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How To Hide Scratches on a Bike

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It can be disconcerting to find out your favorite bike got scratched up from somewhere. The first thing you would do in such a case is to find out how to hide or remove the scratches, but how do you effectively hide scratches on a bike?

Here are the steps you can take to hide scratches on a bike:

  1. Determine the severity of the damage.
  2. Buff the scratches using toothpaste.
  3. Use candle wax to remove the scratches.
  4. Use superglue to fill in the scratches.
  5. Sand and polish the scratches. 
  6. Try urethane car paint to hide scratches.

In this article, I’ll be detailing the types of bike scratches, various methods available to hide them, products to fix them, and much more!

1. Determine the Severity of the Damage

Depending on the level and severity of the damage to the bike’s paint, you may need to use various solutions. These range from cheap and easy to expensive and labor-intensive. Generally, the former will be quicker temporary fixes, while the latter will last longer and be closer to a permanent fix. 

If you only have some faint scratches, for example, you probably don’t need to sand and repaint your whole bike frame. Tailor your solution to the severity of your problem. 

Before we get into the methods, however, let’s talk about the various types of scratches.

The three types of bike scratches are:

  • Scratches to the top transparent layer of paint. This is the most minor level of cosmetic damage possible to a bike. This type of damage is considered extremely minor and most people probably wouldn’t even notice it without an in-depth daily inspection of the bike.
  • Scratches on the surface paint. This damage is more serious than damage to the top clear coat, but still relatively easy to fix. This kind of damage penetrates past the top transparent clear coat and damages the paint. Oftentimes this is just damage to the primer and isn’t as serious as scratches to the base layer are.
  • Scratches on the base paint layer. The most serious cosmetic damage is scratching on the base paint layer. This can often necessitate repainting because it leaves the metal exposed to air and water that can cause rust.

Now that you know the difference, let’s see how to fix these scratches.

2. Buff the Scratches Using Toothpaste

Toothpaste, surprisingly, is a good choice to help buff out mild scratches; this is because most toothpaste formulas contain mild abrasive agents used in cleaning teeth. Toothpaste varieties advertised as ‘teeth whitening’ are more likely to work for this purpose.

How To Remove Scratches With the Toothpaste Method

Follow these steps to use the toothpaste method:

  1. Clean the area containing the scratch thoroughly.
  2. Apply toothpaste to dry paper towels (alternately, a dry microfiber cloth)
  3. Buff the scratched area with circular motions.
  4. Use another paper towel to wipe the toothpaste off.
  5. If the affected area doesn’t seem buffed, repeat the process until you achieve satisfactory results.

If this method doesn’t work for your scratch, the damage may be deeper than you realize. You may wish to consider some of the later methods in this guide, such as sanding.

3. Use Candle Wax To Remove the Scratches

Candle wax is the first solution to minor cosmetic bike damage most people turn to and is relatively simple in contrast to some of the other fixes in this guide.

How To Remove Scratches With the Candle Wax Method

These are the steps to remove scratches with the candle wax method:

  1. Light a candle.
  2. Wait until the candle has pooled liquid wax around the wick.
  3. Pour just a little liquid wax onto the site of the bike’s scratch.
  4. Wait 5 minutes.
  5. Scrape off excess wax from the surface.
  6. Inspect the scratch – if not filled and obscured by wax, repeat this process.

If the candle wax fix doesn’t help hide or fill in your bike’s scratches, consider a different method – this only helps very minor scratches and won’t fix every case of cosmetic damage. Light, shallow scratches are what this method works best on.

4. Use Superglue To Fill in the Scratches

Not everyone owns candles these days, but most households have superglue in a junk drawer somewhere. For those of you just wanting to fill in some light scratches on your bike without making a special trip for a candle to do the job, grab your super glue.

How To Remove Scratches Using the Superglue Method

  1. Squeeze a small amount of superglue over the scratch(es).
  2. Smooth the superglue until it fills the scratch and is level with the bike’s paint.
  3. Use nail polish or car urethane paint (if you desire) over superglue to make it look more natural.

