We’ve all been through it before. You’ve just finished washing your car using that high quality car wash you just bought. The finish is looking as fine as a summer’s day. Indeed, the sun is shining brightly off of your car’s glistening exterior. Then you see it: the scratch. Somehow, you missed it when you were cleaning. Or maybe a small rock got in your sponge! You don’t know. Either way, that flawless exterior is now sullied, and you’re left wondering what to do.
Fear not, distressed car owner! There are many solutions on the market for your many scratched-car needs. Some are better than others, and some are more specific than others. We’ve scoured the internet looking for the best car scratch removers currently on the market. Below are what we’ve found. While you may find hundreds of different products available for purchase on different websites or in your auto parts shop, these products are guaranteed to put your mind at ease and hopefully make that disheartening scratch disappear.
1. Mothers 08408 California Gold Scratch Remover
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Like Meguair’s, Mothers also dominated our list of best car wash products. Mothers’ 08408 California Gold Scratch Remover is designed as a perfect pairing for your cleaning, polishing and waxing needs. Unlike the other two products on our list, Mothers California Gold Scratch Remover was made specifically for a full cleaning, polishing and waxing regimen. Indeed, this remover is itself a polish, and is designed to both remove surface scratches as well as renew the shine to your vehicle. Your baby will look brand new after you get her under a fresh coat of Mothers!
Mothers 08408 California Gold Scratch Remover is designed to be your one-stop-shop for all things surface-level. Whether it’s finger nail marks, small key marks from missing the keyhole on your door, or mild scuffs made from loading boxes into the car, this car scratch remover will work like magic to make your car shine with lustre you haven’t seen since the first day you brought it home. Mothers advertises this product as working on “any type of paint, any type of finish.” Happy customers seem to agree. Mothers California Gold Scratch Remover comes with the much coveted and well-respected Mothers brand name.
Much like Meguiar’s, this product is designed to be used without a special kit. When using this product, you should use a foam applicator, microfiber or terrycloth towel. This will ensure that the product is not only applied well and evenly, but that it is wiped on with the correct amount of vigor needed to get the job done. As with any scratch removing producing, the surface you are working on will need to be cleaned and dried before applying the product. And, as stated earlier, this product is a polish, so following it with a good coat of wax will get the most out of it. Mothers California Gold Scratch Remover not only works on those pesky surface scratches that occur on an almost daily basis, but will even help deeper level scratches appear much less serious.
- Works well on basecoat scratches
- Helps deeper level scratches appear less serious
- Does not come with cleaning kit materials
2. 3M 39087 Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit
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I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t you just say that 3M owns Meguair’s? Why should I buy one product over the other?” Very good question, enthusiastic car owner! While the Meguair’s G17216 is a very good product (at the top of our list, even!), it is much more limited in scope than many other products. The 3M 39087 Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit does everything that Meguair’s does, but more!
Many scratch removers come with an all-inclusive repair kit. 3M’s Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit comes with everything you’ll need to remove minor and medium level scratches, renewing your car’s lustre to its former glory. The kit includes rubbing compound, scratch remover, abrasive square and foam pad. Each item will aid in your removal of scratches, swirl marks, water spots and other top-level blemishes that may be ruining the look of your car.
3M’s system requires a bit more finesse than simple compound systems like the Meguair’s G17216. Because the kit is designed for slightly deeper scratches and paint scuffs, users will be required to utilize the wet sanding paper, foam polish and compound in order to safely wipe away your car’s hideous scratches. This kit is not designed for the deep, paint-level cuts that might occur with a car accident, but the day-to-day small scratches, scuffs and swirl marks that can occur with regular car use.
When using the 3M Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit, make sure that you have thoroughly cleaned the area you intend to repair. Small areas with dirt and other grit can unintentionally cause more scratches while utilizing the system. 3M has proven that they understand what goes into a good kit, and comes highly recommended.
- Comes with a complete kit of cleaning materials
- Easily removes basecoat scratches and blemishes
- Does not work on deeper-level cuts or scratches
3. Meguiar’s G17216 Ultimate Compound
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If you’ve read our buyer’s guide for car wash soaps, you will recognize the name Meguiar’s. This 3M owned company dominates the market for car products. For Meguair’s, car care is all they care about. With Meguair’s G17216 Ultimate Compound, you can be sure that what scratches you do have will vanish faster than you can say “where did that scratch come from?!”
