Finding the best boat buffer will be an oversimplified quest for most of you. Experience has shown that most people think that polishing car paint is essentially the same as polishing a boat.
While the fact does remain that many of the same tools and products do indeed work across the spectrum of car and boat polishing, understanding the differences between gel coat and the different buffers will go far to avoid disappointment and achieving optimum results. Follow along with this comprehensive question and answer session, and see if you don't walk away more informed than you ever thought possible!
Q.-I heard that car paint and gel coat is really the same when it comes to polishing and waxing.
A.-The fact is that while you could virtually use the same of everything to polish a boat as you do to polish your car, the real difference will be more about results.
(Many people will co-mingle fiberglass and gel coat when referring to their boat. While fiberglass is used to make boat hulls and decks, fiberglass actually refers to the fiberglass cloth used in the gel coat process. Gel coat is the top layer that is exposed and the material we are officially referring to and working with)
Gel coat is very porous and very durable. Gel coat has no protective layer to it like the clear coat on car paint and therefore oxidizes easily. The very qualities that make gel coat the go-to material for boat and RV construction, are also the very qualities that make polishing a boat very difficult....unless of course your boat is either brand new, or in excellent condition.
Because if your boat was in that kind of condition, would most likely mean you would not be searching for a top rated boat polisher.
Q.- What is the critical point I need in understanding the difference between car paint and gel coat?
A.- If you have a boat that is in pristine condition, it will mater not
what kind of boat polisher or product you use to polish your boat since your boat is in excellent condition and no level of oxidation exists. But most people go looking for the best boat
buffer and polish due to some level of oxidation, and this is the point
where selecting the right boat polisher and polish will make or break
your world. Unless you have aggressive enough tools and products, your
boat oxidation removal will be minimal at best. To truly perform oxidation removal and gel coat restoration, traditional random orbital or DA car polishers will be the equivalent of bringing a BB gun to a gun fight!
Q.- So what kind of boat buffer do I need to do the job?
A. - A high-speed buffer; also referred to as a rotary buffer. These buffers are buried in bad press mostly due to inexperienced and/or misinformed guys repeating bad information. The fact remains that gel coat requires the friction and heat that can only be produced through these high-speed polishers. Forced drive, or random orbital polishers simply cannot produce the necessary heat and friction required; at least in any realistic timely manner.
Q.- I heard that high-speed buffers should never be used as they leave swirl marks and can damage paint?
A.- We must remember a few things here; first, we are talking gel coat. And second, gel coat is not car paint. The good news is that gel
coat is very tough and can withstand far more pressure, heat, and
friction than car paint. This means good news to any beginner looking to
polish their own boat, but at the same time this is exactly why a
high-speed polisher is needed to achieve any discernible or lasting
results. I have seen many do-it-yourselfers try and save a buck by spending the entire weekend with their fathers old-school orbital polisher, or a grinder with a wool pad, only to have the oxidation re-appear a few weeks later due to their inexperience and ignorance of what they are doing, and what they are working on.
Q.- Now that I know a rotary or high-speed polisher is the best boat buffer, what are the best high-speed buffers I should consider for polishing my boat?
A.- Glad you asked as there are (3) choices that any experienced professional would recommend.
Darren's Tips: You could spend days researching the endless reviews about the best boat polishers, compounds, and polishing pads only to find yourself more confused, frustrated, and still no closer to getting what you really want....
a shiny, glossy, and protected boat!
So I am limiting my professional recommendations to a minimum for some very specific reasons:
I assume that anyone looking for the best boat buffer is dealing with some level of fiberglass oxidation or gel coat oxidation. I also know that most people grossly underestimate the nature of gel coat when it comes to polishing. It is one thing to polish your boat and have it look nice, entirely different to actually perform a job that will last. Most people who attempt to polish their boat will do so with materials and tools far too mild for lasting results. Boats really can handle and do require far more pressure, heat, and friction than that of cars.
Darren's Tip: While it is not a true requirement, since I started using this universal pad washer I have grown to love the benefits it offers and question how I managed before these came along.
While they are what I consider an expensive add-on, I also consider it a worthy expense for the basic reason:
"Whether you are polishing a boat or car; it is hard work! Having the best tools, products, and accessories will make the job dramatically easier and better. The right tools and products will literally make the difference between success and failure as well as overall user experience. Do not take this lightly!"
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Speaking from experience; boat polishing, fiberglass restoration is not an easy task even for a trained professional. But with my recommendations above you will at least have a fighting chance to getting professional results, and not be lead down the wrong path only to add further frustration to an already frustrating proposition!