4WD Scratch Protection Methods Compared | Everything You Need to Know

4WDing and offroading is one of the most exciting things to do in Australia and is one of our national pastimes. But no matter how cautious you try to be, your vehicle will always get scratched at some point. But what can you do about it? Is there any way to protect your car from scratches and dents? 

Protective coatings, attachments like body armour and bull bars, and vinyl wraps are the best ways of protecting your car from scratches. The choices you make, like the colour of your car, where you go offroading and how fast you drive, will also affect how your car’s condition pulls up after an offroad expedition. 

If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve spent a good chunk of change getting out 4WD looking the part. Want to learn about the best ways to keep it looking its best? Read on for our best tips, advice and recommendations for 4WD scratch protection. 

What Causes Scratches When Offroading?

Flying debris like small rocks, bumps, and even vegetation are among the primary culprits of damaging your vehicle’s fresh coat of paint. Even at lower speeds, hitting vegetation can cause scratches and dents that are easily avoidable. 

The exact cause of scratches will depend on the environment and weather conditions while driving. For instance, the things that will scratch your vehicle on bumpy and rocky terrain will differ from those on a slippery and snowy road. 

Trying to avoid these things is impossible because it will take away from the excitement of offroading. Instead, look for the right scratch protection method or product for you so you can go offroading without worrying too much.

What are the Best Ways to Protect Your 4×4 From Scratches?

Investing in a high-quality coat of paint or covering your vehicle in vinyl wraps are among the best and most effective ways to protect your 4WD vehicle from scratches. These won’t keep your vehicle protected forever but will help to keep your paint job looking new for as long as possible. 

1. A Protective Clear Coat Layer

A layer of a clear coat of paint is one of the simplest ways to protect your vehicle from scratches. Since it is clear, it provides an additional layer of protection without altering the look of your vehicle and sometimes even comes with other benefits such as UV protection. 

Although some vehicles will come with a ‘single-stage paint’ (which refers to a layer of paint combined with a clear protective enamel from the get-go), most vehicles will require a second layer of clear coat for protection. If you feel like this is the product for you, try Mighty Armour – Ceramic Scratch Resistant Paint Protection.

2. Vinyl Wraps

Vinyl wraps offer more protection than a layer of clear coat. It effectively reduces impacts that would otherwise cause minor dents but not against those that would result in hard dents and scratches. Vinyl wraps can be applied in either matching replacement colours or a clear one.

These wraps offer customers a new look if chosen in a different colour than their vehicle’s paint. Should the wraps be damaged, the panel where it sits can easily be repaired or replaced without having to do so for the entire vehicle. WrapStyle SydneyOpens in a new tab. is one of Australia’s highest-rated vinyl wrap providers, offering a stylish way to help protect your vehicle’s paint job.

3. Reducing Your Speed When Offroading

A less obvious but straightforward way to protect your vehicle from scratches when 4WDing is to reduce your speed. This might sound counterintuitive, but due to the nature of offroading, getting your vehicle scratched, dented, or damaged is inevitable to some extent. 

This workaround is good for 4WDers who have yet to coat, wrap or install protective add-ons to their vehicle but are already itching to go offroading. Although a proper protective layer, regardless of what it may be, will still be superior to this, reducing your speed will always reduce damage to your vehicle by reducing the impact of rocks, vegetation and potentially wildlife.

4. 4WD Body Armour

For those looking for sturdier protection, 4WD body armour may be worth looking into. These often come in the form of reusable body armour that attaches to the vehicle’s body. Although they do not cover the entirety of the vehicle’s bodywork, they work very well against hard-hitting impacts against rocks, trees, and other hard surfaces.

However, body armour will sometimes still leave small areas exposed, which leaves it susceptible to small debris such as rocks and pebbles that are sometimes flung into your vehicle, causing scratches or dents, which is why body armour is best used in combination with coatings or wraps. If you believe 4WD body armour is the way to go, contact RhinohideOpens in a new tab..

5. Install a Bull Bar, Steps and Flares

Vegetation can actually scratch your car’s bodywork. While they are generally soft and flexible enough to be brushed out of the way, some sharper and harder vegetation will definitely scratch your vehicle. This is where bull bars, steps, and flares come in.

Not the sleekest-looking protection out there, but these protective attachments can be repainted to match your vehicle’s paint work. When these attachments get scratched, it’s much easier to repaint or have them replaced. However, they are best paired with a clear layer of coat or something similar since attachments alone cannot completely protect your vehicle from flying pieces of rock or gravel. 

Not only do they provide protection for your vehicle, but they also offer utility, making your vehicle safer and easier to get in and out of. You can visit Opposite Lock’s website to browse their wide selection of these attachments.

6. 4WD Magnetic Panel Protection

4WD magnetic panel protections are exactly what they sound like – magnetic sheets that will stick onto your vehicle, particularly on flat panels. These panels are relatively easy to apply and remove and come in various colours and designs. Although these panels may not necessarily look the best, they do a good job of absorbing damage and deflecting flying debris. 

Keep the vehicle’s body clean and dry before attempting to install the magnetic panels, as any form of debris, dust or dirt underneath will press onto the bodywork itself and scratch it. Bush BarrierOpens in a new tab. is a known company that manufactures these panels with excellent results that are found across Australia.

