July 8

How to Buff Out Scratches On Car – An Everyman’s Guide

There’s just something about the look of a sleek, shiny car that draws the eye. That smooth surface, pristine exterior…

Source: Unsplash

Until it only takes one — that one blemish that keeps catching your attention.

After that, no matter where else you look, your eyes just naturally gravitate back to that scratch.

Is there anything you can do about it?

Thankfully, there is!

In today’s guide, we’re going to show you how to buff out scratches on car. We’ll show you how to work with superficial, as well as deep, scratches. 

This is an everyman’s guide. That means that YOU can do it, too. 

So let’s begin!

The Car Scratch Self-Test

Not all scatches are created equal. 

Some scratches you can buff yourself, while other scratches need the work of a professional. 

This is why, before anything else, we’re going to show you how to tell if it’s a scratch you can deal with. 

So here is the car scratch self-test:

  1. In a very gentle, steady manner, run a fingernail across the area of the scratch. If your nail runs across without any kind of resistance, that probably means you can buff out the scratch yourself. If it catches, well, maybe that trip to the shop is more worth it.
  2. The scratch might not even be a real scratch, so scan it carefully to see if the damage is not just a paint transfer. A flashlight will be handy here.
  3. Check if the clear coat on your vehicle is on the hard or soft side. Scratches are easier to deal with in soft clear coats. If you don’t know how to check this, you can go to a professional. 

How to Buff Out Superficial Scratches on Car

So you’ve determined that your scratch is just superficial damage?


If so, all the things you need are fine-grit sandpaper, a rubbing compound, a polishing compound, pads, and some elbow grease. A cordless drill works, too, if you’re feeling fancy.

ScratchReusable Materials NeededConsumable Materials Needed
Superficialmicrofiber towel
polishing pad
cordless drill
rubbing compound
polishing compound
Semi-shallowmicrofiber towel/polishing padscratch-removal compound

Now that you have your tools, follow these steps to buff the superficial scratch. 

Step 1. Give the car a wash

Thorough washing of the scratch area before buffing out the scratch clears off dirt and other particles from the surface area. In turn, that helps you see the scratch better.

If you’ve got the time to spare, wash the whole vehicle instead of just washing the part you’re repairing. This enables you to inspect the rest of the car for other surface scratches.

Dry the affected area with a microfiber towel.

Step 2. Sand the scratch

Slightly wet the area again, as well as your sandpaper. Then very gently (and we mean VERY GENTLY) sand the scratched surface until it appears dull. You shouldn’t be able to see the scratch as clearly as before.

Wipe the area with your microfiber towel.

Step 3. Use compounds

Apply some of the rubbing compound on your polishing pad then lightly spread on the area. If you’re using a drill, experts suggest 1,200 rpm speeds.

Once you see a light haze, it’s time to follow up with the polishing compound. This will restore the shine to the clear coat. 

Don’t have a polishing compound? Toothpaste is said to be a decent alternative.

Source: Pexel

Step 4. Use a scratch remover

In some cases where your self-test shows your scratch is not shallow but not deep either, a scratch-removal product might do the trick.

A dime to quarter-sized bead is enough. Apply it on your towel or pad, then buff away. Use a circular motion as you work the product in, and be careful to apply evenly light pressure.

Do this across the entirety of the scratched area, and even surrounding areas. Wipe off excess product with the towel.

Pause and check the area from time to time as you work. If the scratch is still visible, don’t despair and simply repeat step #4.

Eventually, the area will blend in with the rest of the surface, which means you did it! 


How to Buff Out Deep Scratches on Car

Well, there’s a problem. It’ll be much harder to buff out scratches on cars with deeper penetrations.

But it’s not impossible. 

Though we’ll admit that it takes patience and some risk analysis on your part.

Here is a table of the materials you’ll need.

ScratchReusable Materials NeededConsumable Materials Needed
Deepmicrofiber towel
polishing pad
paint sprayer gun
masking tape
old newspaper
automotive primer
car paint
polishing compound

And here are the steps to buff out deep scratches on your car.

Step 1. Wash it

You got it! Don’t start without doing this first. It’s that important.

Step 2. Use grittier sandpaper

Most sources recommend using 2000 grits for a job like this. Moistening the surface and paper is a good idea, too. 

Take care to sand in the direction of the scratch, so the surface won’t be marred further.

Step 3. Get spraying

Use some old newspaper – or any big sheets of paper will do – and masking tape to prevent any stray paint from going over. 

Once that’s done, spray automotive primer on the cleared-off area. Let it dry. 

Next comes a coat of paint matching the rest of your vehicle. Be very careful, of course, that you’ve acquired the right shade to complement your vehicle. Otherwise, it might be best to leave this project to a professional.

When you’re done covering the area heavily with the paint, let that dry as well.

Step 4. Polish and wax

Place some polishing compound on your towel or pad – like before, dime to quarter size is enough – and get to shining. 

If you’re still unsatisfied, give it a good wax all over.

And there you have it. 

The deep scratch will be as good as new!

It’s Work, But It’s Worth It


Your arm muscles are pretty floppy right now, but with your scratches completely buffed out and your vehicle looking good as new, that effort was worth it.

So whenever you spot another scratch, you now know how to buff out scratches on car. 

We hope that this article has been a great help!

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