No matter how carefully you drive and park, it’s almost impossible to avoid getting a scratch on your car or truck. But if it’s not through the clearcoat and into the paint, one of the best car scratch removers can save you a trip to the body shop. Most light scratches are only on the surface of your finish, and there are car scratch repair products that can make them disappear.
All modern cars* use what’s called a two-stage finish. First, the manufacturer covers the bare metal with a primer. This adheres tightly to the metal, is used to smooth out small imperfections, and provides a microscopically rough surface for the basecoat or color coat to adhere to. They then spray an extremely thin and hard clearcoat over the color to protect it. Most of the protection provided by an automotive finish is in the clearcoat. The basecoat is much softer, and it’s easy for water to get through it to the metal. If you can feel a scratch with your fingernail, there’s a good chance it’s gone through the clearcoat and into the basecoat, and you’ll need a paint touch-up kit that includes clearcoat; or a trip to the body shop.
Fortunately, it takes some work to get through the clearcoat. A car scratch remover takes the edges off and turns a narrow, highly visible groove into a shallow bowl that’s much harder to see. This will always take some work, because as we said, that clearcoat is hard. If you want to put in the time and effort, you can buff our scratches in your car by hand with some sponges and pads, but if you’re doing more than a very small area, you’re going to want a buffer or random orbit polisher. This won’t just make the job many times faster, but you’ll get a better result, too. And like any paint finish project, preparation is crucial to success.
*Commercial vehicles where appearance doesn’t matter much may use a single-stage paint, and hotrods and older cars use a variety of different finishes, like lacquer.
For more information on the best car scratch removers, refer to our Table of Contents. Most chemicals and fluids do not have warranties, so we aren’t including that information for these products.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: SONAX Profiline Perfect Finish
- 2. Best for Hand Buffing: T-Cut Original Car Paintwork Restorer & Scratch Remover
- 3. Best General Use: Meguiar's Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound
- 4. Best All-in-one: 3D Speed Car Scratch Remover Polish & Wax
- 5. Best Product: Chemical Guys VSS Scratch & Swirl Remover
- 6. Most Affordable: Turtle Wax White Polishing Compound
- 7. Malco Paint Rejuvenator
- Do I Need A Buffer To Fix Scratches On My Car?
- How Do I Remove Deep Scratches From My Car?
- What Do I Need to Repair Car Scratches?
1. Editor's Pick: SONAX Profiline Perfect Finish
Using a buffer, Perfect Finish is the best product for getting out light scratches. Photo credit: Amazon.com.
SONAX makes a variety of cutting and polishing compounds to correct paint and clearcoat issues, and Profiline Perfect Finish being is the most popular option available. It’ll do a great job removing hairline scratches and other paint imperfections, and is forgiving enough that you’re not likely to polish through into the color coat. As a bonus, the compound breaks down into finer particles as you polish, making it smoother and smoother as you go.
We recommend starting out with a compound like this if it’s your first time using a buffer, because you’re not likely to damage your finish. It won’t do a good job on deeper scratches, however, so if you’re not happy with the results, you should use something more aggressive, like SONAX’s Profiline CutMax or our#2 choice, T-Cut. After that, you can decide if you need to go back to the Perfect Finish to complete the process. It’s also very expensive, but you’ll probably use less than a cheaper polish. SONAX Profiline Perfect Finish has a best-in-category 96% positive rating from over 1,300 reviews. The results, ratings, and customer service make it a clear standout for Editor’s Pick for light-duty car scratch repair.
SONAX Information and Customer Service
SONAX is a German company with a long history in North America, and you can find their automotive finish products in quality body and detailing shops all over the world. The company has very useful written instructions and how-to videos on their site. There are web forms and a toll-free customer service number and when we called, we reached a very helpful and friendly person on the second ring.
2. Best for Hand Buffing: T-Cut Original Car Paintwork Restorer & Scratch Remover
T-Cut is only for hand polishing and can be used on all kinds of surfaces. Photo credit: Manufacturer.
