On the surface, a scratch repair pen might seem like a great idea. What’s not to like about making quick repairs to your car’s finish by simply drawing a line along the damage? It turns out, the results aren’t always like what you see on TV.
For one thing, our testers found they don’t work on anything but minor surface scratches. And, they may make the damage look worse.
Marketed as an easy way to avoid expensive auto body shop bills, manufacturers say that anyone can get professional results from the pens, which cost $10 or less. We sampled three to see if the claims were true.
What we tested
The Simoniz Fix it Pro ($10), DuPont Pro Fusion Color ($8), and Turtle Wax Scratch Repair Pen ($10) are all widely available online or in auto parts stores. Claimed to work with any color paint, they contain a permanent clear coat much like the protective outer layer used on new cars from the factory. But what their packaging doesn’t make entirely clear is that these pens are strictly for surface scratches in the clear coat. If the damage goes into the paint below, you’re out of luck.
We also found that the pens can be tricky to use, and that it’s not easy to get the thin, even line necessary to neatly fill scratches without overdoing it. With applicator tips that are as wide or wider than a typical scratch, our sampled products make it difficult to avoid applying too much filler, and leaving a visible residue that’s more noticeable than the damage you’re trying to repair. And getting rid of that residue might require sanding and buffing it out, and potentially some touch-up paint.
As a rule, these products won’t help on any scratch that’s deep enough to feel with a fingernail, or if you can see primer or bare metal. For that kind of damage, you’ll need more than clear filler and a steady hand. The only way to repair damaged paint is with more paint. (Learn more about the colorful world of automotive paint.)