(Updated on May 27, 2022)
If you’ve ever owned a black car, you’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to keep clean and pretty easy to scratch. Sometimes it’s almost like you find a new scratch every time you look at your car.
Why Do Black Cars Scratch So Easily?
Automotive paint consists of primer (on top of bare metal), your paint color, and then a layer of clear coat on top. The clear coat protects the underlying paint color and gives your paint that nice glossy shine.
Clear coat can be pretty soft, depending on the vehicle manufacturer. If you touch the paint with anything but the best automotive detailing supplies, you’re likely to leave scratches in your wake. This is particularly true on manufacturers that use very soft clear coats, such as Subaru.
When you scratch the clear coat, it disrupts the reflection of light. Instead of seeing a perfect reflection, some of the light is scattered in different directions. This will be more apparent from some angles than others. Perhaps you will only notice the scratches in direct sunlight, as well.
How Can I Get Rid of Scratches On My Car?
Many scratches can be easily corrected with a bit of knowledge and elbow grease. These tips can be applied to swirl marks or scratches on any vehicle color.
If you were to look at a cross section of the paint, a scratch would look like a little ditch or ravine. Scratches are visible because they reflect light differently off their uneven surface. Undamaged clear coat allows light to pass straight through to the paint color, with a bit of uniform reflection that gives it a clean, glossy appearance.
Light swirl marks are usually only visible from a few angles, perhaps only in well-lit areas. These are often left by subtle errors in washing technique or light contact from a rough surface. If you notice light swirl marks in your car, you may be able to correct these using a fine detailing polish.
1) Clean the Surface
First, it’s important to make sure the paint surface is perfectly clean. Wash the car and remove any additional contaminants using a clay bar.
Soak the car with detailing spray before you clay bar. Detailing spray acts as a lubricant. Without it, you will introduce more scratches during the clay process.
2) Polish the Clear Coat
Next, apply some polish to a microfiber applicator and buff it onto the surface of the vehicle using firm but moderate pressure. Once finished, wipe the surface with a clean, dry microfiber towel.
2a) Use an Orbital Polisher
This is an optional step, but it makes the job much easier. Use of a dual action or forced rotation polisher may help get rid of deeper clear coat scratches much more quickly.
An orbital polisher also lets you apply a more consistent, uniform pressure across the surface of the paint.
3) Wax the Car
Once you’re finished polishing, you’re going to want to apply a layer of wax to the paint. Wax protects the paint from UV damage and further contaminants.
After you wax a car, you’ll notice it repels water. This makes the car easier to clean the next time you wash it.
Tips for Black Car Owners
If you want to keep your black car looking really nice or restore its condition, here are some things you may want to keep in mind.
Tip #1: Don’t Overdo the Orbital
Orbital polishers can be tricky to use. It’s very easy to remove more clear coat than you intended, and you can even polish straight through the paint if you’re not careful. When polishing, you want to remove as little of the clear coat as possible.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. If you have deep scratches, you may not be able to get the paint looking perfect without compromising the integrity of the clear coat, or even the paint underneath.
When in doubt, it’s best to take your vehicle to a professional detailer for paint correction work.
Tip #2: Get a Ceramic Coating
A ceramic coat is a very hard coating that is applied to the top of the paint. This coating repels water and other contaminants, such as bug guts and bird droppings. Ceramic coatings are extremely effective at preventing light scratches.
If you scratch a car that has a ceramic coating applied, the ceramic coat may take the hit instead of the clear coat. In this case, a light polish to the ceramic may be enough to restore the paint to its original shine.
You don’t have to rely on a professional detailer to get a ceramic coating. There are products on the market that make it very easy for you to do this job in your own garage.
Sometimes the ceramic coat needs to be stripped and reapplied. However, this is still better than having to eat into your clear coat to repair the scratch.
Tip #3: Get a Paint Protection Film
Paint protection film (also called clear bra or PPF) is a clear, plastic urethane film that is applied to the paint like a vinyl wrap. The film is designed to take impacts and reduce the likelihood of scratches getting through to the car’s paint underneath.
Nothing is more effective at preventing scratches than a paint protection film. You can opt to have just the front of the car wrapped to save costs. Some people wrap the entire car in PPF, then ceramic coat on top of the PPF for maximum protection.