The best car scratch removers to fix those unsightly marks

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Scratches are among the inevitable and unfortunate things that occur no matter how careful you are. At some point, your precious car will get a scratch and you will need to address it. As you can imagine, not all scratches are created equally, as some are deeper than others. However, for most minor and light scratches, or paint transfer marks, you don’t have to go straight to the body shop. Instead, get yourself a bottle of car scratch remover, set aside some time, and attempt the repair before you pay a professional detailer for paint correction or worse, go to a body shop to have something blended.

It is important to note that car scratch removers aren’t miracle workers, and if a scratch is deep into the paint, then a scratch remover may be ineffective. A general rule I tell others, is to run their fingernail across the scratch. If your nail can feel it, it is likely that a car scratch remover won’t do much for you. However, some of these products do work on moderate scratches, but you’ll have to judge whether the scratch has penetrated the paint.

In evaluating car scratch removers, I didn’t just look at their performance, although that was the most important factor. I also assessed their ease of use, and the amount of effort that was required for them to be effective. Some scratch removers may eventually work, but it may take four or five passes before a difference is noticeable. Better products yield quicker results and require less effort.

Below, you will find recommendations for the best car scratch removers, followed by some additional information regarding car scratch removers and their proper use.

1. Top pick: Chemical Guys VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover

chemical guys vss one step scratch and swirl remover

Several years ago, my personal car got a few light scratches on its front bumper and fender. Despite the limited area to work on, I took the opportunity to compare three car scratch removers to see if there was a noticeable difference among them. Now, the scratches I got weren’t terribly deep, but the most effective product I used that day was Chemical Guys’ VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover. It was the easiest to use and performed the best when compared in a side-by-side comparison with Adam’s Scratch & Swirl Remover and Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound.

Chemical Guys states its car scratch remover is formulated with diminishing abrasive technology, designed to cut fast for removing swirls, scratches, and oxidation. As an all-in-one solution, it’ll also finish like a polish. In contrast to other scratch and swirl removers, Chemical Guys claims its product does not merely fill or cover up the defects. The formula works without oils, silicone, or fillers, and is VOC compliant and body-shop safe.

The product is ideal for light to moderate swirl marks and scratches, making it worth trying before you take your car to a body shop. I found it quite easy to apply and remove, and was seeing results after only a single application of the product.

2. Runner-up: Adam’s Scratch & Swirl Remover

adams scratch and swirl remover

Another of the three products I tested that day on my personal car, Adam’s Scratch & Swirl Remover did the job, but required more effort than Chemical Guys’ VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover. I’d say it’s very similar to the top pick in terms of performance, depending on scratch severity. It’s formulated using diminishing micro-alumina abrasives, designed to disintegrate while polishing worn, scratched, or oxidized clear coat. Similar to the Chemical Guys’ product, it doesn’t have any waxes, additives, silicone, or other fillers, so it offers true paint correction.

What I appreciate about this product is that Adam’s includes a polishing foam pad applicator so you can address those scratches right away. Personally, I believe you can’t go wrong with either this option or our top pick, as they’re both high quality products that will tackle light to moderate scratches on your car.

3. For advanced detailers: Griot’s Garage BOSS Fast Correcting Cream

griots garage boss fast correcting cream

For those experienced with detailing and dealing with more severe paint defects, Griot’s Garage BOSS Fast Correcting Cream is worth considering. This product is designed to quickly remove severe defects and though I haven’t personally used it, I’ve received positive feedback from friends who have. As part of Griot’s Garage’s Best of Show System (BOSS), it should be used with a machine polisher for best results.

Featuring “high loads” of sub-micron abrasives, enabling it to address rather severe defects including significant oxidation, moderate to deep scratches, and heavy swirl marks. It requires a bit of effort, hence it’s recommended for advanced detailers. Try this product if you have deeper scratches and the time to invest the necessary elbow grease to get good results.

4. Also consider: Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound

meguiars ultimate compound

Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound is a product I’ve previously used on other cars, and for the price it performs remarkably well. However, note that it works best for light scratches and blemishes, and I would recommend something from higher up on our list for larger defects. But if your scratch really resembles “something that will buff out,” Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound should suffice. Similar to other recommendations, it utilizes micro-abrasive technology and involves some effort. Moreover, if results aren’t visible after the initial application, apply it again. Some scratches may take a few attempts before you begin to notice an improvement.

It can be applied by hand or machine, making it ideal for light scratches and blemishes on your paint. However, it might require multiple applications to achieve results, which is why I have it lower on the list of recommendations.

5. Honorable mention: Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover

carfidant scratch and swirl remover

Though I haven’t personally used Carfidant’s Scratch and Swirl Remover, considering the number of positive reviews it has online, many users seem to have achieved good results. It is frequently a top seller in the category, making us confident to include it as an option. Designed for light scratches and swirls, it acts as a rubbing compound that can also be used to remove water spots and oxidation.

User reviews vary greatly on this product, with most being positive. It’s difficult to judge a car scratch remover solely on user reviews however, since the severity of the damage plays an important role on how effective a product is. Some users may not be aware that certain scratches have completely removed the paint, and in such cases, no car scratch remover is going to fix it.

Do car scratch removers really work?

Indeed, they do, otherwise we wouldn’t be recommending them! However, keep in mind your results will vary, depending on scratch depth. As previously mentioned, a useful rule of thumb I follow is to run your fingernail across the scratch. If the scratch is detectable by your nail, it’s likely that a scratch remover isn’t going to magically make it all go away. For minor scratches or paint transfer marks, a bit of effort with these products will suffice.

How do car scratch removers work?

High-quality car scratch removers should be formulated with polishing agents designed to eliminate surface imperfections. The process typically involves removing a thin layer of your car’s clear coat, which sounds scary but it isn’t. In fact, there shouldn’t be any adverse effects on your paint as long as you correctly polish and wax once you’re done. Through the removal of this thin layer, the scratch’s surface becomes smooth and even. Certain  scratch removers will contain wax or other polymers to fill in deeper abrasions, essentially “covering up” the scratch. The decision is yours whether or not that’s adequate for you.

How do you use a car scratch remover?

Applying most car scratch removers are comparable to applying a coat of wax or polish to your car. Use a buffing pad of sorts to rub the product into your paint, and then buff it off with a separate towel. Before using a car scratch remover, you’ll want to wash your car and dry it properly. Read the instructions that came with your particular product before starting. Once you’re done and happy with the results, apply a coat of wax to protect all your hard work.

Written by Jason Siu

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