When we are looking after our cars, we spend a good amount of time on the outside appearance, right? After all, it’s the part of the car that most people get to see, so it makes sense to keep it looking great. That’s why we wash and polish and wax.
There are numerous companies out there offering to fix bodywork scratches – and charging a premium for it too. But what if you want to tackle the problem yourself? Well, first off you’ll need the right tools…
The Best Car Scratch Remover
The paint job on a typical car is actually made up of three layers. The bottom layer provides protection from corrosion, and it also a primer for the second layer that provides the color. The final layer on top is a clear, “lacquer” layer, which is what makes modern cars look shiny.
A scratch remover essentially works by breaking down the top layers. It removes the top layer completely, and works the color layer to fill the scratch, repairing it. It’s important to know that so that you understand that Meguiar’s boast of an advanced formula compound that cuts through the paint layers to repair a scratch quickly, that is a great feature.
In fact, this product is so effective, the only negative is that you do need to take it easy, only apply a little and very carefully repair the scratch.
Advanced Formula – Less Abrasive Than Some Compounds
Works Blemishes, Water Spots and Scratches
- Weight13.6 oz
15 Ounces of Product
Micro Abrasion Technology is Fast to Apply
Powerful Formula – Use with Care
Turtle Wax is an industry leader in car care products, and with good reason. This is a great addition to their range, and the kit provides pretty much everything you need to tackle scratches.
The kit comes complete with foam applicator pads and microfiber towels – both key tools in scratch repairs, and often sold separately. In addition, you get two bottle of repair compound. One is milder and designed for very light surface scratches, the other is more abrasive and designed for deeper damage.
No matter how you look at it, this is a great value product that brings everything you need in one convenient package!
2x Compounds with Applicator Pads & Towels
Works on Scratches, Water Marks and Oxidation
- BrandTurtle Wax
- Weight1.3 lbs
Complete Kit – Everything You Need in One Box
2 Different Strength Compounds
Both Bottles Bring 18oz of Product – a Huge Amount!
Price is Quite High – Especially if You Already Have Microfiber Towels
This is another complete kit, similar to the Turtle Wax product above. Price wise, it’s also somewhat similar to that kit – size wise however there is a big difference!
You’re only going to get a few applications out of this kit before you are re-ordering it. The point is though you probably will be reordering, because this product works! Manufactured in Germany, the modern home of high tech European automobile industries, this product is formulated to effortlessly repair scratches.
The two-step process will quickly repair light surface damage, the included sandpaper is used to rough the area around deeper damage. This product will do a great job, seamlessly repairing damaged paintwork – it’s just a shame they don’t send you more!
Easy, 2 Step Application
- Weight3.2 oz
Works well on all Gloss (Metallic) Paint
Repairs Scratches Instantly
This is an interesting product. Again, this is a complete kit, so you’re getting everything you need delivered in one box. However, this removal system is designed to work with power tools.
Inside the kit you get two sachets of liquid compound, plus three pads and a power drill attachment. The pads – ranging from abrasive fine sandpaper to foam applicator – are used to apply, buff and polish the compound from one pack of repair compound.
The fact you can use your power drill to apply and polish means that this product is both fast and incredibly effective. A power drill after all can simply apply that bit more abrasion and polish than you can with a cloth.
The price is pretty cheap – it’s one of the lowest on this list – but the fact the repair compound is in a packet instead of a bottle makes it a one-time use only.
3 Step Process
- Weight4.5 oz
Works with Power Tools
Fast and Effective
Product Comes in Sachet Packets – Single Use Only
The first product in a while that doesn’t come in a complete kit – but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a simple product. Well, to be fair, it’s very simple to apply – all you need it a clean, dry cloth.
In the formula however we are looking at an advanced, non-corrosive formula. Instead, built in micro polishers are used to repair scratches. This is a less invasive method than many other scratch removers, most of which by their very nature are abrasive products.
On the other hand, without that abrasion it’s hard to see how deeper scratches can be repaired with just this product. It is therefore great to use on lighter, surface scratches and for watermarks, blemishes and other surface issues. Its lighter formula will do a great job on these problems without the higher abrasion of more powerful brands.
