Machine Polishers

Which is better for applying cleaners, polishes and waxes, machines like the rotary buffer, Meguiar’s G-220, Dual Action Polisher or the tried and true method of applying products by hand?
This is not a “one is better than the other” issue. Each method offers its own unique benefits and features. Machines like rotary buffers, dual action polishers, and orbital buffers are simply tools. Depending on the surface condition and what you’re trying to accomplish, one may be better suited for the task over another. While hand application of Meguiar’s paint cleaners, cleaner/ polishes, pure polishes and waxes can achieve brilliant results a majority of the time, professional painters and detailers prefer using a machine such as a rotary buffer, dual-action polisher or an orbital buffer for a number of different reasons. Here are a few:

  • Depending on the procedure, machines are nearly twice as fast as your hands.
  • Machines are much less fatiguing to your hands, arms, and back.
  • Dual-action polishers and orbital buffers apply a thinner coat that’s easier to wipe off.
  • Dual-action polishers and orbital buffers spread polishes and waxes more evenly, for more uniform results.
  • Machines do a better job of cleaning deeper and removing surface defects and oxidation more thoroughly.
  • Machines are better at removing swirls.
  • Machines force more polishing oils into the surface, for deeper gloss and reflections.
  • Machines are more effective at removing serious defects than your hand.

Either of the two power buffers Meguiar’s offers mimic your hand motions and will give you an impressive finish without any risk of burning your paint, even if you’ve never used a buffer before. It’s important to remember that while a rotary buffer can do a lot of good, it can also be dangerous, potentially creating swirls, or burning through paint if not properly used. Using a rotary buffer correctly requires skill, good technique, and experience. Don’t expect or even try to learn how to use a rotary buffer on any vehicle that is important to you. Instead, find an old junker, or go to a wrecking yard and find the hood off a junked car to learn and practice on.

What’s the difference between a dual-action polisher, orbital buffer and a rotary buffer?
Dual-action polishers and orbital buffers
The motors and drive units on these two types of polishers oscillate in an eccentric circular motion. This type of motion is much safer to the paint because it’s virtually impossible to apply too much concentrated pressure in one place at one time. Chances are good that when too much pressure is applied, the oscillating action will come to a stop thereby protecting the finish. Because these types of machines oscillate instead of rotate, they will not instill the dreaded buffer swirls or holograms into your finish as long as you use the appropriate chemicals, buffing pads and bonnets. This safety feature makes these machines highly popular with enthusiasts who would like to use a machine but at the same time, are afraid of burning or inflicting swirls into their car’s finish. Both the G220 and orbital buffers offer a number of benefits:

  • Uncomplicated – Remove from box, attach buffing pad or bonnet, plug in, turn on, start buffing
  • Versatile – Can be used for cleaning, polishing, and applying waxes.
  • Takes most of the labour out of the process, the machine does the work, all you do is hold it.
  • Faster, more thorough - you can cover more area and do a better job with a machine.
  • Creates a more uniform, higher gloss finish than your hands.
  • Pushes polishing oils and protective waxes into the pores and microscopic surface imperfections far better than your hands can ever accomplish.

In recent years, the porter cable dual-action polisher (G220) has become the machine of choice over the older style orbital buffers for a number of different reasons:

  • Smaller size and lighter weight makes them easier for anyone to use.
  • Very easy to control, requires no previous experience or skill to use correctly.
  • Smaller size enables you to work on small panels and tight areas easier with better control.
  • More options for buffing pads and bonnets.
  • Velcro interface makes changing between pads fast and easy.

