How to Fix Scratched Interior Panels in Your Car

With the daily wear and tear of transporting kids, groceries and luggage, it’s easy for your car’s interior trim to pick up scratches and marks, or just start to look a little tired.

Scratches on interior surfaces not only look ugly, they can depreciate your car’s value when it’s time to trade-in. No driver wants to see their car’s cabin pockmarked with scratches, but luckily there are things you can do to remove or reduce them.

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In this guide, we offer practical steps and top tips for DIY car maintenance involving removing scratches from your car’s interior panels.

  • How to Remove Scratches from a Car Interior
  • Restoring Interior Plastic Trim

How to Remove Scratches from a Car Interior

There are two avenues you can go down to remove scratches from your car’s interior panels: buy a specialist kit containing everything you need to remove the scratch, or use a combination of sanding, painting and heating to remove it by hand.

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While some kits work well on light scratches and abrasions, we find that the best way is to fix it yourself, especially if the scratch is quite deep. Here’s how to fix an interior crack yourself.

What You’ll Need

For a professional finish when repairing an interior scratch, invest in the following tools and equipment:

  • Heat gun – Used to heat and remould the plastic
  • Interior grain pad – For retexturing the plastic to duplicate the original
  • Sandpaper – Superfine grit works best
  • Interior Car Cleaner – Get yourself a quality cleaner that’ll remove ingrained dirt from plastic surfaces, and one that’s designed for use on cars
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The Process

Step 1: Clean the area on and around the scratch with interior plastic cleaner. The goal is to remove all debris and dirt. It will also help prevent the dirt from settling into the plastic, which can affect the colour. Make sure the area is clean and dry before you move on to the next step.

Step 2: Using a heat gun (at around half power), gently apply heat to the plastic until it begins to soften. Don’t heat it for too long, as the plastic could warp and burn, leaving you with irreparable damage. You’ll be able to tell when the plastic is ready for moulding, as it will lose its texture and appear slightly glossy.

Step 3: Apply a grain pad to the affected area, using very light pressure. This will smooth out the scratch and also give a textured finish to the plastic so that it blends in. Grain pads are available to buy online and usually come in a variety of different finishes. Choose the one that most closely resembles the plastic trim in your car, and apply it to the area using the hard-plastic application pad which comes with the set.

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Step 4: Let the area cool and harden. The texture should now look similar to the unaffected area, however, you’ll need to sand it down to ensure a smooth and authentic-looking finish. Use a superfine grain paper to smooth it out where necessary.

Step 5: Clean and dry the area again using the same method as in step 1 – and you’re done.

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Restoring Interior Plastic Trim

If your car’s interior plastic trim is starting to look a little worse for wear, or the heat gun has discoloured it in any way, use a plastic restorer pad or spray to help restore its colour and shine, leaving it looking refreshed and new.

When using a restorer pad, apply it in a gentle, circular motion and avoid scrubbing too vigorously. Keep the pad in your glovebox so you can easily repeat the process whenever you have a problem with the appearance of your car’s interior.

For more DIY car maintenance guides and advice, don’t forget to check out the rest of the Holts blog and our handy help and advice page. Alternatively, if you need to fix scratches and problems in your car’s paintwork, visit our Paint Match Pro site.

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