3 Types of Car Scratches and How to Fix Them Yourself (DIY)

Whether it is an old Toyota car or a brand-new Ferrari, scratching the vehicle’s surface can be frustrating.

Most car owners take pride in the gloss of their car’s paintwork. Besides, it can cost a lot of money to fix a car scratch, depending on the extent of the scratch.

However, pointing out the actual cause of a car scratch is not always a straightforward task.  Many circumstances may be at play – the scratch might have resulted from your car washing method, flying rocks or road debris, scratching against metal and other cars, or even accidentally rubbing against the car surface.

If you have recently spotted a scratch on your car, I have good news for you. Most of those car scratches can be removed. Of course, the ease of fixing car scratches depends on the magnitude of the scratch.

Where you have a mere clear coat scratch, you might not even need a professional as you can do it yourself. Primer scratches are worse and may require professional assistance.

Aren’t you curious to know how you can fix these scratches by yourself and avoid spending extra money?

Here, I have prepared all the answers you seek. Read on to find out more.

What is a Scratch in a Car?

A car scratch is a laceration caused by your car’s paint coating, usually resulting from a foreign substance dragging and gouging the vehicle’s surface. The scratch may be superficial or deep, meaning it may be glaring or almost unnoticeable.

To determine whether your car has a scratch, you may run your index fingernail along the affected surface and feel whether it sticks. This test is also vital when you want to determine the extent of the scratch. Where it catches, it means the scratch is deep and might have reached the car’s metal surface.

What Causes Car Scratches?

As already hinted, there are numerous causes of car scratches. Some of these may be intentional, while others may be purely accidental. You might not even realize that you have scratched your car till days later.

Here is a snippet of the common culprits potentially responsible for your car’s scratch.

Incorrect Washing and Drying Method

This is among the leading causes of car scratches. The fact is that your car’s paintwork is very delicate, and it can be easily scratched, though unintended. For instance, dirt may cling onto the sponge you are using to clean your car and gouge the paint coating.

This, therefore, means that you have to pay attention to the methods you use when washing or drying your car.

As for washing, you should not resort to any material – like a washing rag, sponge, or old clothes – since there is a chance that it will damage your paint. Instead, it is advisable to look for a synthetic microfiber towel. Microfiber towels are specifically meant for that job.

The same applies when it comes to drying your car. Avoid materials with little lubrication, and instead, use a microfiber towel or a blow-dryer meant for the job.

Automatic Car Washes

It cannot be disputed that automatic car washes have simplified work and made your car washing endeavor stress-free.

However, here is something you did not know about them. Automatic car washes are potential culprits for those numerous scratches you see on your car.

Like a sponge, the brushes used here may accumulate dirt and grit over a period since many cars pass through it. When your vehicle passes through the car wash, it gets scratched and may sustain swirl marks.

In extreme circumstances, automatic car washes are also fond of breaking car parts like antennas.

Rocks And Debris

Apart from poor washing techniques, rocks and road debris are also the leading causes of car scratches and chips.

Rocks and pebbles along the road may be launched into the air by your car or by another vehicle using the road. These then hit your car at a high force when they fall, leaving severe damage to your paint coating.

Rock chips are beyond your control, so there isn’t much you can do besides taking cautionary measures like applying a paint protection film, applying a ceramic coating to your car, or even using a vinyl wrap to minimize the damage.

Apart from flying rocks, scratches may also result from road debris like sticks o loose tire tread. Once your vehicle hits debris, it goes flying and causes severe damage to your car.

The only way to avoid this is by driving carefully and observing the road to dodge such debris.

Rubbing Against the Car

This is usually unintentional, and it only results in clear coat scratches that are light and easily removable. Some of the forms of rubbing include when you wear buttons, and you lean against your car then shift your weight.

This may also happen if you place a coffee cup on top of your car and rub the cup against the car’s surface.

Car Accidents

Your car will sustain severe damage whenever you get into an accident. Imagine hitting a tree post with a lot of force or crashing into an oncoming vehicle at high speed.

What are the odds that your car will come out of such a scenario without a dent or numerous scratches? Your guess is as good as mine.

In such cases, the scratches are usually more at the point of impact. In most cases, they are profound, exposing the metallic part of the vehicle. It may be impossible to fix such scratches using the do-it-yourself (DIY) technique. Professional assistance is necessary.

Malicious behavior

This is damage that is intentionally done to your car. It is a form of vandalism. Although very rare, it happens to a good number of people.

The main form of malicious behavior has been dubbed ‘keying.’ Keying refers to the act where someone takes a key or a sharp object and drags the same across your car’s paint coating, applying a lot of pressure.

This causes deep scratches that cover a large part of the car’s surface.

Different Types of Car Scratches and How to Fix Them

Up to this point, you already know that there are different types of car scratches, usually depending on the severity and how deep they are. They have been categorized into levels 1A and 1B, followed by 2, 3, and 4.

The first level is very superficial, and such scratches are easy to fix. However, scratches that fall under levels 3 and 4 are intense and require professionals.

