Fix Deep Scratches and Key Marks

Alright, here is a how to guide for you to follow that will give you a step by step to fix deep scratches and key marks on your car.

You’re likely here because some jerkoff that was probably dropped on his head as a kid has decided that it might be a good idea to key your car. You obviously didn’t see the punk because you are here and not in jail and/or a court house suing for damages. Actually, you’re probably cussing at the fact that you’re likely out of pocket anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand bucks that it’s going to cost you in body work to fix the deep scratches in your paint. Well, my car got keyed…bad, and I managed to fix it without spending more than about 100$ (including beer) to get her looking almost new again.To give you an idea of what I was working with and just how deep scratches on my paints surface were, here is some of the damage that I had.

Deep scratches and key marks

Deep scratches and key marks front of car

So here is a step-by-step how-to that you can go about that will lead to the fixing of those deep scratches and key marks in your paint so that you can keep on enjoying your baby in this nice weather. What you’ll need:

  • Touch up paint matching the paint colour of your car. Spray can is the easiest way. Do Not buy the Pens.
  • Clear Coat (spray can)
  • Cheese Cloth
  • Rubbing Compound (turtle wax)
  • Polishing Compound (meguiars)
  • Rags/microfiber cloth
  • Polish/wax applicator pads
  • Quixx Scratch repair (Quixx site)
  • Painters Tape
  • Newspaper
  • Polish (I use this stuff, Best stuff in my opinion. Mothers polish)
  • Caranuba wax (I use this stuff, it’s amazing. Mothers wax get the 16oz liquid, it’s easier to work with)
  • Case of Cold Beer

* I added links to the products I used above due to the many emails asking for specifics on what I use. 

Step 1) Wash your car. Get all that dirt and grime off of it so that you can see the extent of the damage much more clearly.

Step 2) Take your finger nail and feel the scratch. Does your finger nail get caught on the edges of the scratch or does it still feel smooth? If You can feel the scratch with your nail, you are through the clear coat and into the paint and this is considered a deep scratch. Continue to follow this guide to help restore the looks of your car. If the scratch is smooth then refer to the “How to fix minor scratches” guide (coming soon).

Step 3) The deep scratch has probably created somewhat of an edge, lets try and smooth it all out by hitting it with a round of rubbing compound. So lets start out with the preliminary stage of repair.

1) Apply rubbing compound to a cloth (I like Cheese cloth for this). I also recommend doing this by hand; as using a buffer with rubbing compound can destroy paint very, very quickly. Take the rubbing compound and begin applying it to the scratch in a circular motion. Work a small section at a time (roughly 3.5″ wide). Apply this for maybe 15-20 seconds per section. Don’t push too hard, let the cloth do the work while applying only a tiny bit of pressure (think about the same kinda pressure you use to dry the car after a wash)

2) Take a separate clean cloth and wipe/clean away the rubbing compound. Don’t mind the dullness that is present in your worked paint sections at this time. Don’t worry, this wasn’t suppose to fix your scratch/keying…but the scratch might look a tad skinnier right now (maybe, maybe not)

3) wash this tiny section down that you have just applied rubbing compound to. This step is EXTREMELY important. MAKE SURE you get ALL the rubbing compound OUT of the scratch. Remember, this is a deep scratch, which means content/residue can hide in the crevice. This area MUST be spotless. Once clean move on to step 4

Step 4) This is the hardest part, mainly due to the fact that the inconsiderate goof probably didn’t key/scratch your car in a perfectly straight line, if he did, consider yourself lucky. What you are going to need to do here is take painters tape and very carefully tape the outline of the scratch so that absolutely nothing is showing but the scratch itself. I recommend doing the bottom of the scratch first (entirely) and then taping the top to match (or vice-versa). Take your time here, if you cover part of the scratch it will not get painted, if you leave a painted portion uncovered, it will look like crap. Be very diligent taping the section off, Let me make myself extremely clear here….When you look in between your two lines of painters tape, you should not see anything other than the white from the scratch. If You have multiple deep scratches directly on top of one another (in other words they are touching each other), unfortunately this is going to take you a couple of weeks to repair as you can only do 1 scratch at a time and the paint needs 1 week to cure) Do not try and glob paint on here to cover multiple scratches if you cannot get painters tape in between the scratches to protect the “good” existing paint you need to do it in sections I’m sorry. Alright, so you’re done taping off the scratch, now take some newspaper and tape it to the remaining good paint in the immediate vicinity to protect the rest of the good paint. Don’t be skimpy here, you want room to overspray your can so you get a nice clean sweeping motion that is uninterrupted later. You don’t want to get over spray either from the touch-up paint or the clear coat on the rest of the paint. Here is an idea of what I am talking about (I already started painting when I snapped this picture that is why you see the black paint line, and it is much thicker than the scratch.)

