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Does Car Detailing Remove Scratches? What You NEED To Know

Car Detailing To Remove Scratches?

Whether you’re a detailer or not, we can all agree, scratches on our vehicles look terrible. The main questions is does car detailing remove scratches. In short, yes and no. 

Here’s what you need to know about car detailing and scratch removal so you don’t make the same mistakes most do. 

Does Car Detailing Remove Scratches?

Car detailing can remove light or fine scratches. Any scratches on your car that are deeper than the clear coat will need to be sanded and removed. Light scratches are removed from a car using rubbing compound by hand or with a polisher or buffer.

That being said, let’s look at some of the many forms of scratches and how they need to be removed.

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Depends On The Type Of Scratch

What Kind Of Scratches?

There are pretty much 3 different types of scratches you need to be worried about. Light, minor scratches, and deep scratches. 

Scratches on your vehicle makes us car owners just cringe. They are ugly to look at and even worse when you can’t remove those deeper scratches. 

When you go to tackle car scratches and try to restore your car paint, the severity of the scratch is going to be what makes or break your vehicle’s exterior appearance. 

Minor Or Light Scratches On Your Car

Light and minor scratches can typically be removed by following the default car detailing process. These you usually cannot feel but you can definitively see the paint scratches. You wont see any exposed metal or color, it will look more like a “white” scratch which means just the top layer of clear coat was affected.

Deep Scratches On Your Car

Every car can get scratches and luckily every car most of the time has a way to get rid of these scratches and are able to get it fixed. However, a slightly deep scratch, or any deep scratch may have done some serious damage to your car’s paint. 

Car detailing cannot get rid of scratches that are below the clear coat. These scratches penetrate the top layer of clear coat which is the layer of paint that gives your car it’s “gloss”. It also protects the color coat underneath. 

These scratches will damage your car’s value and these scratches may require extra sanding and painting to fix. 

Pro tip: An old saying is “if you can feel it, you can see it.” When you slide your finger across the scratch and can feel the difference, you’ll be able to see this scratch even if you buff it. 

Rub your fingers over the top of it and if you’re unsure, just take your car to a local car detailing shop and get a professional opinion. Your detailer may offer solutions for them to be able to fix your vehicle. Us detailers (if you’re a good one) look at every nitty-gritty detail so we want to make sure we set the “wow factor”. 

Car Detailing Removes Light Scratches

remove scratch tape off

While an exterior detailing job cannot remove dents, it can however fix scratches. Your car detailer or car detailing service will wash the vehicle down first to remove any of the contaminates on the surface.

Getting your vehicle detailed will remove the scratches on the surface, just not the deep ones, here’s how.

How Detailing Removes Scratches

Using rubbing compound and a polishing agent, light scratches can be removed. Car detailing fixes your paint and top layer of clear coat by using the rubbing compound (basically an ultra fine sandpaper) to fill in any surface scratches. 

Rubbing compound will also restore the color depth of your paint as well. You’ve probably seen scratch repair kits or scratch and dent removal kits all over the place. The truth is, the process to removing scratches has never changed.

Whether you use a rotary buffer to buff out the scratches or do it by hand, the process is the exact same. There’s no need to waste money on those crazy expensive kits. As long as the scratch hasn’t gone through the color, primer, or metal exterior of your car, the scratch can be repaired (most of the time). 

Let’s look at how the pros remove scratches and then I’ll show you how to get scratches out of your car as well at home. 

How Professional Detailers Remove Scratches

buffing to remove scratch

A professional detailer will use their rotary buffer to remove the scratches on your car’s exterior. 

Pro tip: Professional car detailers usually use a clay bar before attempting to remove any scratches. This takes any stuck dirt or pebbles leftover from washing and removes them from the top, preventing more scratches from appearing.

Once they have the top surface clean, they will try to buff the surface scratches out using a rotary buffer or polisher using rubbing compound. 

Rubbing compound is essentially ultra fine sandpaper that fills in and removes light scratches. This is what actually will remove scratches from your car, they don’t just “disappear”. Any hairline scratches or lighter your detailer should be able to remove using the compound. 

