How Do I Protect My 4WD From Scratches?

If you are a 4×4 enthusiast protecting your 4×4 from scratches, flying debris bumps and dents are going to be part of your research on how you can keep your 4×4 as pristine a possible for as long as possible. It’s unrealistic to say “I won’t drive down those tracks, or “I’ll get out and move the branches” this simply doesn’t happen in the heat of the moment.

It’s not a great feeling to come home after an off-road trip with scratches or gravel chips on your beautiful 4WD paintwork or even urban damage like shopping trolley scratches. If the scratch is severe it can expose the underlying metal to moisture and corrosion. Scratches cost money to repair and your 4×4’s value depreciates when you come to sell it.

The fact of the matter is if you’re driving off road you cannot completely avoid bodywork scratches. So, if you are going to tackle some real 4X4 tracks in forested areas. Here are a few tips to protect your 4×4

Before you continue, If your new to 4wd and offroading or are not sure what equipment to take out with you on your adventures, make sure to check out the Off Road Aussies Essential 4×4 Equipment List where I have taken the time to review and recommend the equipment I use.

If you kit yourself out correctly you will be able to tackle everything that your new adventures will throw at you.

What Causes Most Off Roading Scratches In The First Place

Pinstripes are the most common causes of off-road 4×4 scratches. These are tiny scratches along the side of the 4×4 caused by touching vegetation and while many tracks may be clear of vegetation it may mean at some stage you have no choice but to ease along an overgrown bush track.

What Are Some Ways You Can Protect Your 4WD From Scratches

As with everything there is more than one way to skin a cat especially when it comes to handling 4WD scratches. From simple wax coats to full-blown vehicular body amour. we have listed the different ways to protect yourself on the tracks.

Using A Good Quality Layer Of Wax On Your 4WD –

That way thorny leaves, branches, sticks, don’t scrape as much and less abrasion happens when the branches slide across the bodywork. It’s not a genius method, but it stands to reason that a protective layer lessens the damage.

Clear Coat Paint Protection-

One of the most popular solutions to protecting 4WD paint from scratches is a clear coat spray paint. This is the second layer of paint for your car, since a clear coat is exactly that: clear. The product is paint with no colouring, though it may contain some properties that help preserve the pigmented automotive paint beneath, such as UV protection.

While a few vehicles have what is known as “single-stage paint,” which is an auto paint combined with protective enamel. The vast majority of 4×4’ have the two layers: a base with colour and a clear coat on top of that. Like all automotive paint, the clear coat can be damaged by corrosive chemicals (like those found in bird droppings) and nicks and scratches.

Clear coat spray paint can be used to restore the protective outer layer in areas where it has gone missing. This can be followed by an application of paint sealant, which is something like an amped-up car wax. Dealers may offer sealant, but as with many features available from the seller, you can also easily apply it at home.

Edge Trim

Vehicle paint protection doesn’t have to involve the entire car from front to back, either. A particularly vulnerable area on cars and trucks is the door edge, where nicks, chips, and dings can happen whenever the door opens into something hard and unyielding.

Door edge guards can be easily applied to any edge, offering a physical barrier of defence to keep the paint looking good and preserving the metal beneath.

Using Film Paint Protection-

As auto care technology progresses we see better protection solutions and transparent paint film is the most commonly used technique of auto care. The clear paint film is usually applied by cutting the exact shape of the vehicle panel and applying the protective film by methodically smoothing the sheets onto each section.

The film helps protect vulnerable areas like the leading edge of the wheel arches, bonnet and exterior mirrors which come in to contact with flying debris. The transparent film can even be used on your 4×4’s headlights without obstructing or changing the clarity of the light beams. The film does not improve the appearance of the current car’s paint, meaning if the car’s paint is old or damaged, this will still show through the film.

The film also has its downside since old and damaged paint film is difficult to remove and the film’s strong adhesive usually takes the paint’s clear coat upon removal. While paint protection film does protect the overall aesthetics of your vehicle this form of protection does also require maintenance, or it can make your 4WD look worse.

