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A paint scratch on your vehicle is not only annoying, but it carries a negative effect on the value unless you take care of it. The good news is that most scratches can be quickly fixed if you have the right tools and supplies.

Vehicles made after the late 1990s that were not custom-painted are covered with a clear-coated catalyzed enamel that has been hardened by chemicals. When it gets scratched, the paint that you will apply to cover it up will be a lacquer. It is recommended that you add multiple coats of the lacquer over the next day or two until it is fully dry and the scratch completely covered. Then you can sand it if needed to better blend in with the original paint on your vehicle.

Minor Scratches

If the scratch doesn’t penetrate the clear coat, you can often polish them out with a simple compound. Keep in mind that polishing removes some of the clear coat, so you may have to respray some of the protective layer back onto the vehicle itself. Once completed, you’ll want to clean the panel to remove any abrasive material.

Deeper Scratches

For a paint scratch that penetrates the clear coat, you will need a lacquer that matches the paint on the vehicle itself. The factory paint code for your vehicle should be on display under the hood or perhaps in the doorsill. Before applying the lacquer to cover the paint scratch, be sure that you are in a well-ventilated area.

Clean the area first so that it is free of any dirt or debris. You can use the same procedure to repair scratches to the primer coat. Simply brush into the layer of primer first, then sand the overrun until only the bottom of the scratch is covered. Otherwise, you may risk rust developing in the scratch.

Now, apply the new color to the scratch. You’ll want to work carefully to control any lap in your application. Once applied, let it cure overnight. The following day use a rubber block or sponge as backing material for wet-sanding. Use 600 or 1000 grit wet or dry sandpaper until all excess paint on the surface is gone. Remember to work slowly so you do not dig into the scratch itself.

Use the compound to move the gloss back into the damaged location. The scratch may be filled unevenly, so add more paint until it is level. Once that has been accomplished, a final compounding should restore it to like-new condition. Just remember not to wax the vehicle for about 30 days so the solvents used can evaporate.

Clear Coat

A deep scratch will require the addition of clear coat which can be sprayed from a can. Be sure to use a product designed for spot repairs such as Rust-Oleum or Dupli-Color. You’ll want to mask the area around the scratch so you do not use too much clear coat on the unaffected surface. Spray a little, check it out, and then let it dry. Once dried, remove any excess with 600 or 1000 grit wet or dry sandpaper. Remember to use two coats and let them dry before applying another.

By using these techniques, you can repair a paint scratch which will restore the appearance of your vehicle.


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