You’ll need two main things when fixing most paint scratches, the exact paint match and the clear coat layer that goes on top. If the scratch hasn’t gone through the primer, you can skip the touch-up paint step.
Look for Your Factory Paint Code
If your scratch is only a clear coat scratch, then you don’t have to worry about finding any paint. Deeper scratches, however, require the additional application of new primer and paint.
To help you find the right paint touch-up product, look for the factory-paint code on the sticker in the driver side doorsill or on a plaque under the hood. If you are unable to find the exact color match at the auto parts store or online, take the car to your auto dealer.
Remember, this guide is for minor scratches only so if you need to cover a large area, go with a professional. Touching up large areas by hand will always have imperfections. A professional will spray it and restore it to like-new conditions. If you can get your insurance to pay for it, do that instead.
Wash and Dry the Car
First, make sure the surface is cleaned with soap and water. Once you’ve dried the area completely with a clean cloth, finish cleaning with a few gentle wipes of a rag and denatured alcohol. Allow the area to dry completely.
Mark Off Area with Blue Painter’s Tape
It’s a good idea to mark the scratch off with some blue painter’s tape, especially if it’s close to any trim or plastic.
If you are applying touch-up paint, mark off the area as close as you can. This will help keep the primer and paint from spreading.
If you only need to add a small amount of paint and you have some experience in car care, you may be able to repair it yourself. If you have any doubts, bring it into a professional detailer.
Steps for touching up paint:
- Mark the area off as close as you can with blue painter’s tape. This will prevent the primer or paint from covering too large of an area.
- After the area is clean and dry, apply a very small amount of primer into the scratch or chip with a very fine brush. Allow the primer to dry. Wait a day to be sure.
- Next, put a small amount of paint over the primed area (make sure the auto paint color is an exact match!). Practice on some paper or metal before applying to your car. You want to get the technique down first. If you are using a paint pen, depress the nib to release the paint onto a paper or metal surface, not the car. Dab the tip into the paint and gently fill in the affected area. If you only have spray paint, spray into a cap or container and use a fine artist’s brush to apply the basecoat. Depending on the touch-up paint you buy, you’ll want to use different strategies. Still, the same principles apply. For best results, it’s a good idea to use a fine artist’s brush and dab very lightly.
- Wait at least one hour to apply a second coat of paint, if necessary. After adding the paint, remove the blue painter’s tape and allow the paint to dry. We recommend letting it dry and cure for a day or two before moving on to the next steps.
Touching up minor scratches and other blemishes with paint requires practice. Make sure you feel comfortable applying very small amounts of paint onto paper or metal first.
- Don’t apply any touch-up paint in direct sun or if temperatures are below 50°F.
- Just in case you do apply too much paint to the area, make sure you have paint/lacquer thinner to quickly clean it up.
Prime the Clear Coat Pen (from Turtle Wax Scratch Repair Kit)
If you don’t need to add any primer or paint, you’ll want to skip those steps and jump to this one. First, prime the clear coat pen by pressing it against a piece of paper or metal to get it flowing. Then, fill the scratch in completely with the clear coat pen using gentle dabs and wipes. Wait for it to dry. You may want to wait overnight, especially if it is a wider or deeper scratch.
Sand the Surface with Proper Pad
This is the step to watch out for. The Turtle Wax Scratch Repair Kit comes with 4 different abrasive pads, #1 being the most abrasive and #4 the least abrasive.
The problem for most users is that they use too much pressure, fail to lubricate the area first, or use the wrong sanding pad. Ensure the pads and the surface are lubricated with the Spray Lubricator. Otherwise, you can cause even more scratches. You should never dry sand the affected area, only wet sand with the Spray Lubricant that’s included in the kit.
Usually the #1 sanding pad is not needed. The abrasive #1 pad if for deeper scratches when you are using touch-up paint, but usually you can start with #2 if you used touch-up paint. Take your time, follow instructions exactly, and use the proper level grit pad. Be very careful with the amount of pressure you use.
- Mark off the scratch, one inch above and one inch below, with blue painter’s tape.
- Lubricate the surface with the Spray Lubricator. Spray directly on the area.
- Lubricate the #2 pad (if you used touch-up paint) or #3 pad (if no touch-up paint was needed) by spraying the lubricator directly on the pad.
- Gently wet wipe the #2 or #3 pad in the direction of the scratch.
- Next, lubricate the surface and the next pad that’s less abrasive. If you started with the #3 pad, move on to the very fine #4 pad. If you started with #2, use #3 next, and finish up with #4. Make sure they are all fully lubricated and use very gentle wipes in the direction of the scratch.
We cannot stress this enough—be extremely careful with the pressure you use when using the sanding pads. Very light rubbing is all that is necessary.
To remove the hazy area created when blending in the touch-up paint with the pads, move on to the next step.
Use Polishing Compound/Paint Finish Restorer
Before you move on the Polishing Compound step, remove the blue painter’s tape. To restore the gloss to the affected area, apply the Polishing Compound (from the Turtle Wax Kit) to a corner of your microfiber cloth and buff the scratch in the opposite direction of the scratch/sanding wipes.
For this step, you can use pressure. Use two or three fingers behind your microfiber cloth and firmly wipe the area in perpendicular strokes to the scratch/sand marks. You may have to wipe for over a minute or two.
After around 40 strokes, wipe the area with a clean, dry cloth. Inspect your work and repeat the process if you still see sand marks. On the reapplication of the polishing compound, you can use circular motions to help blend everything in.
Apply a Coat of Wax
If you had any wax on the car, this process will have removed it. Apply a coat of wax to the area you worked on so it shines like the rest of the car.
And you’re done!
Fixing auto scratches yourself all depends on the length and depth of the scratch. If you have any major scratches, take your vehicle into a professional.