Prius Scratch Repair

May 1st, 2010 by Potato

I want to start by expressing just how very, very difficult it is to try to take a picture of a fine scratch on a clean, shiny, dark car. The camera keeps trying to focus on the reflected image, and even when you can get it to focus on the car, the scratch doesn’t appear nearly as noticeable as it is in real life.

In the first two months of ownership, I’ve managed to do quite a nasty bit of work on the paint of my Prius. It only took a few weeks to get some totally not my fault scratches and dings:

A small divot in the paint from a rock

But then I parked under a tree that hates me, and it rained down bird shit and sap all over the hood of my car. I had heard that if you leave bird crap on too long, it can damage the paint, so I wanted to get it off right away. I grabbed a paper towel and some windshield washer fluid, and gave it a few quick wipes. That, unfortunately, was all it took to put some fine spiderweb/swirl scratches into the clear coat. What was far worse, however, was when I tried to get the tree sap off. It wouldn’t come off with washer fluid. It wouldn’t come off with hand soap. It wouldn’t even come off with dish soap, so I tried scrubbing a little bit with dish soap and paper towel, and all I managed to do was put some not-quite-so fine scratches in around the tree sap.

Many fairly nasty scratches in the clear coat around a line where sap was.

Ooops. These marks were quite noticeable, though that may just be because I did it and feel stupid about it, and nearly every time I walked by the car in the driveway they caught my eye. So I decided to try some Nu Finish Scratch Doctor to see if I could fix my mistake (this time, with detailing microfibre cloths — no more paper towel on the car!).

Some of these scratch removers work by having very fine grit polishers that you use to buff out the top layer of clear coat until it’s smooth and shiny again. I expected the Nu Finish to be the same, but it’s not. I don’t know how it works exactly, but my best guess is that it must somehow fill in the scratches in the clear coat because there’s no polishing needed: just wipe on, wait, and wipe off. The end result is that the scratches are still there, but they are less noticeable. Perhaps the sharp edge in the clearcoat that was catching the light has been rounded out to make it somewhat better, but the scratches are by no means gone:

Many fairly nasty scratches in the clear coat around a line where sap was.

After that I put on a coat of Nu Finish. There’s a lot of hate out there from serious detailers for Nu Finish, but I’ve used it for many years with decent results. Yes, a multi-stage cleaner, clay-bar, protector, shiner, sealant, and surface wax will give better results, but the one-step Nu Finish still takes over an hour of my time and I’m pretty tired of polishing at the end of that. No way I’m going to invest in the full detailing kit, which in many cases doesn’t last as long, either!

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