DIY Scratch Repair Saves Trip to Auto Repair Shop

by Don Elliott on August 9, 2011

Maintaining the used car value in your second biggest investment doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Your car care professional is often the best solution. But there are some new products on the market that make doing-it-yourself the way to go.

Sue Endle, 3M’s Car Care technical expert, recommends 3M’s Scratch Removal System for small scratches around the door handles, on the bumper, or on the car hood. You can remove scratches for about $25 and the same skills it takes to polish furniture. The kit includes sandpaper, a disc pad holder, two pads, rubbing compound, and polishing compound.

Most used car finishes have a clear finish coat. It is designed to protect the painted surfaces underneath. If you run your fingernail over a scratch and it doesn’t catch, the Scratch Removal System can make it go away.

It is important to clean the entire area with soap and water to remove any grit or foreign materials that could make the scratch worse. Dry the area completely. Use masking tape to protect any adjacent chrome or glass surfaces.

From the kit, use the 3000 grit abrasive square and some clean water to sand the area over and around the scratch. Rinse and wipe the area frequently to determine if the scratch has been removed. Slowly remove a bit of the clear coat to smooth the surface. Removing the clear coat quickly could make the repair more complicated.

Once the scratch is removed, the finish will be dull looking. It is time to buff the surface with the rubbing compound. You will have to supply your own drill. Mount the disc pad holder and the purple compounding pad on the drill. Add a gob of rubbing compound to the pad and smear it on the sanded area before turning on the drill. With the drill turning, continually move the buffing pad. Be careful not to stop in an area long enough for heat to build up. Repeat the process until all of the dull, sanded areas have been removed.

Remove the purple pad and rinse it out with water for future use. Replace the purple pad with the black polishing pad. Put a gob of the polishing compound on the polishing pad and buff it into the same area covered with the rubbing compound process. When done, the surface should be restored to the same shine as the rest of the car.

To finish the job right, a good coat of automotive wax should be applied to the buffed area along with the rest of the used car. Wax is not included in the 3M Scratch Removal System kit. However, we always recommend a good coat of synthetic wax applied at least once a year to keep those pesky scratches to a minimum. Maintaining your car’s coat will help you maintain a good used car value and keep your car looking its best.

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