Three best car scratch removers
Like it or not, the environment is attacking your vehicle's paintwork every time you take it out of the garage. If it has to sit on the street, the situation is worse. Ditto if you regularly drive in city traffic or on roads treated to prevent snow and ice. Regular waxing offers great protection, but small areas eventually show water marks, blemishes, and scratches. The paintwork dulls. That's when you need a car scratch remover, and there are numerous products to choose from. Our top pick offers class-leading performance in both ease of use and finish quality, and it even includes a buffer pad.
Considerations when choosing car scratch removers
How car scratch removers work
To remove scratches effectively, you need to take the surrounding area down to the same level. Auto paints and lacquers are very hard, so scratch removers contain abrasives to work through one or more layers. In effect, they are wearing away the paint layers. These abrasives leave tiny scratches of their own, but they are so fine they can't be seen.
The polishing component that's added to the scratch remover helps bring the surface nearly back to its original finish. However, some of that original protective layer has been permanently removed, so it's important to look after your scratch-free surface, or it will soon need rectifying again.
Some car scratch removers are applied by hand, but most can also be used with a DA (dual-action) sander or buffer. Using a machine means you get faster results, but care is needed so that you don't overwork the area. It's important to use the pad type suggested by the product's manufacturer.
It's vital to follow the instructions carefully when using a car scratch remover. Chemical compositions vary widely and work at different speeds. Many user complaints about dull results can be attributed to mistakes made in the scratch removal process--usually because the remover was left on too long or worked too far into the paint.
Car scratch removers have different levels of abrasion, depending on the severity of the scratching or marking. Often a product's strength is rated by grit level. It's arguably safer to buy a less aggressive product and make several attempts than risk additional damage by using a car scratch remover that's too strong.
If the product is not rated for grit level, reading through user feedback can be very helpful. That said, do bear in mind that reported faults are not always down to the product. Look at the overall consensus rather than one or two complaints to rule out user mistakes.
Fillers and waxes
Some car scratch removers include fillers and waxes. They can result in a fast shine, but what they're doing is concealing the scratches, not removing them. The finish is often short-lived, meaning you have to reapply the product frequently. It's better to buy a car scratch remover that doesn't have any fillers or waxes, remove the scratches properly, and then wax your vehicle with a car wax.
Car scratch removers are not very expensive, and prices do not vary much between products. You'll pay around $7 to $10 for an eight-ounce bottle, while a 32-ounce bottle from a premium brand will still come in under $40.
Other important details
Waxing your car is always important, but even more so when you've used a car scratch remover. In removing the scratches, you also thin part of the vehicle's protective clear coat or paint. Contaminants and rust will find it easier to attack that area of the bodywork, so you need to keep it protected. Regular waxing is the quick, easy, and effective solution. Waxing your vehicle about once every three months is recommended.
Q. How deep of a scratch can these products repair?
A. Car scratch removers are designed to remove surface scratches. Modern auto bodies have numerous layers of paint, and scratch removers can do an excellent job getting through several of them. The general rule is that if you can feel the scratch with your finger, it's too deep. If that's the case, talk to a pro about spot repair.
Q. Are car scratch repair pens a good alternative?
A. You need a very steady hand with car scratch repair pens, and they only work on surface scratches because they contain a clear liquid like a car's clear topcoat. The problem is in applying the right amount. With pens, it's all too easy to create a ridge that's as visible as the scratch, if not more so.
Car scratch removers we recommend
Best of the best: TriNova Scratch Swirl Remover
Our take: This car scratch remover offers unbeatable refinishing of minor scratches and blemishes.
What we like: Hand or machine application. Safe with all coatings and on fenders as well as bodywork. Amateurs can quickly achieve pro results.
What we dislike: For light imperfections only. Some users disappointed with its performance.
Best bang for your buck: 3M Scratch Remover
Our take: A well-respected brand delivers an efficient and cost-effective car scratch remover.
What we like: Easy to use. Doesn't contain fillers. Works by hand or machine. Good performance at a low cost.
What we dislike: Correct application vital to avoid dull spots.
Our take: The leading car scratch remover for severe paint imperfections, used by commercial body shops.
What we like: Fast, aggressive formula for rapid repair of badly affected paintwork. Long working time, no dust, easy clean-up.
What we dislike: Perhaps not for beginners. Works best with a machine. Requires care to not remove too much paint.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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