fixing and painting deep scratches and key marks

Step 5) take an alcohol pad and wipe the scratch one last time. I can’t stress how important it is to have this area clean. If it’s not clean, your paint will not adhere properly.

Step 6) Now you are ready to begin applying the paint. Whether you are using a brush or a spray can, make sure you apply very even layers. Don’t worry about if your first pass with the paint has not covered the entire scratch. Follow the directions of your touch up paint, most instructions tell you to apply your coats within 10 minutes of each other. Take your time and apply 3-4 coats of paint. On your last coat you can go a tad thicker, but thin even coats are best.

**Note if your scratch is right down to bare metal you’ll want to put on 1 coat of primer paint before you paint the area. If you are not down to bare metal than primer is not needed. I painted mine with a brush because my touch up paint was water-based and in a jar (given to me by a body shop that had painted a part for me in the past) What this entire process is doing is filling in the deep scratch to build it back up to the height of the original paint.

fixing and painting deep scratches and key marks in rear of car

Step 7) Now it is time to apply the clearcoat. This follows the same rules as the paint above, continue to apply the coats within 10 minutes of each other (or follow the directions on the can). This will likely come in a spray can, so again, apply 3 even thin coats to the scratch. Apply this in nice full sweeps of the scratch. Note that with the clearcoat it may look as if when you swept across the scratch nothing applied, it did, remember, this stuff is clear. Don’t keep trying to cake it on, take my word for it, it’s there.

Step 8) Immediately after you have applied your final coat of clearcoat, begin slowly and carefully pulling the tape off. Because you have painted such a thin line, you don’t want it to dry on the tape and possibly be pulled off later when you go to remove the tape, remove the tape now. Note that at this point the scratch will look awful. The paint and clearcoat will have created a raised bump, the part that was scratched will now sit higher than the rest of the paint. Don’t worry about that, this is what is suppose to happen, just don’t touch it…let it be.

Don’t move on to step 9 until a minimum of 7 days have passed to let the paint fully cure on the car.

Step 9) Back to using the rubbing compound. Follow the same exact steps you did in step 1. When completed move on to step 10.

Step 10) Apply polishing compound. Note that this is polishing compound and not polish (please click on the materials link at the beginning to see the difference), there is a difference and people sometimes get them confused. Apply the polishing compound the exact same way that you would the rubbing compound in the step above. When done, move on to step 11.

Step 11) Crack out that package of Quixx. This stuff is phenomenal and one of the key reasons that this comes out so nicely. Follow their instructions. Start with the piece of sandpaper provided. Wet it and begin working on one side of what was your deep scratch. The only pressure you should use here is enough to hold it on the surface of the paint, very light. Keep it flat with your two fingers and rub it in a circular motion on the scratch. Do about a 1inch section at a time. **Note that you can only sand once for a maximum of 15 seconds. Do not do more than this as you will destroy your surrounding clearcoat. I sanded my scratch for only about 10 seconds working an inch section at a time as I worked all the way down the entire length of the scratch. Make sure that you keep the sandpaper wet or it will not work/slide nicely. Don’t go buying your own sandpaper either, this isn’t your run of the mill stuff at your local store. Use what is provided in the package

Step 12) Apply tube 1 (as labelled) on the cloth that they give you. You need to apply a lot of pressure here, so make sure you are doing this on a day that you haven’t just come from the gym with jello arms. I worked about a 4 inch section at a time. Work this paste into the scratch for a minimum of 2 minutes per section. Be sure to wipe off any excess when finished.