Afterwards the panel is typically polished to restore the color depth. This gives you that new car finish and restores the original shine. It will also clean up any leftover rubbing compound in the process but they should wipe it down in between to not mix the 2 products together. 

The average car detailing package that detailing shops utilize may offer scratch removal in their packages. Call around your local shops to see what’s included. Ya never know, most of them have scratch removal options included in the average car detailing package. 

Not to mention with packages you usually get access to some interior detailing goodies too. We’ll have a guide up on interior cleaning here soon. If you want to learn about your mats and carpets though as well as our favorite glass cleaner hit those links and go check them out!

Auto Detailing At Home To Get Rid Of Scratches

I get it, a car detailing service can cost hundreds, we all don’t have access to that kind of cash. However, if you don’t keep your car in good condition, the car can lose it’s value rapidly. Especially if it’s in one of the areas of your car that’s easy to see.

This makes scratch removal at home a much more cost effective option. So let’s get to it. 

Fix Light Scratches From A Car Wash

Car washes are very appealing, I get it. A clean car not only reflects itself, but who you are as a character as well. Avoid car washes like crazy. They are horrible for putting scratches in your car.

Pro tip: Car washes actually kick up more dirt and stones. The stones get trapped in the fibers and actually do more damage to your paint then good!

Always wash your car by hand and keep your car clean yourself! Whether car, truck, or suv is your niche, keep those rides clean and avoid the car washes!

Remove Scratches By Hand Or Polisher

painting after sanding scratch

Start by cleaning your car windows, outside, and interior of your car like normal. Afterwards follow back up with a clay bar (optional but recommended) to remove any leftover stones or pebbles. 

Once that’s completed dry the car off and grab your rubbing compound and microfiber towel.

By Hand:

To those scratches by hand follow these steps:

  1. Apply rubbing compound to the microfiber towel.
  2. Using moderate pressure work the compound into the panel using circular motions. Keep a consistent rhythm and moderate pressure. This is used to remove the fine scratches.
  3. Using another clean microfiber towel buff off any excess residue and inspect your work.
  4. Remove any remaining minor scratches that are left over with another pass.
  5. Apply a polish to restore the reflection and get rid of the haze leftover from the rubbing compound.

By Polisher Or Buffer:

  1. Apply the rubbing compound to the polishing/buffing pad. 
  2. Spread the product evenly over the affected area.
  3. Start on a low setting and use the weight of the machine for pressure.
  4. Move the buffer or polisher around the affected area.
  5. Wipe any residue leftover and examine your work.
  6. Polish the area using a separate pad. 

Extra Scratch Removal Tips

And there you have it! Once again, car detailing will remove lighter scratches, but unfortunately those deep ones will need to be sanded out and repainted.

Here’s some tips to help you prevent scratches in the future though!

  • Get car detailing and car washes done on a routine.
  • Don’t over wash, regular car washes do harm the top layer of wax or ceramic coat which can leave the paint exposed.
  • Frequently wax your vehicle or apply a protection product to protect the clear coat.
  • Avoid deep puddles which main contain light pebbles that can damage or scratch your paint. 

That’s all I’ve got for you today car enthusiasts. Have some tips for other members or readers? Let us know below, let’s finish out with some FAQ’s. 


How do detailers remove scratches?

Detailer remove scratches by washing the car and buffing them out with a rubbing compound. 
What is the best way to fix scratches on a car? 

The best way to fix scratches on a car is to wash it first. Afterwards buff out the scratches using a rubbing compound and microfiber towel either by hand or buffer.
Is it worth fixing scratches on car?

Yes, you should get the scratches fixed on your car. Scratches leave your paint or metal exposed to the elements which eventually leads to rust. 
What car scratches can be buffed out?    

Any light or minor scratches, deep scratches will need to be sanded and repainted.
What is the easiest way to remove scratches from a car?

Visit your local detailer and purchase a scratch removal from them. While it may be expensive, it’s certainly easy. 

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