7. Don’t Take Your Car to a Car Wash

Yes, car washes damage a vehicle’s bodywork, especially automatic car washes or cleaning bays with powerful cleaning set-ups, with high-powered water jets. Although most car washes will not actually damage your vehicle’s bodywork, some can inflict scratches and abrasions onto your vehicle.

This is why car washes remain one of the most common culprits of minor damage, as most people aren’t aware that powerful streams of water, as well as dirty mops and brushes with debris inside them, can do more harm than good.

8. Choose a Resilient Colour

Choosing a ‘resilient’ colour may not be something that would pop into people’s minds when thinking about protecting their 4WD vehicle from scratches, but there’s actually some merit to this. Unlike darker colours, where scratches show up as fine lines known as ‘pinstripes’, lighter colours do not have much contrast to the body work’s natural colour underneath, which prevents the scratches from being highlighted.

Light does not necessarily mean white though, so if you do not want a white or off-white coloured 4WD machine, you can compromise by having your body work painted differently but in a lighter colour.

9. Install Edge Trim

Paint protection on vehicles does not always have to cover the entirety of the bodywork. In some cases, simply protecting the most exposed parts, such as the door edge, is all the protection that’s needed. These vulnerable areas are usually where chips, dings, and nicks first appear. 

Something like a door edge guard can be applied to the edges of a door to serve as a physical shield to the bodywork and its paint underneath. Bodyline’s Moulding Edge Trims are a great choice for people looking for reliable edge trim for their 4WD in Australia.

10. Ceramic Coating

Ceramic coatings are industry-grade chemical polymer solutions applied to the exterior bodywork of a vehicle for the primary purpose of paint protection. These are usually applied by hand by a trained and experienced specialist and blend with the vehicle’s paint, creating a layer of protection. Although most people believe it is an alternative to paint protection film, it is more of an alternative to waxing.

The coating is a permanent or semi-permanent solution, depending on the type of polymer used for the coating. Its chemical properties prevent it from naturally breaking down from atmospheric conditions like rain. You can check out Ceramic ProOpens in a new tab. for its ceramic coating offerings.

11. Avoid Offroad Tracks With Dense Vegetation

Stick to tracks with less or no vegetation to help keep your vehicle in relatively pristine condition. If your vehicle isn’t adequately protected, expect to see some scratches or even minor dents after you clear the track. 

Not all offroad tracks are made equal. Just as there will be harder and easier tracks, there will also be tracks that have a higher chance of damaging your vehicle. One of the most common causes of minor scratches and dents is tracks full of vegetation. 

What Should I Do if the Scratches are Too Deep?

If you notice deep scratches on your vehicle, the best course of action would be to consult a professional or an experienced bodywork specialist on how to move forward with either a repair or replacement. Trying to self-diagnose a deep scratch and trying to repair it yourself often makes it look worse than before. 

There’s also the issue of matching the colours correctly, which is difficult without the right tools and expertise. If you notice a very deep scratch on your vehicle’s bodywork, head to a bodywork specialist to get it checked. At the end of the day, prevention is better than cure, so make sure to get your vehicle some scratch protection. 

Should I Polish my 4WD Myself or Get it Polished Professionally?

While it is possible to have your 4WD polished yourself, it is almost always better to have a bodywork specialist do it unless you have the right tools and expertise since scratch varnish also requires the attention that often only a specialist or an experienced professional has.

How Long Does Paint Protection Coating Last?

Paint protection coating typically lasts from five to seven years. Of course, the terrain and conditions where you drive will affect how long your protective coating lasts. However, reapplying a protective coating every five years helps to protect your car’s surface for decades to come. 

Is Protective Car Coating Worth It?

Yes, although protective car coating might initially seem like a waste since there isn’t much visually noticeable difference after your vehicle is coated, the amount of money it can save you in repairs and touch-ups down the road makes it well worth the money. 

Having a vehicle repainted is very expensive, so getting it coated early on will reward you in the long run. If and when you decide to sell your vehicle, you can use the paperwork or invoice from the vehicle’s protective coating to request a higher price or prevent a negotiation since it shows that you spent to keep the car protected.

Related Questions

Does Paint Protection Stop Scratches?

Yes, paint protection exists primarily to stop your vehicle from taking shallow scratches. However, paint protection generally will not be able to protect against heavy damage like key scratches and chipped paint damaged from rocks and debris.

There is no magic solution to preventing all damage to your vehicle. It’s best to combine several different protective attachments, coatings and preventive measures to keep your vehicle in pristine condition, whether offroading or simply cruising down the road.

Can You Put a Clear Coat Over Scratches?

Yes, it is possible to put a clear coat over scratches to camouflage or hide them, depending on the depth of the scratch. Look for a colour that exactly or closely matches your vehicle’s paint to fill in the scratch. After that, you can use something like a clear coat pen to touch it up.

James Mitchell

Hi, I’m Jimmy Mitchell and I love exploring this great country with my wife and two boys. I have a 2015 Sterling LX that is the Mitchell Family camping machine. Lets Getaway is the website where I share things about my trailer as I learn them, and help other camper owners to enjoy their RV even more.

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