The appearance of scratches on an otherwise well-maintained car can be infuriating but Rob Marshall explains how to both prevent and cure those irritating blemishes.
You can prevent your paintwork becoming damaged – and being presented with a scratch repair bill – during everyday use by taking a few simple steps.
Wash your car regularly. This will remove fine abrasive dirt from its body. Use plenty of water and wash from the roof of the car down. Be aware that careless washing (and ill-maintained automatic car washes) can cause dirt to abrade into the paint surface, damaging it and causing unsightly scratches and swirl-marks.
Do not park your car in an area where people are more likely to brush past it. For example, consider parking further away from a supermarket entrance in a less popular section of the car park. Do not park adjacent to vehicles that are positioned carelessly. Their owners may show the same consideration to your car as they do to their parking.
Never wipe grime or dirt from your car with a dry cloth or your bare hands. The dirt will score the paint surface.
Drive carefully and try not to allow overgrown bushes to scrape against your paintwork, such as when driving on narrow lanes.
Most of these scratches were caused by careless washing. Always wash a car from the roof downwards, to reduce the risk of dragging grit across the panels.
HOW TO REPAIR SCRATCHES
To repair scratches, the surrounding paintwork is usually removed down to the level of the imperfection, so that it is no longer visible. A mildly-abrasive cutting compound can be used for this purpose.
Some cars are equipped with metallic paint, which consists of an extra layer of clear paint (a lacquer) that is applied over a ‘base’ colour coat – the hard lacquer protects the colour layer. Unfortunately, while lacquer is harder to scratch, any marks tend to be more prominent and scratch repair more complex. Further polishing of the hard lacquer layer, to the level of the scratch, can be very energy intensive.
If the scratch has extended beyond the colour coat and into the primer, repainting will be necessary.
Professional, advanced compound pastes are often used by body shops to tackle deeper scratches. Usually, they are more abrasive than retail cutting compounds, which are sold in DIY motor accessory stores. Deep scratch repairs can be carried out using good-quality P1500-P2000-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, with plenty of cold water, prior to polishing the area with a compound paste.
How To Remove Light Scratches
Minor impact damage or vandalism can cause scratches which penetrate down to the primer or metal. This is where a car paint scratch repair often requires the whole panel to be resprayed and, to create a seamless repair, a body shop may have to paint the neighbouring panels as well.
Should you think that any painting is necessary, obtain the advice of a professional sprayer. Do not attempt a repair by buying a tin of aerosol paint and repainting the area at home. Most inexperienced DIY enthusiasts often make the car look worse, by trying to repair scratches using this approach.
With care, an effective car paint scratch repair can be performed at home. This will not only improve the look of the vehicle but it will also enhance its value to a prospective purchaser.