What’s the best scratch repair for my car’s paintwork?

scratch repair

A paintwork scratch can be an eye sore, a constant reminder of something you’d rather not be reminded of and cost you money when it comes to reselling your car. But there are various scratch repairs you can go use on paintwork. Question is, how effective are they?

What shouldn’t you do?

Don’t rush into it. There’s every chance you’ll do more harm than good and turn a minor blemish into a major problem.

Also don’t believe anyone who tells you to touch it up with nail polish. For a start, nail polish is designed for… nails, not cars. Also matching the colour with any kind of accuracy will be almost impossible.

How deep is the paintwork scratch?

This is important. Car bodywork is covered in what’s known as clear coat. This is like a clear varnish that covers the coloured paint. The scratch may just have damaged this clear coat. Or it may have taken a chunk out of the paint down to the white rust inhibitor that covers the bare metal.

A light scratch that doesn’t go through the clear coat or layers of paint might be able to be polished out. You might even be able to erase it by polishing in WD40. For deeper scratches, using a cutting agent such as T-Cut may well work. You could then apply coloured waxes to fill in the colour.

scratch repair
Nissan has come up with paintwork that repairs itself. In the mean time scratches need sorting (Picture©Nissan)

What about touch-up pens?

Some car manufacturers offer touch-up pens in the same colour as your car’s paintwork. The car manufacturer should have the paint code for your car, or you will find it on a metal plate in the door sill or under the bonnet.

That’s all great in theory but depending on how old your car is and where it’s parked, its paint colour might have faded. If that’s the case, even the correct colour will look slightly different.

If you do decide to use a touch-up pen, make sure you follow the instructions carefully. These are literally felt tip pens with colour in them. If you try to apply them over wax, they won’t stick properly.

All that said, we wouldn’t recommend using touch-up pens as it’s easy to get a match that’s almost but not quite. It’s also tricky for someone doing a repair on their drive or in the street outside their home to create a perfectly clean environment. And that might result in impurities getting in while the touch up is drying.

Even using a touch-up pen, there’s a good chance you’ll look like you’ve attacked it with nail polish.

What would we do?

We’d look closely at the scratch and see if it can be ‘polished out’. First of all, give the car a wash with a proper car shampoo. Then dry it. Cutting agents such as T-Cut remove the top layer of clear coat so you are literally polishing the scratch away. Then apply car wax to the scratch. Remember multiple thin layers is better than one thick layer.

If that doesn’t work, we’d call a professional in. Think about how difficult it is touching up the paintwork in your home. Doing it to a car is a thousand times harder. There are plenty of companies who will come to your home or work place and do the job using professional equipment to get the perfect finish.

And depending on the size of the scratch, they may charge you less than £100 for the privilege. Much better than ending up with a car that looks like you’ve got busy with the nail polish.