scratch on car exterior

There’s nothing more disheartening than coming back to your car that’s parked in the grocery store parking lot and seeing that something﹘a shopping cart, another car, or even some passing vandal﹘has dented or scratched the paint. And yet this is a scenario that will affect virtually every motorist at some point during their life. When these things happen, the prospect of having to take the car to the mechanic, even one as highly regarded as our South Salt Lake auto care center, is a disheartening one.

Luckily, there are some really effective do-it-yourself techniques to take care of superficial paint scratches and chasse dents. Not everyone needs to immediately start down the Google rabbit hole to find out how much it costs to repaint a door or a bumper (or the entire car), and you certainly don’t need to be a mechanic either. Some gurus online have found ways to deal with these issues by simply using some ingenuity and products found around the house.

Car Repair﹘DIY Style

It bears repeating at the outset that these techniques are specifically for superficial scratches and dents. What constitutes superficial damage, and when is it best to bring the car into our South Salt Lake car repair shop? Let’s get right into it.


It’s been said that of the two, scratches or dents, scratches are harder to deal with. This has a lot to do with the gradations of scratches that can occur, due to the many coats of paint on the vehicle. First, a word on the types of scratches that can occur: 

  • Clearcoat scratches: These are scratches in the top-most layer of paint on the vehicle, the clear coat. Due to the way the scratch bores a line in the paint﹘basically making a small (sometimes imperceptible) trough, with the lowest point of contact being flanked by two upward sloping ridges﹘a light source like the sun can reflect off the new contour and make the scratch gleam white. This succeeds in making the scratch look worse than it is, and often of a different color from the body paint. This is the most superficial type of scratch, and the easiest to deal with on your own.
  • Basecoat and primer scratches: There are two types of primers used on cars, lacquer, and Etch. The lacquer coat is added to fill in small dents or inconsistencies on the chassis of the car that can then be sanded down to make it smooth for more paint to be layered on. Etch primer protects against rusting and corrosion by using an acid-based mixture. Scratches that succeed in scraping away these layers (typically directly underneath the clear coat) not only expose the base coat of paint but that rust protection has now been scraped away. These scratches must be dealt with quickly before further damage occurs.
  • Paint scratches: It normally takes a sharp object with a lot of force to scratch past the layers of paint to expose the metal body beneath. If this happens, the car is in danger of rusting, like with scratches to the primer.

Of these three types of scratches, only the clear coat is recommended to take on yourself without the use of professional gear. If you have any questions about how bad the scratch is, you can always bring it into us for a regular tune-up and ask for one of our team members to take a look at it.

Fixing Scratches

Now that we know what type of scratches we should attempt to fix, how do we do it? You can take your pick of solutions, from purchasing high-end polishes to using tools in the garage. With just a few tools you can own this car repair.

  • Polishes: There are several highly-rated scratch removal polishes out there; a quick internet search will give you a bunch of opinions on the best. Once you buy one, then you’ll just need a microfiber rag to help apply it. Quickly wash the scratched area with water and dry it off, then pour the polish or wax product directly into the scratch and work it in with the microfiber cloth, using small circular motions.
  • Scratch Kits: Whether you buy a scratch kit online or make one yourself, you’re going to need a few tools. First, you’ll want some sandpaper to gently sand down the area of all bumps and ridges. You might think this is counterintuitive, but in fact, it helps even out the clear coat so that the other solutions work better. Now apply your polish and use a handheld buffer to spread the mixture over the scratch.
  • Household Items: If you don’t fancy all the legwork involved in getting the supplies you need, items found in the bathroom or garage might be your best bet. Believe it or not, toothpaste has been proven to get rid of clear coat scratches. Using a little bit of advanced whitening paste and a wet cloth is often enough to get the job done.


Dents might look more intimidating than scratches, but there are ways to “reverse engineer” the dent and use the car metal’s softness to our advantage. Luckily you just need to raid the bathroom cupboard before heading out there for some DIY auto care.

Fixing Dents

The best thing to remember about your car is that it is easier to manipulate the metal if heat is applied, then you just need something to apply force in the opposite direction of the dent to get it to pop back into place.

  • Heating agents: You’ll want to make sure you grab something that will apply lots of heat to the area. A hairdryer or a pot of boiling water are the most popular solutions. 
  • A pulling agent: Perhaps the easiest tool to use will be a plunger, but be sure to use one that is adequate for the side of the dent. Using a plunger that is too big or too small will produce an uneven result. A piece of dry ice held against the dent could also cause the metal to pop back into place.

Simply apply the heating agent to the affected area, fix the plunger on, and push and pull until the dent is fixed. Easy.

The Best Car Repair in South Salt Lake

Sometimes knowing you can do something and have the time or desire to do it is another thing entirely, especially if you’ve never done it before. Our team of professionals is totally equipped to help you get your car in a road-worthy condition once again; from brake repairs to AC fixes and more, Master Muffler South Salt Lake is the best place to get back out on the road. Just give us a call and we’ll get you in here as soon as possible.


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