Car Buffers
Myths from the world of auto detailing

best auto detailing tips tag line

Car buffers and car polishing is an area of auto detailing filled with much bad information. Not only do we have an ignorant mass of people repeating bad information as self-proclaimed experts throughout the car detailing forums, but to compound the problem even further, car-care companies continually misuse and co-mingle terms in order to sell more and more product!



There are as many opinions on the subject as there are people you are willing to ask. As an auto detailing expert from the actual world of professional detailing, I am going to take my years of experience and make an informed consumer out of you!

Random Orbital Buffer

flex polisher

Also called dual action polishers (DA for short), these fail-safe buffers are not only a starting point for beginners, but the finishing tool for advanced car polishers. This might seem as a contradiction to the casual onlooker, but these dual action buffers are a necessary tool for both ends of the polishing spectrum.

The Science Behind the Random Orbital Polisher

The orbital polisher was designed to duplicate the action of your hand applying wax or polish to a car; think wax-on, and wax-off from the movie "Karate Kid". The dual action is just that; it has two, independent moving or rotating points. It is also helpful to make a comparison to the earth's rotation along with the sun; the earth spins on an axis point, while at the same time it rotates around the sun. This holds true for the dual-action, or orbital buffer. Orbital buffers are low RPM tools relative to the more common high speed buffer, and lack the RPM's to create much in the way of friction and heat. It is for this reason that they serve both the beginner lacking experience, and the true professional needing this type of buffer to obtain true perfection in paint correction.

Forced and Random Orbital Buffers

When it comes to orbital buffers, two versions exist. Forced means that both the spinning and the orbiting are controlled by gears and a cam. They require much more engineering and exist at a professional level of quality and manufacturing. Random orbitals are known for lots of annoying vibration during use, and exist on the entry level of car polishers and can be bought very cheaply. Any true professional auto detailer will be using a forced orbital polisher.

  • Used by beginners as a fail safe entry into car polishing
  • Also used by professionals to obtain the highest level of paint perfection.

High Speed Buffer

The "red-headed stepchild" of buffers:

dewalt car buffers
  • The "infamous" high speed buffer.
  • The buffer that has given the subject a bad name.
  • The type of buffer that creates swirl marks or buffer tracks.
  • The buffer that is notorious for burning edges.
  • To be more correct, it is the person behind the buffer that is really at fault, not the buffer itself.

The high speed buffer as it is often referred, is officially called a rotary buffer. It is very straightforward as compared to the orbital buffer in that it simple spins on a single axis point. It is also capable of high RPM's which is also the biggest noticeable difference.

Why you would need a rotary, high speed buffer

Like many areas of life, the problem is not the buffer itself but the people using the car buffers. Whether we are talking guns, cars, or high speed polishers, in the wrong hands they can be a bad thing. But in the right hands, car buffers can provide a level of perfection that is unattainable without them. It is because of the high RPM's that enough heat and friction can be created to do serious paint correction and blemish removal. This is especially critical when a person is polishing gel coat or fiberglass. These materials are vastly different than working on car paint and require much more heat and friction to produce any actual and lasting results.

Why you wouldn't want a rotary buffer

The very reasons high speed car buffers are needed, is the very reason they can be dangerous in the wrong hands; it all has to do with high RPM's ("revolutions per minute" for those unfamiliar with this acronym)

Car Buffers Simplified

daren priest using car buffer

Like every other area of life, technology has improved the options available when it comes to finding the best car buffer out there. Of course finding the "best" of anything is a subjective call and can only be made once you have defined the metrics by which a product or service is judged. With that said, DeWalt has a new car buffer that to me as a professional auto detailer, represents not only the best car buffer for beginners, but also represent the best professional grade car buffer.

Best Detailing Buffer

Whether you are a beginner looking for the safest or best car buffer for beginners, to an advanced driveway detailer looking for professional grade car buffers, this car polisher from DeWalt gets my pick!

DeWalt DWP849X 7?/9? Variable Speed Rotary Polisher

DeWalt DWP849X 7?/9? Variable Speed Rotary Polisher

  • With a soft touch finger trigger, to an ultra low RPM speed adjustment setting, any monkey could use this car buffer on the lowest speed setting and still be completely safe!
  • Professional grade equipment for any level of skill or job; from car paint polishing and paint correction, to intense gel coat and fiberglass polishing.
  • One of the car buffers I use at a professional level regardless of the type of polishing I am performing.
  • With variable speed setting adjustment, you can fine tune your polishing needs with the right choice in polish pads and polishes.

This DeWalt comes with a backing plate and wool cutting pad, so depending on your polishing requirements, I recommend the following polishing kit from Meguiar's as my personal choice as the best car polishes for beginners and experts alike.

Meguiars Ultra Polish Kit with 6.5 Inch Pads

Meguiars Ultra Polish Kit with 6.5 Inch Pads

  • This kit combined with the DeWalt car buffer from above will cover any and all levels and jobs of polishing from cars, to boats, to RV's.
  • The actual car polishes I use on cars, which are also very effective on gel coats and fiberglass when polishing RV's and boats.

