Polishing Machine Guide
Dual Action, rotary, long throw, short throw... so many terms. Hopefully we can simplify the process of finding the right polisher for you.
Hand or Machine?
Your first question may not even be what type of polisher to get but do you even need one? Should you polish and wax your car by hand or using a machine.
First things first, polishing machines are not as dangerous as some might believe. The idea of burning or damaging your paint with one of the machines we offer here at Detailers Finest is remote - unless you're really careless. So bottom line, many of these machines are safe.
Applying polishes and waxes by hand are what some people are into. They find it relaxing. If you don't, that's probably why you're looking for a machine. But besides being a time saver, machines make the process of polishing and waxing:
1. More efficient. You'll use less material (the polish or wax) and spend less time
2. Better results. No doubt you will get much better results than applying by hand - especially if you're correcting paint. And depending on which machine you choose, you can get even better results.
Dual Action (DA) vs. Rotary
We only sell DA's here at Detailers Finest. Rotary's are what top shops and paint and body shops use. It's what most people with fear of machines have in mind. Heavy, high speed torquey machines that can burn through paint. All true when rotary's are put in the wrong hands.
DA's move in a pattern that's sort of like the Earth traveling around the sun. It rotates around the sun while spinning on its own axis. It basically mimics hand motion. Rotary's on the other hand just spin in circles and for that reason can generate a lot of heat - giving them their ability to burn through paint if used incorrectly. Used correctly like a surgeon's scalpel, it can do amazing work at reshaping the paint very quickly. But DA's (specifically long throw DA's) are getting really good at that.
Short Throw vs. Long Throw DA's
These are the latest terms. A throw is how far from the center axis of the polishing machine the pad travels. Remember, DA's don't spin in circles. They spin away from their center axis. This is the throw. The longer the throw, the faster and better the paint correction. Also, the less effort that is required.
Porter Cable's are one of the earliest DA machines. They are workhorses. They have the shortest throw so they can correct paint but it will take a lot longer and are limited to minor corrections. We prefer to call them "finishing machines". Very good at those last steps of the polishing process and not the heavy cutting duties.
Long Throw machines like the Rupes are fantastic at correcting paint rapidly with less effort and fatigue. They have a 15mm and 21mm throw.
15mm or 21mm?
Choose a 15mm for polishing your average car. Choose a 21mm if you have a large, flat surface area. Think large trucks or boats. You'll get those types of vehicles done a lot faster with a 21mm since it covers more surface area in less time. However, if you mostly do average size vehicles, stick with a 15mm.
Good - Better - Best
Here's how we rank the polishers.
Good 🔷 Porter Cable 7424
A real workhorse and very durable. We've had the same one in the shop from 1999! It just keeps going without any issues.
If you know its limitations (see above), you won't be disappointed.
Hi-Buff Long Throw Polishers 15mm and 21mm
If you love the idea of a long throw and don't detail for a living, the Hi-Buff polishers are a good choice. A lot less in price than a Rupes, you'll be able to achieve many of the same results at lower out-of-pocket cost. If you do try to use it for a shop environment where it's a tool for your livelihood, you'll most likely burn through the machine. So if it's for a business, make the investment and choose a Rupes.
Pioneers of the long throw machine. These are the Ferrari's of the polishers and they are literally made in Italy. Many detail shops choose Rupes as their tool choice. More durable than the Hi-Buff polishers. So if you have a shop or you're a weekend warrior that just wants the best, choose the Rupes.
We hope this guide offered clarity and helps make deciding which polishing machine to go with easier!