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How To Buff Out Scratches On A Black Car

Black is an interesting choice for a colour on your car. Some might say it's a tad dull or uninspiring. That said, black is a very neutral colour that will always look good practically anywhere, and in any lighting or weather. Plus, you're able to fly low under the radar compared to driving in something that's bright red or sunflower yellow. It's no wonder then why black is such a popular colour. 

According to the DVLA, black remains by far the most sought-after shade of paint in the UK. Yet, there is one very severe drawback with black, or any other darkened colour - scratches. You may not be seen so often in a black car, but those scratches, scuffs, dings, and chips will show up far more prominently in a black (or very dark) car than anything else, a tad overdramatised than it really is.

Does Black Scratch More Easily?

Now, a particularly odd myth that goes around is how black paint somehow gets scratched more easily. That's not true, as it's basically the same formulation underneath as any other colour, no matter how dark or light they might be. Thus, they both have the same properties when faced with damage. However, those scratches are often deep enough to penetrate to the surface of your car

The steel bodywork below is a shiny metallic colour. Even if it does expose only the primer - which goes before the paint, sitting between it and the car's bare paneling - there's still a sharp contrast in colour from black. This contrast is why scratches and scuffs on black cars appear more visible than on lighter colours. On the bright side, at least black is just as easy to fix as any other hue.

The Fix (And The Prep)

But first and foremost before we think about buffing out those scratches on your blackened car, we first need to get it cleaned up. After all, we don't want contaminants, particles, dirt, or anything else to get in the way. These also include layers of old wax, some ceramic coating that you may have on there before, dead bugs, bird droppings, debris, markings, brake dust, and so on. 

Washing your car is simple enough. Have two or three buckets - one for clean water, and the others for rinsing away the contaminants - and a sponge or mitt. Then, have some soap ready. Make sure you're not using household solutions like dish soap either, as that's a degreaser that could strip out any protective layers you have on your car. Instead, use some proper car washing shampoo.

Then, hose it down, and dry it thoroughly with a microfibre towel. Once the cleaning part is done, you'll have to discern the type, or in other words, the severity of the scratch that you're trying to fix. Some scratches are far deeper, and thus harder to fix than others. We can narrow this down to three types of paint-level scratches:

Clearcoat Scratches - The most common type of scratch, and is the easiest to fix. It's a fairly minor problem to have, as the scratch has merely affected the transparent top layer clearcoat of the paint, and hasn't yet pierced into the basecoat below.

Deeper Paint Scratches - This is where the scratch has gone through the clearcoat and has damaged the actual (black) paint itself. Sometimes, the scratches are deep enough to affect the bottom-most primer. This is a harder fix, as it requires you to touch up the scuffed paintwork.

Paint Transfer Scratches- If you happen to have scraped your car against something else of colour, the paint from that obstacle may - with enough force - transfer its colour and stick it onto your car. This can go both ways in seriousness, as the new paint may either affect only the clearcoat, or it could've gone into the basecoat itself.

Remember that paints have several layers - the primer below that bonds the paint on top to the bare metal or plastic body, the basecoat that carries the colour of your car, and the clearcoat that forms a transparent protective layer on top. 

You can tell the type of scratch you have using the fingernail test. Run your nails along the length of the scratch. If it catches onto something, it means that the scratch has gone through the clearcoat. However, if there's no resistance at all, then it tells you that the scratch is very likely only surface-level damage.

1. Clearcoat Scratches

You'll need some very fine - 2,000 to 3,000 grit - sandpaper. Soak the sandpaper in water, and then wet sand the scratched up area very gently. Even it out until the scratch is no longer visible, and do be careful not to remove the clearcoat. Keep at it until the scratch is no longer visible, and then give your car a wash to remove all the sandpaper residue. Then, dry it with a microfibre towel.

2. Deeper Paint Scratches

This will be more difficult to repair. You'll first have to sand down the surface once more, using a coarser grade - roughly 1,500 grit - of sandpaper to peel away the clearcoat, basecoat, and the primer too if that's been affected. You're recommended to use the wet sanding technique for this one to help expedite the process. Keep sanding until you reach the bottom-most pit of the scratch.Then, you can apply the primer. It needs only a thin application, and do wait until this dries before moving on. Once the primer's all dried up, you can start to add the basecoat colour, which in this case, is black. Make sure you buy a matching colour of touch-up paintsolution, which will either come as a paint pen or a brush for you to apply it. It's not a large surface area, after all. 

Start brushing or painting the touch-up paint. You may need more than one layer of basecoat to get a better look, and to ensure that it's level with the surrounding paintwork. Apply one coat, and then let it dry to apply another or two more layers. Once that's dried out, you could move on to applying the clearcoat, and then letting that one dry further. It might take a few hours per coat to dry.

3. Paint Transfer Scratches

The thing to bear in mind here is that we only want to remove the transferred paint. To do this, we will need some lubricant, which you can very easily substitute for a bottle of WD40. Spray some of it onto the scuffed up area to soften up the paint, and be careful not to be overzealous. Only use the lubricant on the damaged zones to prevent it from affecting the rest of your car's paint.

Once the WD40 or any other lubricant has been applied, grab a foam sponge, and dunk it in warm water. Then, just keep scrubbing until the transferred paint comes off. As you're doing this, scrub it in the same direction to follow along the length of the scratch. You can spray on more lubricant to make this easier, as scrubbing it off with the sponge may require a lot of muscle