Read through to grasp the various types of scratches and how you may fix them.

Clear-Coat Scratches

A clear coat is an outermost layer of finishing that is clear and pigment-free.

It is intended to protect your car’s paint job from environmental conditions that may potentially cause damage. The conditions include exposure to the sun for long periods and acidic rain.

Clear-coat scratches include those resulting from car washes. This is the best of all the scratches since it is superficial and easy to fix.

You do the fingernail test to determine whether your car has a clear-coat scratch test. If it is, then your fingernail will not catch or stick.

Fixing The Scratch

To fix a clear-coat scratch, you will need a buffer and a polishing compound – it may be a scratch-removing polish o just a standard polish. You can do it yourself, so you do not need a professional.

  1. Clean the affected area using soapy water.
  2. Rinse and dry the surface.
  3. Using a microfiber cloth (or any other mildly abrasive substance), polish the affected surface and apply generous pressure.
  1. Rub the area in a circular motion until the scratch is gone.

Paint Scratches

As pointed out, the clear coat layer is meant to protect the painting of the car. This means that your car’s paint coating or layer is below the clear coat layer.

By paint scratches, it implies that the scratch managed to penetrate the clear coat layer and was deep enough to reach the paint coating or layer.

Paint scratches have also earned the name ‘color coat scratches.’

These are the second-worst form scratches since fixing is more complex – it requires you to find an exact match of your car paint color.

This will be a nerve-wracking task if you own a vehicle with a unique color, as opposed to those with black or white-colored cars.

Fixing The Scratch

To fix a paint scratch, you need either a touch-up kit sold by your car’s manufacturer to match your car’s color or a separate touch-up paint.

  • Clean the scratched surface with soapy water.
  • Rinse and dry the area.
  • Using a scuff pad, rub the scratched area to apply the paint.
  • Shake paint well for even color distribution.
  • Apply the paint in layers.
  • Leave it to dry for several days.
  • Apply the clear coat layer and polish to protect the paint coating.

Primer Scratches

These are the worst forms of scratches that your car can ever have. The primer is the layer of coating found below the paint coating. It is meant to offer extra protection.

A primer scratch comes about when the scratch penetrates the clear coat layer, the paint layer, and the primer layer, thereby exposing the metallic part of your car.

An example of a primer scratch is caused by – jealous people who want to vandalize your car, so they run their keys through the car’s paintwork.

Since it is the most severe form of scratch, fixing it is no easy task. Such a scratch may cause further damage to your car if not fixed soon since the exposed metal will rust.

Fixing The Scratch

It is best if you leave the fixing to a professional. However, you can still fix the scratch by yourself. You will need a touch-up kit sold by your car’s manufacturer to match your car’s color since it will contain all the necessary material.

  • Clean the scratched surface with soapy water.
  • Rinse and dry the area.
  • Using a scuff pad, rub the scratched area to apply the paint.
  • Apply the primer to the affected area.
  • Shake paint well for even color distribution.
  • Apply the paint in layers.
  • Leave it to dry for several days.
  • Apply the clear coat layer and polish to protect the paint coating.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Normal to Get Scratches on Car?

Yes, it is very normal for your car to have scratches. In some cases, you will have no control over the situation.

An example is flying rocks and road debris that you accidentally hit while driving. However, you can still take precautions to ensure you minimize the chances of giving your car scratches.

For instance, you should drive carefully and use the proper methods to clean your car.

What Happens If Someone Scratches Your Car?

Though rare, someone may scratch your car as an act of vandalism. If there’s significant damage to your vehicle, you may file a police report.

The police will carry out their investigation and apportion responsibility.

How Much Is It to Fix a Scratch on A Car?

It depends. How deep is your car scratch? The shallow the scratch, the cheaper it will cost to fix it.

The most superficial clear coat scratches will cost about $150 and a deep paint or primer scratch will cost up to $2 500.

Averagely, it may cost around $3 500 to repair a car scratch fully.

Is A Scratch on A Car Considered an Accident?

Yes, your insurance policy cover will extend to scratches. That is only if the scratch results from a peril contemplated by the insurance policy.

When it comes to scratches, dents, and door dings, they mostly fall under comprehensive or collision coverage.

In most cases, this coverage can be optionally added to your insurance policy and should be taken if you’re highly concerned about minor damages to your vehicle.

What Kind of Car Scratches Can Be Buffed Out?

Not all types of car scratches can be buffed out. It is only effective for shallow Clear Coat scratches. Paint and primer scratches require paint correction.

If the car scratches haven’t penetrated pas the thin clear coat, they can be buffed out.

How Do You Tell If a Scratch Is Deep?

You use the fingernail test. Run your finger across the scratched surface. If it catches the surface, the scratch is deep.

It’s important to note that deeper scratches that go beyond the clear coat require more effort to fix and will require a professional detailer.

What Do Primer Scratches Look Like?

To identify a primer scratch, they will be deep enough such that you can spot the metallic part of the vehicle.

In most cases, you will see the plastic or metal beneath. If you see plastic or metal of the car body, that definitely a primer scratch.

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