How to Remove Tiny Scratches on Windshield

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Windshield scratches are annoying as they affect the field of vision while driving. Good thing is that they can be fixed or treated. Before going into any details, let me just give you a list of steps you need to take to remove tiny scratches on the windshield.

  1. First determine if scratch can be removed by running you nail over the windshield. 
  2. Wash the car windshield and dry it off completely.
  3. Remove any stubborn grime with a plastic razor.
  4. Use painter’s tape to cover the edges of the windshield. 
  5. Get a windshield glass scratch repair kit that has cerium oxide polish in it.
  6. Get an electric drill and a buffing pad.
  7. Mix the cerium oxide polish with warm water (as per instructions on the kit).
  8. Apply the cerium oxide polish on the windshield using the buffing pad and electric drill.
  9. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away the excess polish.

Let’s now go into details for each step.

1. How to Determine if Minor Scratches on the Windshield Can be Removed or Buffed Out

You see tiny scratches on your windshield and you have decided to fix them yourself, that’s great. Before going ahead and purchasing any tools/equipment, it’s best to first determine if the scratches can be removed.

tiny scratches on windshield

One method that can be used to determine that is by running your nails across the windshield screen. So you want to hold your fingers vertically and then run them across the windshield. Cover the entire area of the windshield using this technique. 

If your nail catches, or your nail gets stuck while running it across, that means you have a deep scratch on the windshield. 

Deep scratches can’t be removed using a kit and you will need to take your car to a windshield repair professional for replacement or advise on how the deep scratch can be fixed. If deep scratches are not repaired, they will continue to get bigger and eventually you will need to replace the windshield. There are a lot of kits that can help you repair windshield chips/cracks; check out this article for more.

2. Wash the Windshield and Remove any Dust

Before you can start applying a polishing compound and start rubbing the windshield, you need to make sure that windshield scratches are free of any dust/dirt. You can use the following to clean the windshield glass.

  1. Window/Glass cleaner
  2. All-purpose car cleaner/degreaser
  3. Mix 1 part water and 1 part vinegar (this is if you have don’t have any of the above two)

We recommend that you use a speciality glass cleaner to clean the windshield. Spray it on the windshield glass, leave it off for a few mins, and then wipe it off with a microfibre cloth. Doing so will clean-up the glass and get it ready for the buffing compound. 

A lot of people tend to mix dish detergent in water and use it to wash the windshield. We don’t recommend it as it will erode the car paint overtime. If you don’t have an all purpose cleaner, we recommend you use water and vinegar mix as stated above.

3. How to Remove Grime from Windshield Glass

If you see stubborn grime on the windshield after washing it off with a glass cleaner and an all-purpose car cleaner/degreaser, you will need to remove it physically. Grab a plastic razor (not metal), or any flat plastic object which will not scratch your windshield, and scrape off the grime. Do this until all of the grime is removed and then go back to step 2 above and clean the glass using glass cleaner solution. At this point, your windshield glass should be squeaky clean for the next step.

4. Cover the Edges of the Windshield with Painter’s Tape

Determine the area that has scratches on the windshield. Grab painter’s tape and apply it on the outer edge of the area containing scratches. This is to prevent the rubbing compound from getting on any other areas.

5. Get a Windshield Scratch Repair Kit Containing Cerium Oxide Polish

There are many different products available that you can use to get rid of the tiny scratches on the windshield. Most of these repair kits contain Cerium Oxide, which is a very common polish. There are other kits that don’t include cerium oxide, but other compounds that are very similar in nature. They work the same way.

Most kits come with cerium oxide or similar compound along with a buffing pad. You will need an electric drill to attach the buffing pad and buff out the scratches. You can run the compound by hand, but attaching the buffing pad to the electric drill makes the work super easy.

Before buffing, make sure to wear google, dust mask, and nitrile gloves. Also ensure that you are in a well ventilated area (preferably outside in your driveway). Grab a small amount, follow the directions that come with the kit, and apply the rubbing compound on the windshield. The rubbing compound looks like toothpaste and you can apply it using microfiber cloth as well. Once applied, start rubbing it gently either by hand or using an electric drill. Remember to not apply too much pressure when rubbing.

Once you have buffed the scratched area for the recommended amount of time, wipe away the excess compound and see if you can still see the scratches. If the procedure was followed correctly, most of the tiny scratches should have disappeared. If you can still see the scratches, you will need to apply more rubbing compound and buff out a bit more. Some scratches, that are slightly deeper, require buffing out for several times.

Did you know that you can also use a non-gel toothpaste as a rubbing compound? If you don’t have a professional scratch repair kit handy, you can use the toothpaste. Make sure that it’s not gel based. The process of applying it is similar to the one we described above. You get a piece of microfiber cloth, wet it (not soaking wet), and apply some toothpaste to it. Using this cloth, apply the toothpaste on the windshield to fill the scratches. Buff it and then wipe the excess away with another piece of microfiber cloth.

6. Electric Drill and Buffing Pad Helps a Lot

Although you can apply the rubbing compound on the windshield and buff it out by hand, having an electric drill helps tremendously. Buffing pads that come with the scratch repair kits are built for glass and they are easy to work with; you just need to attach it to the electric drill and start buffing.

7. Mix the Cerium Oxide as per Instructions Provided with the Kit

Some kits come with pre-mixed solutions of rubbing compounds whereas others come with a powdered form of the compound and require you to mix it with water. Follow the instructions that come with the kit to prepare your solutions. Most kits that we have worked with require you to mix cerium oxide with warm water to prepare the solution.

8 & 9. Buff out Scratches and Let it Dry Completely Before Wiping Off

Once you have prepared the rubbing compound as per instructions that came with the kit, apply it to the windshield. You can use a microfiber cloth to apply the rubbing compound. Next, attach the buffing pad to the electric drill and start buffing out the scratches. As mentioned earlier, don’t apply too much pressure and just press the buffing pad gently. 

Once the scratches are buffed out, leave the rubbing compound on the windshield until it’s completely dry. It may take up-to 45 minutes for the compound to dry completely. Once dried, take a dry piece of microfiber cloth and wipe off the compound. If you still see scratches on the windshield, repeat the procedure. If all of the scratches are gone, go ahead and remove the painter’s tape from the edges.

Reapply the Rubbing Compound as Needed

Buffing out the scratches will not remove the tiny scratches permanently. The rubbing compound, no matter which one you use, will wear off over time and you will need to re-apply as needed. The scratches will need to be refilled with the rubbing compound to prevent them from growing bigger over time.

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