Touch Up Paint tipsYou’ve just exited your local mall and you’re confidently walking towards your car when you notice something isn’t right — the paint is SCRATCHED! You look around, hoping to see the culprit, vainly wishing they were still around so you could vent your rage. Then, you walk up to the scratch hoping it will “rub-off”. Alas, that doesn’t work either. What do you do next — get out the touch-up paint?

For God’s sake NO! The sound of the words “touch-up paint” always make me cringe. Fixing a scratch in your car’s paint with a cheap bottle of touch-up is like fixing a piece of electronics with a hammer. It might work, but it also might ruin how the thing looks.

Unless the scratch is HUGE, the standard touch-up paint in the bottle is a bad idea. It’s hard to apply (unless you’ve got experience) and it’s usually overkill. The good news is that there are some methods that will remove or greatly reduce the appearance of the scratch on your new car, and they’re surprisingly inexpensive.

The best way to fix a light scratch is called “wet sanding”. Essentially, a paint pro will do an EXTREMELY light sanding on the scratch which will reorganize the paint/clear-coat molecules and make the scratch “disappear” — provided of course the scratch isn’t too big or too deep. This will usually cost very little – some scratch repair pros will fix every scratch on your car for $100 or less.

How do you know if a scratch is too big to wet sanded?

  • Are we talking about a scratch that you can easily feel with a fingernail? If so, it’s too big.
  • Does the scratch run the length of a whole body panel? If it does, you may not be able to wet-sany.
  • Can you see any metal in the scratch? Sometimes you can see white or gray in the scratch, but that’s usually primer. We’re looking for actual metal here. If you see metal, you’ve definitely got a deep scratch.

If any of the above is true, you have what is considered a “deep scratch” and the solution is to take your car to your local body shop. If your car has been keyed and/or an entire panel is scratched, you may want to call your insurance company. The cost of repairing deep and or big scratches can range, from less than a hundred dollars to a few thousand. Make sure you get a few quotes if it’s much more than $100 to fix your scratch.
If the scratch is light, your local body shop should be able to fix it up for less than $50. Make sure the shop you’re going to us has a written guarantee and that you understand it. Usually the person repairing your car will tell you what it’s going to look like when they’re done.

Finally, make sure you realize that either one of the above methods will greatly diminish the appearance of the scratch, but that a scratch in a factory paint job can’t truly be “fixed”. It’s never going to look perfect, but if you hire a professional, it will be hard for anyone to see it and no one will know about it but you.

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