It’s inevitable in the life of every car; eventually, your baby is going to acquire a scratch or two. There’s a wide variety of places that a car can get scratched – loose branches can come down and nick your paint, road detritus can pop up and ruin your day, and asphalt and quarry trucks can spill a stone or two that will scratch and damage your top coat.
So what are you supposed to do in order to restore your car’s precious paint job? This is where using the best car scratch remover will really help you to bring your vehicle’s looks back up to snuff. There are a wide variety of methods out there that are designed to revitalize your nicked vehicle, but there are only a few products that do a near-perfect job. In this guide, we are going to review several excellent scratch removal kits and solutions that can help you make those scratches and nicks disappear.
How a Scratch Can Damage Your Car
If you’ve purchased your car in the last 20 years, its paint job will most likely be comprised of three different layers. These layers are:
The Primer – This is the preparatory layer of paint that rests directly on the metal of your car’s body. The primer’s primary purpose is to give the paint a point to adhere to. With this in mind, the primer sticks to metal fairly securely and also will hold the next layer of paint firmly in place.
The Basecoat – The basecoat is where you’ll find your car’s main paint job. Amazingly, there are a surprising amount of color variations per model year, so this layer is almost always unique. It’s also the layer that you observe when you see the car. This layer also serves as a weatherproof protectant for the body of the car.
The Clear coat – As the name implies, this layer of paint is clear and is comprised of a resin. This is simply the final layer of protection for your vehicle’s body. Additionally, it also is where your car’s shine comes from.
The severity of the scratch will greatly depend on how many of the three layers of paint/protectant that the scratch has gone through. The most severe scratches can dig all the way to the metal body of your vehicle, but for the most part, most scratches will only go as deep as the clear coat.
Types of Car Scratch Removers
For the most part, there are primarily two different types of scratch removers that can be used separately or in conjunction with each other. Many of the products out there don’t actually remove the scratch; they actually fill it in making it far less visible. With that said, here are the types:
Abrasive Scratch Removers – The more difficult to use correctly scratch remover of the two; abrasives actually work to remove the scratch by making it flush with the surface of your car. Think about it this way, these removers actually remove layers of your car’s clearcoat and basecoat so that the scratch seems to vanish. Once this is done, you can use the compound type to polish and buff the abraded surface.
Compound Scratch Removers – This type of scratch remover actually has a small degree of abrasiveness as well, but its primary functionality is to fill the scratch and dry clear so that the scratch is effectively hidden. Its final function is somewhat similar to repairing the basecoat, sans the toxic chemicals. These tend to come with a buff or polish that will make the repaired area more shiny-looking.
Best Design Feature
Turtle Wax T-241A Polishing Compound & Scratch Remover – 10.5 oz.
This compound polish has a somewhat high degree of abrasiveness that penetrates your paint jobs oxidized surface.
3M 39087 Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit – 1 oz.
An abrasive type, this 3M product has several components to restore your shine.
Meguiar’s M105 Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound – 8 oz.
This Meguiar’s product quickly cuts grit and sanding marks evenly.
Meguiar’s G17216 Ultimate Compound – 15.2 oz.
This is one of the least abrasive compound scratch removers in this guide.
3M 39071 Scratch Removal System
This is one of the best methods of restoring light clear coat scratches.
Mothers 08408 California Gold Scratch Remover – 8 oz.
With a small amount of solution, this scratch remover removes most light to moderate scratches.
1) Turtle Wax T-241A Polishing Compound & Scratch Remover – 10.5 oz.
Our first product comes from the car restoration professionals at Turtle Wax. The company is synonymous with a car’s shine, so you can rest assured that this is a great way to remove scratches from your vehicle’s surface. This product uses a heavy duty paste that we found had a little abrasiveness to buff away and restore your vehicle’s top clear coat. While this product doesn’t pack in a cloth for application, you can also get a kit from Turtle Wax that includes a cloth for a few cents more.
When we applied it to the surface of our test vehicles, we noticed that it definitely took some elbow grease, but in the end, the scratches that we set out to remove on the doors of the vehicle were almost completely eradicated. It didn’t leave a mirror-like finish but that issue can easily be solved by using some dedicated polishing compound.
We found that our first product definitely removes scratches like it’s supposed to, which is great considering that for many of the scratch removing products on the market, some simply don’t work as well as others.
2) 3M 39087 Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit – 1 oz.
Our second product is actually a kit that is one of our favorite products in this guide. While almost all of the other products in this list are single products, the 39089 is a kit that combines several products to deliver a great solution for most scratches and swirls. You’ll need some exterior products like water, a microfiber cloth, and some paper towels, but after these items, this kit has you covered.
3M included an applicator pad for the solution, rubbing compound, scratch remover, and a 3,000 grit trizact abrasive pad, which is very fine and able to remove the scratch from the clear coat with ease. When you use this product, we found that it’s best to use it with the rubbing compound as the abrasive pad tends to dry the clear coat to a very matte-like finish.
