One of the best methods to take your car’s paintwork finish to the next level is by using a machine polisher to remove swirl marks, wash marrings, water spots, etc., and enhancing the paint gloss, clarity, and depth by polishing the paint’s finish. Polishing paint can also be done by hand. However, adding a machine polisher to your detailing tool arsenal opens the door to enhancements not achievable by hand in both correction and final finish.
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the unique benefits of machine polishing and outline the basic steps in achieving the best possible results. There’s a lot more to machine polishing than simply eliminating swirl marks and other paint blemishes. Performed correctly, polishing the paintwork will create a deep, crystal clear, glossy finish, which will turn heads at any car show, meetup, or cruise.
A Dual-Action polisher’s beauty lies in the fact that it doesn’t require years of experience and practice to use the machine and achieve great results. However, with a little practice and honing your skills and technique, you can produce a high gloss finish that will attract attention everywhere you go. In this guide, we’ll look at the basic techniques and pro tips to get you started using a Dual-Action polisher.
Note: this guide is not brand or polishing machine specific. There are literally dozens of polishing machines on the market, and each one requires a slightly different technique of use. This guide, however, will cover the basics that you can apply to all polishers. Also note, each detailer has somewhat different techniques, so the key to achieving the best possible finish is to experiment and discover which methods work best for you. Take the time to develop and master your skills, and you’ll be rewarded with a finish that you will be proud to show off.
What Is A Dual-Action Polisher?
Many years ago, paint polishing could only be accomplished using a Rotary (Forced-Action) machine polisher with a wool or foam pad. Rotary polishers are still the machine of choice used by many body shops and professional detailers today, and when used correctly, will deliver luxurious results. However, there is some risk when using them, as they require skill and practice to get the best results. By nature, because the pad spins on a constant, singular orbit, a rotary polisher generates a significant amount of heat on the paintwork surface, leading to paint burns in the hands of an inexperienced user.
By contrast, a Dual-Action polisher is a much safer tool to pick up and use. Dual-Action means that the machine head spins in both a circular motion and an oscillating motion simultaneously, resulting in a random orbital movement. It’s for this reason Dual-Action polishers are often referred to as Random-Orbital polishers.
It is also because of this random orbital nature that the machine generates far less heat than the rotary polisher. Even though paint correction typically takes a little longer with a Dual-Action polisher, it’s a far gentler, safer, and more comfortable tool to work and learn with, making it the perfect polishing machine for beginners.
Some Dual-Action polishing machines, such as the Cyclo, use two smaller polishing heads instead of a single polishing head that follows the same random orbital path as described above. These machines are much more restricted when it comes to pad size but are still excellent paint polishing tools.
Which DA Polisher Should I Use?
There are many options for Dual-Action polishing machines to chose from on the market today, Flex, Rupes, and Griot’s Garage, to name a few. All of which are available to purchase from Show Shine Garage. However, this guide is not a review of all possible product options, but rather an essential guide for what is available and some manufacturers that would make the right choice.
Polishing Pads & Backing Plates
There is a wide assortment of foam polishing pads suitable for Dual-Action machine polishing ranging in sizes from 3″-6″. Different pads use different foam grades, which in turn affects the coarseness and density of the pad. The coarseness and density give it varying levels of cut. So it’s a good idea when buying a polishing machine to include a wide range of pads in order to provide you with as broadest selection possible to complete the paint enhancement detail in hand.
As with most things related to auto detailing, there are a mind-numbing array of products to choose from, and polishing pads are no exception! For pads, we recommend that you have a good range and supply on hand to use: a couple of heavy cut pads, a few medium-cut pads, and a couple of finishing pads would be a good starting point. The type and the difference between the various foam pads will be covered in a later guide.
You will also notice that the pads come in various sizes. The most significant advantage to this is that it allows smaller and larger areas to be polished with a pad size tailored to each panel. Additionally, when compounding with a Dual-Action polisher, smaller pads will produce a little more cut by focusing the polishing action down more. To hold the pad onto the machine, you will need a backing plate. The backing plate must be the correct size for the pad you are using: 6″ pads will need a 5-6″ backing plate, 5″ pads will require a 5″ backing plate, 4″ pads will require a 3.5-4″ backing plate.
Polishes & Compounds
A key ingredient to machine polishing is, of course, the polish! And once again, you will notice an overwhelming number of brands producing an equally wide range of polishes. It’s tempting when first starting out to buy as many polishes and compounds as possible. But truth be told, for most paint defects on most vehicles, you honestly only need a few products:
- One all-in-one (AIO) polish
- One medium cutting polish
- One light or fine finishing polish
You could also add a heavy cutting compound for more aggressive cutting on finishes with deeper marring. These three or four products would be plenty to get you started in machine polishing and delivering results that create whiplash!
Are you ready to take your detailing skills to the next level?
Increase your knowledge, skills, quality, confidence, and profits with training guides from Show Shine Garage and IDA Certified Master Detailer Todd Coldiron