T-Cut was invented in 1954 and is more or less the original cutting compound. It predates modern clearcoats, but has turned out to work just as well on harder finishes. Because it was invented in a time when even a good body shop might not have much in the way of power tools, it’s designed strictly for hand polishing and should not be applied with a buffer. You won’t be able to get as smooth a final finish as the Editor’s Pick SONAX will give you, but you can apply it by hand, and take out deeper scratches. Even better, you don’t have to use any buffing pads or other special tools (although they’ll make your life a lot easier), just cotton balls. Manufacturer Tetrosyl suggests waxing after use, which will help make any remaining marks disappear.
T-Cut is also an excellent household polish for almost any materials aside from ceramic, on which you could see swirls. It comes in a distinctive 500ml metal tin and has a great 90% positive rating from over 550 reviews.
Tetrosyl Information and Customer Service
Based (and manufactured) in England, Tetrosyl doesn’t have a North American branch, so your choices for customer service are email, a web form, or a local Rochdale (greater Manchester area) phone number. The only instructions are the five sentences on the back of the bottle. There is slightly more information (a sixth sentence) with the product on the wholesale tetconnect.com site.
3. Best General Use: Meguiar's Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound
Meguiar's products are pro and DIYer favorites. Photo credit: Amazon.com.
Meguiar’s is a trusted brand among car care enthusiasts, and the company has several products that can be used to remove scratches. The most popular one for home use is its Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound, which can remove 1200-grit or finer sanding marks. That’s relatively rough for sanding, as other products work on 2000- to 2500-grit, making it a good choice for fine scratches. It’s not as aggressive as a true cutting compound, so you’ll have trouble getting out deeper scratches without a buffer, if at all.
The product contains no fillers and is a VOC-compliant formula that is safe to use on all paint finishes, including scratch-resistant and conventional clear coats. It features an exclusive, super-micro abrasive technology that leaves a best-in-class finish and is formulated for use by hand, dual action polisher, or a rotary buffer. Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound also works great to get rid of blemishes and scratches in your clearcoat prior to waxing or polishing. It has a very good 89% positive rating from over 3,500 reviews.
Meguiar’s Information and Customer Service
Meguiar’s site has a toll-free customer service line with knowledgeable people who can answer questions about using their products, web forms, and many helpful videos. There is also a very active detailing forum with over 50,000 members and stickied how-to posts, and Meguiar’s offers training webinars, live Instagram events, and even in-person classes.
4. Best All-in-one: 3D Speed Car Scratch Remover Polish & Wax
3D Speed is the best rated all-in-one available. Photo credit: Amazon.com.
3D Car Care produces the only all-in-one with a 90% or better rating that meets our criteria. . If you don’t want to do a separate waxing step, and there is only a small area of damage to worry about, you could feel good about choosing Speed over any of the other top choices.
Like SONAX, 3D Speed uses a cutting compound that breaks down into finer particles as you use it, removing it’s own swirls as you repair the scratches on your car. Then, it includes a synthetic wax sealer to polish and shine as you keep buffing. Like any scratch remover, you can do all of this by hand, but it’s a lot of work for larger areas. As you’d think from the description, it’s not a good choice for deeper scratches where you would want a heavy cutting compound, but it’s also so gentle that the manufacturer says it’s safe to use on fiberglass gelcoat, plastics, paint protection films, and even glass. We would definitely recommend doing any of those by hand, rather than with a buffer. 3d Speed has an excellent 90% positive rating from over 2,900 reviews. All of our numbers two through four picks are within a percentage point of each other, and we bumped 3D down a place because their customer service isn’t as good as Meguiar’s
3D Car Care Information and Customer Service
3D Car Care offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, the best on our list. Like Meguiar’s, 3D has a detailing forum and in-person classes at their Stuart, Florida, headquarters. There are very helpful instructions with product descriptions on the 3dproducts.com site, but you have to plow through an automated help desk on a separate for most answers, and we couldn’t find a phone number.