Darren's Professional Tips:

If you are not a DeWalt fan, I have included my other professional grade car buffers in the column over at the right. ANy of them will serve you well, I just happen to prefer the DeWalt myself. Use the following additional tips when deciding for yourself as to what is the best car buffer and the best car polishes to use:

  • Between the Dewalt Car Polisher kit and the Mequiar's car polish kit, you are armed for any and all your polishing needs.
  • Perfect combination of tools and products from true beginner all the way to veteran professional.
  • Enjoy the ultimate in versatility with variable speed polisher that goes from ultra low 600 RPM's to 3500 RPM's.
  • Polisher comes with 2 handles for exact match to your comfort.

Polishing Tips for Beginners

car buffers

I will start this off by telling you truthfully that polishing is an area of auto detailing that is grossly misunderstood with many, many bad opinions repeated by misinformed so-called "experts"; any trip to any of the hundred of car/truck/detailing forums will confirm this. It seems everyone has an opinion they are more than willing to repeat regardless of it being verified or valid! My tips simply come from 20+ years of first-hand professional experience. So with that said, let me lay out the process of polishing as a starting point with our discussion on car buffers in general.

  • The process of polishing is the same regardless of what we are talking about; car paint, diamonds, granite, wood, etc.
  • True polishing requires some form of abrasives; this could be sand paper, liquid polish compounds, emery cloth, a handful of beach sand if you like; doesn't really matter, but it requires abrasives.
  • Scratches and blemishes are removed or polished away using abrasives to scratch away the bigger scratches, by scratching with progressively smaller and smaller scratches. This means that you are literally scratching your way to a completely smooth and scratch free surface; which is actually a misnomer as there will always be scratches, it is just that you have polished, or scratched your way to a surface that appears scratch free with the naked eye. if you were to look under a microscope, it would reveal scratches that your eye no longer has the ability to discern without the use of a microscope.
  • When most beginners polish their car, they are merely covering the scratches that exist, not removing them. At best, they are perhaps eliminating the "edge" of these scratches to make them less noticeable.
  • Most people, detailers included, do not know how to actually remove scratches and create what appears to be a flawless finish to the naked eye. This requires the use of aggressive polish pads, aggressive polishes, and higher polishing speeds.
  • For most people, creating a truly flawless (as per naked eye) finished product is not only not necessary, but inappropriate for any car that is not a show car. It is one thing to be able to achieve a flawless finish, and another thing to be able to maintain a flawless finish.
  • With all that said, many guys find great satisfaction by using car buffers to raise the level of the appearance of their car despite their inability to actually remove car scratches completely.

Darren's Personal Warning:

There are many places you can buy car polishers and car buffers whether this be in magazines, on-line, or at the local retailer. Let me just say this, when it comes to the age old adage of "You get what you pay for", very few areas of life is this more true than with car buffers! Buying a cheap car polisher or buffer will be nothing but a huge disappointment! Despite what the advertising says, these cheap polishers and car buffers will not be able to handle anything but the lightest load of polishing. So unless you only plan on lightly applying wax, save your money and disappointment by not shopping for a so called cheap or inexpensive car buffer or car polisher.


Car Buffers Summary

The topic of car buffers and car polishing is an area of auto detailing that gets complicated quickly. So in further attempt to clarify if you find yourself siting on the fence, I will also add the following:

  • If you like the idea that you can get a professional grade car buffer and learn at your own speed, then choose the examples from DeWalt and Meguiar's from above.
  • Start with the the buffer set to the lowest speed setting, the softest foam pad, and the Meguiar's #205 finishing polish. As I said before, any monkey could polish any car with this combination and not worry about burning any edges or putting in any swirl marks to their paint.
  • As you grow in confidence and experience, start experimenting with speed settings, pad choices, and polish.
  • The more scratches and blemishes you are trying to polish away, the more you will have to increase the aggressiveness through choice in speed, pads, and polish, as well as time spent polishing each specific section.
  • For gel coat or fiberglass polishing, anything but the wool pad and a speed setting above 600 RPM will be basically ineffective other than creating the appearance of improvement; for any significant oxidation removal of gel coat/fiberglass, you will need to use the wool pad, about 1400 RPM's, and the Meguiar's #105 polish.

Pay "Car Buffers" Forward

darren polishing boat

Thank you for visiting my car buffer review. I hope I have helped whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned veteran. Now that you understand how to shop for the best detailing buffers, you will also want to review my page on selecting the best car wax for the job. I also bet you know of at least one other person who would benefit from the information I have taken so much time to produce. Whether this be friend, family, car forum, or car club, please help me spread the word by posting this to your FB, Twitter, or forum account! Or just send them the link and pay it forward in that manner. I have made it super easy to spread the word with my “Socialize It” button box at the very bottom of this page.



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