Meguiar’s G17216 Ultimate Compound is specially formulated to work the same as more abrasive compounds, but without the risk of scratching your car’s paint. Many car scratch removers work by slightly whittling down the surface of your car’s clear coat or finish, removing the scratch by removing a small layer of the clear coat. Meguair’s knows your concerns when it comes to further damaging your vehicle. By taking away the scratch without risking further damage, your mind will be at ease while using this product.
Do note, Meguair’s G17216 Ultimate Compound is much more limited in scope than many other car scratch removers. Many removers come with entire kits, including abrasive sanders that require an often intimidating amount of precision. Meguair’s Ultimate Compound is limited in what it can do, and that’s a good thing. This product is designed for the purpose of removing more top-level blemishes on your car’s exterior. This includes oxidation, swirl marks, water spots, stains and bird dropping etchings (the outlines left by acidic bird droppings). All of these typically exist on the outter layer of your car’s clear coat or finish, and have not cut directly into the basecoat. If you have a much deeper cut into your car (angry ex-boyfriend/girlfriend key marks, for example), you may need to look elsewhere.
This product will help your car shine, just like brand new. With Meguair’s G17216 you’ll save time and effort over what you get with other below-surface scratch removers. Meguiar’s proprietary mirco-abrasive compound is designed to fix your minor scratch and blemish issues, as well as renew the shine on your car’s clear coat and finish.
- Works great on minor, basecoat scratches
- Works well on water marks, bird droppings and oxidation
- Does not come with cleaning pads or brushes
4. 3M 39071 Scratch Removal System
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Continuing its efforts to shirk more commonly utilized scratch removal methods, 3M’s 39071 Scratch Removal System works similarly to its 39087 Scratch and Scuff kit. The 39071 Scratch Removal System utilizes three steps to get out clearcoat scratches and scuffs. This kit utilizes sandpaper to sand down the area where the scratches exist, a special compound that fills in the sanded area, and a polish to help restore shine to the area where the repair has occurred. Because of the more technical nature of this product, it’s very important to follow the instructions directly. This is particularly true with the sanding step. Sanding can leave your car’s finish more damage than before you began the process.
3M includes a how-to video on their website and on YouTube. This is a useful addition for those who feel more confident that the 3M 39071 Scratch Removal System is their best option, but who feel a bit less confident that they can do the task with just an instruction manual. The kit includes an abrasive square (sand paper), a disk pad holder, a compounding pad, a polishing pad, rubbing compound and scratch remover. Each of these materials must be used in a precise order for the optimal effect.
The biggest complaints with this product are exactly what one might imagine. Many users who failed to apply the removal process correctly ended up adding more damage to their vehicles. Consider this product if you’re willing to use a product that may have a better end result, but that requires a bit more precision.
- Effective removal process
- Clears clear coat scratches
- Limited number of uses per purchase
- More complicated process
5. GS27 Paris Automotive Scratch Remover
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GS27 Paris Scratch Remover is an extremely easy to use, ultra-fine compound. GS27 Paris has a small but growing line of car detailing products. Their car scratch remover is designed to be used alongside some of their other products, but can easily be used as a solitary product for scratches on your paint finish. This inexpensive scratch remover is designed to work on both straight scratches and swirls. It also includes a polishing agent, so you won’t need to buy a polish to use directly after. Barrett-Jackson Car Scratch Remover is designed specifically for clear-coat scratches. Deeper scratches and swirls are not easily removed with this scratch remover.
GS27 Paris Car Scratch Remover fills in the scratches. The scratch remover leaves no residue behind and dries clear, giving the appearance the surface-level scratches have completely disappeared. It’s extremely important to be cautious with how you use this scratch remover. Barrett-Jackson warns against applying too much pressure during the application process. According to the company, this can result in more damage to your paint. Barrett-Jackson also suggests switching up your application pattern. This will help give a better end result.
This is one of the most well-received scratch removers you’ll find. That said, GS27 Paris is fairly new in the market. The company only began marketing car care products within the past 10 years. That said, current users have roundly praised it as one of the best products they’ve used, but do warn that it only works on those clear coat scratches and swirls.
- Easy to use
- Light, ultra-fine compound
- More expensive than comparative compounds
- Does not work on deep scratches
6. Turtle Wax T-241A
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While we warn against relying on Turtle Wax T-238 Scratch Remover below, we can recommend Turtle Wax T-241A. This scratch remover doubles as a polish, helping to remove both scratches while restoring clear coats that have been oxidized by the sun. Turtle Wax used a thick paste to accomplish this task, with a more abrasive mixture than you’ll find on some other compounds. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure you use this product carefully. Users provide valuable guidance and some horror stories on how things can go wrong with incorrect buffing. This wax is designed to be used by hand. As such, do not use a machine buffer. You are more likely to apply too much pressure and friction with a machine buffer, leading to more scratches that you may not be able to remove.
