How To Fix Keyed Car: Clear Coat and Deep Scratches

How to fix keyed car is easy if you know what you’re doing and follow the steps carefully. Begin by washing the scratched area thoroughly and outlining it using painter’s tape.

How To Fix Keyed Car

Protect the unaffected areas around the scratch with old newspapers, then wet sand the scratch with fine-grit sandpapers (apply the primer and/or touch-up paint if the mark is deep). Find the detailed step-by-step guide below, and after that, we will give you practical tips to protect your car from getting more key scratches.

How To Remove Keyed Scratches From Your Car

To remove keyed scratches from your car, wash the vehicle thoroughly, then outline the scratch using painter’s tape. Wet sand the area using fine-grit sandpapers, and for a deep mark apply the primer and/or touch-up paint, depending on the depth. Lastly, apply a clean coat, then buff and polish.

Car keying is upsetting and can be expensive to repair. Unfortunately, it’s common in this country and can be deliberate or accidental. A jealous, drunk, angry, or conflicting neighbor or workmate can deliberately key your car’s paint to frustrate you as an act of intimidation or revenge. Whether yours was an accident (perhaps when moving around vehicles in a tight, busy spot) or intentional, it’s essential to know how to fix it.

And for those asking, “Someone keyed my car can I press charges?”, the answer is yes. You can call 101 (non-emergency police) and report anyone who intentionally damages your car (vandalism) to the police. If the culprit is yet to be found, the police may issue a crime reference number, which you can use to make an insurance claim.

Does that mean car insurance covers this type of damage? It may be because car keying is believed to be vandalism that many comprehensive insurance options do cover it. Unless your car insurance policy states explicitly otherwise, it should pay for the damage.

Get in touch with your insurance company for further assistance. If the company doesn’t help, you may have to take the vehicle to an auto body shop (search on the web “keyed car repair near me”) and fit the bills (costs between $150 for light scratches and up to $1,450 for a deep scratch) from your own pocket.

But a DIY car scratch repair can save you that money. So, let’s show you how to fix a keyed car on your own in detail.

1. Tools You’ll Need:

  • Warm water in a bucket and car soap or Torque Detail’s Decon Soap
  • 2 or more clean microfiber towels/cloths
  • Masking tape (painter’s tape)
  • Old newspapers
  • 2000-grit and 1500-grit sandpapers
  • Suitable touch-up paint (with pens, dropper-sized bottles, and brush included)
  • Car spray paint (an alternative to touch-up paint)
  • Buffing compound and buffing pads
  • Cord drill
  • A suitable car polish or wax

2. Wash the Scratched Area Thoroughly

Dirt and debris can worsen the paint scratches. So, you must first wash the car, particularly the affected area. You can use warm water and regular car shampoo for the cleaning. However, it would be best to purchase torque detail’s decon soap.

Washing Key Scratched Area

The soap is formulated to decontaminate the vehicle’s surface and extract contaminants, such as brake dust and iron deposits, which ordinary car soap may not remove. Use a clean microfiber cloth to rub the soap on the car’s surface. Once all the dirt is out, wash the surface with plenty of water. After that, dry the surface using a dry, clean microfiber towel.

3. Protect the Car Against Further Damage

Outline the scratched area using painter’s tape to prevent further damage to the paint job while trying to fix the imperfection. Also, using old newspapers to protect a more expansive area would be best. Doing so will allow you to do the repairs without putting other parts of the car paint at risk.

4. Wet Sand the Scratch

The amount of sanding will depend on the scratch’s depth. So, first determine how deep the gash is by sprinkling some soapy water on it. Wipe the water dry using a microfiber cloth. If the scratch disappears for a moment, then reappears, it’s probably a clean (clear) coat mark. But if it doesn’t seem to disappear, it’s a deep keyed car scratch, and you’ll likely see the paint layers below.

In case you’re wondering, cars have three paint layers. Experts refer to the outermost layer as the clear coat (clean coat) because it’s colorless. The layer protects the base coat (undercoat), which lies under it, from harmful UV rays and other environmental hazards. The base layer provides the paint color as the main constituent of a vehicle’s paint.

Under the layer lies the primer, sprayed into a car’s metal surface to facilitate an even bonding between the undercoat and the car’s exterior. If your scratch is a clean coat, grab a 2000-grit sandpaper and soak it in water.

Wet-sand the scratched surface in circular motions until the scratch is barely visible. As you do that, apply gentle pressure to even out the dent without causing further damage. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe the smoothened surface clean.

To repair a scratch that has penetrated the clear coat, begin with the 1500-grit sandpaper and wet-sand the scratch vertically. Once you even it out, wipe it clean using the cloth, then take a 2000-grit sandpaper and continue wet sanding the area. Use overlapping strokes up and down and then side to side.

Ensure the scratch has evened out, then wipe the surface with a microfiber towel. As stated, the amount of sanding depends on the scratch depth. You’ll need to sand more if it’s too deep (if it has exposed the primer).