5. Best Product: Chemical Guys VSS Scratch & Swirl Remover
VSS is an all-in-one compound, polish, and cleaner with good ratings. Photo credit: Amazon.com.
Chemical Guys is a premium name in the car care industry, but its Scratch and Swirl Remover is no more expensive than a brand like Meguiar’s. The all-in-one VSS Scratch & Swirl Remover is rated as highly as some standalone cutting compounds, and is designed to remove moderate to heavy surface imperfections.
When used properly, Chemical Guys VSS Scratch & Swirl Remover can eliminate surface imperfections while creating a mirror finish. It doesn’t contain any wax or silicone, so the innovative abrasives can cut fast to quickly remove swirls, scratches, oxidation, and fine 2500-grit sanding marks. The product is equally effective on single-stage, ceramic finishes, and clear coat paints and won’t fill in the scratches. It’s a very thick product and dries quickly, making it a poor choice for hand rubbing—the solution is designed to be used with dual-action and rotary polishers. It has a good 85% positive rating from over 6,500 reviews.
Chemical Guys Information and Customer Service
Chemical Guys have a network of affiliated detail shops all over the country, many of which offer in-person classes and training sessions from one day up to five. The chemicalguys.com site has a well-organized video how-to series, although it’s hard to find. There are instructions and videos on most product pages, too. There is a web form and a customer service toll-free number.
6. Most Affordable: Turtle Wax White Polishing Compound
Turtle Wax White is intended for hand use and is good for small areas. Photo credit: Amazon.com.
A light-duty paste designed to clean dull and oxidized finishes, Turtle Wax White Polishing Compound can also remove light scratches, blemishes, swirls, and stubborn stains.
It’s considered a light to medium cleaner, so don’t expect it to polish out deep scratches. As with our top pick SONAX, and other fine polishers, do the fingernail test on a scratch: If you can feel it, it will probably require something more aggressive. It will, however, likely do the job on light scratches on the clear coat while restoring shine to your paint. It’s also the cheapest product on our list and intended for hand polishing of small areas, making it an excellent first thing to try before moving on to more aggressive compounds.
Turtle Wax White Polishing Compound will dry quickly, not only on your car but also in the container. Unlike some other products, however, you can wipe it off after it dries to a haze. It will definitely take some time and effort both to get out scratches with it and to keep polishing to a shine, especially on newer clearcoats. It has a good 84% positive rating from almost 2,900 reviews.
Turtle Wax Information and Customer Service
Turtle Wax has been in business since World War II and has a toll-free number and web forms on the turtlewax.com site. The company offers a 15-day return window and a 30-day warranty, which is very good for car care chemicals. There are brief instructions for use and some poorly organized and hard-to-find but helpful articles and how-to videos.
7. Malco Paint Rejuvenator
Malco Paint Rejuvenator is an all-in-one with Carnauba wax. Photo credit: Amzon.com.
Malco Paint Rejuvenator is the third all-in-one to meet our criteria for this list. It combines a light cutting compound with a Carnauba wax glaze to repair, shine, and polish at the same time. Like other all-in-ones, it’s a compromise that won’t remove scratches as well as a scratch remover or cutting compound; and won’t polish as well as a wax, but it’s well suited for weekend home use. Also, like other all-in-ones, it’s a lot of work to combine all those steps by hand, and Malco recommends using a buffer with different pads for different stages of the process. This is a more gentle car scratch remover that won’t do any damage to your clearcoat unless you really misuse it.
Malco Paint Rejuvenator has almost 900 reviews and a good 81% positive rating. Many reviewers note that it’s almost impossible to do larger areas by hand because the compound will dry out too fast. It’s important to use this product in the shade, preferably on a cooler day.
Malco Automotive Information and Customer Service
Malco Automotive has a local Barberton, Ohio, phone number, email, and web form on its site. Malcoautomotive.com is otherwise geared towards distributors, and there is information like Safety Data Sheets but no specific instructions. They do have some instructional how-to videos and blog posts, as well as basic getting-started videos on their Amazon product pages.
