Large, deep scratches in your car’s paintwork will need the professional attention of a panel beater, but smaller scratches can often be removed by the car owner. The tips below explain how.

What You’re Really Doing

When you attempt to get rid of a scratch, what you’re really doing is removing a layer of paint or clear-coat down to a depth equal to the lowest part of the scratch.

Orbital Polisher

While very faint scratches can be removed by hand, the average car scratch will require some form of power tool for successful removal. The best choice of tool for the amateur is the orbital polisher. As orbital polishers are not as aggressive as circular polishers there is far less risk of paintwork damage resulting from their use by untrained operators.

Cutting Compound

When using an orbital polisher, clean the area of paintwork to be treated and apply cutting compound. Place the orbital polisher’s pad flat against the paint surface and turn it on. The polisher should be set at around 3000 rpm.

Keeping the pad flat against the surface, move the polisher in a circular motion – don’t let it stand still as even an orbital polisher used in this way can cause swirling or burning of the paintwork.

When sufficient surface paint has been abraded, remove the polisher. Clean the area with a damp cloth. If the area will not come clean use a half and half solution of isopropyl alcohol and water.

Inspect the area. If the scratch has not disappeared, repeat the process.


After abrading with cutting compound, paintwork may appear dull. The next step of the scratch-removal process will remedy this.

Apply a colour-matched polish to the area, put a clean pad on your orbital polisher and  polish in the same way as you did with the cutting compound. Continue until the surface is buffed smooth and shiny.

Remove any polish residue from the paint surface with a cloth.


Complete your repair by waxing the area with a good automotive wax. You can do this by hand, or with the appropriate pad on your orbital polisher.

You’re done!

Note: the most important thing to guard against when removing scratches is abrading away too much paint during the cutting compound stage. The trick here is to work little by little, stopping frequently to inspect your progress. Deep scratches, and certainly those that go through to the metal, cannot be treated in the manner described above. They will need re-spraying by a professional.

Check out this video to learn more about removing scratches from car paintwork.

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