There’s nothing worse than finding a paint transfer or a scuff on your car. Not only does it completely ruin its appearance but, if left untreated, it can take some of the value of your car away. So, when it comes to selling it, you may get a much lower price than you were expecting.
But how do these annoying paint transfers actually happen in the first place? And, when you do find one, how can you fix it without having to take your car to a repair shop?
Below, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about paint transfers. We’ll discuss how to avoid them and, most importantly, how to remove a paint transfer from your car when needed.
What Causes Paint Transfers On A Car?
There are actually several reasons why your car might have picked up a paint transfer. But, to put it simply, a paint transfer happens whenever two painted objects rub against one another resulting in what appears to be a large scratch.
In the case of cars, they can occur when you pull too far forward when parking and your bumper scrapes a painted curb. They can also occur when your car gets accidentally clipped by another driver or when your side mirror scrapes against a post.
Regardless of the cause, the result is always the same – an unsightly paint transfer that makes it look as though you aren’t a careful driver. This certainly isn’t something you want anybody to believe as you make your way around your local area!
Paint transfers used to be expensive scuffs to repair. But, thanks to the paintwork protection that most modern vehicles feature, this isn’t necessarily the case anymore.
Nowadays, cars are specially treated to resist paint transfer and scuffs. And, when they do occur, they are usually very easy to remove by yourself.
Modern Cars & The Paint Process
The reason why paint transfers are quite easy to fix on modern cars is that the car will have been coated with a layer of primer. You may be familiar with this if you’ve ever painted any metalwork.
Primer is applied before the paint and its main purpose is to protect the metal on your car from rusting, corrosion, and generally make it more weather-proof.
Once the primer has been applied, a base coat of paint is applied. This is what gives your car its color. Even though this part of the painting process is called ‘the base coat’, it can actually take several coats of paint to achieve the correct color and coverage.
The final part of the car painting process is the application of a ‘clear coat’. This is applied directly on top of the base coat and, as it’s clear, it doesn’t affect the color of the car in any way whatsoever. Instead, its purpose is to protect the base coat.
As with the base coat, there may be several layers of clear coat applied and, the more there are, the more protected the base coat will be. To put it in the simplest terms possible, think of your car’s base coat (color) being sandwiched between two layers of protection (the primer and the clear coat).
All of these protective layers mean that when you hit something or somebody else hits your car, the clear coat takes the majority of the damage. This includes paint transfers and scuffs.
How Do You Remove A Paint Transfer?
As modern cars are usually treated with multiple layers of clear coat, most paint transfers and scuffs can easily be wiped away simply using a clean cloth and some hot, soapy water. However, the worse the paint transfer is, the harder it will be to remove. Even if your car has several layers of clear coat.
This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, though. Below, we’ll take you through a step-by-step guide on how to remove a paint transfer yourself.
This can help you save a lot of money as, what might seem like extreme paint damage that only a qualified mechanic can sort out, might be a minor issue that can be easily fixed at home.
Prepare Your Equipment
While very small paint transfers may be fixed simply by rubbing them off with hot water, there are some that are a little more stubborn. In this instance, you’ll need a few supplies to help you get the job done.
Luckily, the equipment you need isn’t specialty stuff and you should be able to find it in your local auto parts store or simply by looking online. Here’s everything you need to gather together before you can start removing that annoying paint transfer:
Cloths & Pads
There is going to be a fair amount of cleaning involved in this process, and there’s no better tool for this than a microfiber cloth. Unlike traditional cotton or wool cloths, a microfiber cloth is made from synthetic materials that are extremely durable.
So, even if you need to apply quite a bit of pressure to shift the paint transfer, you’ll know that your cloth is up to the job.
You’ll also need an applicator pad for applying certain chemicals to your car. These are made from foam and they’ll do a better job of applying these chemicals than a microfiber cloth as they absorb them.
As we said, there is going to be some cleaning involved with removing a paint transfer and you’ll need a good quality car soap to help you shift it. This is because you’ll need to wash away all of the microscopic paint particles that add up to making one big transfer.
One of the best soaps available for removing a paint transfer from a car is Mr. Pink Suds Car Wash Soap & Shampoo. This is ideal for gently removing microscopic paint particles from a car without causing any scratches. It also rinses away very easily and leaves no residue behind.
If you need something a little more powerful, Mothers California Gold Clay Bar System is a good choice. This doesn’t only contain a top-quality soap, but also comes with a microfiber cloth and two clay bars that are ideal for tackling particularly bad scuff marks.
If you’ve hit something quite badly, there’s a chance that there may be some scratches hiding underneath the paint transfer.
To get rid of these and to get your car looking as good as possible again, you’ll need a scratch remover. These are designed to fill in any microscopic surface scratches before being buffed away.
This is one of the products that you need to pay extra careful attention to before you buy, though. This is because some scratch removers provide a permanent solution, while others are only designed to provide a temporary fix.
The way they are applied can differ as well. Some can simply be applied using an applicator pad, while others require an electric buffer. This isn’t something that most people have available to them, so it’s usually best to choose a scratch remover that is both permanent and easy to apply.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound is a great choice here. It’s easy to apply using just an applicator pad, can be buffed away gently by hand, and leaves a scratch-free finish without the need for additional products.