Advanced Micro Polishers
- BrandFormula 1
- Weight9.1 oz
Easy To Use
Quite a Small Bottle
This is a fine, straightforward remover from 3M, and our second on the list from that manufacturer.
It should be noted that despite the name of Scratch Remover, the wax free formula is not really up to repairing deeper scratches. Instead, like the Formula 1 product above, this compound is more designed to repair very top surface issues like fine scratches with minimal penetration, water spots and oxidation.
If 3M marketed this product the same as Formula 1 (i.e. that it’s a milder product, more of a polish than a remover) then it would sell a lot better. Don’t buy this expecting it to be a miracle repair for deeper scratches. Buy it knowing that it is milder and gentler for your paintwork than other more abrasive scratch removers.
Eliminates Fine Scratches
Wax Free Formula
- Weight7.8 oz
Cheap and Effective
Can be Applied by Hand or Machine
Only For Fine Scratches
Quite a few of the products on this list have either come in complete kits or with multiple applicators. You don’t get either with this product from Chemical Guys. Instead, you are looking at a complete, all in one product that combines remover compound with polisher and cleaner.
That means you simply apply the product – either by hand or by a powered buffer – and you’re done. From an application point of view, this product is a breeze.
But it also does its job. Scratches are repaired, surface imperfections like swirling is removed – this is overall a great product. On the downside, premium products typically come with premium price tags, and this is no different having one of the higher prices on this list.
Acts as Compound, Polish & Cleaner
Eliminates Surface Imperfections
Wax Free Formula
- BrandChemical Guys
- Weight1.32 lbs
Easy to Use
It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating – if you are going to name your product so that it has “The Best” or in this case “The Ultimate” right there in the name, then you need to make sure it lives up to it’s billing. So does this one?
This is a professional formula scratch remover – if you took your car into a bodywork shop, chances are they would be using a similar formula. At the same time, it comes with helpful instructions, formula cloths and application sponges – everything you need to do a top quality repair at home.
The downside is that this is not a cheap product. In fact it is far and away the most expensive on this list. However, for one thing it does a great job. For another, the bottles of formula are pretty big, meaning that you can get use after use out of this kit. You can look at it as a long-term investment in protecting your car’s paintwork.
Completely removes up to 80% of Scratches
Easy To Use
Professional Formula Does Its Job
Lots of Formula for Repeated Uses
This product is part of the large and respected range of Auto products from Mother’s. Like the Formula 1 and 3M Remover above, it is best to look at this product as suitable to polish out small surface imperfections than to remove medium to deeper scratches.
This is a great product to clean up high usage parts of the paintwork. For example, around keyholes and door handles where small scratches and imperfections can build up over time.
This product both repairs paint in these instances but also over long term use builds up a protective layer to help prevent future damage. This is a great product therefore to keep on hand for touch ups and surface repairs. It’s a cheap product with a pretty large sized bottle too, making it a great product to turn to again and again.
Works on Any Paint Type
- Weight8 oz
Easy To Use
Long Term Protection
Surface Polish More Than Scratch Remover
Turtle Wax has been in the business of creating innovative car care products for many decades so when they put something out into the market, one can always expect car enthusiasts to be especially upbeat about it.
The Renew Rx is not really a scratch remover per se, but rather a very effective polishing compound. It is actually used by many in the reduction if not total elimination of oxidized surfaces such as the headlights and body panels. It only works on light to moderate surface imperfections, though. As such, if you’re actually looking at large, extensive, or even very deep imperfections don’t expect the Renew Rx to return your car to its showroom quality finish.
It should still be a wise buy especially since most of the problems of many car owners are associated with smaller and finer surface imperfections like stubborn stains, blemishes, and even faded color finish. At the very least, you’ll still be very proud of what the Turtle Wax can accomplish for your vehicle.
Special formulation against light to medium oxidation
Easy to apply formula
- BrandTurtle Wax
- Weight12.5 oz
Brand name that you can trust
Removes oxidized surfaces
Friendly on the pocket
Not really a scratch remover, more of a polishing wax
If you’ve got the budget to spare, the V36 + V38 combo kit from Chemical Guys should be an excellent choice. The V36 is perfect for eliminating the scratches made by surface sanding with 2000- to 2500- grit. It’s also perfect for eliminating holograms and swirls.
