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Minor scratch from keying - how to best repair it?

blaz

Member
Nov 18, 2012
100
10
Marina del Rey, CA
Yesterday as I approached my car I was greeted with a scratch on the rear passenger door from someone who had decided it was a great idea to key my Model S. This happened at my workplace parking garage no less, which is shared by half a dozen companies.

I'm not an expert in the art of car keying, but to me it doesn't look like a terribly deep scratch thankfully, and it's only about 10 inches long. I'm attaching a few pictures but it's hard to get clear shots from such a reflective surface:

photo 1 (1).JPG
photo 2.JPG


I called my local shop and they said they'd need to repaint the entire door, which to me sounds a little overkill, but I've never had this happen to me so maybe that's standard procedure. Granted, they haven't seen the scratch yet, so maybe they're thinking it's a hardcore keying job, which it's not.

So I wanted to know people's advice and experience with similar things. Are there other less invasive options to cover up a scratch like this? If they have to repaint the whole door - and assuming the shop is good at this - should I expect it to look exactly like the rest of the car? I'd prefer living with the scratch than having a door that looks slightly differently than everything else.
 
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Gizmotoy

Active Member
Sep 16, 2013
3,661
861
Bay Area, CA
My first step would be to see a highly-regarded professional detailer (ask around for local references). If the scratch isn't deep, they may be able to buff it out. This will degrade the nearby paint slightly (you're essentially pushing nearby paint into the scratch), but it's far better than repainting.

If they can't buff and polish it out, repainting is probably your only other alternative.

Sorry to hear that happened to you. :crying:
 
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yobigd20

Well-Known Member
Oct 28, 2012
5,929
531
Skaneateles, NY
My first step would be to see a highly-regarded professional detailer (ask around for local references). If the scratch isn't deep, they may be able to buff it out. This will degrade the nearby paint slightly (you're essentially pushing nearby paint into the scratch), but it's far better than repainting.

This. A professional detailer that knows what he is doing can easily get both minor and major scratches out without repainting. For deep scratches there are ways of buffing down the surrounding area and then using correctly colored fillers and then reapplying clear coat layers to fully restore the paint without any visual indication that a scratch was ever there. You don't need repainting. I've seen way worse scratches fully restored than yours.
 

Lloyd

Well-Known Member
Jan 12, 2011
6,268
2,068
San Luis Obispo, CA
If your color is black (solid color) you may be able to fill with touch up, sand and polish. Metalics and three stage paints don't repair well this way.
 

MoeMistry

Local Vendor - SoCal
Jul 31, 2013
439
49
Southern California
If you can feel the scratch with your fingernail, probably needs paint, otherwise it should polish out.

+1...if your fingernail catches it, it's pretty deep. By correctly polishing and/or sanding the area, you may be able to dramatically reduce, or even eliminate the scratch.

It would have to be seen in person. Try a reputable and knowledgeable detailer in your area. Have him/her measure the paint, then start the process.

Let us know how it works out.

Oh...if it does have to be repainted, once again, research the heck for a excellent painter. The right one should match the metallic flakes, color, and even paint thickness and orange peel.
 

blaz

Member
Nov 18, 2012
100
10
Marina del Rey, CA
Thanks for all the responses, very informative as always.

Only about an inch of the total length of the scratch seems to be deep enough to catch my fingernail somewhat. Hopefully there's a way to get rid of most of the scratch without the need for a full repaint.

MoeMistry, I'll PM you :)
 
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MoeMistry

Local Vendor - SoCal
Jul 31, 2013
439
49
Southern California
Thanks for all the responses, very informative as always.

Only about an inch of the total length of the scratch seems to be deep enough to catch my fingernail somewhat. Hopefully there's a way to get rid of most of the scratch without the need for a full repaint.

MoeMistry, I'll PM you :)


Got your PM...see you in a few weeks.
 

wycolo

Active Member
May 16, 2012
3,068
423
WA & WY
Service should have available small jars of exact (color and type) touch-up paint. 'Should' as in it would be really nice if they did. At least they can name the exact paint so you can order it yourself.

Then just fill the scratch using a pointy paintbrush and lightly sand with 400 paper. Repeat.

The perp might do it again so cheap, quick 'n easy is the best approach. You will get more scratches eventually anyway.
--
 
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FlyYellow

Member
Dec 22, 2012
104
2
SF Bay Area
Take 1000 grit wet/dry 3m sand paper. Soak in water. Sand lightly in circular motion.
Take 2000 grit wet/dry 3m sand paper. Repeat same process
Take 3000 grit 3M sponge pad (used by body shops and hard to find except online). Repeat same process
Use painters tape at the edge of the seam to cover it
Take 3M polishing compound with a buffer and polish back to a luster
Take 3M Finesse It with a buffer and further polish back to a brilliant shine
Take your favorite wax and apply it.
QED

Now this isn't for the faint of heart, however most detailers suck and just use the last three steps. Without the sanding you will not restore it correctly. I can wholeheartedly recommend a body shop (NOT a detailer) who can detail this but they are in San Jose.
 
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eclipsis

Member
Jul 24, 2014
55
26
Hawthorne, CA
While you're 100% right about the process, I wouldn't recommend a novice to wet sand their car. It is incredibly easy for someone new to wet sanding to sand too much and go right through the clear to the color coat. If you're really intent on doing this, I'd practice on a junker so you don't mind messing up. But starting out on a Tesla? I wouldn't.

