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How to Repair a Scratch on Your Car

These tips will help you avoid an expensive trip to the body shop

My car has collected a few scratches. Can I fix ’em myself?
If the blemishes are minor, buff them out using a polishing compound or a wax that takes scratches out of a car’s protective clear-coat treatment. Use both sparingly, though—they’re abrasive. Apply with a soft cloth, and buff the area with circular motions until the scratch disappears. Then wipe back and forth to clear away any swirls.

Fix slightly deeper scratches immediately to prevent rusting. New-car dealers sell bottles of touch-up paint to match original colors. Clean the damaged area, and carefully apply the paint with the brush provided or use a toothpick for fine scratches. If the chip or scratch has rusted, first lightly sand the area with ultrafine sandpaper; if there’s bare metal, apply a thin coat of primer before painting. Allow the paint to dry for several days before waxing or applying a thin layer of clear coat. We’d suggest taking deeper dings, scuffs, and scratches to the body shop to avoid making them look worse.

Jim Gorzelany is an auto expert and the author of Automotive Intelligentsia Money-Saving New-Car Guide.

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