5. Apply the Primer and Touch-up Paint

You can skip to step #6 if you’re dealing with a clean coat scratch and step #5 if the scratch is at the undercoat level. You’ll need to apply at least two coats of primer if the scratch is deep down to the car’s metal surface.

So, to learn how to fix deep scratches on car, apply the first coat of the primer and allow it enough time (at least 30 minutes) to dry thoroughly. Next, smoothen the surface by wet sanding it using fine 2000-grit sandpaper in a circular motion.

Now clean it with the microfiber cloth. Repeat the steps for the second coat. Once completely dried, apply the touch-up paint (or the undercoat with the appropriate OEM paint code). You can also use spray paint by holding the spray can about 6 inches away from the scratched surface and administering numerous thin coats with a steady side-to-side motion.

Release the can tip at the end of each pass. After that, even out any paint trickles using a brush and allow each coat time to dry. Repeat the movements until there’s no difference in height between the new and the old paint level.

6. Apply a Clean Coat

As mentioned, you can skip this step if the keyed car damage is a clear coat mark. But if it has gone a bit deeper, the surface will need a clean coat. So, apply the protective layer gently and evenly (just like you’ve used the touch-up paint).

Car Clean Coat

Remember that the clean coat comes after the touch-up paint (or undercoat) for intense car scratches. Once you’ve applied the coat accordingly and allowed it to dry, wet-sand the area again to smoothen it before taking the tape and the newspaper out.

7. Buff the Surface

Buffing will help to cover up any low spots that remain in the scratched area. Using a power drill, you’ll need to apply a suitable rubbing compound (the best key scratch remover) on the surface, then buff it at about 1,900 RPM.

Ensure the buffer only remains on one spot for a short time. Move it up and down to enable the scratch remover to get into all the low spots. Repeat this step until the results are satisfactory.

8. Polish the Surface

Apply your polish (wax) onto the scratch, and then use a different buffing pad to buff the surface at 1,900 RPM. You want to ensure that the cloudy appearance is gone. Once you’re through, use a microfiber towel to wipe off any excess polish. As mentioned, execute the steps above only if you’re sure you can do it. Otherwise, we recommend that you seek the help of a car body detailer.

Polishing Car Surface

Sometimes professional scratch removal is expensive but can prevent a mistake that can cause more problems than you already have. Once you’ve fixed the keying issue, you’ll want to ensure that it doesn’t happen again; check out the tips below.

How To Prevent Your Car From Keyed Scratches?

To prevent your car from keyed scratches, always park properly and in secure places with cameras. At home, park the vehicle in an enclosed garage or well-lit space and consider installing CCTV cameras. Installing a car alarm and dashboard cameras can help deter and identify keying-perpetrators.

  • Park the Car in Secured Areas

Always park your car in secured places, possibly with CCTV cameras, where vehicle-keying perpetrators can easily get caught. If the parking area lacks cameras, ensure it’s an open and visible spot to discourage potential keying perpetrators.

  • Park in an Enclosed Space or Install Cameras

Park the car in an enclosed garage at home to protect the vehicle from getting keyed and the elements. If you don’t have a garage, park in a sufficiently-lit area with a people area. Alternatively, consider installing security cameras to help monitor the car. If the vehicle gets keyed, you can use the footage to catch culprits and as evidence in court.

  • Park Your Car Properly

Park your car in the center of the lines or designated area. That will leave enough space between your vehicle and the vehicles parked on both sides. Parking off-center will probably frustrate other motorists who want to park in the adjacent areas. Frustrated motorists can key your incorrectly parked car to settle scores.

  • Install a Car Alarm and Dashboard Cameras

An alarm won’t directly prevent vehicle keying because perpetrators may not know it’s there. However, it will help catch them by altering you or the people around you on time.

Car Alarm and Dashboard Cameras

If you already have a car alarm, turn it on whenever you leave the vehicle. Like the CCTV cameras, the dashboard cameras will help you identify the keying-culprit.

Will Fixing Deep Scratches on my Car also Fix the Issue of a Hood Not Opening?

There are popular causes and solutions for car hood not opening. However, fixing deep scratches on your car may not directly address the issue. Deep scratches usually affect the vehicle’s exterior appearance rather than mechanical components like the hood latch. To resolve a hood not opening problem, it’s crucial to examine the latch mechanism or seek professional assistance.


You’ve learned how to fix keyed cars at home, and it’s not as difficult as you might have imagined.

Let’s summarize the guide:

  • Wash the keyed area thoroughly to remove dirt and debris that can escalate the damage as you work on it.
  • A clear coat scratch only requires light wet sanding, then buff it with a rubbing compound (find the fitting keyed car repair kit on the market) and finish by polishing it with suitable car wax.
  • If the scratch has penetrated the clean coat only to the base coat level, you’ll sand, apply a new clear coat, then buff and wax it.
  • For a profound mark, apply at least two coats of primer with wet sanding between each coat, then the touch-up paint, clean coat, and finish by buffing and polishing.
  • Always park your car correctly and securely to protect it from potential keyed scratch damage.

We now leave you to implement the scratch repair steps and restore the showroom shine on your car. Don’t hesitate to seek an expert’s help if you need it.

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