Super glue isn’t the best way to disguise a bike scratch, but it’s good in a pinch if you have no other options. As with candle wax, super glue is only good for covering light surface scratches and shouldn’t be used for deeper cosmetic damage.

5. Sand and Polish the Scratches

This method involves the use of sandpaper and nail polish to fill the scratch and buff it to appear congruent with the rest of the paint. Ideally, choose a nail polish slightly darker than the paint’s regular color – it will get sanded and become lighter through this process. Sanding the scratch and surrounding area will hopefully get rid of the scratch altogether, not just obscure it.

A word of caution: don’t sand too hard in this process; too much sanding can damage the paint even worse than it may already be. 

How To Remove Scratches Using the Sand and Polish Method

Here are the steps to follow if you wish to use the sand & polish method:

  1. Clean the scratched area thoroughly.
  2. Fill the scratch with nail polish. Depending on the depth, you may need more or less polish. Be careful to not put too much polish so you can gauge the damage.
  3. Wait for the polish to completely dry.
  4. Use fine-grit sandpaper (120 or higher) to buff the scratched area carefully. Start lightly and work your way up from there. Your goal is to buff the polish to match the surrounding paint color, not damage the paint.  You’ll know you’re done when the polished area matches the surrounding paint. If you picked a good color, it may be indistinguishable.
  5. Clean the newly buffed area to ensure the procedure worked to your satisfaction.

Now, you should be able to take your bike out for a ride without any obvious scratches!

6. Try Urethane Car Paint To Hide Scratches

This is a more drastic and expensive solution compared to the others. If you have extensive damage to your bike’s frame paint, you can find automotive paint very close to the color of your bike’s paint. Applying it is a whole other story, though, because you’d need an air compressor and paint gun, not to mention sandpaper and primer. However, let’s assume that you have these things.

How To Cover Damage Using the Urethane Car Paint Method

Here are the steps to follow on how to paint a bike frame to cover damage:

  1. Sand the damaged area thoroughly with 400-grit sandpaper, working to remove the glossy sheen of the paint and get a duller look.
  2. Apply a layer of primer to the area and let dry.
  3. Mix your automotive paint according to manufacturer instructions.
  4. Spray the primed area. The exact technique is difficult to elaborate on and would require a whole article by itself, so consider looking up guides for this part.
  5. Sand down the area if you have drips after the paint is dry and repaint those spots if desired.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to painting your bike, but it should give you a general idea of what the process is like. As you can see, the process is way more complex than the previous methods of obscuring or buffing scratches, but the results are undeniable.

Scratch Removal Products

There are countless products available on Amazon.com to help remove and/or obscure scratches on paint, and some work better than others. Some products merely abrade the area similarly to sandpaper, while others clean and condition the area as well.

Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound

This product uses micro-abrasive technology to remove surface blemishes, which include oxidation, scratches, and other minor imperfections. Unlike some lesser quality products, Ultimate Compound doesn’t produce more scratches or ‘swirling’ effects. 

Its application is simple: simply apply the product to a soft applicator pad and rub it on in up-and-down motions. Depending on the severity of your scratches, you may have to adjust the amount of force you’re using. After this initial application, use a microfiber cloth to wipe off excess product. If the results aren’t to your satisfaction, consider another application.

Shine Armor Car Scratch Remover

Shine Armor Scratch Remover carefully wears away flaws such as water stains, oxidation, scratches, and swirls. Similar to Maguiar’s, this product conditions the paint and leaves it glossier after application. Unlike dry abrasion techniques that involve sandpaper, this product creates no annoying dust or residue.

The application process is also pretty much identical to Maguiar’s – apply with an applicator pad to wherever your bike is scratched up. For deeper scratches, use more force, while light scratches will need less. Wipe off any excess product and assess the results. If it’s not to your liking, you can always give it another go or even try a different product.

