Best Car Scratch Removers: Our Top Picks to Cover Blemishes
Correct your paint with our top picks for the best car scratch removers
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BY Rebecca Henderson / LAST UPDATED ON March 27, 2019
If you’re wondering what’s the best product to remove car scratches, you’ve come to the right place. Whether it’s one scratch or several, we’ve got the top products and real-world recommendations you need. You can bring your scratched-up ride to like-new condition, no experience necessary. A shiny ride can be more affordable than you think. Keep reading to find out more.
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy Car Scratch Removers
- Improve the exterior appearance of your vehicle. Washing your vehicle on a regular basis can do a lot to keep your paint staying new and shiny. Add removing scratches to that routine, and you’ll be on the path to maintaining the investment that gets you to work and play each day.
- Cover up that scratch (before ___ sees it). Accidents happen, and we all make mistakes. But if you need an easy solution for your boo-boo, scratch removers can be of great help. They don’t require a lot of time or expertise and are relatively affordable considering the alternatives.
- Avoid repainting the entire panel/car. Paint jobs for even the smallest cars can number in the thousands of dollars. If you can improve the look of your vehicle without repainting the whole thing, that’s money saved.
- Increase its value. It’s not always a great idea to invest money in your car before you try to make a profit from it, but taking a few hours to spiff the entire thing up might just get you more in the end. We buy with our eyes first, after all.
- Learn some DIY paint correction. Maybe you want to learn how to improve the exterior of your vehicle. If that’s the case, experimenting with compounds is a great first step. We recommend you pick up a few panels to practice on before you experiment on your own vehicle, but knowing how to correct your own mistakes is a part of the process, too.
Rubbing vs. Scratch Removal Compound
If you’re not familiar with the different types of compounds available for paint correction, distinguishing between the various terms can be hard. Rubbing compounds are typically more abrasive than scratch removal compounds and almost always require a polish to be applied afterward. Scratch removal compounds don’t necessarily require this polishing step. Polish compounds are their own class of clarifying, paint-enhancing products: They focus on shine, not scratches.
Scratch Removal Kits
Designed to provide you with everything you need to remove scratches, these kits typically include compound, an applicator of some kind, and perhaps even a microfiber towel. Purchasing a scratch remover kit can be a good way to get a deal. Oftentimes, you can get away with buying just the compound and then supplying your own applicator pad. All the same, these kits do provide value when it comes to simplicity.
Scratch Removal Cloths
These innovative cloths are designed to take the hard work out of buffing the scratches on your own car. They’re made of formulated materials that don’t need to be wet to work. After washing your car, simply wipe the cloth across the surface of a scratch or defect multiple times. These cloths can be kept in a sealed container for continued use, as long as they aren’t dropped or contaminated, and are applicable for any and all paint colors.
Touch-Up Paint Pens
Though they add more paint than they take away scratches, paint pens can be considered another type of scratch remover. Depending on where you purchase the paint pen, colors can vary from basic shades to custom palettes. Paint pens should be used on scratches where the base metal is exposed to prevent rust and further damage. Not all scratches require a paint pen.
Founded in 1932, this Illinois-based company specializes in a variety of automotive products. Its Scratch and Swirl Remover compound can be applied by hand or with a machine to remove scratches and blemishes in your car’s paint.
Much of what Adam’s has to offer comes with years of experience and hands-on knowledge of what works—and what doesn’t. Adam’s is headquartered in Colorado. Its Revive Hand Polish is worth trying if you’re looking to get that extra shine.
Oftentimes referred to as the industry standard, this company is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. If you’re a die-hard 3M fan, check out its plainly named Scratch Remover for above-average results.
With a good track record, Meguiar’s has a lot to offer when it comes to paint correction. For example, you can pair a number of compounds with these DA Power Pads for an even application. Meguiar’s is headquartered in California and has been improving vehicles all over since 1901.
Headquartered in Illinois, Turtle Wax was founded in 1944. If you’re looking for an all-in-one kit, check out Turtle Wax’s Premium Scratch Repair Kit. It’s everything you need to help your ride look brand-new.
The California sun gives Mother’s quite a lot of experience when it comes to paint protection and correction. After years of experience in the business, it has come up with the California Gold Scratch Remover.
- $7-$10: Most car scratch remover compounds, when sold as a single-bottled unit, will cost you around $10. Usually around 8 ounces of product, the compounds can come in either your typical bottle with a snap-cap top or an upside-down bottle with a screw cap.
- $15-$20: Big names in the automotive industry put their scratch remover compounds at this price point. Some will include an applicator pad along with the compound, while others won’t. Car scratch remover cloths will cost you around $15 for a pack of one or two.
- $20 and up: At this price point, you’ll likely find most of the high-quality scratch removal kits that will include the compound, an applicator pad, and some other type of finishing product. Designed as an all-inclusive package to take care of most consumers’ needs, these kits can be a great investment in terms of time and money.
Scratch Type Coverage
Scratch remover compounds won’t necessarily specify the depth of scratches that can be removed. However, they should mention what types of scratches you can expect to remove with their formula. For example, some scratch removers might only repair surface scratches, while others are able to reach a bit deeper. Choose the compound you need based on the types of scratches you need to repair.
While there are a variety of products out there geared solely towards certain-colored cars, a scratch remover compound should be effective on any color. You can search out a compound designed specifically for a black car, for example, but the best formulas won’t need that as their main selling point. Car scratch removers should be able to remove scratches of light-to-medium depth without the need for expensive equipment or years of expertise.
