How To Remove Light Scratches

Updated: 6 days ago

Scratches on your car’s paint is something ALL car owners can definitely relate to. No matter how careful you are with your car, it’s bound to be scratched sooner or later due to daily use (even stored cars get scratched!). Because it’s virtually impossible to avoid them, the best thing to do is to know how to deal with them easily, quickly, and most importantly, correctly. In this post, we’ll go through the basics of buffing out light scratches.

Scratches, Swirl Marks and Discolouration, Oh My!

To the average person, all sorts of paint damage can appear to be same where in fact, they differ quite significantly from one another. Here are the three most common ones:


There are two types of scratches, one is light or minor and deep or major. The difference of each one lies in the extent of damage on your car’s paint layers. Light or minor damage affects only the top coat or clear coat. Deep or major scratches go beyond the clear coat with some exposing your car’s primer and worse, the metal substrate. To identify whether or not the scratches on your car are light or deep, a simple indicator would be to wet the scratched area. If the scratch disappears temporarily when wet, it’s most likely a light scratch. Another way to check is to run your fingernail across the scratch. If it easily catches your nail, then chances are, you’ve got a deep scratch. For this post, we’ll focus on removing only light scratches.

Swirl Marks

These are microscopic marks on your car’s clear coat also sometimes called holograms or micro marring. They’re highly reflective and are more evident on dark-coloured cars. Swirl marks are often caused by improper wet or dry cleaning of your car’s surface (e.g. wiping using a dusty or dry non-microfibre towel), incorrect buffing techniques, cleaning compounds and tools, and even pulling dirty car covers over your car.


Discolouration that comes with dullness of your car’s paint can either be caused by environmental contaminants (e.g. animal droppings, dead bugs, tree sap) or oxidation (a chemical reaction between heat and oxygen that breaks down your car’s paint). Chalky and dull paint can still be restored to some extent through buffing, but deteriorated panels stripped entirely of paint will most likely require a full-on respray or repainting job.

Buff it Out

The word ‘buff’ gets thrown out a lot during conversations on restoring car paint but what does it mean exactly? Well, the term buffing just refers to the act of removing scratches using a buffing pad either by good ol’ elbow grease or using a buffing machine which is called a polisher. Buffing is used during the cutting, polishing, and waxing process. To discern the differences of these 3, check out this article. Buffing pads are generally favoured over towels and rags mainly because they hold the product better and distribute it more evenly across the car’s surface. There are three main kinds of pads: wool, foam, and microfibre. Each of these come in an array of sizes as well. For light scratches, it’s recommended that you use compounding buffing pads.

Rub it In

Apart from the type of pads to use, another important thing you should consider is the product you’ll need to apply to your pad. For light scratches, it’s best to use all-in-one compounds (AIO) or one-step compounds as it’s less abrasive and makes your job a whole lot easier because you get the best of cutting, polishing and waxing!

The Process

The process is fairly simple but it might take a while especially for novice buffers. General rule of thumb when buffing is that you do your research or ask around (ask us!) when in doubt.

What you’ll need:

  • Clay bar kit

  • Buffing Machine/Polisher

  • Cutting compound (All-in-One)

  • Masking tape

The Steps:

  1. Wash and dry your car.

  2. Remove any remaining contaminants using a clay bar kit.

  3. Mask your car’s trims and edges to ensure that you don’t go over them with the polisher.

  4. Set your polisher to slow-medium speed.

  5. Apply cutting compound to you buffing pad.

  6. Move the polisher over the scratch.

  7. Once you’ve worked in the compound evenly unto the panel, wipe off the excess with a clean microfibre cloth.

  8. View the area from an angle to see if the scratches were removed. Repeat the process as needed. For deep scratches (those that go beyond the topcoat and into the base coat or coloured layer), it’s best to seek professional advice.

General Tips:

  1. As with all products, be sure to always follow the manufacturer’s recommended usage. Instructions may vary.

  2. Apply minimal pressure to the polisher. Let the buffing pad and compound do the work.

  3. Don’t buff over panel edges. This is where the paint is thinnest. If you’re buffing close to the edges, it’s best to mask the edges beforehand.

  4. Don’t keep the polisher in one spot for too long to avoid too much friction and heat build-up on the panels.

  5. Avoid buffing over plastic trims. Mask trims to protect them when buffing.

  6. Lastly, always use a clean microfibre cloth when wiping off compound. Using a dirty cloth may spread unseen dirt and debris around, bringing you back to square one!

  7. It’s best to do this process in a well-lit, covered area (but not under a tree!) away from direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will heat up the panels too much and effect the compound.

For added protection and shine, you can use wax or sealant. There you have it, we hope this helps you in achieving a scratch-free car at home. If you have any questions about all things car repair or restoration, email us at or give us a call at (07) 3354 3711.

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