This scratch remover works by removing layers, not by filling in scratches. This means you’ll need to apply a bit more elbow grease to get the job done, especially for heavier scratches. Because it works to restore oxidized surfaces, expect to find that you can use this product, not only on your minor or somewhat heavier scratches but also on your faded and cloudy headlights. Many users heavily praise this product for just how well it gets the job done, especially on headlights.
Important to note is the effect this product will have on your clear coat. As it does scrub down the clear coat in order to accomplish the task, it is best to use a buff after using this product. This will help protect your clear coat from further oxidation and weathering. It’s best to mindful that this product does double as a polish and scratch remover, which may indeed make it less desirable to use for deeper scratches. However, some deeper scratches, .e.g, scratches deeper than the clear coat, may require more than scratch removal compound to repair.
- Restores oxidized headlights and faded clear coats
- Works best with a buff
- Does not work on heavy scratches
Car Scratch Remover Buyer’s Guide
Buying a good car scratch remover can be a stressful process. You never know whether what you’re buying will actually work on your problem. Likewise, you may be afraid that your product will do more damage than what is already there. Knowing how to assess the problem is the first step to both buying the right product as well as ensuring that you’re using whatever product you do purchase in the correct way.
Anatomy of a Car’s Coat and Scratches
Your car’s exterior has four different levels to it in which scratches can occur.
Level 1: Metal/Body Panel
This is the base level of your car’s exterior. As the title suggests, this is the actual metal body of your car, and not something you ever really want to see. If you have a scratch that goes down to this level, you have a very serious problem. No scratch remover that you can buy in your corner store is truly going to fix this problem. You will likely need to take your car to a body shop and have it stripped down to the metal and repainted completely.
Level 2: Primer
The primer for your car is much like the primer you might use when painting the walls inside of your house. This preparatory coating makes the the paint stick better to the metal body as well as increasing the strength of the paint after it is applied. Likewise, the primer will add an extra layer of protection to the surface underneath. The metal exterior of your car will be protected by a thin layer of primer, an important element to avoiding rust damage.
Level 3: Basecoat
Your car’s basecoat is true paint that is applied to your car. This is where the colors and other coloring effects that you see on the outside of your car come from. The basecoat serves to make your car look nice, as well as to add a definitive layer of protection from negative weather elements and day-to-day activities that could damage your vehicle’s exterior.
Level 4: Clearcoat
Like base coat, clear coat is also a resin-based paint applied to the outside of your car. However, much like the name suggests, the clear coat is a colorless resin that adds an extra layer of protection, shine and lustre to the outside of your vehicle. Clear coat also provides protection against ultraviolet light damage to your car’s basecoat. Most scratches and scuffs will damage the clearcoat first.
Types of Removers
Thankfully, car scratch removers are not overly complicated. However, the name “scratch remover” is a bit misleading at times. Most scratch removers do no necessarily “remove” the scratch. Instead, they fill it in, hiding the scratch altogether. There two methods for scratch removal: compounds and abrasive.
Compound scratch removers utilize a material that fills in the scratch, then dries clear to hide the existence of the scratch. These are best utilized with a buff and/or polish material that will further help remove the appearance of the scratch. Many car scratch removers will come with a buff or polish included inside the compound. Note that most compounds are somewhat abrasive, as this helps clear the scratch more effectively.
More commonly found with 3M scratch removal kits, some scratch removers emphasize abrasive methods to remove layers around the scratch, making the scratch’s appearance smaller. These usually combine with a compound and polish method to finish the process. This type of kit is more likely to add to the problem is used improperly. It is best to only use an abrasive method if you have experience in car care.
How to Determine Your Problem
If the scratch on your car appears white, you’re in luck! The scratch only affects the clear coat, and any scratch remover will work for you. If the scratch is the same color as the car’s base coat, a normal scratch remover will not work. You will need a more intense kit and paint of the same color as the base coat. If your scratch is down the metal, you will likely need professional assistance from a body shop to completely sand down and replace the paint on that section, or the entire car to ensure that the paint matches correctly.
Regardless of the problem, you will need to ensure that you are cleaning the area where the scratch has occurred before assessing the problem, and especially before attempting to apply a scratch remover.