On the other hand, the V38 promises exceptional professional-grade finishing as it is designed specifically to eliminate the surface marks created by sanding using 2500- to 3000- grit materials. There really is no need to fill the miniature grooves of these scratches nor is there a need to cover them up. The V38’s formulation should be enough to give your car’s surface that mirror-like finish it deserves.
Since you’re actually using 2 different products, expect that the price tag will be heftier than most. And oh, don’t worry if you don’t have a polishing equipment as the V36 and V38 can be applied just as easily with your hands.
Combination of cutting and final finish
Ultra-refined surface cutting polish
Formulated for moderate to heavy surface imperfections and paint defects
Compatible with DA or rotary machine
- BrandChemical Guys
- Weight2.45 lbs
2-finishing formulations work like a charm
Perfect for paint defects and heavy surface imperfections
Versatile application by hand or machine
Hefty price tag
Barret-Jackson’s special formulation promises to bring to your car a kind of finish that is similar to the one that’s on it the first time you drove it. Featuring a unique formulation of ultra-fine particles that are primarily intended to reduce if not eliminate mild swirl marks, scuff marks, and superficial scratches.
Again, don’t expect any miracles if the main issue on your car are heavy and deep scratches. You’ll need a more professional job for that instead of a simple, quick DIY fix. Regardless, it should still appeal to a good number of folks who may already be tired of the same promises that some products simply fail to keep.
There’s just one minor hiccup, though. The Barret-Jackson, for all its effectiveness, is still quite pricey. There are other car scratch removers in the market that don’t cost this much, yet can provide exactly the same results or even a lot better.
Ultra-fine polishing formula
Works on all painted finish
Easy to use formulation
- Weight12.8 oz
Easy to apply
Multiple applications across a variety of surfaces
A little bit expensive
Offering an entirely different approach to the removal of light vehicle surface imperfections like sun streaks, pitches, paint oxidation, swirl marks, and light scratches, Mookis is a great alternative to mainstream car scratch removers.
What it does is that it dissolves the vehicle’s original paint then recombines it over the problem area to give it a more uniform color. This has the added advantage of being used in all types of vehicles regardless of their color. It’s also perfect for fixing oxidation as well as swirl marks that may have developed on the surface of the car over the course of its life.
However, since you’re actually using your car’s own paint to fix the problem you’d have to wait at least 5 hours before giving your vehicle a much-needed cleanup. It won’t fix moderate to severe scratches, too. Keep that in mind.
Special formulation to fix a variety of light or mild surface problems
Works on all paint colors and various surfaces
Comes with ‘magic’ scratch fix cloth
- Weight1.6 oz
Easy to use
Applicable on a variety of surfaces
Doesn’t work on moderate to severe surface problems
Cannot be used on plated metals
If one of your primary considerations for choosing a product is its price, then you might want to check Bubba’s Super Scratch Remover. Featuring a unique water-based formulation that includes micro-polishers, Bubba’s scratch remover promises to deliver a finish that you’ll be proud of.
Unfortunately, for a number of car owners, it’s all empty promises as the product simply isn’t really up to the task. Remarkably, a greater proportion of car owners say that it actually works. You’d really have to try it for yourself to see if it can remove the kind of swirl marks and light imperfections on your car. Do take note it will not work on heavy scratches.
Water-based scratch remover formulation
Unique micro-polishing formula
Works easily with hand application
- BrandBubba’s Auto Products
- Weight9.6 oz
Safe to use on clear coats
Easy to apply; doesn’t require machine
Inconsistencies in effectiveness as a light scratch remover
It’s not really easy trying to remove scratches from the surface of any vehicle for the simple fact that it cannot really be removed. The groove can only be filled with the right compound then polished in such a way that it becomes flush with the rest of the body.
GS27’s Titanium formulation fills these gaps or grooves with titanium microparticles that require very minimal prep work and finishing activities. At the very least you can finish removing the scratches on your car in just a short amount of time. It works on a variety of painted surfaces, too, whether it is on the body of your car or perhaps even your household appliances.
The issue, however, is that it doesn’t really work on moderately deep to really deep scratches. Only very minor surface scratches will be ‘removed’ by the GS27 Titanium. So it’s best to keep this in mind.
