It happens to everyone: you’re at the grocery store loading the trunk when you see it, a scratch. It’s an eyesore, ruining your car’s pristine paint, and you immediately call your local repairman to see what it’ll cost to get it fixed. The cost shocks most car owners. Why would getting a scratch fixed costs well over $500? Repairing a deep scratch is no easy task, but with a little elbow grease and time, you can repair your car and save your wallet along the way.
Step 1: Act Fast
The longer you leave a scratch alone to fester on your car, the worse it can get. The scratch can spread and if the sealing coats were scratched through, rust can develop. Save yourself some heartache and money and act right away when you see a scratch on your car.
Step 2: Estimate the Damage
Depending on the depth of the scratch, you may need to take a few extra steps to take care of the damage. A deep scratch requires more effort than more minor ones and usually cannot be fixed with a cheap and convenient scratch repair kit. If the paint is gone and you can see the metal body of your car, you’ll need to fill the scratch before any more work can be done.
You’ve determined that yes, you have a deep scratch and can’t just use a $20 kit. What do you do now?
Step 3: Gather Supplies
- Glazing Putty
Despite the myths, you can’t fill a deep scratch on your car with toothpaste. It just won’t last. Pick up a good quality glazing putty from your local hardware store for a long lasting fix.
- Touch Up Paint
While it may be time consuming, it’s smart to match the paint color to your car as closely as possible. See if you can take sample cards out to the car to match your paint for the closest fit, then purchase a small can. You shouldn’t need too much paint for a scratch.
- A Brush
If your paint does not come with a fine tipped brush, be sure to purchase one. You don’t need anything too fancy for this.
- A Squeegee
You’ll need this to apply the putty.
- Paint Leveler
When using a glazing putty, you’ll be tempted to sand it smooth. Don’t! You can ruin the smooth surface of the putty and leave a chipped and dipped mess behind. Instead, purchase a paint leveler for this job.
- Microfiber Towels
You’ll need these for the leveler and cleanup.
Step 4: Clean the Car
By no means do you need to go through a car wash for this. But make no mistake, the most important step to getting your car’s scratch fixed is a solid cleaning. Dirt and grime will prevent any scratch from being sealed properly, and can make it worse in the long run.
Take the hose and clean off the area around the scratch. Don’t use dish soap, as it can strip the car of its protective finishes. Instead, wipe it down with a microfiber towel and then rub the area down with rubbing alcohol. Once that’s dried, you’ll be ready to start fixing the scratch.
Step 5: Lay on the Putty
The putty is the most time consuming part of the repair. You want to make sure to layer it thick enough to fill the entire scratch, otherwise you’ll have a thin groove running along your car.
Pour a line of putty along the outside of the scratch where the paint and surface is still intact.
Then, take the squeegee and go along the putty, pushing it into the scratch. You may need to do a couple coats of this depending on the depth of the scratch. Don’t be alarmed if putty remains on the intact portion of the car. It’ll get taken care of late.
From there, you’ll have to wait for the putty to cure before doing anything else. Read the bottle to know how long the putty takes. Some brands take a couple hours, but recommend a day to cure for best results.
Step 6: Lay Down the Leveler
Once you’re putty is cured, it’s time for the real elbow grease. Pour a quarter size amount of paint leveler into a clean microfiber towel. Working in circles, apply moderate pressure to the area coated in putty. The leveler will remove the top most layer of putty, including the excess left on the finished surface of the car, leaving a smooth line where the scratch was.
Let the surface dry before proceeding.
Step 7: Paint the Scratch
Make sure your car’s surface is clean and dry before applying paint. If there’s any chance dirt has settled on the surface, be sure and wipe it down with a clean microfiber towel and rubbing alcohol so your paint will stick.
Using your brush, apply your paint in even strokes, blending the new paint in with the intact old paint outside the repaired area. It usually takes two or three coats for a good amount of coverage. Some touchup paints do recommend curing after drying.
Step 8: Seal the Paint
After your paint has dried and cured, cover it with a clear coat sealant to prevent rust or chipping. Most sealants have a required cure time. Be sure and check the bottle before heading out into mud puddles or off-roading with your newly fixed car.
While repairing a deep scratch isn’t a five minute fix, it certainly is a manageable project for even the most novice car owner. Like with any project, be sure to take your time and put in your best effort for long lasting results. With elbow grease and patience, your car will be scratch-free in no time!