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Getting scratches out of your car bumper can be costly if you get it done at an auto body shop. But if the scratches aren’t too bad, you can opt to fix this issue on your own. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to follow the right process to get good results.

Light scratches can usually be treated with car scratch remover kits. However, deep scratches and scuffs that go past the clear coat are better addressed with a more extensive procedure that will restore not only the color, but also the contour.

light scratches on a car bumper
Light scratches can usually be treated with car scratch remover kits.

Bumper Scratch Removal

This guide will focus mainly on how to fix scratches on painted plastic bumpers, as that is the most common material used nowadays.

The exact fix will depend on the severity of the scratches, so assess the level of damage you have before you proceed.

How to Remove Faint Scratches

Faint scratches usually occur from something as minor as an object accidentally grazing the surface of your bumper. You can tell that it’s a faint scratch if it’s still smooth enough to glide your nail across without getting caught in the grooves.

Some people will use waterproof 3,000 grit sandpaper with water trickling across the area as they sand it and then follow up with some polishing compound, but be gentle and don’t over-sand. If your scratch isn’t handled using the gentle first-shot method, you can up your game by using the one of the methods below, depending on how deep the scratch turns out to be. But sand across the scratch and not with it for the proper effect.


  • Portable or dual action drill
  • Polishing/buffing pads
  • 3000-grit sandpaper
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Polishing compound
  • Rubbing compound

1. Buff out the scratch with sandpaper

Wet your 3,000-grit sandpaper and gently sand the scratch out. Do this until the scratch is no longer visible.

Alternatively, you can use toothpaste to buff out this type of scratch. It works just like a 3,000-grit sandpaper, but polishes the affected surface as well.

2. Wipe the surface with a microfiber cloth

Buff the area with a microfiber cloth to remove any residue or debris.

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3. Apply the polishing compound

Apply compound using the polishing pad and smear it all over the affected area.

4. Polish

With the polisher head of the drill at 1,200 rpm, polish the surface until slightly hazy. Finish off with polishing compound.

polishing car bumper with microfiber cloth to get rid of scratches
Use microfiber cloth when polishing your car.

How to Remove Minor Scratches

Car scratches of this degree are deep enough to have damaged the base coat but can still be fixed through DIY methods. For best results, make sure to wash your car before trying to remove the scratch.


  • Polishing compound
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rubbing compound

1. Apply the rubbing compound

Buff out the scratch with the rubbing compound. The latter is specially formulated to be able to level scratches the same way sandpaper does. It comes in varying grits of 1000 to 5000, so choose one that will best suit the depth of the scratch you’re trying to get rid of.

Apply in small amounts for faster drying time.

2. Remove residue

Clean the surface with a microfiber cloth to get rid of any residue. Make sure that it’s completely clean before proceeding.

3. Repeat the first two steps

Apply more product (about 2-3 times more) until the scratch is no longer visible.

4. Apply polish

Once you’ve achieved your desired finish, apply polish and buff until you’ve reached your desired shine. 

How to Remove Major Scratches

Deeper scratches require a more tedious repair process. These are typically the kind of scratches that are deep enough to reach the metal panel, so attempting to buff them out won’t work.

You’ll have to fill in the scratches before painting them over and polishing them to your desired finish.


  • Body filler putty
  • Bumper repair kit
  • Prep solvent
  • Car clear coat and spray primer
  • Color-matched car paint
  • Sandpaper in varying grits
  • Surface cleaner
  • Scuff pad
  • Towel
  • Wax remover

1. Determine which type of plastic your bumper is made of

Plastic bumpers are typically made of one of the following materials:

  • polyphenylene oxide (PPO)
  • thermoplastic elastomer (TPE)
  • polypropylene (PP)
  • thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer (TPUR)
  • polyurethane plastic rigid (PUR)

Keep in mind that the first three can smear when sanded, while the last two can powder. Be guided accordingly when grinding or sanding.

