It is impossible to keep your car protected from damage at all times, but you do have options since anyone can learn how to fix keyed cars by themselves. Restoring your car to its original state after getting keyed requires a bit of elbow grease and patience, but it sure beats paying for the repair.
Check the extent of the damage
Cars have three layers of paint, the primer, namely the undercoat finish, the base coat, which is the actual colored paint of the vehicle, and the clear coat, which protects the paint underneath and makes it shine. If the damage to the car affects only the clear coat, you can fix it by polishing or blasting it with sand.
If the scratch has managed to penetrate the clear coat, and it affects the other two layers of the paint, then it will be much more difficult to remove the scratch on your own. This will require extensive repainting, and if the bare metal got scratched, the entire panel might need to be replaced.
If the scratch affects the base coat or the primer, you might need to go to an auto body repair shop since restoring the finish of the paint in your garage will prove more difficult without the right tools and the experience that’s required to fix deeper scratches. However, it is still possible, so continue reading to learn how to do it.
The first step in checking the actual extent of the damage is to wash the affected area completely using a soapy solution so that you can get rid of all the dirt and other debris. Make sure to use a cloth that’s made of soft materials, ideally a microfiber cloth.
You can tell if you are dealing with a clear coat scratch if after the area dries, the scratch appears to disappear and then reappears again after a few minutes. The reason why this happens is that the water fills the void in the clear coat temporarily, giving the impression that the scratch has disappeared.
If the scratch is still visible after drying the area, this means that you are dealing with a deep scratch that is more difficult to fix.
Isolate the keyed area
Once you have identified the extent of the damage, the next step is to protect the area surrounding the scratch. Keyed cars generally have elongated scratches, and when fixing the scratch, you will need to make sure that you don’t cause further damage to the original paint.
As such, you will need to protect the rest of your car by making a frame of masking tape around the scratched area. You should allow about 2-3 inches on both sides of the scratch. The masking tape frame will help you sand only the area where the scratch is located.
Having the scratched area delimited by masking tape will also make it easier for you to paint the area. You can also use old newspapers if you want to make sure that paint doesn’t go anywhere else on the car.
Color the scratch
The next step is to sand out the scratched area, but before you can do that, you should first apply a substance that’s of a different color than the paint of your vehicle into the scratch. For example, if you have a light-colored car, you can rub black shoe polish into the scratch. For dark-colored paints, you will need to use light-colored shoe polish.
The shoe polish will get deep into the scratch and will give you an essential visual clue so that you don’t sand down too far. When sanding the affected area, it is important not to overdo it, and you should only sand up to the depth of the scratch.
You will be able to tell when you can stop sanding once the colored substance, in this case, the shoe polish, disappears and gives way to the actual color of the car.
The sanding process is very important, and depending on the depth of the scratch, it might take a bit of time, so you will need to be patient. You need to be prepared to spend at least a few hours sanding the keyed area.
To sand the affected area, you will need to use 2000-3000 grit sandpaper, a sanding block, and a solution of water mixed with a few drops of dish detergent. The soapy solution will act as a lubricant.
Sanding the paint takes time, but it is not a difficult task. You need to start by wrapping the sandpaper around the sanding block. You can do this step without a sanding block, but it is better to get one since the flat surface of the block will help provide more even pressure on the scratched surface.
You will need to sand at a 60-degree angle along the length of the scratch and make sure that you keep the sandpaper wet. Pay close attention to the scratched area so that you do not sand through the paint color, only the clear coat. Keep rubbing the sandpaper gently until you no longer see the colored substance that you’ve applied to the scratch.
Apart from submerging the sandpaper into the soapy solution, it is also advisable to get some of that soapy solution into a spray bottle so that you can lubricate the area every 2-3 seconds. This will keep the paint layer well protected so that you don’t risk sanding beyond the clear coat.
You might be tempted to rush this step, but trust us when we tell you that you want to go slowly. Take as much time as the scratched area requires.
Once you’re done sanding, you will need to allow the area to cool down and dry before you can move on to the next step. You can dry the area using a heat gun, hairdryer, or you can let it dry naturally in the open air.
Apply rubbing compound, polish, and wax
The next step is to get a rubbing compound into the scratched area and start working on it with your polishing wheel. The rubbing compound will act as a new clear coat for your car, and it will help conceal the scratch. You can also apply the rubbing compound with a microfiber cloth, but it is easier and faster to do it with a polisher.
Once you are done polishing the rubbing compound, and you are satisfied with the way it looks, you can move on to the last step, which is to wax your car. This is a step that you can skip since waxing is not necessary, but it will help the paint pop and make you feel better after spending hours bringing the damaged paint back to life.
What about deeper scratches?
Fixing a keyed car that has only the clear coat layer damaged is easy, but if the scratch cuts all the way through the paint or primer, you will need to do a lot more work. In such a circumstance, it is better to get the help of an auto body repair specialist. However, if you still want to do it all by yourself, below, you can learn how to do it.
For deeper scratches, the process is the same up until the sanding. Apply the shoe polish on the scratch. If the scratch goes down to the primer, you will need to use 1500 grit sandpaper. Continue to sand using a sanding block until the shoe polish fades as you approach the end of the scratch.
The goal is to create an even surface. The area may start to look cloudy, but that’s normal since you’ll remove the cloudiness using the polish or wax later. As mentioned earlier, when sanding, make sure to use a soapy solution to help lubricate the sandpaper. Lubricate the area frequently.
Once you are done sanding, you can start to apply a new coat of primer to the affected area. The primer will help the paint look even and will prevent corrosion and rust. You should apply at least two layers of primer. You should allow the first layer to dry before you apply the second.
Once the primer has dried, you can apply the paint. You should hold the can 6-8 inches away from the vehicle surface and make sure to cover the area around the scratch with masking tape and old newspapers. Spray from side to side by moving the can steadily but quickly. You want to apply thin coats. Allow each paint layer to dry before applying the next.
Add as many layers as needed until the new paint looks the same as the original on your car. After you are done with the paint, you can apply the clear coat. You can apply it just as you did with the paint. Since you can’t see the clear coat, you can afford to be less precise with the clear coat.
Lastly, you need to buff the area with a polish or wax. After you are done with this step, you should wipe the area with a soft microfiber cloth. That’s it. You can now relax and enjoy your scratch-free car.