How to Remove Scratches From Car Paint?

how to buff scratches on car paint - mobile car detailing

Your car’s paintwork is more than just a protective coat; it’s a reflection of your pride and style. But despite all the care you take while you drive and park, scratches and blemishes can find their way onto your car’s surface. And no matter how they got there, scratches leave your once-flawless finish looking less than perfect.

The good news is that not all hope is lost. You don’t need to rush to the auto body shop to get the scratches removed. In this comprehensive guide, you are going to learn the art of buffing scratches on your car’s paint to restore its shine and allure.

But before we dive into the nitty-gritty of buffing, let’s start with a fundamental lesson: understanding the severity of a scratch.


Not all scratches are created equal, and recognizing the difference can mean the distinction between a simple home remedy and a more complex restoration. So, grab your car keys, head to the garage, and let’s embark on a journey to rejuvenate your car’s paint and revive its beauty, one scratch at a time.

The Fingernail Test: Checking the Severity of the Scratch

One of the easiest ways to determine the depth and severity of a scratch on your car’s paint is by using the simple yet effective fingernail test.

All you need to do is gently rub your fingernail across the scratch and feel the grooves and cuts. If your fingernail catches in the groove or gets stuck it means that the scratch has penetrated the clear coat and possibly even the underlying paint layers.

On the other hand, if your fingernail glides smoothly over the scratch without catching, it’s likely a surface-level scratch, and only affects the clear coat.

This initial assessment will guide you in understanding the extent of the damage and help you decide on the appropriate course of action for buffing and restoring your car’s paint to its former glory.

Once you’ve done this test, you can follow the four different ways on how you can buff out the scratches off your car.

4 Ways to Remove Scratches on Your Car

Now that you know what kind of car paint scratches you’re dealing with, it’s time to take the necessary action.

In this guide, we will show you 4 different ways on how to buff scratches on car paint easily. But if you’re dealing with a deeper scratch, contact a professional car detailer near you.

For Light Scratches or Scuffs, Buff Using Scratch Remover

A scratch remover is a great solution for getting rid of light scratches or scuffs. This type of product is usually formulated to remove all scratches and swirls without leaving any smudges or smears behind. It’s also not damaging on the surrounding paint when used on the affected area.

Stuff you 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 on 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 the magic of toothpaste. It’s a budget-friendly product that helps remove surface-level scratches.


Just like toothpaste 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.

Stuff you 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.

Stuff you 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:

Stuff you 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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