Are Car Scratches Unavoidable? 6 Things To Know

One of the most annoying things to any good car owner is finding a recent scratch on the exterior finish. So, you clean your vehicle regularly, park carefully, and maybe protect your paint with a layer of wax. Still, sometimes

Girl asking help for car scratches

Getting scratches on your car is inevitable. It doesn’t matter what preventative measures you take. Getting scratches on your vehicle is a normal part of owning a car.

This article will walk you through the different types of scratches, how they’re “erased,” and what causes them. I’ll also give you some tips to avoid getting scratches on your car.

Things To Know About Car Scratches

Girl looking at car scratches

Although getting scratches on your car’s finish is generally unavoidable, there are a few things you should know about preventing and treating car scratches.

1. Car Scratches Can Affect Different Paint Layers

Professionals classify car scratches based on the layer of paint that it penetrates. There are several layers of paint and primer that cover the metal of your car. From shallowest to deepest, the layers are as follows:

  • Clear coat
  • Paint layer
  • Base coat
  • Metal/Plastic panel

The deeper the scratch goes, the more difficult it is to fix. Repairing deep scratches requires more time, effort, and materials.

2. Clear Coat Scratches Are Easiest To Resolve

These are the most common scratches you can get on your car. These are also the easiest to deal with.

Use the Fingernail Test To Gauge Severity

To know if the scratch on your car only damaged the clear coat, you can do a simple test: the fingernail test. Run your fingernail over the scratch. If your fingernail catches on the scratch, it will likely take a little more than a good polishing to erase.

Fixing Clear Coat Scratches

If your fingernail runs over the scratch, it will be easy to remove with some scratch removal products and a microfiber towel. Use the following steps to treat a shallow clear coat scratch:

  1. Apply some scratch removal product to your microfiber towel.
  2. Rubbing the product over the scratch for about a minute in circular motions.
  3. Wipe off any excess product.
  4. Repeat the above steps until your scratch is removed.

Helpful Products for Resolving Clear Coat Scratches

If you’re looking for a good scratch removal product, there’s Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover. Each purchase comes with its own buffing pad, so you have an extra medium to polish off any scratches. The product is professional-grade but effortless to use and safe for all paint colors.

If you want to purchase a microfiber towel for the job, I recommend CARCAREZ Microfiber Towels. They’re seamless and have no tags, so you don’t have to worry about any additional cause for streaks and scratches. They’re machine-washable too!

3. Color Layer Scratches Require Paint Touch-Ups

When the scratch on your car penetrates a little deeper into the color layer of paint, it takes more effort to “erase.” Some lighter color layer scratches can still be polished out. However, to really get rid of that scratch and return your car to its original look, you need some touch-up paint.

Most minor paint layer scratches will be gone with some touching up and some polishing after. Remember, the deeper the scratch goes, the more difficult it will be to repair.

4. Removing Base Coat Scratches Takes Time and Effort

When your scratch exposes an off-white or grayish color underneath, they’ve penetrated down to the base coat of your car’s paint. These scratches will be visible, even from afar.

This type of scratch can still be fixed at home if you’re up for the challenge and have time. However, if you want a smooth fix that’s guaranteed to look good, your best bet is to entrust this type of scratch repair to a body shop.

Base coat scratches will need to be wet sanded down around the edges. Thin layers will be used to fill out the scratch. To ensure that the paint surrounding the scratch matches the rest of your car, a substantial amount of paint around the damage will have to be removed.

This allows for a better blending and transition from the scratch to the car’s original paint.

5. Metal Scratches Require Professional Repair

These are the most difficult scratches to deal with. The damage goes beyond the paint. It goes down to the metal body of your car or the plastic panel of the car part. It’s always best to leave the repair of this type of scratches to the professionals at a body shop.

These scratches require repairing the metal and reapplication of all the paint layers, including the primer, the color layer, and the clear coat.

First published on Sep 8, 2022 by

6. Car Scratches Have Many Causes

As frustrating as it is, car scratches are often caused by forces that are outside of your control. However, knowing the common causes of car scratches can help you avoid scratching your car through improper care.

These are the most common causes of car scratches:

  • Improper car washing and drying
  • Road debris
  • Objects rubbing against the car
  • Unreliable automatic car washes
  • Vandalism and car accidents

Read on to learn more about these causes and how you can avoid them.

Improper Car Washing and Drying

Improper washing can be the result of using the wrong method or the wrong material. The usual cause of scratches is when dirt on the material is wiped across your car, causing friction and damage to the outer surface.

Here are some ways to avoid scratching your car as during the washing and drying process:

  • Use a microfiber towel for drying your car. These towels are designed for cleaning cars without causing scratches. Choose softer towels that can absorb water.
  • Use a blotting motion to dry instead of wiping and dragging the cloth across the surface of your car.
  • Use at least two buckets as you wash your car. One bucket should be used to remove most of the dirt from your sponge/towel, and the second should be used to rinse off any remaining dirt.
  • Use different towels and sponges for the paint and the wheels.

Unreliable Automatic Car Washes

Automatic car washes clean a huge number of vehicles in a day. The brushes and machinery within the car wash accumulate more dirt from each car over time.

Imagine the amount of dirt in those brushes that has accumulated by the time it’s your car’s turn to go through. If you have to go through a carwash, choose a touchless one. However, this option still doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get a scratch.

Touchless car washes use high-pressure water that can still cause dirt to drag against your car’s surface. With this in mind, it’s best to avoid automatic car washes altogether.

Road Debris

When you’re driving, flying rocks, sand, pebbles, and anything else on the road can cause a scratch. In many cases, this type of damage is unavoidable; you have very little control over the exterior forces at play.

All you can really do to prevent scratches from road debris is avoid driving on rough or gravelly roads. You should also keep a close eye on the road for debris as you’re driving.

Rubbing Against the Car

It doesn’t take much force at all to accidentally cause a scratch, mark, or swirl on your car paint. Just opening the door with your keys in your hand, leaning on the side of your car, or leaving a coffee cup on the hood or the roof can leave a mark.

Luckily, these marks can usually be easily polished off with a microfiber towel and a scratch remover product.

Vandalism and Car Accidents

Vandalism is the least common cause of car scratches on the list, but unfortunately, it does happen. It can be caused by malicious individuals, careless drivers, or simply human error.

“Keying” is the most common form of an intentional car scratch, where one might use their keys or another object to drag across the paint to scratch it.

Car accidents and collisions can also create significant scratches on the surface of your car. Always use safe driving practices to avoid getting into an accident.


Car scratches are unavoidable when you drive a car. You can take preventative measures, but car scratches are a normal part of owning a car. The best way to avoid scratches is to wash and dry your vehicle correctly.

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CarCareReport dot com first published this article on Sep 8, 2022..

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