Step 13) Apply tube 2 (as labelled) on the other cloth they give you (DO NOT use the same cloth you used for tube 1 with tube 2) Same thing as with tube 1, work a 4inch section with A LOT of pressure for a minimum of 2 minutes before moving on.

Step 14) Almost done. Apply polish (not polishing compound!!) to the scratch. Work it in a small section at a time. For this step you can use a buffer if you are familiar with the operations of it, if not, continue to use your hand. Follow the instructions for your Polish here. Mine stated to let it haze up, and then wipe it off. I applied 2 coats of polish.

Step 15) Apply your Wax the same way you applied your polish. I like the caranuba wax. Just like the polish, I like putting on two coats of wax.

Step 16) Step back and enjoy your hard work. You no longer have any deep scratches on your car. Best case, you can’t see  the scratch anymore. Worst Case, you can’t see it from about 2-3 feet away if you have done this properly. This is how my scratches came out. Note that on the rear panel you can still see the scratches on the fuel door. This is because I did not address/paint those at this time. Deep scratches and key marks repaired in rear of car   Deep scratches and key marks repaired at front of car 2Deep scratches and key marks repaired at front of car

Step 17) If this guide helped you- share it! Put it on Facebook, twitter, google plus, pin it, reddit, etc. Post it on your car forums- I don’t want money or anything superficial, I want the satisfaction of knowing this helped someone else out of a bad day of misfortune!

54 comments for “Fix Deep Scratches and Key Marks

  1. Josh M.
    January 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    What if my car is not black?

    • Tech
      July 1, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Works for any colour- Actually, when I finally get around to fixing a few scratches on my sunset orange metallic Camaro (which I just bought not too long ago and it came with a few scratches) I’ll post up the pictures! So far I’ve done black and silver cars with great results!

  2. Justin
    January 16, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    How do I contact the original poster of this article? Id like to ask why only a couple feet of the scratch were taped off on the front fender and the rear quarter panel when the scratch ran up the entire side of the car! There wasnt any documentation or statements on this. Im assuming they got most of the scratch out with the compound and only repainted what was actually “deeper” or through the clearcoat? Basically, the way the article looks, there should be several feet of unfixed scratch and only about 15 inches before the front door and mabey 20-24 inches on the rear quarter that are fixed. Im not bashing or trolling, Im actually wanting to apply this method to a depp scratch that went through the clearcoat on my truck but do not want to paint and clear un-necessary areas or leave exposed scratched areas. Can I assume that what rubbing compound doesnt remove must be painted and cleared or are there other steps to try to remove marks before actually painting? I really do appreciate this article!!

  3. April 16, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks for making this great guide Im gonna have a go at doing mine tomorrow anythings better than looking at those scratches :-)

    • Patient
      July 28, 2014 at 10:19 am

      How did the steps work out for you?

  4. David A.
    May 23, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Those scratches pissed me off… and it’s not even my car! I also have some scratched to take care of and will be following this guide.

    • Lisa
      June 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Will this also work on a bumper that is not metal? Thanks..

      • Tech
        July 1, 2014 at 8:59 pm

        Yes, actually funny thing is the Camaro was hit across 3 panels, all of which were different materials- ironically enough that makes for the perfect “classroom example” I suppose you could call it (let’s try and take some good out of this situation that occurred!) The 3 panels on the Camaro were metal, plastic, and a fiberglass carbonate.

  5. Craig
    June 9, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to fill in people who are not in the industry. Sometimes you don’t want someone you don’t know messing with your car (Harley in my case)

    • Tech
      July 1, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      No problem- it’s always a good feeling to know I’ve helped other people not feel as sick as I did that day and not feel like they have to break the bank to do it!

  6. Johnathan
    June 11, 2014 at 2:45 am

    Couldn’t a person use a fine artist’s brush instead of spraying or the pens? Just curious.

    • Tech
      July 1, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      You could, but I found early on that the bristles seem to come off of the brush and it is a little bit more difficult to get an even coat when using a brush. I prefer a spray can having done it both ways now.

  7. Jevan
    August 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I scratched my friends blue STI on the back trunk portion of the car, one is a deep scratch the other is a shallow scratch. Should this guide work if his car isn’t black?

  8. natasha
    August 6, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    how would i go about finding the right color match for my car? should i go to a body shop? and car paint comes in spray cans or is there no certain type of paint that should be used?

