Automobile Scratch Repair
Chances are you have a car. And as a car owner there is a very good chance that it will eventually be scratched. Aren’t we in a positive mood today!?!
Fortunately, we believe in the old saying that “every cloud has a silver lining”. Although a scratch in the paint job of your favorite chariot is an eyesore at best and certainly an annoyance, the good news is that most surface scratches are a lot easier to remove than you might imagine. By the way, dented metal is a separate subject altogether and will not be discussed in this article. In many instances all it takes to remove a scratch is a little car polish and tiny bit of elbow grease – and watch that ugly scratch disappear. How do we know you ask. Well, when we were kids we worked as “detailers” at our father’s car lot. Our job was to make the cars shine inside and out – we cleaned, scrubbed and polished those old clunkers until they looked brand new. We learned several ways to make scratches vanish.
First, study the scratch closely to determine it’s condition. If paint still remains in the scratch area itself the repair can be accomplished with a little rubbing. If not, a paint repair will have to be made. Both are easy. However, of the two repair methods (polishing and touch up painting) polishing is easiest. So always try polishing first. Remember, we said polishing – not waxing. There is a difference. Wax is just that – wax, and polish is a liquid that contains a mild abrasive. A polish-wax is – you guessed it – wax that contains a mild abrasive. It is important to note that polishing should be done in the shade, under a carport cover or in the garage. The hot sun will evaporate the liquid that suspends the polishing compound and it will not work as it should. This holds true for waxes and rubbing compounds as well. As a matter of fact, with most waxes and polishing compounds we have found that they work better when applied with a damp rag.
Anyway, use a soft cloth to rub the scratched area with your favorite polish. If the polish doesn’t work don’t stop there. You can make the polish more abrasive by adding pumice or rotten stone. First dip the rag in the polish and then into one of the two abrasives we have suggested — your choice. If the process seems to be working, but is not quite enough to do the job completely, then move up to rubbing compound. Rubbing compound is a polish that contains a very course abrasive. Bottom line: polish is for mild scratches and rubbing compound is for tougher ones. The effect of polish or rubbing compound can be enhanced by using an electric polishing wheel.
Oh, and don’t be fooled by a scratch that is not the same color as your car. Although it might be the primer below your paint, there is a very good chance that a color that doesn’t match may have been deposited atop yours from the surface of what ever caused the scratch in the first place. In any event, it simply can not hurt to use the polish or rubbing compound first. The worst that can happen is that you will discover that a paint repair will have to be made. If this turns out to be the case, the process is slightly more complicated but is still considered a pretty easy home repair project.
If the paint in the scratch area has been removed down to the primer — or worse – down to bare metal, touchup painting will definitely be required. For this process you will need 600 grit wet-dry sandpaper, masking tape and masking paper, metal primer in a spray can and a can of spray paint that matches the paint on your car. Most colors are available through your local car dealer or a local auto parts store.
First, sand the scratched area “feathering” the painted section to it. This will blend the two surfaces to a uniform plane. It is important to keep the area wet when sanding. This will insure a smooth well blended finish. If bare metal is exposed before or during the sanding process primer will have to be used. Do not paint the finish coat directly onto bare metal. Use masking tape and masking paper to prevent over-spray from sticking to other areas. Also, be careful not to mask the area too close to where the repair is being made. A thick line of paint will build up at the very edge of the masking as the paint is applied. This can be very difficult to remove later.
When the primer is completely dry (follow the instructions on the can), sand it lightly with the 600 grit sandpaper and wash it clean by flooding the area with fresh water. After the area dries wipe with a tack cloth and apply the finish coat of paint.
As with polishing, painting should be done when the temperature moderate and the work should be done in the shade.