of deranged animal? It wasn’t from another car or falling debris, that was for sure. But what could have left this blemish, marring my beautiful new Mazda CX-5 with less than 300 miles on the odometer, leaving behind a scratch so deep I could run my fingernail inside it? From the looks of it, it went all the way down to the primer.

I guessed it didn’t matter. The real question was how to get rid of it.

My quest to remove the scratch took me first to my local car wash and detailing center, who always seem to do good work. The guy with the clipboard said that for $100 they’d hand-wax it and try to buff it out. I crossed my fingers, but after the detailing the scratch was still there. I asked the technician, a term I use extremely lightly, to take another look. They squirted some polish onto a rag, rubbed it for a second and shrugged. Nothing we can do, the scratch is too deep. I would need to take more drastic action.

The aftermath of that encounter led me to the one place where I knew I could find a solution: The internet. And as I expected, I quickly found there was no shortage of tactics and products that promised to remove scratches from your vehicle, be they either tiny or deep.

Even cursory research online will take you down a rabbit hole that will reveal myriad approaches to fixing a scratch. One YouTube video showed I could just spray WD-40 on the scratch to make it disappear. Another site said I could just rub toothpaste on it. A lot of these amounted to very temporary fixes or last resort repairs, and if you spend more time doing the research you’ll find scratch repair ultimately boils down to a few different approaches, all of which I eventually tested.

Before I explain them, first you have to understand how automotive paint works. A modern car has three levels of paint on top of the bare metal: primer, then the base color, then the clear coat, which is the thickest layer of the three. A small or shallow scratch is deemed as one that doesn’t break through the clear coat and into the paint, whereas a large or deep scratch impacts the paint, the primer, or the bare metal. The further down the scratch, the harder it is to repair but, as Novato, California-based car restorer Walter Jensen said to me, “Every scratch is different,” adding that a scratch can be quite complex, shallow on one end, deep in the middle, and shallow again on the other side. “Honestly, a scratch is harder to deal with than a dent,” he said.

Small scratches can usually be rubbed out with polishing compound. The rule of thumb is that if your fingernail doesn’t catch on the scratch, it’s just a superficial clear coat scratch that can be smoothed out and made invisible. Scratches like these show because the light catches the side of a V-shaped groove in the clear coat. The reflection is so strong that it can look white, particularly on a car with dark-colored paint, said Mike Pennington, a veteran director at Meguiar’s, which makes a well-known line of car paint repair and daily care products. The goal with light scratches is simply to smooth out that V into a wide valley, so it doesn’t catch the light, effectively making the scratch invisible.