    • Tech
      August 28, 2014 at 11:09 pm

      Try going to the dealer unless you are able to find a specialty paint colour match shop for Automotive paint. I know of one in Toronto, but that doesn’t help if you’re not from around here!

      • Monika
        September 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm

        I found the paint color online via google search and bought mine on

      • April 7, 2015 at 12:25 pm

        where in toronto did you find the paint match? I’m from scarborough ontario myself

  9. Sly
    August 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    I have a pretty large scrape at the bottom of my rear passenger door. Don’t have any idea how it got there. It’s probably half an inch wide and eight inches long. Any idea if this will help much? It’s an older car and I mostly want to protect it from rusting, but paying a pro is 100% out of the question. -___-

    • Tech
      August 28, 2014 at 11:10 pm

      it will definitely help, although being 1.5″ wide I doubt that you will full be able to blend it to make it disappear, but it is worth a shot! Worst case, getting a coat of something on there will prevent the rusting like you want.

      It is just tough to say as I have not repaired a scratch that wide before…

  10. August 26, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Brilliant Post and really nicely done. It’s a shame people do this to cars, it’s like there’s a universal group of car keying enthusiasts because we arent lucky enough to escape this in the UK either! It’s frustrating to say the least!

    • Tech
      August 28, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      Yep, people like that everywhere. It’s terrible that no one has morals or responsibility anymore!

  11. Justine
    September 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    What do you mean by tube 1 and 2 in steps 12 and 13?

    • Tech
      September 30, 2014 at 9:15 am

      The quixx’s kit comes with two tubes of liquid labelled 1 and 2- I am referring to the kit contents as it is one of the reasons why I got this type of outcome on my car.

  12. Eddy
    September 29, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    What if the scratch is like a scrape as in a small chunk of the paint got scraped off?

    • Tech
      September 30, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Tough to say if it will come out just as good- I haven’t repaired a “flake”.

      I would imagine it would still come out pretty good since you are building the paint back up to even height with the other paint on the car and then smoothing it out and polishing it up to match. Same concepts still apply…

      • Greg P
        September 10, 2015 at 4:11 pm

        what would be the best way of removing touch-up paint from about 1/5th of the key length. I attempted to use a bottle of the little touch-up paint glass bottles from the local auto-part store but it turned out to be WAY off in color. I now have an exact match in spray cans from Automotive They spent 2 months blending and getting the color to match exactly from a piece of the plastic bumper I sent them. I tried a razor blade but that doesn’t seem to want to get that touch-up paint off of there. HELP!! I’m stuck!!!

  13. October 23, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    If I tape the scratch very closely, won’t that be easy to spot when it’s done? I thought you would have to blend the paint when spraying. Great write up. Going to take a crack at doing my car in the coming weeks…

  14. Bob
    November 1, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Walked into my garage this morning and found that my 2005 silver corvette had been ‘keyed’ while in the parking lot of a hosted Halloween party. I can feel the scratch with my fingernails, but just barely. My finish on the vehicle is like brand new (always garaged and kept clean). I would like to use your technique but feel that the possibility of ‘making it worse’ discourages me from attempting this by myself. The keying line is so thin that taping it would get more ‘good paint’ than ‘key valley’. Is there a technique somewhere between minor scratch and deep scratch?

    • Tech
      November 19, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      I sent you an email- let me know if you need anything further.

  15. Beejay
    November 7, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Hi is there a way that I can send you a pick of the scratch on my car and you can tell me if you think this process would work in my case. Thank you :)

    • Tech
      November 19, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      I sent you an email- Send me the picture, I’ll see what I can do.

      • Barbie
        September 18, 2015 at 3:07 am

        I have some deep & then just minor, not through the clear coat, so can I skip the painting steps on them, mind you it’s the entire car bumper to bumper basically, I bought it that way at an auction & hope to somewhat make it look better! Thanks so much!

  16. victoria meyers
    November 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I have the same question as Beejay

  17. daniel
    November 28, 2014 at 9:33 am

    amazing post, good sense of humour!

  18. daniel
    November 28, 2014 at 9:35 am

    ok, how much is this going to cost me in terms of materials? and is this feasible for someone with no experience? I mean what if the result is worse than the scratch?