Gloss vs. Matte Paint on Bikes

The two most popular choices of paints on bicycles are glossy and matte – the names are pretty straightforward. Gloss paint provides the bike frame with a glossy and shiny finish. By comparison, matte paint gives a bike a solid and understated look. Each type of paint has its pros and cons.

Gloss Paint

Gloss paint is perhaps the most common type of bike paint. Gloss has a layer of transparent clear coat, sometimes with extra coats of clear added after painting. These clear coats are designed to give the bike a mirror shine, but also serve a dual purpose: protection. 

Pros of Gloss Paint

  • Gives an illusion of depth
  • The ‘shiny’ top layer makes gloss more durable than matte
  • Easier to clean than matte paint
  • Easier to repair vs. matte

Cons of Gloss Paint

  • Gloss fades over time
  • More prone to chips and cracks than matte
  • Magnifies surface flaws

Matte Paint

Matte paint is created by placing a special chemical agent over glossy paint to perforate the top layer and create a unique layer. As a direct result, matte paint is very porous, meaning it doesn’t reflect light like gloss paint does. This non-reflective property is what gives matte paint its signature ‘dull’ look.

Pros of Matte Paint

  • Elegant look
  • Generally cheaper than gloss
  • Obscures imperfections in the painted surface

Cons of Matte Paint

  • Absorbs oils, sweat, dirt, and other impurities
  • Harder to clean than gloss
  • The top matte layer fades over time to reveal the glossy layers underneath
  • Scratches on matte paint can’t be buffed out
  • Requires special care to stay in good condition (cleaners, solvents, etc.)

While some people may like the unique look of matte paint, it’s generally not very practical on bikes. You may be sweating on it, which will be absorbed by the paint and produce stains. Matte also tends to pick up fingerprints from the oils on your fingers.

Periodic friction such as rubbing against it will eventually wear away the matte finish; meaning, you’ll find satin or even glossy-looking spots on your bike where you often touch it.

It’s also important to note that abrasive techniques of hiding scratches don’t work on matte paint for the above reasons. Generally, matte paint restoration requires special products, techniques, and sometimes even professional intervention.

How To Take Care of Your Bike’s Paint

There may be methods available to fix scratches on your bike’s paint, but the perfect solution would be if it never got scratched at all! If you’re careful with your bike and mindful of its paint, it may last a long time without ever getting scratched up. As a bonus, taking care of your bike is generally cheaper than scratch removal products!

1. Wash Your Bike Regularly 

Any bike that gets regular use should get regular washes, and this especially applies if you do any hard riding – forest or mountain trails, races, and that sort of thing. Bikes get exposed to dirt, dust, mud, and all kinds of other nasty gunk that ruins your shiny bike paint. If left to their own devices, these elements abrade and damage your bike’s paint. Eventually, this can cause water spots and even rust.

2. Wax It Often

After a hard ride, wash your bike with soap and water. After you let it dry, use a protective wax such as Meguiar’s Cleaner Wax, which is available on Amazon. Waxing polishes and conditions your bike’s natural gloss and enhances it; plus, this wax cleans any surface contaminants that may remain after a good wash. Wax doesn’t need to be applied very often, perhaps monthly at most.

3. If In Doubt, Cover It With Tape

If you’re going to be riding in very dirty environments like muddy forests or mountain trails, you may wish to just wrap your bike frame with duct tape or some other grippy tape. The tape will prevent mud and dirt from ever reaching your bike’s paint. This is a downside if you like looking at or showing off your bike, but it’s a legitimate option if concerned about keeping your bike in pristine condition. Another option is to apply a special adhesive specifically designed to protect the bike frame.

After you’re done biking, simply remove the tape and wash off any lingering adhesive residue. I promise that it’s less work than washing off caked-on mud!

Final Thoughts

Paint damage can be annoying, but there are a ton of ways to deal with it. You can use a simple and easy method for light scratches, or go as far as sanding and repainting the bike frame. What method or product will work best for you all depends on the extent of the scratching and what means you have at your disposal.

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