How To Use An Orbital Polisher On Car Exteriors


In this article you will learn:

  • Why dual action polishers are so user friendly

  • Which compounds and polishing pads to use with a machine polisher

  • Tips for using a dual action polisher on your car

Like most handheld machinery, dual action polishers aren’t as intimidating as they look. In fact, they’re the one of the easiest car buffers for beginners to use to correct and restore their finish. And believe us—if you plan to do a lot of polishing at home, you’re going to need one of these practical machines.

Dual action polishers are much better, faster and more efficient at buffing and shining your car than you are. Not only do they speed up the detail process, but they also provide more consistent and precise polishing action to achieve a deep, flawless shine. But before using any machine polisher on your car, it’s important to know how to use them to safely remove swirls and scratches from the clear coat.

Whether you’re new to polishers or just need a quick refresher, here are some helpful tips on how to use a dual action polisher!

Start with an entry-level polisher

Entry-level DA polishers are particularly handy for beginners because they aren’t gear driven, which means they stall if you apply too much pressure. This prevents you from generating too much heat and friction between your buffing pad and the clear coat, which can damage your paintwork. Professional detailers may not find this feature beneficial, but it’s perfect for DIY enthusiasts who are still getting to know their way around a polisher.

If you already know the ropes and don’t want your polisher to stall, look for a gear-driven polisher. This type of polisher won’t stop spinning, no matter how much pressure you apply to your machine, so be sure not to press down too hard as you’re polishing. Let the weight of your machine do the work for you, or, if you’re working with a lighter polisher, a good rule of thumb is to apply 10-15 pounds of pressure max.

Get to know your machine

If this is your first time using a dual action polisher, or if this one is new to you, take the time to get to know your machine. One way you can do this is by getting some spare car panels from the junk yard to experiment with different settings. Start at a low speed, and just get a feel for the way your polisher moves.

A rotary polisher spins in a circular motion on a single axis to remove heavy scratches and swirls, while an orbital polisher revolves around more than one axis to smooth and refine the clear coat. A dual action polisher, also known as a random orbital polisher, combines both motions, so that your pad rotates and oscillates around its axes. This makes dual action polishers almost as powerful as rotary polishers while being a lot safer to use on your clear coat.

polishing motion

Test your clear coat

It’s also important to understand the different characteristics of your clear coat. Different car finishes have different paint hardnesses. This means that each finish will require a different speed and cutting strength to remove scratches and paint imperfections.

You can test the hardness of your clear coat by working with your polisher in a 2’ x 2’ section of your car exterior. Apply three to four dime-sized drops of a polishing compound like Hybrid Solutions PRO 1 & Done to a light-to-medium buffing pad and start polishing on a low speed. Gradually increase the speed of your polisher to a setting that allows you to move the polisher around comfortably. Then, time yourself as you polish this 2’ x 2’ section. This will give you an idea of what your clear coat is like, as well as how long it will take to polish the rest of your car.

Harder clear coats require more abrasiveness and generally take longer to polish, while softer clear coats respond well to light-duty polishes and generally take less time to polish. With an adjustable polish like Hybrid Solutions 1 & Done, all you need to do is switch between cutting pads to adjust your level of paint correction, which makes machine polishing your car a lot easier!

hybrid solutions pro 1 & done

Keep it moving

As you’re cutting and buffing your paint, remember to always keep your polisher moving. Although dual action polishers are much easier on your clear coat than rotary buffers, you can still burn or gouge the clear coat if you hover over one spot of your paint for too long. A good rule of thumb is to move your polisher about one inch-per-second, working in a cross-hatch pattern to make sure you’re getting full, even coverage.

Of course, there’s a lot more we could say about dual action polishers, but the bottom line is to get to know your car and detailing equipment before performing a complete paint restoration. This will allow you to build your confidence at your own pace and refine your technique. Pretty soon, you'll be polishing like the pros!

For more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to polish your car, check out our previous blog post on paint correction.


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