  19. Jeremy
    December 11, 2014 at 5:11 am

    Is there any way I can email you a picture of my key marks and get your opinion on how it will be to fix them? I’ve got about 8 of them and I really want to get them fixed already -_-

  20. John Moy
    December 14, 2014 at 11:20 am

    was keyed ( deep scratch into paint ) from front of vehicle to rear. will try your technique to see if the scratch can be remove…

  21. Wanda Powell
    December 15, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Hi, I have a scratch on the bottom of my front bumper of my 2014 Black Camaro. What do you suggest?

  22. sergio altamirano
    January 18, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Hi is there a way that I can send you a pick of the scratch on my car and you can tell me if you think this process would work in my case. Thank you 

  23. SomeGuy
    February 5, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Mate you are an absolute legend, nothing but respect for you to have done this just to help others.

  24. T M
    February 23, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Couple of scratches repaired with a brush sloppily by previous owner or dealership on a 2011 Tundra Barcelona Red Mica color plus a new open wound to the primer or better of my own. Will use technique to fix new damage but how to get the nail polish fix look to go away from the last idiots? I have painted about 20 years residential luba he commercially but need advice on this auto work please.

  25. Ian
    February 26, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I’ve lived with some key scratches on my BMW for ages as i couldn’t afford to get 4 panels done! Coming across your instructions gives me some hope in sorting it myself. :-)
    Question for you is my car is a sparkling Graphite color, will this make it any harder to get a good finish?

  26. Darold
    March 17, 2015 at 8:24 am

    can I send in a picture of my damage, to get your opinion on how to go about fixing it.

  27. M.A.
    March 24, 2015 at 3:20 am

    You are heaven sent mamen. I am soo sad and angry at those envious “jerkoff(s)” that had their head hit or something when they were kids, and suddenly thought of scratching our innocent cars.

    Your couple of first paragraphs really help me feel a bit better, knowing that I am not the only person going through this.

    Still looking for a cheap way to have them scratches (deep and shallow) fixed before I jump-in and use your guide.

    Thank you.

  28. Deependra Joshi
    March 30, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I would like to send you the picture of my car where this big line of visible scratch is. Can you please respond to me so I can send the image?

    Awaiting for your response.

    Deependra Joshi

  29. mike
    April 1, 2015 at 12:25 am

    If your at the point where you know it could not possibly be any worse then I’d say give it a go! I’ve been painting for years but never cars and have a few scratches on my car, this method sounds fine so I will give it a go. Thank you ;~}

  30. Maca
    April 5, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Hey! Thanks for the tutorial , I started following the instructions but I can’t remove all the rust from the scratch, is there anything else I can do??? Thanks!!

  31. Maca
    April 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Also, Mine is a big deep scratch, can I send you some pics, maybe I have to do more things to get it fixed, thanks!!!

  32. Dave
    April 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Lots of good info here! How is the repair holding up? Any lifting/peeling of the clear coat, or paint adhesion problems? Discoloration, etc. Thanks!

  33. May 20, 2015 at 8:40 am

    I have the same questions I have some deep scratches and some light ones how much will the products cost me

  34. Torrie
    May 20, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    OK…Some jerk wrote a bad word in my Range Rover with a key. So it’s not a “line”. Will this method work or will it just take too long?

  35. October 13, 2015 at 7:42 am

    You did a really great job repairing that – I can still see a little line in the petrol flap cover but mostly I think you sorted that out. Actually, I just read that you said that beneath the image, so please ignore. It’s also not always the town jerk-off that does this kind of damage, it’s most often old ladies with shopping trollies that they squeeze into small spaces to pack their car. Either way, it sucks and your guide is very good.

  36. Amu Chan
    December 6, 2015 at 2:36 am

    So glad I found this! My boyfriend’s car got scratched with a stinkin’ key by people in his neighborhood who have a little bit too much time on their hands. Sent this to him, and he’ll be fixing the scratches in the summer, hopefully.

    Thanks a bunch!

  37. Tee
    December 17, 2015 at 11:44 am


    When I select the “Meguiars” link it takes to me to their mirror glaze medium cut cleaner product. I am assuming this is incorrect and I should get their clear coat safe polishing compound?

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