In general, most compounds will work better when applied with a buffing machine. This holds true because it’s easier for the machine to evenly apply the compound over the surface of the scratch. However, the best car scratch removers shouldn’t need a buffing machine of any size to get results. All that should be necessary is a bit of elbow grease.
Level of Abrasiveness
Not all scratch removal compounds are formulated the same way. Each can be classified by the number of abrasive materials within the compound itself. In fact, some manufacturers will even provide a scale on the product to show how abrasive it is. You can compare the abrasiveness to sandpaper—you’ll want to move from rougher to smoother for best results. Scratch removers are typically more abrasive compounds than polishes and waxes.
- Overall cost. Correcting your car’s paint often requires large blocks of time and patience. You need to prep the surface before you even begin, and you’ll be stooping and bending your body a lot. You should consider the level of time and effort necessary to correct your car’s paint and whether or not a detail shop would be a more effective choice.
- Your confidence level. This has a lot to do with your decision to perform the work yourself or pay a detail shop. We recommend attempting the process at least once to get a feel for what’s actually happening. It’ll cost you less than a tank of gas and opens your eyes to the kind of effort required to correct car paint.
- Your vehicle’s future. As with any possession, everyone takes care of their vehicles differently. You should consider where the car will be in five years’ time and what kind of investment you want to make in terms of paint correction. Scratch removers are good for removing a few light scratches. If your car sees a lot of use, the scratches you remove could show up again within days. Keep this in mind when deciding.
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Car Scratch Remover Tips
- Wax your vehicle after repairing the scratches. Removing scratches is a great way to protect your vehicle’s paint, but waxing it afterward will increase that protection level immensely. While car wax won’t necessarily prevent scratches from happening, it will maintain the overall appearance of your vehicle’s paint.
- Test scratch remover compound on a low piece of painted bodywork. Running boards and rear bumper pieces are especially good spots to try. Just be careful as these pieces can actually be plastic. The difference in buffing metal versus plastic isn’t great when you apply compound by hand, but it is something to factor in when working with a machine.
- Take before and after pictures for the best comparison. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember what the scratch looked like, so you won’t necessarily be able to view the results completely unless you can see them side-by-side. Plus, you can boast on social media that you are now a scratch-removing master.
- You cannot “burn” paint when applying compound by hand. “Burning” paint means that you’ve created too much heat and have actually caused the paint to melt. It’s easy to do with a machine when it’s used on too high of a speed, but it’s doubtful you can achieve these effects with your bare hands.
- Even a "touch-free" car wash can scratch your vehicle. Consider hand-washing your car to avoid things like swirl marks, clear coat scratches, and any other damage that might occur. There are a variety of car care products you can pick up for cheap.
Car Scratch Remover FAQs
Q: How do car scratch removers work?
A: Scratch removers, when combined with heat, melt the clear coat (and sometimes the paint itself) at a manageable rate in order to fill in imperfections. The compound promotes this fusion to effectively make the scratch “disappear,” even though it still might be physically present.
Q: What is the best car scratch repair?
A: The best way to repair a scratch is to address it immediately. Scratches that reach down past the protective clear coat can cause rust, even on brand-new cars. While you’ll ideally want to repair the scratch by buffing it out, applying touch-up paint can also be a quick solution. Just be aware that scratches filled in with touch-up paint require more effort to correct later if the touch-up paint isn’t properly applied.
Q: What’s the best scratch remover for a black car?
A: White cars typically hide scratches better, but the exact opposite is true of black cars. Depending on the type of paint on the car (metallic, flat, etc.), you may need a professional to restore it to like-new quality. Using scratch removers improperly on a black car may also result in swirls, so it’s best to seek out a professional detailing shop near you if you’re worried about damaging your black paint.
Q: What’s the difference between a car scratch remover and a scratch eraser for cars?
A: The difference here lies in the depth of the scratches in question. Most scratches found in the small valley behind car door handles are surface defects that can be addressed with a scratch eraser. Really, they’re just contaminants on the paint that are deeper than the dirt that settles onto your car from just being outside. Scratch removers are meant to address deeper scratches where the paint is split, not just dirty.
Q: How does scratch remover differ from rubbing compound?
A: A rubbing compound is much more abrasive than your typical scratch remover. It’s more like using liquid sandpaper on your car than it is a wax or a polish. To put it in perspective, think of typical playground sand versus the fine silt found on river banks. The consistency varies from pebbly to creamy, which is how you can differentiate rubbing compound from scratch remover.
Q: How do I know how deep the scratches in my car’s paint are?
A: Scratches vary in depth microscopically. However, there are a few ways you can tell the depth of a scratch. Visually inspect it: Does it appear white? That’s a very deep scratch. Can you feel it with your fingernail? Lightly guide your nail across the scratch. If it catches, it’s medium in depth. Surface scratches will appear and feel smooth to the touch.
Q: Will scratch remover fix my botched touch-up paint attempt?
A: Applying touch-up paint effectively is very difficult. If you applied touch-up paint and aren’t happy with the results, seek out your nearest detail shop or speak with the dealership’s detailing technician.
Chemical Guys Scratch and Swirl Remover won our top pick for the best scratch remover for car paint. It’s a scratch-removing and paint-shining compound in one.
Purchase the Turtle Wax Color Magic Car Polish if you’re looking for an affordable alternative.