How to touch-up scratches and stone chips, remove minor scratches and restore headlights

Updated: March 2014

Repair stone chips and scratches before they start to rust

Rusted stone chip

We understand how frustrating it is to see chips, scratches and on your car. When the paint layer is damaged and the bare metal is exposed, it starts to rust. That's why it's important to touch-up stone chips and scratches before the corrosion process starts. It's not very difficult, here are several ways to do that.

How to touch up chips and minor scratches

Car touch-up pen

You can purchase a touch-up paint from your dealer, online or find in the automotive section of your local department store. It comes in a spray can or as a pen.

Car color code on the manufacturer label

To buy a touch-up paint you need to know your car's color code which you can find on the manufacturer label. "C/TR" means Color/Trim, this car's color code is 8R5. In this car, the manufacturer label is located on the driver's door jamb.

Touch-up pen color code

The color code on the touch-up paint should match the code.

How to touch up minor scuffs

Scuff on the car door

Let's see how we can repair this scuff on the edge of the door. If you look closely (click to see the larger image), this damage goes all the way through the clear coat, base paint and the primer (the grey stuff) and you can see the bare metal in the middle. This scratch will get rusted if not repaired, so we are going to touch it up.

Using a touch-up pen

For this we need a car to be clean and dry, matching touch up paint, wooden toothpick, bottle cap and a clean paper towel. Park the car somewhere in the shade, because if it's too hot, the paint will dry too quickly and won't be smooth. First what we do, as it says on the touch up paint, shake it well.

Touch-up with a touch-up pen

As this touch-up pen's tip is too thick for this scratch, we squeeze a small amount of the base color paint into the bottle cap. You have to press down a few times for the paint to appear.

Touch up a car with toothpick

Close the pen cap so it won't dry. Deep a toothpick into the paint. We need just a small drop of paint on a toothpick.

Touch up a car with toothpick

Now fill up the damage very accurately without letting the paint to come out of the scuff. If you put too much paint, wipe it out right away with the clean towel and try again.

Repaired scuff

It's not perfect, but it looks much better now and it won't get rusted. In a half an hour, when the paint dries up, add the layer of the clear coat from the other end of the touch-up pen (Instructions are on the pen) using the same process. The clear coat seals the paint better and makes it more shiny.

How to repair larger scuffs with a touch-up pen

Repair scuff on the bumper

This scuff on the bumper is a bit larger and to repair it properly, the whole bumper needs to be refinished and repainted. The quote we got from the body shop was over $1000. Of course, we can try to touch it up, it won't look as good, but it's a lot cheaper.

Repair scuff on the bumper

Again, the car is clean and we have the matching touch-up paint pen. Shake the pen well and carefully paint the damage over. Wipe off with the clean paper towel if the paint overflows.

scuff on the bumper repaired

You still can see it, but it only cost $10 for a car wash and $12 for a touch-up pen. Once the paint dries up, apply the clear coat from the other end of the pen.

How to repair stone chips with a spray paint

Stone chip

Let's try to touch up a couple stone chips on this car. In this case, we got matching spray paint.

Touch-up spray paint

The car is clean and dry and we have all we need: the matching spray paint (ordered from the dealer) and a toothpick. Shake the spray paint can well for a few minutes, then spray small amount into the cap. You may want to wear rubber gloves and a dust mask or a respirator.

Repairing the stone chip

Pick-up a small drop of paint with a sharp wooden stick or toothpick and carefully fill up the damage without letting the paint overflow. If the paint leaks out, wipe it off right away with a clean paper towel.

Repairing the stone chip

It looks much better now.

Repairing the stone chip

Let's fill up this one too. Pick up a very small drop that will be enough to fill the stone chip without overflowing. Fill it up.

Repairing the stone chip

Now you can barely see it. If

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How to remove paint marks left by other objects

Paint marks on the car door

Somebody left this mark at the grocery store parking. It looks like it was some green car's door. If you look very closely it's actually a green paint residue left on the clear coat surface. The clear coat itself seems to be damaged only slightly.

Fine sandpaper, polishing compound

We'll try to remove this mark. All we need for this is ultra-fine 1500-grit or 2000-grit waterproof sandpaper (3000 grit is even better - the higher number stands for the finest abrasive), a polishing compound containing mild abrasive (we used Turtle Wax) and a car wax.

Sanding the mark with fine sandpaper

It's best to use wet sanding, meaning pour some water over sandpaper first. Very carefully (you don't want to remove the clear coat), with light pressure sand the marks with the sandpaper until the mark is gone. If you have never done it before, try on some small spot to see how it works first.

Sanded spot

This is how it looks after sanding. There is no mark, but the clear coat has lost its shine. We will have to use polishing compound to make it shiny again.

Applying polishing compound

Put a small amount of the polishing compound onto the damp sponge applicator.

Polishing with the sponge

Buff well using circular motion until the clear coat becomes shiny again.

Paint mark removed

Now, all that's left is a barely visible dent.

How to remove minor scratches

Scratch on the car

Let's try to polish out this scratch on the hood. The scratch is not very deep and looks like only the surface of the clear coat is damaged.

Turtle Wax polishing compound

All we need is a fine polishing compound (we again use Turtle Wax) and a foam applicator. The car is clean and dry.

Apply polishing compound

Put small amount of the fine polishing compound on the foam pad.

Buff with a polishing compound

Spray some water. Buff in circular motion. Periodically check the progress. If the scratch is still visible, buff a little more. Be careful not to buff too deep, especially when buffing near the edges.

Wash the area thoroughly

Once the scratch looks much better, wash the area thoroughly. Now just buff it with a regular car wax.

Repaired scratch

You barely can see it now. Click for a larger image.

How to resore fogged-up headlights

Fogged-up headlight

Over time, the headlight plastic scratches and fades. Using the same technique as described above, your can polish faded headlights, but only if they are fogged from the outside, like this one. If the headlights are fogged from the inside, not much can be done.

Fine sandpaper, polishing compound

We will use the same kit as we used to buff out paint marks from the clear coat. Click for a larger photo.

Applying masking tape

The car is clean and dry. First, we apply a masking tape to the edges, so when we sand , we won't touch the painted panels.

Wet-sand the headlights

The next step is to carefully wet-sand the headlight plastic surface with a very fine sandpaper. In this case we used a 3000-grit 3M waterproof sandpaper. Sand with water, as the water dries, spray more water. When it's wet, the sandpaper lasts longer without clogging up.

polish headlight

Now the plastic looks more clear when wet, but we need to fine-polish it. It's time to use a fine polishing compound.

Polish headlight

Buff using circular motion. It takes a few minutes of good buffing to restore the shine.

Restored headlight

You can see the result.

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