Do I Need A Buffer To Fix Scratches On My Car?
Since a buffer or random orbit polisher just moves a pad around, it isn’t technically doing anything you couldn’t do by hand. A few of our recommendations, like T-Cut and Turtle Wax, are intended for hand use on small areas. You might notice both of those have been around for decades, and were actually developed before consumer buffers were even available. Most modern products are intended to be used with buffers. When you think that you might set a buffer for at least 1,800 RPM, and it’s applying more even pressure to a large area, you can start to think about how much longer than a minute it might take to make 1,800 little circles with your hand.
Many compounds also have relatively short working times, meaning you can only work on a very, very small area. There’s no harm in trying, but if you’re not satisfied with the results, we have some suggestions for very affordable basic power waxers to get you started.
How Do I Remove Deep Scratches From My Car?
Clearcoat is very hard, but very thin, so it can be difficult to tell how deep a scratch goes, and how you should fix it. The rule of thumb—literally—is that when it’s big enough to catch your fingernail as you run it across the scratch, it’s probably too deep to come out easily. That doesn’t mean you can’t take it down and make it less visible, though. You can start buffing out scratches with these scratch removers, but if it’s still there, it’s probably gone through into the paint. You can still tackle that at home, but it’s a more involved process, which will involve sanding, repainting with a car-specific color, recoating, then buffing, polishing, and sealing.
If you do choose to leave a deeper scratch once you’ve tried a scratch remover, you should definitely mask it off and spray a protective layer of new clearcoat over it, to prevent the possibility of rust. Once you’ve buffed and polished that back down (again), this new layer will often make the scratch even less visible.
What Do I Need to Repair Car Scratches?
T-Cut advertises you can rub out scratches with a cotton ball, which was probably appropriate for the lacquer finishes of the time when it was introduced in the 1950s. And hypothetically, you could still do it that way, but the idea of rubbing a spot hundreds of times with a small, disintegrating wad of cotton is not appealing. Here are some things that will make your life easier, and why.
You’ll use these all the time, for prep, application, and cleanup. It’s extremely important to keep them clean, so you don’t end up making swirls and scratches worse with grit from the towels. Never use one on your car after you’ve dropped one on the ground You should also keep them separate for different chemicals—one for wax, one for wash, one for scratch removal, et c..
Applicator pads and sponges
There are foam sponges and microfiber applicators made specifically to apply compounds, and for polishing and buffing. Whether you do it by hand or machine, you’ll find there are different grades and materials to use for different parts of the process. Don’t panic: A professional detailer going from wash to mirror finish might use five different kinds of pads, but you’ll only need two or three.
Nothing will make your life easier than a buffer. One of these can make up to 5,000 little circles in a minute, which is hours or days of hand work. And while serious detailers will spend several hundred dollars on one, you can find one to get you started, with assorted pads, in the $50 range. You’ll be amazed how much better the results are, especially when it comes to the final finish steps.
December 28, 2022: Added product links.
November 29, 2022: Updated product links.
November 25, 2022: Updated product links.
March 30, 2022: Updated information for Chemical Guys VSS Scratch & Swirl Remover and Turtle Wax White Polishing Compound. Added how-to sections.
March 29, 2022: Removed Meguiars ScratchX, 3M Auto Advanced Scratch and Scuff Removal Kit, 3M Scratch Remover, Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover, TriNova Scratch Swirl remover, Formula 1 Scratch Out Car Wax Polish, and Scratch Pro Kit due to poor reviews. Added T-Cut Original Car Paintwork Restorer & Scratch Remover, Sonax Profiline Perfect Finish, 3D One Car Scratch & Swirl Remover, and Malco Paint Rejuvenator. Moved Chemical Guys VSS Scratch & Swirl Remover from third to fifth place, moved Meguiar’s M10508 Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound from seventh to third place, and Turtle Wax White Polishing Compound from eighth to sixth place. Updated introduction.
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