2. Remove the bumper cover

Remove the bumper cover to get better access to all of the surfaces. You’ll usually find a collection of fasteners holding the bumper in place. If you’re uncertain about how to remove the bumper cover on your car, consult the factory repair manual.

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Once you’ve successfully removed the cover, find a spot to start working on. Make sure this location is dry and is room temperature to make it conducive to what you are about to do.

Removing the car bumper to better access surfaces when removing scratches
Remove the bumper cover to get better access to all of the surfaces. Source: YouTube | happywrenching

3. Prep the bumper

If the area has been torn or punctured, scrub the damaged area gently but thoroughly. Do this prior to wiping it with surface cleaner.

4. Wash and dry the bumper

Rinse with water and make sure to dry the bumper completely.

5. Apply prep solvent

Remember to apply the prep solvent in one direction to avoid contaminating the surface area. While waiting for it to dry, combine equal parts of hardener and repair adhesive in a container.

6. Sand the surface

Take your 80-grit sandpaper and vigorously sand the surface.

7. Create V-shaped grooves

There are two ways to approach this. If your bumper is the type that powders when sanded, cut the grooves using a 24-grit disc attachment on a sander. Or, use a cordless drill and a rotary file if your plastic bumper is the type that smears. Run the tool along the front and the back side of the fascia forming a “V” groove on each side. This will make aligning the edges easier while also providing more area for the filler material to stick to.

8. Apply body filler putty

Apply an even coating of body filler putty over the damaged portion.

9. Fix the tears from the rear end of the fascia

Do this using adhesive fiberglass-repair tape. If the damaged area is too large, use masking tape to hold the ends of the tear together before repair.

10. Apply adhesive

Use a body filler squeegee to spread adhesive over the tape. Do another layer of tape and adhesive.

Allow the combination to dry until it hardens.

11. Remove any tape that is visible from the front fascia

Sand the area using 80-grit sandpaper to get rid of any overruns. Fill any visible damage in front of the car bumper with the materials from the repair kit.

Squeegee to set everything in place.

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12. Coat and sand

Finish off by skim-coating the surface of the affected area with the coating included in the repair kit.

Let dry and do another coat.

Smooth out the surface with a wet 400-grit sandpaper to bring everything together.

13. Paint

Painting your car bumper is trickier than it seems. First, you’ll need to do a wet coat of flexible part sealer and allow it to dry for 30 minutes. After this, apply primer and paint over the part sealer.

Usually, two coats of two-part primer surfaces should work. Dry sand the restored surface with 400-grit paper once hardened.

Spray with base coat after buffing the area with a wet tack cloth to keep the surface clear and smooth, then spray on some paint that matches the color of your bumper.

Mix the car clear coat with a hardener. Apply the mixture twice, letting the first layer dry completely before applying the second layer.

What to Remember After Fixing the Scratches on Your Bumper

regular bumper maintenance to avoid scratches
Observe regular bumper maintenance every 4-6 weeks.

Now that you’ve removed those unsightly scratches from your bumper, it’s essential that you take the appropriate aftercare measures. This will help extend the lifespan of the paint job on your newly repaired bumper.

  • Cleaning and polishing your vehicle on a regular basis helps as long as you’re using the right method and chemicals.
  • Do not wash the newly repaired paint job with water for four to six weeks following the time of repair. For best and lasting results, use only a soft chamois cloth when wiping the surface.
  • Extensive and aggressive cleaning methods such as high-pressure washes should be avoided to let the repair components dry properly.

After 4 to 6 weeks, regular maintenance should be observed. While waxes and polishes allow you to maintain the integrity of your car’s finish, doing so incorrectly can have terrible results. Correctly washing, polishing, and waxing your car regularly will help defend its finish against the elements.

Products Mentioned in this Guide

About The Authors
Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician
Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

Technical Reviewer at

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

CarParts Research Team Research Team

Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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