Take 1000 grit wet/dry 3m sand paper. Soak in water. Sand lightly in circular motion.
Take 2000 grit wet/dry 3m sand paper. Repeat same process
Take 3000 grit 3M sponge pad (used by body shops and hard to find except online). Repeat same process
Use painters tape at the edge of the seam to cover it
Take 3M polishing compound with a buffer and polish back to a luster
Take 3M Finesse It with a buffer and further polish back to a brilliant shine
Take your favorite wax and apply it.
QED

Now this isn't for the faint of heart, however most detailers suck and just use the last three steps. Without the sanding you will not restore it correctly. I can wholeheartedly recommend a body shop (NOT a detailer) who can detail this but they are in San Jose.
 
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Tacket

Member
May 31, 2013
268
1
Mukilteo, WA
^^agreed. Go to a junk yard and get some scrap fender to test this on first.

With that being said, I was amazed at what my detailer was able to do with touch up paint and wet sanding. I was almost SURE I was going to need a repaint. You can still tell up close, but you'd really have to be looking for it to notice the touch up work.
 
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Electric700

Active Member
May 21, 2013
1,697
361
Florida, United States
Try taking it to a professional detailer and see what they can do. If that doesn't work, try a polishing compound such as this one: Turtlewax Polishing Compound (10.5 oz.) T241A: Choose the best Rubbing/Polishing Compound at Advance Auto Parts

Worst case, send a request for touch-up paint that will match your car's color to your Tesla SC, then follow these instructions:


  1. Test the color match, and practice. Before painting your car, try the auto paint on another surface like a metal can or an old picture to test the match. Let it dry, and if it looks good, your are ready to start the scratch repair.
  2. Choose good painting conditions. For best scratch repair results, find a place (like your garage) that has low humidity, is not in direct sunlight, and is at least 50°F for brush cap bottles and paint pens, and at least 70°F for car spray paint.
  3. Prepare your car. Clean the auto paint area you want to touch up using soap or wax and grease remover. If your auto paint is rusty, remove all traces of rust with 220 grit sandpaper or a wire brush, and apply Rust Away (I don't think this applies in your case).
  4. Apply primer to any place where bare metal or plastic is showing. Use very thin coats of primer and let it dry overnight. Never use enamel primer.
  5. Apply a basecoat of your paint color. This is the actual auto paint color you requested to fix your car scratch. Apply several thin coats to get the level of the repaired scratch to match the level of the surrounding car paint. Let it dry overnight.
  6. Apply clearcoat to your auto paint. Apply several thin layers of clear coat, letting it dry between coats (about 10-20 mins). Be careful when applying clearcoat. You need to float it over the basecoat. Clearcoat acts like a solvent and any pressure applied will remove the basecoat.
  7. Use rubbing compound to make it shine. Wait at least three days, then apply rubbing compound to the the entire area of car paint you fixed. This will make it smooth and shiny. Wait at least 30 days before waxing.
 

MoeMistry

Local Vendor - SoCal
Jul 31, 2013
439
49
Southern California
Service should have available small jars of exact (color and type) touch-up paint. 'Should' as in it would be really nice if they did. At least they can name the exact paint so you can order it yourself.

Then just fill the scratch using a pointy paintbrush and lightly sand with 400 paper. Repeat.

The perp might do it again so cheap, quick 'n easy is the best approach. You will get more scratches eventually anyway.
--

A few passes with 400 grit, you can see the nice aluminum metal underneath the paint.

Take 1000 grit wet/dry 3m sand paper. Soak in water. Sand lightly in circular motion.
Take 2000 grit wet/dry 3m sand paper. Repeat same process
Take 3000 grit 3M sponge pad (used by body shops and hard to find except online). Repeat same process
Use painters tape at the edge of the seam to cover it
Take 3M polishing compound with a buffer and polish back to a luster
Take 3M Finesse It with a buffer and further polish back to a brilliant shine
Take your favorite wax and apply it.
QED

Now this isn't for the faint of heart, however most detailers suck and just use the last three steps. Without the sanding you will not restore it correctly. I can wholeheartedly recommend a body shop (NOT a detailer) who can detail this but they are in San Jose.

Without a proper paint meter, plenty of experience, I would highly detract any DIYer to do this. We as pros take caution when doing wetsanding, I cannot imagine how a DIYer who doesn't do this for a living would have great success.

As for most detailer suck, well, that's such an open-ended remark, I'll refrain from saying too much. In any industry, there are those that are respected, and those that are more in it for the money and lack the skills. A competent and experienced detailer will get you much better results than a body shop. Body shops are not detailers, as a detailer could not repair a collision damage.
 

dhrivnak

Active Member
Jan 8, 2011
4,417
3,577
NE Tennessee
Someone keyed mine yesterday but only a 3" scratch and a deep one. I have some matching paint I tried to fill in with. I then lightly wet sanded with 1000 grit and sanding block. I then had to buff about 15 min with polishing compound and another 5 with buffing compound. It is much better but far from perfect. As others have said it is not for the feint of heart. But I am also far from a professional.
 
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blaz

Member
Nov 18, 2012
100
10
Marina del Rey, CA
Unfortunately I couldn't see any cameras in the vicinity of my car. The parking garage is so large (6 city blocks total, 3 underground levels) that I doubt they have cameras anywhere but the entrances. I'm now parking in a different part of the garage, hoping that the keying was opportunistic (i.e. the person was on their way to their car and came across mine) rather than someone whose past time is seeking out Teslas to deface.

I do have a dashcam, but I haven't set it up to record video when parked (the required modifications to the car are a bit more involved than what I was comfortable doing myself). If it had been running I might have been able to see the perpetrator if they happened to walk in front of the car after keying it. Oh well.
 

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