How to Remove Scratches From Car Paint?

how to buff scratches on car paint - mobile car detailing

Your car’s paint is more than just a shield; it mirrors your pride and style. But, no matter how careful you are, scratches and blemishes sneak up on you. These marks tarnish that once-perfect finish.

You don’t have to rush to the auto shop. This guide will teach you the art of buffing out scratches to restore your car’s shine and charm.

First things first, let’s understand the depth of a scratch.

Scratches vary, and knowing the difference can save you from unnecessary repairs and expenses.

So, grab your keys, head to the garage, and let’s get to work on bringing your car’s paint back to life, one scratch at a time.

How to Check the Severity of the Scratch - The Fingernail Test

An easy way to gauge the severity of a scratch is the fingernail test.

Gently run your fingernail across the scratch. If your nail catches, the scratch has gone through the clear coat and possibly into the paint.

If your nail slides over it smoothly, it’s likely a minor surface scratch affecting only the clear coat.

This simple check helps you decide the next steps for buffing and restoring your car’s paint.

Once you’ve assessed the scratch, follow these four methods to buff out the imperfections. 

4 Ways to Remove Scratches on Your Car

Now that you know the type of scratch you’re dealing with, it’s time to take action.

We’ll cover four ways to easily buff scratches out of your car’s paint. For deeper scratches, it’s best to contact a detailing professional like River Islands Car Salon.

For Light Scratches or Scuffs, Buff Using Scratch Remover

A scratch remover works wonders on light scratches or scuffs. These products are designed to eliminate scratches and swirls without leaving smudges. They won’t harm the surrounding paint when applied correctly.

You’ll need:

  • pH-neutral car soap
  • Clean microfiber towels
  • Scratch remover product
Buffing car hood with yellow microfiber cloth

Step 1: Wash the scratched area with a pH-neutral soap and clean microfiber towel.

Step 2: Using a clean microfiber towel, apply the scratch remover product to the surface area of the scratch. Buff out the scratch by gently rubbing the solution in small circular motions.

Step 3: Wipe out the excess resiude using a clean microfiber towel. Repeat the process in different areas where there are scratches.

For Surface Level Scratches Buff Using Toothpaste

Every car owner who’s into cleaning and detailing knows about toothpaste. 

Just like it can remove scratches from CDs and discs, it can also remove scratches from your car paint.

It contains mild abrasives that catch or lift imperfections by gently sanding them away.

Contrary to popular rumors, it does not damage the car paint.

You’ll need:

  • Whitening toothpaste
  • Ph-neutral soap
  • Clean microfiber towels

Pro-Tip: Use whitening toothpaste as it has the grittiest texture which will help sand down the uneven surface and fill in the gaps.

How to Buff Scratches on Car Paint Using Toothpaste (For Surface-Level Scratches)

Step 1: Wash and clean the affected area with ph-neutral soap and water. Use a clean microfiber to dry.

Step 2: Once there is no dirt or debris around the scratch, apply a dollop of toothpaste to a damp microfiber towel and rub the scratch gently in a circular motion.

Step 3: Rinse with water and dry with a clean microfiber cloth. Repeat the process as needed.

For Small Scratches Buff Using Polishing Compound

If the scratches that you’re dealing with can’t simply be removed using a scratch remover or good old toothpaste, a polishing compound can help! 

This is a quick and easy fix for scratches and swirls that downgrade your car’s look.

You’ll need:

  • 3,000-grit sandpaper
  • Polishing compound
  • Handheld drill or polisher
  • Microfiber towels
  • Restorative compound
Buffing car hood with machine polisher

Step 1: Wash and clean the affected area to get rid of dirt and grime. Dry with a clean microfiber towel.

Step 2: Wet the scratched area and rub the sandpaper gently and lightly until the scratch is no longer visible and there’s no texture on the surface.

Step 3: Clean the area with a damp clean microfiber towel and make sure to get rid of any residue.

Step 4: Apply the polishing compound on your pad and use a polisher or a handheld drill and bring it to a speed where it will create a light, foam-like consistency on the surface.

Step 5: Rub the product in circular motions until the scratch is removed.

Step 6: Remove the excess product with a clean microfiber towel. Finish with a compound car paint restoration product for a shiny finish.

For Deep Scratches Buff Using Sandpaper and Paint

Deep scratches are a more serious task to undertake so it would be best to get professional auto detailing for help.


This will require painting over the damaged area and needs a little effort and elbow grease. But if you’re willing to learn how to do it yourself, here are some steps you can follow:

You’ll need:

  • 2,000-grit sandpaper
  • Tape
  • Automotive primer
  • Paint Sprayer
  • Paint matching your car paint
  • Polishing compound
  • Sanding Pad (optional)
Polishing car with machine polisher

Step 1: Wash, clean, and dry your car thoroughly. Make sure there’s no dirt or dust left before getting to work.

Step 2: Start sanding the scratched area to remove the affected layers of paint. Use a sanding pad if the scratch covers a large area.

Sand with the scratch in one direction until you come to your car’s metal panel. Rinse and dry the affected area before taping it off.

Step 3: Grab your primer and pray it on the sanded area. Apply 3 coats of primer and wait 10 minutes in between coatings or until each coating is dry before spraying the next layer.

Step 4: It’s time to apply the color using spray paint. Find your car’s paint code to make sure it matches the rest of the surface. 

Spray over the entire area and apply 3 coats. Make sure to wait for each layer to dry before adding the next coat.

Step 5: Polish the affected area with a polishing compound. Buff evenly and thoroughly to avoid any lumps. Once you’re done, the scratch should be gone and you’ll have a smooth and shiny paint.


So, the next time you see a scratch on your car, run the fingernail test and identify what type of scratch it is. If it’s light, and surface-level scratches only, you can get rid of it with tools and products that are easily found in your home.

If this whole process is something you’re not familiar with or are not confident of doing, take your car to a professional mobile car detailer. 

They can handle any scratches well but for deep scratches, you might want to take it to the shop. 

If the scratch catches your fingernail, then you know it’s something serious and would need the attention of an expert.

If you don’t have the time to buff scratches on your car’s paint, we will get rid of any unsightly scratches at a reasonable price! You can trust the service of an expert mobile car detailer at River Islands Car Salon.

Contact us today to get a free quote!

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