Is anybody using "touch-up" paint for minor scratches? Perhaps a compound or polish should be tried first?
As the other poster said some scratches are just too deep for minor buffing and polishing. Wet sanding can work wonders if it is just a little too deep for the polish to handle itself.
Step 1: Wash and dry the entire vehicle thoroughly prior to attempting ANY paint correction. You will only make matters much worse if your vehicles surface isnt free of any contaminants. I am a professional detailer and own my own company so I like to think I know what I am talking about.
Step 2: If you REALLY want to be sure you aren't doing more harm than good and if you've never done this before and don't know what it is I recommend doing a paint contamination removal (clay bar) prior to the work just to be on the safe side. This process in itself could do more harm than good if you don't know for sure what you are doing in the first place. If you do try it 1.) use plenty of LUBE. Detailing sprays such as Meguiars final inspection or mothers showtime, etc. work wonders. I would NOT recommend soapy water as it just doesn't prove for the smooth surface and creates more friction. Again the objective is to make the finish better not worse. 2. THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS PROCESS: DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT DROP THE CLAY. If you do, its bad, not good, maybe its okay? NO! It will pick up all of the grit from where you've dropped it and scratch the hell out of the finish.
Step 3: Start with the least aggressive polish and pad or hand combination as possible. Always. If it doesn't take it out then you can get more aggressive with it but remember to follow it back up with a less abrasive pad/polish combo. What I use: M105 and M205 Compound and finishing polish by Meguiars in their professional lineup. Can't find it anywhere locally? Too expensive? Ok, try the consumer lineup products of Meguiars Ultimate Compound (black quart sized bottle) and Meguiars Ultimate Polish (Black 16oz bottle). I would recommend no more aggressive than a dual action polisher on a slow to moderate speed to see if that gets you to where you need to be. I really like the Meguiars soft buff foam pads for paint correction as they don't leave all of the fine swirls and marring that the traditional wool pads use. They have a total of 3 pads red being most aggressive to yellow and green polishing and finishing. Use the steps in the appropriate order if necessary. Experiment around a little but this is what I would do if I were you. Seeing the scratches would have really helped here...
1.) Finishing pad/w/ultimate polish or M205 ultra finishing polish. Didn't work?
2.) Polishing pad w/ultimate compound polish/followed up w/ultimate polish (black bottle) or M205 finishing polish. Didn't work?
3.) Ultimate Compounding M105 Polish (This will be about your most aggressive polish you can get without risking doing serious damage if not done properly). Use it on the red pad follow it up with the M205 and the polishing pad.
Still didn't work?
You can try wet sanding it out. If you've never done this before I would NOT recommend going under 2000 Grit WETSAND. Get yourself some soapy water let the sandpaper sit in a bucket for a while and lightly wet sand the scratch. Work small spots little by little at a time and follow it up with the M105/M205 combination of polishes to finish it off. The paint will appear dull/hazy and damaged but it is not the clearcoat just needs to get buffed out to bring back its gloss. I have picked up some experience in auto body work and repainted my own car and the first time I did it I thought I screwed myself when I didn't. When a vehicle is finished being painted it isn't simply done and goes through a color sanding and buffing process for final finishing. Opinion varies widely on it but most shops use a 1500grit 2000 grit, compound & polish buff method to obtain final results. Depending on the overall experience of the worker doing this and the achieved level of flawlessness I have seen 1000 grit used proceeded by 1500 and 2000.
Always follow up your work with at least a carnuba wax or even better synthetic sealant wax. You will have stripped all of the waxes off the surface by doing the polishing and or sanding and it will need to be re-protected.
Work with the best lighting as possible. Don't try to do this blind, in the dark, in the shade, etc. The light is your best friend and I strongly advise getting a light to shine directly on the surface defect. Just because it looks good in the dark doesnt mean you are anywhere close once the sun shines down on it...
PS: I do not believe in miracle scratch removal pastes/products... The day that I can simply hand rub something on and off and eliminate the key'ing that the neighborhood brat did to my fancy muscle car is the day the sun doesn't rise. They don't work and it takes effort, knowledge and time... If you need anything else PM me.