Titanium scratch-filling particles
Multiple applications on various surfaces
DIY kit with accompanying microfiber cloth
- Weight5.6 oz
Easy to apply
Only works on superficial scratches
Best Car Scratch Remover Buying Guide & FAQ
So there you can see some of what we consider to be the best products on the market to tackle damaged paintwork. If you want to know more, then in this section we’ll go through the types of remover on the market right now, what types of scratches can be fixed and how to go about doing it.
Hopefully, this may help you decide which of the products above is the right on for you.
Types of Removers
There are actually quite a few different types of product on the market. Broadly speaking, you can break them down as:
- Full Kit We provided a few examples of full or complete kit scratch removers on our list above. Basically, as you would expect, these come with everything you need to complete the job all easily packed up into one box. They can often come with multiple formulas – some of the different strengths, some with different functions – and applicators, microfiber towels, or similar.
- Bottled Compounds These would be the standalone products that simply come with the remover formula inside – no bells or whistles, no applicator or towels. These can be a great option if you already have those items in your garage. They also tend to be better value for money. If you spend $20 on a standalone bottle of remover, all that money is going toward buying it. If you buy a $20 kit, some of that money has to go toward all the extras in the box.
- Polish As we discussed above, some of these products are not really scratch removers, they should be seen more as a polish to tackle surface issues rather than deeper damage like a scratch. They have their place in the arsenal of the good at home mechanic, but they are not abrasive enough to tackle deep damage. Use our product guide, therefore, to ensure you are buying a product that can tackle the job you intend it for.
- Pens We didn’t tackle pens in this article because technically they aren’t removers – they are only really supplementary to actual repair kits and probably won’t be able to do the job by themselves.
What Types of Scratches Can be Fixed?
As we discussed right at the top of the article, the paint on a car is actually composed of three layers all working together.
Scratch removers are great products but they do have limitations. Broadly speaking, damage to the top two layers can be repaired by a scratch remover. This is because these products are essentially simple abrasives. They melt the paint around a scratch, which is then rubbed into the damage to fill it.
Related Post: Best Car Body Fillers
The paint alone cannot fill a deep scratch, however. So if all the layers have been stripped back and you can see the base metal of the car bodywork then that is going to be beyond the abilities of a scratch remover. That will need to be filled and repainted, which is a story for a different article.
Also, if you can see the metal, that’s even a scratch anymore, right?
Steps to Remove Scratches From a Car
First off, just as with any work on the paint of a car, wait until you get a warm, dry day. It shouldn’t be too hot either, but the car body should feel warm to the touch.
Next clean the car, paying particular attention to the area that needs to be repaired. If any grit or dirt gets caught up during the repair, it could cause damage itself by scratching the paintwork.
So - the cars clean, the sun is shining – you’ve maybe had a beer break at this point – what’s next?
The next thing to do is to read the instructions on your remover. Because they are all slightly different formulas and strengths, they all have slightly different application instructions, so check out the instructions on your product.
If you’ve bought one of the kits that we recommended above then you have everything you need right there in the box. If you bought a standalone bottle of remover, then you’ll need to get yourself some clean cloths and some extra fine sandpaper (1500 grit should be fine).
If the scratch is very shallow, just use the remover. Carefully apply some to a sponge applicator or microfiber cloth and then, with a back and forth motion, work it over the scratch.
If the scratch is deeper, then gently buff the edges with the sandpaper first until the paint begins to look a little dull. Clean off the dust then apply the remover as above. In some cases, it may require using a polisher, you can read our complete guide to the best buffers for your car here.
Because of the nature of the remover, it’s best to apply a coat of wax to the repaired area when you are done to protect your work.
And that’s it – simple and effective!
Benefits of Using Scratch Removers
The first benefit is that is going to save you a lot of money! Even the most expensive product on the list above is to cost a fraction of the bill at the body shop.
Secondly, if you care about the appearance of your vehicle, a remover is a simple and easy way to keep it looking great. Make sure you also use a good car wax regularly to maintain the paintwork.
Thirdly, if you are looking to sell the car, then a scratch remover can be a cheap way to quickly improve its appearance – and it’s value!
Finally, the paintwork is there for another reason – other than to make the car look good of course. It’s to protect the bodywork, and scratched paintwork will not be able to do that as effectively as repaired paintwork will.
So all in all, for a relatively small investment of money and time you can protect the value, appearance, and bodywork of your car – pretty good value really, whichever product you decide to go for.
Q: Do scratch removers work on cars?
A: It all depends on the type of scratch that is present on your car. If you’re talking about scratches that cut well into the metal part of the body of your car – beyond the clear top coat – then no scratch removers will ever save your car. Only a professional repaint job will do the trick, although some touch-up paints should do the trick for less obvious deep scratches.
Scratch removers are considered mildly abrasive compounds. Scratches leave a groove on the surface of your car’s top paint. When light strikes the surface of your car, the groove cast shadows making them highly noticeable. The idea in using scratch removers is by ‘scraping’ off a very thin layer of your car’s top coat so that it will be ‘flush’ with the groove. It won’t cast shadows onto the surface of the car and you’ve got an almost-invisible scratch.
Q: What is the best scratch remover for a black car?
A: Black cars or any other color of the vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean that the different layers of paint on the car are of the same color. The primer will usually be with a different color. Depending on the vehicle manufacturer, several layers of paint finishes may be applied one on top of the other with each one carrying an entirely different hue.
If scratches are made on a black car and it so happens that the paint layers underneath are actually light-colored, your best bet at ‘masking’ the scratch is to use a restorative black car remover with wax. It will be quite tricky as you cannot use just any other kind of scratch remover. Remember that scratch removers are actually abrasive, too. Using the wrong product can make the problem worse.
Q: How to fix my car paint fade after using the scratch remover?
A: As already mentioned, scratch removers are mildly abrasive substances that can also cause very fine marks on your car’s paint. Over time, this can be heightened by continued exposure to the elements. Fading paint requires removing the almost-microscopic scratches that scratch removers have left behind. Car detailers often use an appropriate rubbing compound to help remove the dull outer surface of your vehicle’s paint. This requires a lot of prep work which typically includes washing and cleaning your car’s surfaces and removing any surface contaminants.
The application of a rubbing compound requires very precise steps, whether you’re using an orbital sander or applying it by hand. The key here is to apply even pressure on the applicator so that you don’t necessarily create more damage than your car already has. For instance, keeping the wool pad of an orbital sander fluffy is one of the most important elements to ensuring more effective treatment of scratch remover-induced car paint fade. Firm, even pressure is a requirement when applying the rubbing compound by hand.
Once you’re done with the application of the rubbing compound, you’ll need to buff the area immediately. This should be followed with an appropriate car polish to give your car the shine that it needs. Most car detailers don’t stop with a car polish, however. They also apply paint sealant to make sure that your car’s re-paint will look really crisp.
Q: What is the use of a rubbing compound?
A: The principal indication of a rubbing compound is in the smoothening of a car’s surface paint. In many cases, it can also be used in the management of heavily-oxidized paint essentially by removing the vehicle’s topmost layer of paint. Many car detailers also use rubbing compounds to help repair scratch marks left by sandpaper or sanding machine as well as other surface contaminants. Rubbing compounds also work to help provide a remedy to deeper and heavier scratches on your vehicle. It is also used in the removal or management of stubborn spotting. Technically, what it does is that a rubbing compound removes part or all of the top coat so a new one can be applied.
Q: Will I be able to match the paint color with a car scratch remover?
A: A scratch remover only works on superficial scratches such as those that do not penetrate deep and beyond the top coat. They work by removing a layer of the surface so that it becomes ‘one’ or flush with the groove created by the scratch marks. Technically, you don’t really need to worry about matching the color of your car’s paint with that of a scratch remover. However, if you’ve got a much deeper cut into the paint layers, don’t expect a scratch remover to help you. Touch-up paints usually do a fine job for less extensive damage. But for really severe ones, your best recourse is to have a professional repair it for you.
Our Top Pick
Meguiar’s G17216 Ultimate Compound remains the top when it comes to the best car scratch remover. Its advanced formulation and less abrasive action compared to other products make it the perfect choice not only by avid car owners but also by professional automotive detailers. Its fast application capabilities can also reduce the time needed for effective car scratch management.