Using A Vinyl Wrap

Vinyl wraps can either be applied in a matching replacement colour or a clear wrap. This is effective in protecting against the impact of minor scratches but offers little protection for hard dents or deep scratches.

If you are looking for a totally new and refreshed look vinyl wrap comes in different colours and large sheets can be applied this method is known as a vehicle wrap. The vinyl covers the entire cars paintwork protecting it from minor abrasions or stone chips.

If any section of the 4WD is damaged for any reason, the wrap can be repaired, replaced or the panel can be individually re-wrapped at any time.

Reusable 4WD Body Armour

There are products on the market that provide protection in the form of magnetic reusable paintwork body armour that attaches to the body work of your 4WD. They protect your vulnerable paintwork when off-road and there is now no need to back track when you’re on a overgrown track.

The temporary protective panels form a barrier between the environment and the 4WD’s paintwork. This allows 4WD enthusiasts to venture anywhere without the fear of scratches or chips to the protected paintwork. The upside is that this product also saves time on cleaning and buffing after a full day exploring. A great example of these are Rhino Hide Armor

Using Magnetic Sheets

There are companies that manufacture magnetic sheets which stick onto your large, flat panels like doors. These are easy to apply and remove, and you can colour-code them. The magnetic panels are designed to take a beating on the trail and still adhere to your 4WD metal skin while they don’t look that great, they prevent scratches.

It’s important to clean your 4WD body work before applying the Magnetic Protection Panel kit as dirt, grit/debris and dust underneath the magnetic panels could cause abrasive sand paper like damage to your paint work.

Using Flares, Brush Bars and Sidesteps

These can help shift vegetation away from the car. These brush guard, sidesteps and fender flares, help reduce direct scratches to the bodywork and if you really want to be posh you can have these colours coded.

If they get scratched the up side is that they are much easier to repaint than the body panels.

Slowing Down

the faster you drive the more damage is caused by gravel chips or branches scratching the sides, slow down and ease past the vegetation and if your passing another vehicle on gravel roads move over to minimize and flying debris contact.

Choose A Light Colour

A simple colour choice such as White doesn’t show pinstripes or light scratches as badly as darker colours.

Avoid The Car Wash

The car wash centres with automatic spinning brushes should be avoided. The brushes are usually full of grit, grim and abrasive solvents that can easily create swirls, scratches and nicks. We recommend using a bucket and micro fibre towel to prevent any scratches to your 4WD

Related Questions:

Should I buy the most expensive scratch removal polish?

Magic products that promise to remove all traces of scratches do not exist. There is no magic, easy, wipe-on-off fix. You do not have to spend the earth on a specific brand but do buy quality products and shammies. Follow the directions carefully and a good polish should help get rid of minor scratches.

Do I polish myself or Polish it out professionally?

A professional can do an amazing job with the repair. Making a scratch vanish requires the correct tools, equipment and specialized skills, so having the attention of a knowledgeable professional to restore your 4WD is money better spent that buying a range of DIY products that do not achieve the finish an auto finish expert can.

They will assess the damage and tell you whether the entire panel needs repainting or just a simple touch up will suffice.

What do I do if the scratches are too deep?

We usually recommend getting a professional opinion from body work specialist before spending copious amounts of money trying to self-diagnose or trying a DIY repair simply because a deeper scratch will mean repainting the entire panel if not the adjoining ones as well as colour match correctly.

Often an attempted repair can actually look worse than the original scratch. The  general rule of thumb is if you can run over the scratch with a fingernail and it catches then it is too deep to polish out of the clear coat

Asses the nature of scratch and extent of the paint damage in the paint, touch ups such as stone chip repairs can be quick and easy to repair

In the end, most people do their best to avoid scratches but simply accept some damage as part of the off-road hazards or inevitable consequence of the tracks driven. Prevention is better than cure and being proactive by investing in body work paint protected prior to a 4WD trip is money well spent.

Many options exist now to keep your paintwork protected and in better condition than what it would be without it. Take the time to consider the tracks you most frequent and where the scratches may occur this will help you decide on a suitable auto protection option.

A good 4×4 paint protection system will save you money, time and effort and will help preserve the long-term value and safety of your vehicle.


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