Best Car Scratch Removers for 2022, Tested - Car and Driver

2022-12-02 20:10:21 By : Mr. Jay Zhai

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Picked up a dreaded scratch down the side of your ride? If it's not too deep, these scratch removers might be worth a try.

Uh-oh. If you're here, you've probably discovered an irritating scratch on your vehicle. Perhaps it came from a rebellious shopping cart, a bike in the garage, or a tree branch that reached out just a bit too far. Have no fear! This doesn't necessarily mean an expensive trip to the body shop—there are over-the-counter scratch removers you can buy for cheap.

One day Car and Driver's 2022 Ram 1500 TRX long-term test vehicle returned from an off-road escapade with a (thankfully) light scratch that stretched along the entire passenger's side, all due to a pesky bit of foliage. The Gear Team was summoned, and we decided to perform a side-by-side comparison test of some popular car scratch removers. Here's how they fared.

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No. These scratch-remover products are designed to mend light, minor scratches. These typically occur when the clear coat is damaged, leaving a faint scratch. If a scratch is too deep, particularly down to the bare metal, it'll likely require a professional fix. One easy way to determine this is to run your fingernail across the scratch—if your nail gets hung up in the valley of the scratch, these products likely won't take care of the problem.

A scratch remover uses extremely fine abrasives to smooth the jagged edges of a scratch, then blends the clear coat together to fill the valley until the scratch is no longer visible. Some heavier-duty scratch removers will actually get down into the primer coat and meld the paint back together. For our test, we avoided scratch removers that come with paint correction for two reasons: The Ram TRX is a loaner vehicle, and we wanted to keep the test as simple as possible.

To determine which car scratch remover was the best, we taped off seven even sections of the scratch on the TRX. We then rubbed in the various compounds, with even pressure, for 30 seconds each. Most of the removers just required rubbing in the compound with a microfiber cloth, while others featured a few extra steps. After testing, we present the best car scratch removers for your vehicle.

The Meguiar's Scratch Eraser Kit is our choice for the best overall, thanks to its effectiveness, ease of use, and speed. The downside? You need a drill for the scratch eraser pad. But if you have a drill in your toolbox, this is the kit to get.

The process is straightforward: Simply apply some of the scratch remover on the pad in an X shape, use your drill to run the pad back and forth along the scratch, and wipe away the excess with a clean microfiber cloth.

The pad was faster and easier to use—and worked far better—than conventional rub-on scratch removers. If you have a good drill, this is the best kit to get for light scratches on your vehicle.

This kit worked so effectively that we decided to use it to remove the sections that didn't turn out so well after our testing.

For folks looking for the best results, regardless of the amount of time and effort required, this kit from Turtle Wax is our pick. The Turtle Wax kit produced the best outcome, albeit after a handful of steps that other scratch removers don't require.

In the spirit of keeping the test as uniform as possible, we omitted one step in this kit: We didn't use the Scratch Repair Pen because our scratch wasn't deep enough. However, having that extra product at your disposal is definitely a perk.

Application is simply a wet-sanding process, wherein you use sandpaper of various grits and spray lubricant to smooth out the clear coat. Then you apply the paint-clarifying compound with a microfiber cloth to clean everything up. This definitely requires some care and elbow grease, but the results proved to be the best of the bunch.

There were some audible wows from our testing team after the third pass with this kit.

We all like things that are less complicated, and it doesn't get much more simple than the Formula 1 Scratch Out. We tried a few one-step scratch removers, and this one worked best.

All you need is the remover and a clean microfiber cloth. Squeeze out a dollop of the product and rub it over the scratch in a circular motion with moderate pressure. We did this in three 30-second increments, and improvement was noticeable even after one pass. After three, the results were better than what we saw from the other one-step contenders.

This scratch remover has an unpleasant chemical smell, but the results are worth it. Like with the rest of the one-step removers, the more passes you complete, the better the scratch will look—though matching the results of the more complex scratch-remover kits would take some time.

Despite the unpleasant smell, this stuff works well as a one-step scratch remover.

