Scratching your car and transferring some paint is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a car owner, and yet it is virtually impossible to avoid. Learning how to remove paint transfer from a car will give you peace of mind and enable you to deal with this irritating problem independently.
Getting a new paint job for your vehicle can be expensive and often unnecessary if the area where the paint transfer occurred is relatively tiny.
Removing minor scratches or paint transfers doesn’t require you to be a seasoned auto repair professional, as the process is straightforward and can be completed in less than an hour.
In this article, we will help you understand what the paint transfer is and take you through the entire process step by step.
Table of Contents
What is paint transfer, and why does it occur?
Every time you scratch your car, there is a possibility of trading paint with another painted object. Paint transfer becomes more visible if the object’s paint was much brighter or darker than the color of your vehicle.
Whether you bumped into another car while parking or accidentally ran into a roadside post, some paint can remain on your car. Paint transfers happen if two objects collided with sufficient force to get paint chips from one surface to another.
All cars have multiple layers of paint and protection that shield them from scratches, scuffs, or paint transfers. The primer is the first layer applied to the body panel to ensure the base coat’s strong adhesion to the surface.
The base coat is the second layer of paint, and it defines the car’s color, while the thick transparent coat layer protects the base coat and makes it shiny. Finally, the wax layer enhances the car’s color and makes the paint job more resistant to rain, snow, dust particles, or sun rays.
Assessing the damage
Protective layers are removed when a car collides with another object, which increases the chances of trading paint, especially if the object doesn’t have the same level of protection as the vehicle it collided with.
The transferred paint will remain at the surface if the impact wasn’t forceful, and in this case, removing the base coat layer won’t be necessary. Consequently, you’ll be able to remove the paint that ended up on your car without having to hire professional help.
However, a solid bump to the body panel will embed paint chips into the lower layers of the car’s paint. In this case, you will have to remove all of the car’s paint layers to get rid of the transferred paint.
This process can be complex, so it might be better to get another paint job for your vehicle.
Picking up the supplies
Once you’ve established that you can remove the transferred paint by yourself, you should make a list of the supplies you’re going to need to complete the task. The list is not extensive and none of the items is hard to find.
- A pair of microfiber towels
- Car wash shampoo
- Sandpaper 1500 grit
- Scratch remover
- Rubbing compound
- Car wax
You can also get a bottle of WD-40 if you want to soften the transferred paint before scraping it off with sandpaper. Also, whether or not you’ll have to apply a scratch remover or a rubbing compound depends on how excessive the damage is.
Rubbing compounds and scratch removers can’t always be applied by hand, so you might need an electric buffer if you decide to use these products. Keep in mind that it may not be necessary to use some of the items from this list if the paint transfer is relatively small.
How to remove paint transfer from a car?
The exact amount of time you’re going to need to remove paint transfer from your car depends on the size of the affected area and how excessive is the damage of the car’s paint job.
It is also worth pointing out that scratches and dents usually accompany paint transfers, so besides removing paint you’ll also have to take care of scuffs marks. Let’s go through the steps of the paint transfer removal process.
Wash the affected part
Besides transferring paint and scratches, the damaged part of the car’s exterior can also contain dust, dirt, or other particles that may prevent you from restoring your vehicle’s original look. You can use a car wash soap or shampoo you usually use to clean your car.
Add a car cleaning detergent to water, and then use a microfiber towel to clean the area you want to repair. When done, you should leave your car to dry before proceeding to the next step.
Remove the paint and apply the scratch remover.
At this point, you can apply WD40 to soften the paint, but you should do so carefully to avoid damaging the wax and transparent coat layers of the area that isn’t affected by the paint transfer.
Get the sandpaper and start softly scrubbing off the transferred paint and keep in mind that your goal is to keep the paint’s lower layers intact.
Continue using the sandpaper until there are no more traces of the transferred paint on your vehicle, and then apply scratch remover or the rubbing compound.
The application method depends on the product, so you can use either a microfiber towel or an orbital polisher to apply a scratch remover to the surface you’re repairing. Also, these products can be applied using manual circular or side-to-side rubbing motions.
It is advisable to get an electric buffer if you want to apply a rubbing compound to the damaged area, as applying these products by hand is very difficult. The treated surface should be smooth and without any scratches or blemishes by the time you’re done.
