text.skipToContent text.skipToNavigation


Dings, dents, and scratches are an unfortunate fact of life for all vehicle owners. But if the damage to your vehicle’s finish only runs skin deep, which is to say there are a few scratches in the paint, then you may choose to repair the damage yourself using a tube of touch up paint.

Choosing Your Touch Up Color

Color choice is important, and it’s a good idea not to rely on your eyes to match the touch up paint to your vehicle’s finish. The best way to match the color is to order touch up paint based on your vehicle’s factory color code. You may find the color code printed on the dash, near the VIN number, on the firewall, or on the radiator core support. It may also be printed in your owner’s manual, depending on the manufacturer. If you can’t locate a color code anywhere on your vehicle, you may be able to find it with a quick internet search.

Pep Boys sells a variety of touch up paints that match up to the color codes of many vehicles. If your local store doesn’t stock the color you need, order it online!

Preparing Your Paint's Surface

All paint jobs, no matter how large or small, depend on the preparation you put into the surface you intend to paint. Before you start, have a good look at the scratch.

Can you see bare metal on the bottom of the scratch? Deep scratches require more time and work to prepare for paint, while lighter scratches require very little prep work prior to the paint application. Scratches that are accompanied by dents and dings, that look more like gouges than scratches, are often best left to collision specialists to repair.

Repairing a Light Scratch

A light scratch is one that doesn’t go all the way into the metal underneath. Use the following procedure to repair light scratches:

  • 1. Thoroughly clean the surface around the scratch using soap and warm water.
  • 2. Use 220 grit or higher sand paper to scuff the paint around the scratch. This gives the new paint a good surface to adhere to.
  • 3. Sand as little of the surface as possible. It’s not necessary to remove material with the sand paper. You simply want to remove the contaminants from around the scratch while giving the touch up paint a good surface to adhere to. Use a light touch and water from your garden hose to clean as you sand.
  • 4. Clean the surface again after sanding.
  • 5. Mix the touch up paint per the instructions on the packaging.
  • 6. Apply the touch up paint using the included applicator, a small paint brush, the end of a match stick, or the end of a toothpick, depending on the size of the scratch.

  • Repairing Deeper Scratches

    A deep scratch reaches all the way down into the substrate (the metal, plastic, or fiberglass) under your paint. These scratches require a few extra steps to repair.

  • 1. Start by cleaning the surface you intend to repair.
  • 2. Remove the rust inside the scratch. It is not possible to apply automotive touch up paint on a rusty surface.
  • 3. Prepare the surface using 220 grit or higher sand paper. Wet sanding the surface ensures it stays clean and smooth as you work.
  • 4. Allow all surfaces to dry before applying primer and paint.
  • 5. Apply primer to the bare metal inside of the scratch. Allow the primer to dry.
  • 6. Use 600 or higher grit sand paper to smooth the surface of the primer and the edge of the scratch before applying touch up paint.
  • 7. Mix the touch up paint per the instructions on the packaging. Shaking the tube is typically all that’s required.
  • 8. Apply the touch up paint over the primer using the included applicator, a small paint brush, a match stick, or a toothpick.
  • Finishing Your Touch Up Job

    Give the new paint a few days to cure. Avoid driving, harsh sunlight, and weather for the first 24 hours after applying touch up paint. After that, the paint should be hard enough to stand up to the rigors of daily driving.

    When the paint is fully cured, usually after 2-3 days, wash and then wax your vehicle’s paint. Polish it using a buffer to bring it to a high shine.

    If you have more questions, or need supplies to touch up your paint, head to your nearest Pep Boys for the products and information you need to do the job right.