This bottle is just a larger version of the scratch-removing compound you get with our best-overall entry, the Meguiar's Scratch Removal Kit. It works well but is a bit pricey—and you might as well just get the full kit.

The Scratch X version does take care of scratches well on its own with just a microfiber, and results after our three 30-second passes were solid. It has a pleasant smell and isn't runny, making it easy to manage.

But at this price, you might as well save yourself the arm workout and just get the full kit from Meguiar's.

You can use this bottle as a refill for the Meguiar's Scratch Eraser Kit rather than buying a whole new box.

Rounding out our honorable mentions, the Turtle Wax Scratch Repair & Renew bottle performed quite well. The compound is noticeably grainier than the rest, which worried us a tad. But once we got into applying it to the scratch, it worked like a charm.

After three 30-second passes, the results were comparable to those of the other one-step removers that received honorable mentions. Wiping the truck clean required a few more swipes thanks to the product's graininess, but improvements came with each pass.

Like with the rest of these one-step removers, the more passes you complete, the better the results. While this is a solid choice, we still recommend you purchase one of the kits mentioned earlier.

While the picture makes it seem like the scratch is completely gone, the blemish is still faintly there. Capturing it on the body panel's angle proved to be tricky.

The Nu Finish Scratch Doctor performed poorly in our test. Even after three 30-second passes, the difference in the scratch is only slightly noticeable. The product is also quite runny, so managing it on the microfiber cloth and then the scratch itself is tricky.

While this scratch remover is cheap, it's just not worth the extra time. Snag a bottle of the Formula 1 Scratch Out for a budget-friendly option, or buy one of the kits we recommend for the best results.

Notice how the swirls of this stuff don't spread out evenly? We think this inconsistency and the Nu Finish Scratch Doctor's bad performance are a result of the runniness.

We found this scratch-remover kit from Quixx to be overly complicated, and the results weren't worth the time and effort considering there are better choices available.

We had hoped that the precision-focused polish applicators in the kit would impress, but this product just left us returning to another kit we recommend. We couldn't help but chuckle at the "German Engineered" badging on the box—perhaps explaining the unnecessary complexity.

We had to capture a lot of steps for this one, and the results didn't match the effort.

To test these scratch removers as uniformly as possible, we taped off even sections of an equally deep light scratch along the passenger's side of a 2022 Ram 1500 TRX.

With each product, we performed three 30-second passes over the respective section and noted the results. We directly followed the instructions for each product. We also noted smells, consistency, and other observations.

We then compiled our results based on performance, ease of use, speed, and price. We feel certain that each car scratch remover was tested and judged equally.

We were wondering the same thing. The verdict? Yes! Well, some. And only in certain situations. Scratches in your vehicle's clear coat are repairable; anything deeper will probably require a professional. For light scratches like the one in our test, scratch removers really do work.

For the best overall, meaning a combination of time and performance, the Meguiar's Scratch Eraser Kit is our choice. For best results, the Turtle Wax Premium Scratch Repair Kit is superior for completely erasing a light scratch.

Occasionally, and for a price. Since we like doing things ourselves, we set out to see whether these products could remove scratches right in our own garage. If you're uncomfortable with trying to remove a scratch yourself, detailers are a great option—but if the scratch is deep enough, even they might be unable to remove it.

Not for results even close to what a $20 scratch removal kit can do. In fact, using household items to try to repair a scratch can end up costing you far more in the long run. In short—no, and we don't recommend you try it.

Car and Driver and its sibling publications at Hearst Autos represent three of the most influential automotive publications in the world. With the legacies of Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track behind us, the Hearst Autos Gear Team doesn't need to worry about our bottom line. Our picks and recommendations of products and gear are based on testing and knowledge, not hype.

For consistency, this test was conducted in an environment that provided equal testing procedures for each product: the Car and Driver garage. Upon tallying up our findings, we agreed that our test was fair and legitimate—and provided the most complete information for us to recommend our picks.

Read more about our product testing and evaluation process here.