Wax and polish the scratched part
Scratch removers often contain components that help polish and protect the surface you repaired, so chances are that the area you treated already has some protection against dust, rain, or sun exposure.
Applying a liquid car polish such as the Nu-Finish NF-76 will ensure that the clear coat layer is fully protected from environmental factors. It will also restore the paint’s shine and make it consistent with the paint job’s rest.
It is worth noting that most car polishes on the market also contain wax, so opting for a product like the Shine Armor Fortify Quick Coat will enable you to wax and polish the damaged surface at the same time.
Most car wax and polish manufacturers provide detailed instructions on how their products should be applied, so you should go through the instructions to apply the car wax correctly.
Moreover, some car wax manufacturers recommend buffing the wax after it is applied, but keep in mind that starting this process too soon or too late can lead to underwhelming results.
The best paint transfer removal products
How successful the paint transfer removal process is going to largely depend on the products you’re using to remove the transferred paint.
The grit of the sandpaper, the quality of the microfiber towel, or the effectiveness of a scratch remover all plays an important part in the process of restoring the scratched area to its former state. We’ve selected several products that will help you get rid of the paint you traded with another vehicle.
Meguiars G10307 Scratch Remover
Removing all traces of paint transfer is much easier with Meguiars G10307 scratch remover that is made using a formula that decreases the rubbing time and increases the product’s efficiency.
This is a fine scratch and blemish remover that works best with surface scratches and it cannot fix deep scratches that affect the lower layers of the paint job. You can apply the Meguiars G10307 by hand or using an electric buffer equally effectively.
Besides getting rid of scratches, the product also protects the clear coat layer from dust particles, sun exposure, or harsh weather conditions.
Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System
Paint contaminants, including the paint chips transferred from another vehicle, can be removed quickly with the Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System. This car cleaning kit contains a pair of 100-gram clay bars, a 16oz Mothers California Gold Instant Detailer, and a microfiber towel.
Using this clay bar system is remarkably easy since you just have to lubricate a clay bar with the instant detailer and then start rubbing the clay bar over the surface you want to clean. Besides paint, this car cleaning kit enables you to remove iron particles, tree sap, or stubborn dirt from a car’s exterior.
You should keep in mind that the Mothers California Gold Clay Bar System can’t help you deal with scratches.
Lithium Gloss Sauce T-1 Car Wax
Restoring the shine of your paint job, after removing the paint transfer doesn’t have to be a challenging task. The Lithium Gloss Sauce T-1 is one of the premium options you can use during the finishing stages of the paint transfer removal process.
This carnauba wax is enriched with curable amino-functional polymers in order to keep your car’s paint job protected for a longer time. In addition to restoring the original shine, this car wax can also make the shine look deeper.
You can apply the Lithium Gloss Sauce T-1 with a microfiber towel, and you don’t have to apply a lot of pressure to rub it onto the car’s surface.
Frequently asked questions about removing paint transfer from car
Answer: Every collision that is forceful enough to scratch your car can also result in a paint transfer, so there is no way to eliminate all chances of paint transfer. However, applying wax or polish will make it more challenging to transfer paint chips from an object to the surface of your car.
Answer: Sometimes, the transferred paint can be removed by hand, and all you need to do is wash the affected area and the paint will be gone. Scratches that affect lower layers of the car’s paint are difficult to remove, so you should consider getting a new paint job for your vehicle.
Answer: The treated surface isn’t going to have the same protection level as other parts of the car’s exterior after you remove the transferred paint from it. Applying car wax or polish will help you restore the surface’s shine and protect it from environmental factors.
Answer: Most paint transfers affect a relatively small area, so it won’t take more than half an hour to clean that part of the car’s exterior, scrub the paint off and apply a protective coating. A larger paint transfer will take more effort to complete.
Final thoughts: Is it a good idea to remove paint transfer from a car on your own?
Trading paint during a collision doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a new paint job since most paint transfers can be easily removed. However, you must assess the damage before deciding to get rid of the transferred paint on your own.
In case the damage seems to be minor, you should gather the supplies you need to get rid of the paint that got stuck on your car’s exterior. Although the paint transfer removal process isn’t complicated, it can still be challenging to restore the car’s original shine if you haven’t gone through the process before it
Hopefully, this article has provided you with the information you needed to remove paint transfer from a car. Share your experiences in the comments or continue reading our guide to finding the best vacuum for car detailing.