Skip to main content

Nothing can ruin the look of a car, quite like scratched paint. The problem is car paint is easy to scratch, and getting a car painted can cost a lot of money. Thankfully, there are plenty of tips and even more urban legends for repairing car paint, so we decided to bring some of the best DIY tips for fixing car scratches. 

someone scratching a car's paint with a screw driver
A man scratches car paint with a screwdriver | Angelika Warmuth/picture alliance via Getty Images

How much does a scratch on a car cost to fix? 

According to Consumer Insurance Report, car scratches vary, as do the costs to repair them. Some light scratches can be repaired professionally for around $150, but deeper scratches can easily cost over $2k to fix. The average cost of a total scratch repair is $3,500. Paintwork for cars is one of the most expensive jobs to have done on your car. This is why if you can fix a scratch on your car yourself, it can be worthwhile. 

Fixing minor car scratches and scuffs is surprisingly easy

Cars have a layer of clear coat over the paint. This is the first line of defense for your car’s paint. The clear coat is the first layer to get scratched in an accident. If the scratch didn’t penetrate the paint but only scratched or scuffed the clear coat, you’re in luck. This is a relatively easy fix. 

According to Slashgear, the first step for clear coat scrapes is to get the surface of the scrape smooth and level. For instance, this is best done with a very light abrasive compound like T-cut or something similar. Deeper scuffs and scrapes might require more leveling with a ball of super fine steel wool or even sandpaper. Keep in mind, although the clear coat is the thickest part of your car’s paint, steel wool and sandpaper are meant to remove material, so tread lightly. As they say, “you can’t uncut the sandwich.” 

Once you have gotten the damaged area smoothed out, start working your polishing compound into the sanded area until the scuffs disappear. Depending on how large the scratch is, this may take a bit of time and effort. This process can be done faster with the help of a buffing gun. 

Fixing deep car paint scratches is also doable

Once a scratch goes past the clear coat and into the actual paint or even past that, the repair gets a bit more difficult, but it’s still possible. 

Having the entire panel stripped and repainted is the easier way forward, but as we mentioned, this can get very expensive. The DIY car scratch repair method can produce a flawless finish if done right. 

The goal is still to get the damaged area as smooth and level as possible. With more severe damage, this may require fixing dents before you can get the area sanded smooth. Once the area is level and the damaged paint has been removed, you can wash with soap and water to remove any dust or debris, then apply a coat of primer. Once your primer is good and dry (don’t rush this), you can start applying the actual car paint. 

It is imperative that you research the exact color code of your car’s paint so it matches. Even the slightest difference in color will stand out. The painting process can require some skill to have evenly applied paint with no clumps, runs, or splotches. If your paint isn’t up to your standard, don’t fret; just sand it down and try again. Once your car paint is nicely laid, spray a clear coat.

Pro tip: Once there is wet paint or clear coat on the car, bugs, dirt, dust, and anything else you can imagine will get stuck in it, ruining all your hard work. If possible, try to paint in a clean, windless, indoor environment, wearing property breathing and safety gear. 

Best of luck

As with all DIY projects, no amount of reading or advice can prepare you. If you want to do a good job, just start doing and continue to keep doing until you get it right. This is how solid DIY work gets done; practice and persistence.


How To Paint A Car