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How to Buff Out a Car Scratch

Learn how to buff out a car scratch with these tips and perhaps a professional’s help.

We’re all familiar with the feeling. We’re approaching our car when, all of a sudden, our gaze zeroes in on something that was definitely not there before. It’s a small scratch that’s suddenly noticeable every time we look at the car. It could have come from another car, a passing pedestrian, some debris, an animal, or just some kind of defect.

Scratches are annoying to deal with, and if left untreated, they can ultimately damage your car with rusting – reducing your car’s resale value. But, there’s hope! Most minor scratches can, in fact, be repaired through a process known as buffing. Learn more about the professional process and how to buff out a car scratch.

What does my car’s paint actually do, and how does a scratch affect that?Learn how to buff out a car scratch with these tips and perhaps a professional’s help.

Before talking about removing a scratch, it’s important to think about how a scratch actually affects your car’s paint. Why is a scratch a big deal? Well, paint not only provides a decorative and stylish look, but it also protects your car from environmental elements over time. A scratch in the paint doesn’t look great, and it can expose your car to these elements.

A car needs to be able to withstand those damaging elements we just mentioned: weather, a wide range of temperatures, and various environmental landscapes (think: desert vs. beachfront vs. forest). Most of today’s cars achieve this with a three-layer formula:   

  • Metal base and primer: The primer is typically white or off-white in color.
  • Paint: This can be almost any color. If you ever need to repaint your car, make sure to reach out to the dealer. They’ll be able to give you exact specifications for your car.  
  • Clear coat: This keeps everything covered and protected, offering an additional layer of protection against the sun’s UV rays. Clear coat is also the thickest layer.

A scratch occurs when your car’s coating is disrupted in some way. This makes your car more susceptible to those damaging elements. There’s a wide range of scratch types, but depth (how many layers) will help you determine the best repair method. Minor scratches will only disrupt the clear coat layer, while deep scratches may expose the metal.

How bad is my scratch?

Learn how to buff out a car scratch with these tips and perhaps a professional’s help.If you’re noticing scratches, but the car color is still visible beneath the scratch, then it’s probably only disrupting the clear coat. If there’s a white discoloration, then the scratch may have gone all the way to the primer. If you can see metal, then the scratch went through all of the layers.

If the scratch is that deep, it’s important to consider professional repair because the scratch will lead to eventual rusting, which can hurt the overall integrity of your car. A quick way to assess the level of scratches present on your vehicle is to run your finger over it. If you can feel the ridge, then you likely need some kind of repair repair, as the scratch has broken through the first layer of clear coating. If you can’t feel the ridge, it’s likely a minor scratch that you can easily buff out.

How can I buff out a car scratch?

Learn how to buff out a car scratch with these tips and perhaps a professional’s help.

Buffing and polishing are two terms that commonly get tossed around in the industry. Polishing removes grease, dirt, scrapes, and scratches that you can’t remove from just washing a car. However, polishing is only a surface-level treatment, and it does not provide any protection for your car.

Buffing, on the other hand, works by removing a small layer of coating from your car in order to work out the scratch. This protective layer is typically the clear coat. For deeper scratches, new paint may be necessary before adding a protective coating to bring back your car’s shine. Car scratches are not technically removed, but rather hidden as you smooth out the paint.  

How can I prevent scratches?

Learn how to buff out a car scratch with these tips and perhaps a professional’s help.The best preventative measure to help protect your car from scratches is to regularly wash it. This keeps the protective coating and paint intact and clean. Hand-washing your car is the most effective method, as car wash brushes can actually leave minor scratches behind. A clay bar or wax treatment every once in a while can also help strengthen the coat of your car and remove surface-level scratches.


Scratches are annoying and, if left untreated, can cause later problems. If you feel uncomfortable and unsure, or if your scratches are deeper, a professional detailer can provide you with guidance and assistance.



At Premier, we believe our mission is to create happiness through professional detailing and our purpose is to exhibit a philosophy of servanthood! If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or visit our website. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well!

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