You can actually use the applicator for this. For the most part, it doesn’t take a lot of elbow grease, but in our tests, we found that this product really revitalized the coats of our test vehicles. We also really liked the fact that all but the deepest scratches were removed by this product, which will greatly increase the value of your vehicle.
3) Meguiar’s M105 Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound – 8 oz.
Unlike our previous products, this Meguiar’s M105 compound is best used with a random orbital polisher. When used correctly, we found that the vast majority of paint defects like scratches and scuffs will quickly disappear when you apply the product to an orbital pad. During our test, we applied the solution to the pads before we started the main process; this is called priming the pad. This helps provide a more wet-looking shine to the surface of your vehicle. Once we started our orbital pad and began the buffing process, we were very satisfied with the results.
If you don’t have a random orbiter, you can also apply this compound by hand, though it will take a bit of elbow grease to really work the solution into the coat of your car. The solution does have an abrasive structure that we found was able to remove some of the swirls that were caused by sanding.
Additionally, during our testing process, we noted that this product did a great job at concealing a nastier scratch that pierced the paint down to the metal. We used a trizact pad in order to fix the scratch and we were very satisfied with the results.
4) Meguiar’s G17216 Ultimate Compound – 15.2 oz.
Another great Meguiar’s product, their G17216 compound is considered “ultimate” because of its ability to cut away scratches while also leaving a high degree of gloss. We noticed that this compound appears to lighten up the color of the car because if seems to remove a lot of the stuck on grit and road detritus that accumulates on the clear coat of a car. Like the other Meguiar’s product, we used a random orbital buffer on it during our initial tests, and then hand applied some to the surface of a test vehicle in another test.
With the orbital application, the effect of the Ultimate Compound was more noticeable. There was a much brighter luster on the vehicle’s paint job than was there before application. On the hand application, there was also a significant brightening, but it was a little more matte and it took a lot of muscle to really work the solution into the surface. Additionally, the solution does tend to dry up if you aren’t moving fast, but we found that just adding more solution to the coat made the dry compound wet again. We really liked the micro-abrasive formulation that this product uses, we just used a standard applicator when we worked by hand and it yielded some nice results.
5) 3M 39071 Scratch Removal System
Our fifth product is another 3M kit. While this kit is really only designed to take care of scratches that have only slightly pierced the clear coat, it’s a great product for managing the types of defects that can occur around the door handle and around the trunk of your vehicle. During our tests, we discovered that a good rule of thumb is to literally use the rule of thumb; simply run your thumbnail across the scratch that you want to repair. If you can feel the scratch but it doesn’t catch your thumbnail, then it’s the type of defect that you can fix with the kit.
To start the 3M 39071 uses a similar abrasive pad as our previous 3M kit. Simply run the abrasive pad over the defect until slurry forms. This abrasive action should remove most light scratches, but the surface of your vehicle will be left somewhat matte-looking. After that, you can use the compounding pad to buff the compound onto the abraded area of your car. For this part, we were able to use a drill in order to buff with the purple waffled compounding pad. Finally, the system also has a black pad, which will polish the remaining area to a bright luster.
Overall, we were very impressed with this product as it really did a good job at removing the minor scratches on our test vehicle. It serves as a relatively inexpensive solution for smoothing a car’s finish.
6) Mothers 08408 California Gold Scratch Remover – 8 oz.
Our final product in our list of the best car scratch removers is a solution from Mothers. The California Gold scratch remover performed well in our tests. First, we applied it to relatively superficial scratches with a random orbital buffer. After we were done, we noticed that the scratches were there, but very hard to see. This is what can be expected with most of these types of products, so we really liked the overall performance of the product when using orbital motion.
When we applied it by hand to another test vehicle, the product still seemed to do a great job at polishing down scratches so that they are barely noticeable, though we did notice a more bright effect on the pain in the machine-assisted test. That being said, this product seems to do a great job at helping reduce the appearance of scratches. There is one caveat though: after a while, the product can wash away, which will make the scratch start to become more visible again.
Removing scratches from your car is a great way to restore its value, especially if you’re looking to sell it or gift it to a loved one. All of the products that we’ve featured in this guide are great ways to bring a little life back into your vehicle by restoring its showroom shine. Each has a different methodology, but if we were to select a “best in show”, then we would select the 3M 39087 Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit because of its well-rounded functionality. It comes with both a compound for polishing and removing scratches as well as a 3,000 grit trizact abrasive pad that is excellent for smoothing away scratches.
It’s a great product, but if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, then we also thought that the relatively inexpensive Turtle Wax T-241A Polishing Compound & Scratch Remover was also a great way to remove moderate scratching for a little more than five dollars.