Car scratches are a drag. And sadly, they happen all too often. Between runaway grocery carts, pesky tree branches and misaimed keys, it seems like everything is out to knick your precious whip.
Here’s the good news: it’s possible to fix everyday scratches without a trip to the specialist. In fact, you can at least hide car scratches with household items and a DIY mentality. Essentially, you’re just filling the small space where paint used to be and blending it with the rest of the car. This job can be tackled with simple household products including toothpaste, nail polish and WD-40 — no mechanic or car knowledge necessary.
If you need a more permanent fix or you’re dealing with a deeper scratch, you might need to put in a little more time (and elbow grease). It’s important to first explore how paint is applied to cars because this can help you figure out the best strategy for dealing with scratches. On top of the metal of the car, there’s a primer, base color coat and a clear coat.
The clear coat is a lot thicker than the other two layers, and most daily scratches you encounter are just on the clear coat. Scratches that get through the clear coat to the color coat will be harder to deal with. A scratch on the clear coat causes the light to deflect in a different way, leaving a white mark, which is especially visible on a darker car. That’s why some superficial fixes can help hide the scratch.
For a more permanent fix, you’ll need to break out the sandpaper. You might reflexively cringe at the idea of using sandpaper on your car, but this helpful video explains how it’s done. In the video, Chris Fix even creates a brand new scratch using a small screwdriver, which goes to show how confident he is in this method. It’s a long watch, but a surprisingly soothing one.
Below are some of the best (and fastest) techniques for how to remove car scratches at home, as well as instructions for nailing each method. We’ve included some options you likely already have around the house, plus some specialized options you’ll probably need to pick up online or from the auto store.
1. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
You already know about using the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on walls, surfaces, bathrooms and kitchens, but its micro-scrubbing technology also works on cars. First, wash your car (or at least the scratched area). Then, wet the Magic Eraser and gently rub the scratch. Gently is key here, as the Magic Eraser acts like light sandpaper for smoothing out the scratch.
This is no joke. Grab a tube of toothpaste and you can erase small scratches on your car’s paint job. The paste works to gently sand down the uneven surface and fill in the crack. Make sure the scratched area is clean and then gently rub toothpaste onto the scratch using an old toothbrush. Wipe it off afterward and apply a second coat if necessary. Plus, if you’ve got cloudy headlights, toothpaste can also get those looking like new.
3. Nail Polish
Next time you get a scratch on your ride, snag some nail polish from your girlfriend or wife’s cabinet. Nail polish offers the added benefit of actually “painting” over the scratch, so you want to find a bottle that somewhat matches your car’s color. Just clean the scratch and then paint on a light coat of nail polish. Pro tip: Use a Magic Eraser or toothpaste before the polish to remove excess paint from the area.
WD-40 Multi-Purpose Lubricant doesn’t just relieve squeaky hinges. It can also help remove scratches on your car. Simply spray a healthy amount on and wipe it firmly with a clean towel until you start to see the scratch fade. Deeper scratches may require a few extra coats for the best results.
5. Candle Wax
Another convenient DIY scratch fixer is candle wax. A small amount of the sticky substance should fill the scratch and act as a sealant. Just rub a bit of warm wax on the scratch until it’s flush with the car. But be sure to use this for emergency cover-ups only, as it can cause damage in the long run.
6. Shoe Polish
Shoe polish’s color and creamy, fast-drying texture makes it a great home remedy for car scratches. Ideally, the shoe polish color should be a shade darker than your car’s paint job. After cleaning the scratched area, gently apply the shoe polish directly on the scratch and rub it in a bit if need be.
Affordable Solutions (That You’ll Probably Need to Go Out and Buy)
1. 3M Trizact Performance Sandpaper
For working on your car, any old sandpaper won’t do — you don’t want to choose too coarse a grit and risk damaging your car. A higher grit sandpaper is necessary to do the job (the higher the number, the less coarse the sandpaper). This 3000 grit sandpaper from 3M is meant for car work. You can buy the sandpaper block to go along with it, or you can just use a regular kitchen sponge and wrap the paper around it.
2. Meguiars Fine Scratch and 7oz Blemish Remover
Sometimes you need a professional touch. In that case, turn to the experts at Meguiars. This product is specifically designed to remove small scratches and blemishes from your car’s finish. For best results, you may want to first sandpaper the scratch.
3. 3M 5000 Grit Performance Sandpaper
Need something even more gentle than 3000 grit sandpaper? Try 3M’s 5000 grit sandpaper, which can be a good approach for dealing with small, fine scratches. You can wrap the sandpaper around a kitchen sponge to create an easy-to-use DIY sanding sponge.
4. Turtle Wax T-234KT Premium Grade Scratch Repair Kit
You can assemble your tools in a piecemeal fashion, or you can get this all-in-one kit. Turtle Wax’s repair kit is meant as a solution for dealing with small scratches, and it includes a spray lubricant, a paint clarifying compound, a scratch repair pen and restoration pads.
5. Dupli-Color Exact-Match Scratch Fix
You know how when you walk into a hardware store and see about 20 different swatches that are all different shades of black? It’s the same way with cars. Dupli-Color perfectly matches their products to different automakers. This is designed as a match for cars manufactured by Toyota, including Lexus and Scion. Dupli-Color makes colors for a wide variety of manufacturers and colors.