It’s still very much up in the air which hurts more; your ego or your wallet, when you hear that heart-crunching sound of your car grazing another object and scratching the shiny paint.
Still, regardless if it was something within our control or not, most drivers will end up nicking the paint at some point or another.
That feeling of trepidation as you get out of the car to assess the damage is something that hurts right down to the bone, or in this case, the bare metal of the damaged panel.
However, before you fork out your hard-earned money to the experts, you just might be able to remedy; or at the very least reduce the severity of the damage yourself at home. Nonetheless, it all depends on the depth of the damage as well.
Understanding Your Car’s Paint Layers
Before you get to work, it’s best you understand the many layers that make up the paint and the protective layers over the panels of your car’s body.
Typically, the layers comprise the following:
- Metal – This is basically the bare metal surface of the body panels or shell of the vehicle.
- Primer – The first layer over the metal would be the primer and its main purpose is to prepare the metal surface for painting. Primer fills in rough surfaces and smoothens them over but more importantly, it helps the paint bond to the surface better and prevents slipping, peeling, or flaking. This layer is usually a flat gray color.
- Paint – As the name suggests, the paint is laid over the primer and is what gives the car its color. Usually, premium marques will apply more layers of paint for a deeper, richer finish.
- Clear coat – Clear coat is the first line of defense for your paint against the environment. It’s the transparent layer over the paint that enhances the look of the paint by giving it that glossy finish.
Inspecting the Scratch
First things first, you’ll need to determine if the damage is confined to purely cosmetic or if the metal surface has been dented. If it’s the latter, we’ve got some bad news for you.
No amount of remedying the paint is going to fix the dent. This signals the time to whip out that cold, hard cash for the experts.
To check for a dent, gently rub your hand over the scratch to examine if the damage is constrained purely to the layers over the metal or if there’s an indentation as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much force to deform the metal. If you feel a little depression in the metal, the damage is, quite literally, beyond skin deep.
Once you’ve established that the surface metal is unscathed, the next step would be to make out how many layers were compromised.
If you notice some gray within the damaged area, this indicates that the scratch is quite deep and has penetrated until the primer. We’d recommend having this handled by the experts. If you attempt to fix it yourself and don’t get the primer right, the paint won’t stick properly after repainting or the surface won’t be perfectly smooth.
If there’s no indication of gray, this likely means the scratch isn’t very deep, and the odds of fixing this at home increase tremendously.
Steps to Repair the Scratched Paint
Another step before embarking on attempts to repair your car’s paint would be to understand paint transfer. This means that during contact with the other surface, paint from either side was transferred over to the other due to friction during the contact.
If you notice bits of color from the other surface on your car’s paint, it could very well mean the original paint underneath is still very much salvageable.
- Wash the affected area with water to remove any dirt or residue. Attempting to repair a dirty surface could result in more scratches.
- Leaving the area wet, continue spraying water onto the contact patch and rub lightly with a microfiber cloth to see if the foreign color comes off. If water alone doesn’t get it off, apply some polish onto the microfiber and gently rub following the grain of the scratch.
- Failing which, next would be to swap the polish with some mild rubbing compound. You can purchase this at petrol stations or home hardware shops like Mr. DIY. Go for the higher grit rating in the 2000 – 3000 range as it wouldn’t be as abrasive. In most cases, this should remove the foreign paint and smoothen out the scratch.
- If you discover that the paint on your car has been cut, clean the area with water and wipe it dry with a microfiber cloth. Next, take some fine-grit sandpaper (2000 grit or higher) and gently sand it in the direction of the scratch. This step will smoothen out the clear coat or paint surface leading to it appearing much better.
- Following this, go with a clean microfiber cloth and some mild rubbing compound but be sure to put your back into it. The additional force coupled with the compound will further smoothen out the scratch and begin to bring back the shine in the clear coat… if it hasn’t been completely peeled off.
- Then, finish it off with some polish. The basic idea is to slowly transition from the rougher fine-grit sandpaper towards less abrasive compounds before ultimately ending with polish to complete the DIY repairs. By now, the area will look much cleaner and less blemished than before.
- Last but not least, apply some wax over the area to further restore the clear coat’s sheen and give it that wet, glossy look like a freshly detailed car.
These steps will help you remove most scratches from your car’s paint and keep it clean. However, if you have more severe scratches and dents exposing the metal, you should get them looked at by a professional sooner rather than later to prevent the formation of rust on the metal.
“Better late than never.” Some despise it, others begrudgingly agree with it but he swears by it… much to the chagrin of everyone around him. That unfortunately stems from all of his project cars not running most of the time, which in turn is testament to his questionable decision-making skills in life. A culmination of many wrongs fortunately making a right; much like his project cars on the rare occasions they run, he’s still trying to figure out if another project car is the way to go.