Auto Body Scratch Repair

Not all auto body damage is severe. A deep scratch may not affect the function of your vehicle, but it is unsightly. It may also worsen over time, as debris and moisture collect inside and cause rust to form. If ignored for too long, rust may eat away at more of the paint and even put a hole through the metal panel. Fixing scratches promptly is the right choice.

Scratch Depth

The depth of the scratch influences the repair method necessary. Shallow scratches penetrate the clear coat but they don't penetrate all the way down to the metal. Although unsightly, there is no immediate risk of rust so you can put off repair for a short time if necessary. Eventually, dirt will collect in the scratch and damage the paint more, though, so don't hesitate for too long.

Deep scratches penetrate the metal. These will lead to rust, and sometimes quite quickly. Immediate repair is recommended.

Repair Prep

Preparation of the scratch is more or less the same regardless of depth. The area will be cleaned out so that no dirt is trapped inside. If there is rust, it will be sanded away so only bare metal remains.

The next prep step is feathering. Your auto body tech will gently sand the paint surrounding the scratch edges so that there isn't a major depth difference. This makes it easier to apply a smooth and even coat of fresh paint so that it blends with the rest of the car panel.

Paint Matching

Matching the paint can be difficult. If you have an older car, for example, the paint has likely faded. This means touch-up paint will stand out, even if it is the factory original color.

You have two options. The technician can mix paint until they are able to exactly match your car. This can be challenging and sometimes the match isn't quite perfect, but it is usually close enough. Or, you can opt to have the entire car repainted. The choice depends on your budget.


After carefully painting the scratch and building up the layers to the proper depth, it is time to seal. Sealing is what gives auto paint its deep luster, and it also prevents damages to the paint.

Clearcoat seals are the most commonly used, but you can also have the entire panel sealed in a special vinyl sealant that deflects future scratches. These are often used on doors since they are the most prone to dings.

Contact an auto body shop if you have a scratch that requires repair.