Scratches in car paintwork are annoying but can hardly be avoided in everyday life. Driving too close to a bush at the side of the road or parking under a tree with bird nests can leave a scratch in the paint. The good news is that you can repair small damage to the paintwork yourself, and you need not call in an expensive professional.

What causes car paint damage?

Many environmental influences and impacts (both mechanical and chemical) are potentially harmful to sensitive car paint. Car paint is about as thin as a fingernail (on average 100 µ to 110 µ) – so it’s no wonder it gets scratched quickly. Avoidance is probably the best strategy in this case: here is a list of the most common causes of damage to car paint.

Mechanical damage is often caused by:

  • Rockfall (gravel)
  • Branches and twigs
  • Car keys
  • Fingernails and animal claws
  • Rings and watches
  • Buckles of handbags and belts
  • Metal buttons on trousers and jackets

Chemical damage (matt surface) is often caused by the following substances:

  • Hand cream
  • Tree resin and pollen
  • Insect and bird droppings
  • Road salt
  • Nail varnish remover, shaving foam (Please do not use for paint cleaning!)

Grinding and polishing can remove chemical impurities – if they have not yet etched through the lacquer completely.

Polish away minor paint scratches

The depth of the scratch is decisive for the successful removal of the paint damage. If the damage is only superficial, it suffices to polish the affected area of the car. You can use a standard car polish for this purpose. This contains microscopically small abrasive particles that remove the scratch.

However, before you use the polish, thoroughly clean and degrease the scratched area. This prevents small particles of dirt from being rubbed into the paintwork during polishing. First clean the area with foamed car shampoo – to soften encrusted dirt – and then with cleaning solution and a cotton swab.

After cleaning, let the affected area dry well. Then apply the car polish evenly to the scratched area. Using a soft cotton or microfiber cloth, gently rub the polish into the scratched area in circular, gentle movements.

Benefits of car polishing

For those who love their car, this will be a task that is done with great enthusiasm. But even for those who don’t want to go through the trouble, it could be worth it. Because polishing your car has several advantages.

Sure, a polished paint looks chic and makes the car look as good as new. And that’s exactly the point: because it increases the material value of the vehicle and also prevents rust formation. Because polishing removes the uppermost, weathered layer of paint and exposes a new one. This removes small scratches in which rust forms. In addition, a freshly polished paintwork is less susceptible to bird droppings, which etch themselves into it.

Now the car which shines in a new splendor, is good and beautiful to look at, but applying the car polish offers much more – an excellent side effect is the dripping off of rain or cleaning water. Water stains are therefore less likely to appear, leaving nothing but a flawless appearance. Dirt or dust also adheres less easily to the car body. Depending on which polish we choose, the protection can last up to several months and please the car owner.

After polishing, the paint looks new. With car polishing, small scratches disappear and it creates a beautiful shine. It repels water and dirt after the treatment. Water drops roll off, and this prevents the formation of rust. A new paint job on the car is expensive and more complex than a polish.

What to do in case of a deeper damage to the paintwork?

It is more demanding to repair deeper scratches. If the sheet metal is visible, polishing the paintwork is not sufficient. Here you need a touch-up pen or paint in the original color of your vehicle. With a 2-coat metallic paint, we must also apply a base coat before the colored paint.

If you use a touch up paint, apply the paint precisely one after the other with a thin brush (and with the help of a magnifying glass) – each layer must dry well before we apply the next. Finally, fill the scratch with clear lacquer. This layer can become a little thicker, because after its 24-hour drying time, we sand it flat with a very fine sanding block. Then we apply the polish.

You can also quickly get a lacquer repair kit. With such a set, the repair is easier, and it contains everything you need. However, it is also very important that you use the right color touch-up pen.

Tip: We identify each car paint by a three-digit number sequence. You can find out which paint number you need for your car in the owner’s manual of your car.

Repairing deep car scratches with a repair kit

If you want to remove deep scratches in the paint yourself, you can choose from multiple repair kits. You will need the following means and tools:

  • Pressure washer or hose
  • Bucket, car shampoo and sponges
  • High quality microfiber cloths
  • Silicone remover
  • Rubber spatula
  • Paint repair kit
  • Polishing pads, car polish, wax or sealant

Paint repair requires a little craftsmanship for each technique, but it is workable. It is best to follow the instructions of the respective set. Following are the generic steps:

Car wash

Wash and clean the paint thoroughly. Take care not to cause additional scratches. It is best to use a high-pressure cleaner first to get rid of coarse dirt. Then soak further dirt generously with foamed car shampoo. Initially, do not rub hard on the paintwork, but press a soaked sponge over it. Allow the dirt to soak, then rinse the foam with the hose. Only then should you use a car sponge and plenty of shampoo water to clean the paintwork with circular movements.

Drying and degreasing

Let the paint dry in the air or use a fine microfiber cloth. Then wax and we remove wax and polish residues using a silicone remover.

Application of new layers

Now apply the different layers by following the instructions of your respective repair kit to fill the scratch completely. You can also use the spatula to spread the liquid so it covers the damage thinly. Let it dry completely. Some repair kits instruct you to apply a primer or clear coat as the first layer. If you are applying a spray paint, then mask the surrounding areas with a masking tape.


After the layers are dry, polish the area with a car polish. This removes fine mechanical marks and gives the paint the desired shine.


Finally, seal the paint. A sealant protects the car paint from chemical influences (including bird droppings, insect droppings, and tree resins). Here you can choose between waxes and sealants. The former are less resistant to mechanical effects, such as car washing. For this reason, more robust, modern car sealants are recommended. You apply these with a polishing foam and then with high-quality microfiber cloth without pressure. Always work only on smaller areas, so that the products do not have time to dry.

If you find that the car scratch cannot be repaired in this way, it is worth going to a professional. Deep scratches that penetrate the metal should be removed immediately. This way, rust has no chance.