How to Remove Minor Clearcoat Scratches — The Right Way!

Take a look at this nasty paint scratch…

It looks really bad but, in actuality, it’s a typical key scratch.

This type of thing happens to everybody, though many folks don’t even notice.

Meticulous car owners, on the other hand, tend to stress when something like this occurs. If that’s you, we have good news.

For a clearcoat paint finish, removing shallow paint scratches is quick and easy. Such repairs can be done at home. It’s not rocket science!

You just need to learn how to make minor surface scratches disappear like magic. And you only need an inexpensive scratch repair kit and a drill.

So let’s get started…

Use The Right Repair Technique

First, you need to determine if the paint scratch is fine or deep.

The way to do this is to simply feel it with your fingernail!

Basically, a scratch can be repaired with the process on this page if:

  1. You cannot actually feel it or;
  2. If you can feel it, but your fingernail does not catch on the scratch.

If you can indeed feel the scratch and it catches your fingernail, or you see the primer color or bare metal, you should head over to our How-To Repair Paint Chips & Deep Scratches page.

Feel the scratch with your fingernail. If your fingernail catches on the scratch you’ll need to fill it with clearcoat touch-up.

But let me be crystal clear:

The damage is still considered minor if you can feel the paint scratch in the clearcoat, but fingernails do not catch.

Rest assured, this type of thing can be fully restored and the method is pretty easy!

It just takes a piece of 3000 grit wet and dry sand paper. Polish away those grit sanding scratches with an auto paint polish.

3M’s Excellent Scratch Removal System

3M offers the best DIY fix-it kits I have ever used.

It is designed for clearcoat scratches that haven’t penetrated the color coat layer.

What’s great is that 3M’s Scratch Removal System is a complete kit which features 3000 grit sandpaper, 2 grades of foam polishing discs, backup plate for a drill and 2 car polish grades.

These tools are exactly what you need to make a perfect repair.

Check out this 3M video. It shows the ease of removing slight scratches yourself.


I’ll let you in on a little secret…

This is the same process professionals use. It is just packaged for car owners.

Again, the system is designed for one thing: Dealing with common damage to clear coat. We’re talking fine scratches on door handles, doors or trunk.

But, how does it work?

It actually removes a very thin layer of the clear coat paint.

Do not worry! It just sounds bad.

You can rely on the 3M Scratch Removal Kit to help you tackle the job.

But wait a second!

You’ll also need a drill (1200-1600 RPM) and a dual speed cordless drill would be even better.

What else? A microfiber cloth, spray bottle and water.

All you need to remove unsightly paint scratches is a cordless drill and a 3M Scratch Repair System.

5 Step Scratch Removal Process

Have you ever sanded and refinished a piece of furniture or patched drywall?

Well, this is pretty similar!

In fact, there aren’t many things to do. It is a basic process with the entire project typically taking an hour or so.

Here are the 5 steps:

1. Prepare the Surface — Clean and remove dirt from the scratched area.

2. Sand the Scratch — Use an abrasive pad to sand the area by hand. Do this until the scratch is no longer visible.

3. Refine the Scratch — Attach the disc pad holder to a drill and the purple compounding pad to the disc pad holder. Using a quarter-sized amount of 3M Rubbing Compound, buff the sanded area. Ensure scratches are removed from the surface.

4. Polish and Restore Shine — Switch to the black polishing pad. Apply a quarter-sized amount of 3M Scratch Remover onto the black pad. Polish area compounded to further remove scratches to level of desired shine.

5. Protect the Repaired Area — For added protection, apply a quality car wax to the repaired area. Do the entire vehicle if you wish.

Be sure to limit the above work (steps 1-4) to a small section of your vehicle. In other words, do not attempt to fix multiple scratches in one go.

Continue learning with our Paint Repair Clinic series: How-to Fix Paint Chips & Deep Scratches!