In most cases, a scratch remover will be enough to fix surface scratches, scuffs, and paint transfers. But, if the damage runs a little deeper, you’ll need to use a rubbing compound as well.
Rubbing compounds contain materials that are much more abrasive than scratch removers. This may sound counterintuitive when you’re trying to fix a scratch, but this actually makes them much more effective at removing particularly bad paint transfers and scuffs.
3M Perfect-It EX is one of the best rubbing compounds available. It’s also budget-friendly as not only is it inexpensive as far as rubbing compounds are concerned, but you’re unlikely to need more than one application for it to get to work.
One thing you need to know about using rubbing compounds, however, is that they are quite difficult to apply by hand. This means that you’ll likely have to invest in an electric buffer if you need a rubbing compound.
With this in mind, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons. Would you still save money by purchasing a rubbing compound and an electric buffer? Or does it make more economical sense to take your car to a repair shop instead?
Whether you use a scratch remover or a rubbing compound to remove a paint transfer, you’re going to need to protect the area again once you’ve treated it. You can do this easily using a good-quality car wax.
You do need to do a little research before you choose a car wax though, as they are available in two major categories. These are ‘Carnauba’ and ‘Synthetic’. But what’s the difference?
Carnauba car waxes have been used for decades and are ideal for giving your car a natural, seamless finish. Synthetic car waxes do the same thing, but they are designed to last for a longer period of time.
Keeping this in mind, it’s always best to choose a synthetic car wax. Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax is a great choice as it’s easy to apply and it dries quickly. What’s more, it can last over 3 months before it needs to be reapplied.
Even after you’ve removed major scratches and paint transfers from your car, you might find there are some tiny imperfections left that need to be fixed. There’s no better tool for this than a good quality car polish.
Griot’s Complete Polish is a good option as it will remove minor scratches and leave your car with a beautiful shine. It’s also easy to apply by hand using just an applicator pad and can be buffed away with a microfiber cloth.
Get To Work
Once you’ve gathered all of your equipment together, it’s time to get to work at removing that paint transfer. Each cleaning agent, wax, scratch remover, and polish will come with its own set of instructions that should be followed accordingly.
However, the steps we’ve outlined below create the best process for removing a paint transfer from your vehicle.
Clean & Dry The Area
There’s no point in trying to remove a paint transfer from an area that is covered with dirt and grime as this will create a barrier between the paintwork and the products you’re using. So, before you do anything else, you need to clean the damaged area.
Mix your chosen car soap with hot water and, using a circular motion, wash the area. Doing this will also remove any loose paint particles, making the repair job much easier and preventing them from causing any further scratches when you start buffing and polishing.
Once the area is clean, dry it using a microfiber cloth. You need to make sure that the area is totally dry before moving onto the next step.
Repair The Scratches
Once the damaged area is clean and dry, you can start repairing the scratches made by the paint transfer. Most scratch removers will come with a small piece of sandpaper but, if yours doesn’t, you can use some with a very fine grit of around 1500.
Gently work down the rough edges of the scratches using the sandpaper. ‘Gentle’ is the keyword here. Press too hard and you risk removing the clear coat and creating more scratches that will be much harder to shift than a paint transfer.
Once you’ve achieved smooth edges along the scratch, apply your scratch remover following the instructions on the package. It’s best to do this using a side-to-side or circular motion. However, if your scratch remover contains abrasive particles, we’d recommend only using a side-to-side motion.
Be patient with this step as it may take a little while, especially if you’re treating a particularly large area. You may also have to apply several layers depending on the severity of the paint transfer.
Your patience will be rewarded in the end though, and you’ll know you’ve finished when you can run your fingertips across the affected area without feeling any imperfections.
Apply The Polish
By this point, the scratches produced by the paint transfer should be gone. But, this doesn’t mean the job is done! Now you have to apply the polish. Doing this will treat the area and add some protection back to the paintwork. It will also help to blend together any color imperfections the paint transfer left behind.
Apply your polish according to the manufacturer’s instructions and move your applicator pad in a circular motion to achieve a natural, blended finish. You should also make sure that you’re overlapping the edges of the polish with the existing paintwork, as this will give you a seamless finish.
Apply The Wax
The last step is to apply your chosen car wax to the affected area. By now, it should be looking as good as new. But, by applying wax, you’re providing even more protection and making it easier to repair the area again if it suffers from another paint transfer.
Again, follow the manufacturer’s directions and apply the wax using a circular motion. One particular area you need to pay attention to when reading the instructions is the drying time. Start buffing the wax too soon and you risk removing it. Leave it too late, and you won’t get that perfect finish.
Choose the correct equipment, follow the steps outlined above, and pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for each piece of equipment and you’ll see just how easy it is to remove a paint transfer from a car yourself.
In some cases, you may find that the damage runs deeper than the clear coat and this means you’ll need to seek professional help. But, before you do, try removing the scratches yourself and you might just be surprised at how much money you were able to save yourself!