Removing Car Scratches: Can Car Detailing Do It?

Having a car that you love and dote on is a wonderful feeling, however, nothing quite hurts like seeing that somewhere along the line, your beloved vehicle has been scratched.

Whether it was caused by a parking mistake, an animal, or some sort of debris, a scratch on your car can be one of the most frustrating issues to deal with.

Having it fixed can be expensive as well, so you might wonder, if car detailing can remove scratches from your car.

Quick Answer

Car detailing can fix minor scratches that only damage that clear coat. These scratches can be removed by polishing or buffing the clear coat. Polishing or buffing the clear coat levels the paint, making the scratch invisible. If the basecoat is scratched, car detailing cannot remove the scratch.

You may be wondering what to do if you notice your car has a scratch. Can it be fixed at home?

Does it always need to go to a professional and can it be fixed with a detailing job?

In this article, we will dive deeper into these burning questions that all car owners have.

Types Of Scratches

There are different types of scratches that require different solutions. It is important to figure out what kind of scratch you are dealing with before removing it.

These are the types of scratches that occur on car paint: 

  • Clearcoat scratches
  • Basecoat scratches
  • Primer scratches

Clearcoat Scratches

Scratches in the clear coat like swirl marks or marring are nearly impossible to avoid.

The clear coat is very delicate, so any form of mechanical force can leave a slight scratch behind.

This can be anything from a nut falling on your car to you scratches the clear coat with your jeans.

Luckily, removing scratches in the clear coat of a car is fairly easy and can even be done by hand.

Basecoat Scratches

If your base coat is scratched, this poses a serious problem.

The base coat is the coat that gives your car its color, meaning that it is not clear like the clear coat.

This makes polishing out scratches in the base coat impossible, as there is color missing which needs to be added to make the scratch invisible.

Given that polishing removes the coat instead of filling it up, this is not a viable option and a repaint is needed.

Primer Scratches

Scratches in the primer are the most severe by far.

If there is a scratch in the primer of your car, this means that you have cut through the clear coat and the base layer, as well as the primer.

Worst case, you have even damaged the metal your car is made out of.

As with scratches in the base coat, polishing is not a viable option to remove scratches in the primer.

Instead, the area around the scratch needs to be repainted.

You can identify what kind of scratch you have by gently running your fingernail against the inside of the scratch.

If your fingernail does not catch, it means it is a clear coat scratch.

If your fingernail does get caught, the scratch cannot be fixed by car detailing and will likely need a new layer of paint.

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How Car Detailers Remove Scratches

As mentioned above, scratches in the clear coat can more often than not be fixed by your local car detailer.

There are many different methods (and some myths) listed on the internet as to how best to fix these kinds of scratches at home.

However, it is much better to take your car to a local professional to ensure any damage isn’t worsened.

Quick Answer

Professional car detailers polish and buff the scratched area to remove the scratch. Polishing and buffing takes off a thin layer of clear coat, leveling the area as a result. This way the scratch is removed and the clear coat will look shiny and brand new.

Polishing the car with polishing compound and a polishing machine makes it really easy and simple to remove a scratch.

Depending on the severity of the scratch, different types of pads and polishing compounds are used to remove the least amount of clear coat necessary to remove the scratch.

Buffing the area afterwards will give the clear coat a great shine and it will make sure that the surface is perfectly level.

This will make the car look brand-new and it will make you forget about the scratch.

How To Prevent Scratches On Your Car

Of course, the best course of action is to avoid expensive costs or any sort of headaches by avoiding any scratches on your car.

Ultimately, it may be futile or impossible to completely avoid getting any scratches ever in your life, but there are some choices that you can make to minimize common risks. 

Make sure to to the following to avoid scratches on your car:

  • Wash your car properly
  • Don’t park under trees
  • Don’t take risks when parking
  • Protect your paint with sealants
  • Do not touch your car’s paint

Car Washing Methods

While the convenience of an automated car wash may seem ideal for a busy person, it also heightens the risk of any damage happening to your car.

When you bring your car through an automated car wash, there is always a chance that your car sustains damage because of any small particles that may have built up in its cleaning systems.

There are many more reasons why automatic car washes are not safe for your car. Make sure to read all about them by clicking here!

The solution here is a home car wash. Again, of course, this is less convenient, but it is the only way to ensure your car has personalized and proper care when being washed.

Make sure your materials are clean with no miscellaneous sediments on them. You also want to use a two-bucket method.

This is a simple method that indicates you should have a bucket with soap and a separate bucket for rinsing so that you do not undo any of your work by getting dirty water back onto your vehicle.

Don’t Park Under Trees

This is an obvious, but at times unavoidable risk people often take with their cars.

When possible, choosing a parking spot that is not under any trees will go a long way in preventing any scratches or dents on your car.

The clear reason for this is to avoid any falling items that can damage your car.

This could be something like sticks or twigs but can also be something more unexpected like acorns or various nuts.

Avoiding parking under trees will also help to minimize the risk of any sort of animal causing damage to your car.

Whether it be squirrels or chipmunks, these cute furry creatures could unknowingly scratch or dent your vehicle if you are parked near some of their favorite habitual spots.

Don’t Take Risks When Parking

In a similar vein, try not to take any risks when parking your car in general.

There are so many ways your car can get nicked in a parking lot, whether it be by your own mistake or someone else’s.

A good rule of thumb is to try to park in an isolated spot. Of course, this is not always possible, but when it is it is definitely a good idea.

We all love the idea of parking as close as possible to our destination, but if it will save your car a scratch, it’s worth it to get some extra steps in and take less of a risk.

Additionally, know your car and its sizing and limits in parking spots. If you have a new car that’s perhaps bigger than what you’re used to, make sure you are extra cautious when picking out spots, as your spatial judgment may not be perfect, yet.

The last thing you want to do is misjudge a spot’s size and cause a scratch on your own car as well as someone else’s.

Protect Your Paint With Sealants

It is a good idea overall to think about protecting your car’s paint.

We’re all familiar with the common phrase that your car loses value the moment you drive it off the lot.

Protecting the paint job of your vehicle is a way to delay this process as much as possible.

Sealants can help to protect your car against natural elements such as weather-related issues and can be a huge help to prevents scratches on your car.

Ceramic coatings are a great choice when considering protecting your car.

A ceramic coating is a liquid polymer that is applied to your car.

It chemically bonds with the paint on your vehicle, adding an extra layer of protection against all the threats listed above.

This will add resale value to your car and can save you the headache of dealing with any unavoidable scratches.

The downside to ceramic coating your car is that it is very labor extensive and expensive at the same time.

Applying a ceramic coating is not something that can be done at home and it will cost you a lof of money.

I wrote a great article about professional car detailing costs here. Make sure to read it to find out more about this topic!

Of course there are also other option like spray sealants and car waxes that you can use if you do not want to go through the hassle of having a professional apply a ceramic coating to your car.

Car waxes and spray sealants are great, but not as scratch-resistant as a ceramic coating.

Key Takeaways

  • Scratches in the clear coat can be removed by detailing a car
  • Make sure to avoid scratching your car at all costs
  • Apply a paint protection
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge