The world can be a cruel place for car owners. Regardless of how much care you put into the upkeep of your car, one strike of a vandal and you can already have a “keyed” vehicle. This is a kind of scratch that is caused by a key. The act can be from a jilted suitor or a furious ex or a simple passerby who cannot think of a better thing to do than to inflict damage on somebody else’s car. You may have an insurance cover for such damage to your ride, but it would still be best if you know how to fix your keyed car.
Wash and Dry the Affected Car Panel
The first thing that you need to do is to wash the scratched area very well. This will help you visualize the true extent or depth of the scratch. Right after washing the affected panel, make sure to dry it using a microfiber towel. Allow it to dry some more before applying any fix. Remember that touch-up paint will not adhere that well to a surface that is damp or moist.
Check the Depth or Extent of the Damage
If the scratch only affects the clear coat, then it is possible to apply a quick fix by buffing the scratch. It is also cheaper to restore.
However, if the scratch penetrates the clear coat and affects the paint of the car, then this is something that is out of your league. You will need the services of an auto body repair shop to restore the finish of the paint.
The same is true if the scratch is so deep that it already scratches the bare metal. Expect to pay anywhere between $800 and $1,500 for it, depending on how many body panels got keyed.
To check if you have clear coat scratch, prepare a soapy solution. Spray on the scratch and wipe it dry using a microfiber cloth. Take note of the scratch. You have a clear coat damage if the scratch ‘disappears’ after drying, but ‘reappears’ after a few minutes. If the scratch doesn’t disappear after drying, then you have a deep scratch.
Protect the Surrounding Areas
Keyed vehicles often come with an elongated scratch. Try to isolate this section by creating a frame made of masking tape around the scratch. Leave about 2 to 3 inches on both sides of the scratch. This will help limit the sanding area in this section only. Moreover, when it is time to apply the paint, you will not have to worry about spraying paint over areas that do not require any retouches.
Old newspapers can also prove invaluable. Spread them over your car, making sure that each page overlaps each other. This will help protect your car from unnecessary spray mists.
Apply a Differently-colored Substance into the Scratch
Since you will be sanding the clear coat, you do not want to overdo it. It is important to sand the damage up to the level of depth of the scratch only. But since we are talking about clear coat, it can be quite difficult to ascertain if you are sanding at the right level or not.
As such, applying a substance with a different color can help. For example, you can rub shoe polish with a color that’s different from the color of your car. As you sand the damaged part, this differently-colored substance will give way to the actual color of the car. When you get to this point, you will know that you’ve reached the bottom of the scratch.
Now comes the tedious part. You should never rush this. It is okay to spend several hours trying to sand the keyed scratch away so long as you can get it right.
Get a 2000- to 3000-grit sandpaper and a sanding block. Wrap the sandpaper around the sanding block. The even surface of the block will help provide for more even pressure on the scratched surface. It is a lot better than using your fingers to apply the pressure on the sandpaper.
Prepare a soapy solution to serve as a lubricant during the sanding process. Always begin by dunking the sandpaper in the soapy solution. Orient the sanding block at a 60-degree angle relative to the dinged part. Sand along the length of the keyed scratch.
Be mindful of the amount of pressure that you are exerting. It should not be too great; otherwise, you risk sanding well beyond the clear coat. Do take note of the color of the substance that you applied. If you see the color starting to fade, that means you are nearing the bottom of the scratch. Continue working your way through the rest of the scratch.
Always moisten the sandpaper with every pass. It is often advisable to have a spray bottle with a soapy solution in it so you can moisten the area every 2 to 3 seconds.
Dry, Polish, and Wax
Allow the area to dry very well before you move on to the next step. Some car detailers use a heat gun or a hair dryer to hasten the process of drying.
Get a rubbing compound and squeeze some onto the scratch. Bring out your polishing wheel and start working on the area. If you do not have a polishing wheel, you can still polish the area using your hands. Make sure to use the correct piece of cloth. For this purpose, you’d want to use the best possible microfiber cloth you can get.
The last step is waxing your car. You may skip this step if you wish, but most car owners will attest to the advantages of waxing the whole car right after fixing a clear coat scratch. It is like breathing new life into your ride.
Fixing a keyed car is easy if the only layer affected is the clear coat. If the scratch cuts through the paint, primer, or metal, you will have a much better chance getting the services of an auto body repair specialist.
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