The Most Common Car Scratches And What To Do About Them

If you own a car, chances are that your vehicle has seen, or will see some scratches throughout its life.

Car scratches are annoying, but they come with the price of owning a car. Unfortunately, It’s impossible to completely avoid vehicle scratches.

The Most Common Car Scratches And What To Do About Them

If left unattended, the abrasions can turn into more serious problems.

While many scratches are solely cosmetic issues, other scrapes can lead to your vehicle rusting over time.

This all sounds gloomy, but there are ways of fixing car scratches that can save your vehicle!

We’ll cover these methods in this article. You’ll learn what the three main kinds of car scratches are, how they affect your car, and how you can fix them.

Keep reading to learn more about car scratches and what you can do about them!

The Most Common Kinds Of Car Scratches

Car scratches can be different from each other, which is why you can’t fix all of them with the same method.

It’s important to know how these scrapes are all different, as well as how to figure out which scratch is which.

Understanding this will ensure that you use the right method to fix the scratch, instead of using the wrong one and making the abrasion worse.

There are three main kinds of car scratches, which are clear coat, base coat, and primer coat.

Clear Coat Abrasions

are shallow and small. These will have damaged the car’s clear coat on the outside, but not through to the paint.

Base Coat Abrasions

are deeper than clear coat ones. These will have penetrated the car’s clear coat to damage its paintwork.

Primer Coat Abrasions

are the deepest kind of scratch that you can find on a car.

These will have gone through the clear coat and the paint, reaching the plastic or metal beneath.

We’ll cover each of these scratch types in more detail below, as well as how to identify each of them from the others.

Clear Coat Car Scratches

The final layer of paint that goes on a vehicle is a clear coat.

This is a transparent coat that defends a car from damaging elements, including heat, UV rays, and oxidation.

The clear coat also gives the vehicle a pleasant shine, making it look more aesthetically pleasing.

Some older cars don’t have clear coats on the outside, but every vehicle produced over the last three decades should have been treated with one.

Clear coat car scratches are the most common variety of vehicle abrasions.

Practically every vehicle will have a clear coat scratch, as it’s very difficult to prevent them from occurring.

Clear coat car scratches can occur for the following reasons:

  • Incorrect cleaning techniques
  • Road dirt
  • Light accidents with other vehicles
  • Grass and tree branches on the road
  • Handling paint with nails or hands
  • Using a car to balance items (coffee cups, drink cans, soaps, etc.)

How Serious Are Clear Coat Car Scratches?

In most cases, clear coat car scratches are just cosmetic, so they’ll only affect how your vehicle’s color looks.

Some of these scratches can be very difficult to see without extra light shining on the surface. You might need to use a flashlight or the sun’s rays to find any.

Clear coat car scrapes aren’t as serious as the other two kinds of scratches.

Generally speaking, these abrasions won’t lead to rust or damage to the car’s paintwork.

The Most Common Car Scratches And What To Do About Them

How To Fix Clear Coat Car Scratches

While clear coat scratches are some of the most common scratches to happen to a car, they are also the simplest types to fix.

Fixing these scrapes mean that detailers need to take off some clear coating surrounding the graze, then smooth the area out later until it disappears.

However, if you are confident in your abilities, you don’t need to go to a detailer to fix these scratches. You can fix clear coat abrasions in three ways, which are:

Hand Polishing The Car

Hand polishing will work to remove the scratch, but it will take a lot of time and effort.

Hand polishing works best to remove a couple of clear coat grazes, without spending money on a machine polisher.

If you have a lot of clear coat scratches all over your vehicle, it’s best to use another method to remove them.

Believe us, you really don’t want to try hand-polishing your entire car.

Machine Polishing The Car

Dual-action and rotary polishers work well on light and medium clear coat scratches. These machine polishers do the hard work for you.

Keep in mind that rotary polishers work faster than dual-action ones, but this means that dual-action polishers may be easier for beginners to handle.

After a little bit of training and practice, you can restore your vehicle’s paint to its former glory.

Sandpaper Wet Sanding

If your clear coat car scratches are quite large or deep, hand polishing and rotary machines won’t be able to remove them.

In this case, you can use extremely fine sandpaper to remove these. Look for papers with a 3000 or 2000 grade.

Once the scratches have been removed, you’ll need to compound and polish it to its ideal standard once more.

Remember to always apply a paint protectant to your car before you polish it.

Sealants, ceramic layers, and waxes can all defend against harmful elements, including UV rays, oxidation, and future light scratches.

How To Hide Clear Coat Car Scratches

The processes above will help to fix the clear coat abrasion, but if you want to hide them, you can try the following methods.

Using Sealant Or Wax

Sealants and waxes aren’t primarily used to hide scratches, but they may work to disguise small or light clear coat abrasions.

However, as they aren’t designed to cover scratches, bear in mind that some scratches may peek through, unless they are quite small.

Use Glazes

Glazes can be an effective way of disguising small clear coat scratches.

These work by filling in the abrasion and making it look smooth and even with the rest of the car’s paint.

Keep in mind that glazes won’t be able to hide every scratch, but they can work well at temporarily hiding them.

