Scratches and swirls are a real pain on a car's paintwork, but these products can help eliminate them.
Scratch removers can make your car look new again. Finding a new scratch in the paint job of your vehicle, whether it's from a traffic scrape or an abandoned grocery cart, can feel like the most frustrating thing in the world. Still, the more you take your car out of the garage and onto the road, the more likely it is that your car will get dinged, scratched or nicked. Considering how expensive our vehicles are, it's hard to see them looking rough and beat up. These imperfections don't have to be permanent, though. Scratch removers are designed to help, and the best car scratch remover options can help erase your car's bad day and improve the appearance of your car.
We take the vehicles that pass through the CNET garage a lot of places and superficial scratches and swirls are inevitable. That means we're exactly the right people to test out different scratch removers -- we want to keep those cars looking top-notch. As such, we've spent a considerable amount of time sampling various car paint scratch removers, rubbing compounds and polishes to see which products remove a shallow scratch and restore your paint job with just a microfiber cloth and some elbow grease, and which ones don't live up to the hype. Below you'll find our top picks for the best car scratch remover brands so you can have confidence when combating paint defects. Read on and see which one is right for you and for some pro tips.
A quick caveat, though: If you have a deep scratch, these might not do the trick. For deeper scratch issues, a car paint expert is probably in order.
Read more: The 10 Best Car Waxes for 2022
Overall, Meguiar's Ultimate Compound is a friend to anyone trying to remove a scratch or other surface imperfection from their car paint. It's affordable compared to similar rubbing compound products, and frankly, does exactly what it's meant to do: remove scratches and swirls from a clear coat. It also breathes new life into tired or cloudy-looking paint. Better yet, you don't need a dual-action polisher to apply Ultimate Compound as it's totally safe to use by hand. But, if you really want excellent results, it's best to invest in some sort of polisher. Plus, working a whole car by hand with a microfiber towel is quite the job. Trust us, we know.
Ultimate Compound works on clear-coated cars and isn't incredibly harsh, so you don't need to fret about creating new swirls with this compound. Do know you'll need to follow this product with a polishing compound to restore shine to car paint, however. After that, your car will look like a million bucks.
Mothers California Gold Scratch Remover truly is a budget pick if you really need to save $10. It's nowhere near as effective as Meguiar's Ultimate Compound, but then again, this isn't a compound. It's a polish designed to fill in very light scratches around door handles, or a minor scratch on a car's paint on other areas. Yes, it works on surface scratches, but it will not work miracles. If you've got tougher, deeper scratches on your hands, California Gold Scratch Remover probably isn't the right product.
If you do have fine scratches in some typical areas of the car, we noticed them fill in quite well after following the manufacturer's directions. For less than $10, it ain't too shabby to remedy a minor car surface scuff mark.
We're big, big fans of one-step products here. If you can achieve excellent results while cutting the work time in half, by all means, we're here for it. Chemical Guys' VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover is a wonderful combo product that combines a compound, polish and cleaner elements into one.
We recommend using this stuff with a dual-action polisher for the best results (especially if you plan on doing an entire car's exterior) but you can work VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover in by hand with some elbow grease. It's just a lot more work. The results, if you use patience and follow the instructions, are tremendous if your car wears loads of swirl marks and ultrafine scratches. You won't be disappointed if you take your time to restore your car's glossy finish with this stuff.
If scratches you wouldn't consider ultrafine bog your paintwork down, Carfidant can help save the day. We're not talking giant scratches, but if you have some pesky surface scratch imperfections worse than swirls or a medium scratch, Carfidant's Scratch and Swirl Remover does a superb job at more difficult jobs.
The neat thing about this car scratch removal product is Carfidant says it's also a paint restorer, though it doesn't cut like a compound does. In our experience, paint did shine with some more depth after use, which is really a bonus to a scratch removal product. We also love that it's super easy to work with by hand with a microfiber cloth, or with a basic orbital polisher. It even comes with its own hand buffer.
This isn't the first time we've talked about 3D One Professional Cutting, Polishing and Finishing Compound. We included it in our 10 best car waxes roundup because so many people ask for a wax that fixes scratches. The truth is, car wax doesn't fix a scratch in a car's finish. It can bury and hide it, but it won't fix it.
Frankly, 3D One's product is downright awesome. It combined a cutting compound, polish and finishing compound in a single bottle. All you need is a dual-action polisher, the proper polishing pad and you can make an old, tired car's paint filled with scratches look top notch once again. No product on this list removes scratches deep enough to stick your finger nail in, but if you have a tough job on your hands, we can't stress enough how 3D One is worth every single penny.
While we love one-step products, perhaps you're light on accessories and the stuff needed to complete scratch repair. Adam's Car Scratch & Swirl Remover Hand Correction System comes with two applicator pads so you have fresh tools to work with and don't need to worry about finding something that works well with these products. The only thing you'll still need that isn't included with this scratch removal kit are some microfiber towels to wipe away the product.
The scratch repair kit comes with two products -- a scratch and swirl remover and a hand polish. The first more abrasive compound does the tough work of buffing out moderate scratches and imperfections, while the hand polish restores a lovely luster to the paint. It worked quite well in our testing and sits as a great buy for those that need everything to get started.
|Best scratch remover||Brand||Name||Price|
|For the money||Mothers||California Gold Scratch Remover||$8|
|Ultrafine scratches||Chemical Guys||VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover||$20|
|Small scratches||Carfidant||Scratch and Swirl Remover||$20|
|Deep scratches||3D||One Professional Cutting, Polishing and Finishing Compound||$28|
|Complete kit||Adam's||Car Scratch & Swirl Remover Hand Correction System||$27|
With patience, the right scratch removal product, elbow grease and more patience, you can take scratches and swirls out of your car's paintwork. It may take some work, but we promise the end result is absolutely worth the time and effort put into it. Follow these products with one of our top wax picks for added protection and the whole neighborhood will wonder who detailed your ride.