There is nothing quite like that feeling when you suddenly notice a scratch on your pride & joy as you hop out of the car in your garage.
It usually only takes a second to do, it can cost a fortune to get out.
Maybe someone was a little careless with the trolley in the shopping centre carpark, you had to scrape past branches on a track off-road or another car flicked up some gravel on their way past: either way, your cars perfect paintwork is scratched up.
Scratches in the paintwork don’t usually affect the running of the car (although deep gouges – down to the metal – should be treated before rust can set in,) but it’s still nice to have your car looking good and, if you’re trying to sell it or trade it in, it can mean a higher price from a buyer.
There are different types of scratches from the lightest caused by maybe brushing past a small branch on a tree or plant, to paint stripping marks from major impacts like a crash or if damage is deliberately done to your car.
With the latter, there’s not much you can do than head to a professional detailer and hope there’s no damage to the structure of the panel, but with small scratches you can often fix it yourself over a couple of hours on the weekend.
Run the tip of your index finger over the scratch (not if you have long fingernails), if the scratch ‘catches’ on your nail, there may be damage to the clear coat, which will start to peel if you leave it to sit (or get damaged any further), leaving your paint looking dull.
Obviously, you'll know if damage to the paint is bad - after a crash, for example. These will need to go into a detailer as leaving the metal underneath exposed will not only devalue your car when it comes time to resell or trade in, but may allow rust to set in more easily - especially if you live near or go off-roading on the beach, for example.
If you've left your car parked under a tree overnight, maybe some possums or bats have left some droppings on your roof. This may not seem like a big problem, but because of how acidic the droppings are, it's better to get it cleaned sooner rather than latter - the clear coat can be stripped back by the acid, making the paint dull in that spot. Wet leaves can cause the same problem over a longer time, so make sure you walk around your car before you jump in the drivers seat in the morning to make sure there's no unwanted muck on your car.
There are things like home kits and repair pens for minor scratches, with variable rates of success. Most are just to treat superficial scratches to the clear coat - think of it as a band-aid until you get around to taking your car to a professional detailer.
Paint protection can help minimise any spot damage, but it's not bulletproof and if you have something like bird droppings left out in the sun for a week or brush too close against a bollard in a car park, you might end up with paint damage.
The best way to get your car back from poor paint damage to near showroom condition is to take it to a detailer, who has the tools on hand to cut and polish your car.
If you see videos on the Internet, you'll see them sanding the paint off a pretty wide area before they repaint the panel. This seems like an overreaction to a small bit of damage, but is actually the best way to match the colour of the rest of the panel - rather than just treating spot damage, which attempts to blend new paint with the paint that may be faded from sun damage or dirt around the blemish.
While no one can completely avoid scratches, the sooner you notice and treat any damage, you’ll have a better chance of patching it up. For more tips on how to keep your car in perfect condition, read our service and maintenance tips!
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