Base Coat / Paint Car Scratches

A vehicle’s base coat is a thin paint coating that gives your car its color.

These can be any color and finish that you’d like, including red, white, and even metallics, like pearl.

Base coats are applied before the clear coating, lying beneath the shiny layer.

After the clear coat variety, base coat car scratches are the next most common.

These scratches have penetrated the clear layer to damage the paint coating beneath it.

Base coat scratches can occur for the following reasons:

  • Road accidents
  • Knocking walls with vehicle doors
  • Stones on the road
  • Deliberate damage (key or nail scratches, etc.)

How Serious Are Base Coat Car Scratches?

Base coat car scratches are more serious than clear coat ones.

As these affect the protective layer around the car, this leaves the metal exposed to the elements, making it more likely to rust later.

Fortunately, most vehicles should have a primer layer beneath the paint coating.

However, stone chips on the vehicle’s bumper and hood can be more serious, as they can make your car’s body rust in just a couple of years.

Base coat scratches don’t need to be fixed straight away, but you shouldn’t wait too long to fix them.

How To Fix Base Coat Car Scratches

As base coat car scratches affect your car’s paintwork, in most cases, the affected vehicle will need to be repainted.

The repainting process often involves wet sanding, spraying a base paint layer, spraying the clear layer, and polishing to finish.

If the scratches aren’t that deep, minor abrasions can be fixed without a whole paint job.

Wet sanding, polishing, and compounding should smooth the paint around the graze, so the mark isn’t that obvious.

As mentioned above, remember to apply a paint protection layer after you attend to it.

If you aren’t as experienced with vehicle paintwork, it’s best to consult a professional.

This will help you avoid damaging the car’s base layer anymore.

Primer Car Scratches

The primer layer is applied to the vehicle’s body and can be used on both plastic and metal frames.

Primer helps to prevent the car from rusting, but it also helps smooth out the body’s surface, allowing the base and clear coats to be applied evenly.

Primer car scratches are sometimes referred to as deep paint vehicle scratches, and are the most severe variety of car abrasion.

These will penetrate straight through the clear and base layers to affect the primer underneath. You can often see the plastic and metal body underneath these scratches.

The Most Common Car Scratches And What To Do About Them

If you do notice the car’s body underneath the graze, you’ll know that it’s a primer car scratch.

Primer car scratches can occur for the following reasons:

  • Road accidents
  • Hitting another vehicle or a wall with the car door
  • Abrasions from metal in contact with the vehicle

How Serious Are Primer Car Scratches?

Primer car scratches are the most serious type of car scratches, so it’s important to fix these as soon as you can.

If you leave primer car scratches without fixing them, the following issues may occur:

  • The car will lose its protective primer layer, leaving the metal exposed to rust
  • Bigger primer scratches may mean your car won’t pass technical inspections
  • These scratches will be visible, even in low light, affecting your car’s appearance

How To Fix Primer Car Scratches

Fixing primer car scratches is best done by a professional. Primer abrasions leave the vehicle’s metal body exposed, so there’s a lot that can go wrong with the process.

In most cases, the entire car panel, like the bumper or hood, will need to be repainted to achieve the best-looking finish.

If you do prefer the DIY route, you can attend to these scratches by yourself, but if you’re not experienced, the results won’t look as good as compared with an expert.

The process to fix primer car abrasions tends to involve the following steps:

  • Wet and dry sanding the entire vehicle body panel
  • Adding body filler glaze if necessary
  • Wet sanding once more
  • Adding a primer layer
  • Wet sanding a final time
  • Adding a paint base layer
  • Adding a clear final layer

The process is very lengthy, so it needs a lot of professional knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, the method tends to be expensive too.

However, it’s always best to go to a professional to attend to these grazes, as It might cost more money in the long run to fix DIY mistakes!

Differentiating Types Of Car Scratches

It’s important to know how to distinguish one type of car scratch from another, as using the wrong method to fix one can lead to more issues later.

Here’s a simple overview of how to figure out what scratch is on your vehicle.

Clear Coat Car Scratches

Lightly run your fingernail across the abrasion. If you can just about feel the mark, this will be a clear coat graze that can be addressed easily with polishing.

Base Coat Car Scratches

Lightly slide your fingernail across the mark and see if you feel the mark a lot.

If you do notice the abrasion, the scratch probably penetrated through the clear layer of the base coat.

Primer Coat Car Scratches

You don’t need to use your fingernail for this. Examine the abrasion and see if you notice the plastic or metal body beneath it.

If this is the result and there’s no paintwork at all, you’ll have a primer coat car scratch.

Final Thoughts

Car scratches are common, but there are things you can do to fix them.

As car scratches come in three main types, you need to figure out which scratch your car has to avoid fixing them with the wrong method.

Clear coat car abrasions aren’t that severe, so you won’t need to attend to these immediately.

However, if the scratches affect the base coat or primer, you should fix these as soon as possible to avoid rust and further scratching.

If you don’t have experience with vehicle paintwork, it’s best to seek professional help.

This may cost more money upfront, but it can cost even more to fix DIY mistakes.