How to Repair a Fender Scratch

by Tammy Parks
blue car image by Thierry GUIMBERT from

Not all scratches are created equal, and determining the level of damage can save you a lot of time and headaches. It is possible that you brushed up against something and the damage is only superficial, and can easily be mended. By overdoing the repair job, you may take off paint unnecessarily. If paint from your car is missing and you see the indentation clearly, then you will need to do some careful sanding, buffing and waxing. You may even need a paint job.

Buffing Out a Scratch

Step 1

Clean the area with soap and water and let it dry. Apply rubbing compound to the scratch with a soft cloth and rub the area in a circular motion until the scratch is gone.

Step 2

Rub the surface again in a gentle back-and-forth motion to remove marks from the circular buffing. Wipe away remaining rubbing compound with a clean cloth.

Apply a polishing compound with a clean cloth to remove any marks left from the rubbing compound. Seal the area with car wax.

Sanding Out a Scratch

Step 1

Apply a color-contrasting material into the scratch like Wite-Out or black shoe polish to mark the depth of the scratch. Wipe away any excess.

Step 2

Wet the sandpaper with a mixture of water and dish detergent. Sand the scratch gently, using light strokes. Work down the length of the scratch in a diagonal motion, wetting the sandpaper frequently until the contrasting color you applied disappears. Let the area dry completely.

Step 3

Apply clearcoat to the area if paint has come away with your sanding and the paint color is visible in the water. Buff the area with rubbing compound if the paint is not clearcoated. Work the rubbing compound onto the surface in a light, circular motion. Wipe off excess material with a clean cloth.

Apply polishing compound to the area and gently work away remaining scratches from sanding and buffing. Seal the area with car wax.


  • Determine the level of damage before you begin.
  • Use a an aerosol tar, adhesive remover or lacquer thinner to remove marks that look like a scratch.
  • Test the sandpaper and rubbing compound on an inconspicuous area of the car before you begin. (This will help you to see how deep you can go before the primer will be revealed.)


  • Don't go through the original paint into the underlying layer of primer coat if you don't have to. You may be able to stop short of the underlying layers without having to paint the scratch.

Items you will need

  • Dish detergent
  • Soft rags or buffing pads
  • Liquid Wite-Out or black shoe polish
  • 2000-3000 grit wet/dry sandpaper
  • Rubbing compound
  • Clearcoat
  • Polishing compound
  • Car wax

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