Rotary buffers
Rotary buffers are drastically different in the way they work compared to dual-action polishers and orbital buffers. The drive unit used in a rotary buffer is referred to as a direct drive. What this means is the auger, (the threaded part to which the backing plate attaches), is driven directly off the electric motor. This results in a powerful rotating motion. This rotating motion is typically clockwise as you look at the rotary buffer from behind, as though you were using it on a panel. Because the rotary buffer is a direct drive machine, it can do a lot of work very quickly. By work, we mean, the rotary buffer will remove paint. Meguiar’s understands the average person doesn’t want to remove precious paint from their car’s finish. However, sometimes removing paint is necessary in order to create a high gloss, defect-free finish. Example: If you have a scratch in your car’s finish, say someone keyed your car, or a cat jumped up on the hood and left behind claw scratches. From a horizontal point of view, these scratches would look like this, In order to remove these scratches, you will need to remove enough paint surrounding the scratches in order to make the surface level. As you can see in this example, removing the scratches will require removing quite a bit of paint material, and in the case of the deep key scratch (where the arrow is pointing), you will not be able to completely remove it without exposing the base, or colour coat of paint. This is a situation where you are better off improving the scratch, not completely removing the scratch. Second Example: Many cars, after being painted, are wet-sanded in order to remove orange peel or to bring the surface to a showcar quality finish. After the finish has been sanded, the way you remove the sanding marks is to buff the finish with a cutting compound and a rotary buffer. The cutting compound abrades the paint, removing, or leveling the finish until it’s completely flat. After the surface is buffed flat, it will then be polished with a cleaner/polish like Meguiar’s M-83 Dual Action Cleaner/Polish with the rotary buffer to restore a swirl-free, high gloss finish. Rotary buffers are necessary to do both of these procedures because both of these procedures require that some portion of the paint is removed. Dual-action polishers and orbital buffers do not have an aggressive enough action to remove small particles of paint in an effort to remove most defects, including sanding marks. This is the same reason dual-action polishers and orbital buffers are safe… they don’t have an aggressive action, thus they are safe. However, because they are safe (do not have an aggressive action), they are not aggressive enough to remove all but the finest of scratches.

Do not purchase a dual action polisher or orbital buffer hoping to use these to remove major or even minor scratches, as they are just not aggressive enough. They can often be used to remove fine or shallow scratches and swirls, but they will not remove any scratch that is deep enough to place your fingernail into. Remember, using a rotary buffer successfully requires both skill and experience. If you use a rotary buffer and are not skilled in its use, you can easily apply too much pressure to the paint and burn right through it, requiring a new paint job. This same result can happen if you use a buffing pad attached to an
electric drill.

Will an orbital buffer work with your products?
Yes. Orbital buffers are designed to help you safely produce a better shine with less effort on your part. Orbital buffers, offer the safe oscillating-action that Meguiar’s G220 Dual-Action Polisher uses, the primary difference being one of size and design. Traditional orbital buffers are typically larger than the G220 and typically have two handles on opposite sides of the buffer unit itself. There are smaller orbital buffers on the market, and some with different handle configurations, but in the end, they all do the same thing and that’s use a random, oscillating motion to safely apply cleaners, polishes and protectants. The benefit to using an orbital buffer is, generally speaking, they will produce better, more even results than the results you can achieve only using your hands. The only drawback to the orbital buffer is sometimes their larger size can make it difficult to work on small areas, like windshield posts, or tight spaces like the space under a rear deck wing. Since most orbital buffers use a large 8” to 11” buffing pad, you tend to use more product because the pad itself will absorb a certain amount of your product. Note: Meguiar’s more aggressive Paint Cleaners and Compounds in the Professional Line should only be applied with a rotary buffer by an experienced technician.

Meguiar’s G220 Dual Action Polisher.
Unlike traditional orbital buffers, the G220 uses a backing plate, which utilizes a Velcro Quick Change system so that you can quickly and easily switch from a polishing pad like the W8006 to a final finishing pad like the W9006. The smaller 6” size provides plenty of cleaning and polishing action while using dramatically less product because of the smaller size. The G220 is also lighter in weight making it incredibly easy for just about anyone of any skill level to use. Its smaller size allows it to be used on smaller areas and in tighter space making it more versatile all around.