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How to choose the right polisher

How to choose the right polisher


This guide will help you choose the right polisher for every detailing job. Different polishers are designed to accomplish different tasks. To perform the full range of paint correction and maintenance tasks, you may need more than one type of polisher.

This guide will compare the Porter Cable 7424XP, Meguiar's G110v2, Griot's Garage 6" Random Orbital Polisher, Griot's Garage 3" Mini Polisher, Flex 3401, Flex 3403, Cyclo Polisher, and Makita 9227C.

Ease of Use Ranking
Each of the tools below are also graded as to their ease of use using a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest and 5 being the most difficult.


Single Head - Dual Action/Random Orbital Polishers - Free Rotating Spindle Assemblies

Ease of Use Ranking: 1

Random orbital/ dual action polishers are the easiest and most user-friendly electric polishers. They have free rotating spindle assemblies that prevent you from burning through the paint. With the use of dual action pads and products, dual action polishers cannot cause swirls, but they can be used to remove swirls.

Porter Cable 7424XP Dual Action Polisher
Dual action polishers are lightweight and easy to control on both horizontal panels and vertical panels. You can use them to remove swirls, polish paint to a high gloss, apply a wax or paint sealant and even use them to remove the wax or paint sealant after it has dried. The free rotating spindle assemblies make these polishers very safe for regular polishing and waxing.

Dual action or random orbital polishers are the next step up from hand polishing or the old-fashioned orbital buffer.

Dual action or random orbital polishers are ideal for:

  • People new to machine polishing.
  • People looking for a safe, but more powerful polisher as compared to a traditional orbital buffer.
  • People who only take care of their own car or their family's cars.
  • Anyone wanting to start a part-time or full-time detailing business.
  • Anyone with a detailing business that wants to add a DA polisher to their arsenal.
  • People that work in body shops looking for a tool to ensure swirl-free finish.
  • Boat owners looking for a better way to maintain their boat.
  • RV owners looking for a better and faster way to maintain their RVs.
  • Airplane owners looking for a safer, faster way to maintain their airplanes' finishes.

Dual action polishers are both great entry level polishers and tools seasoned professionals use to create a true, swirl-free, show car finish.

A variety of pads are available to suit dual action polishers, including those by Lake Country. Meguiars, and 3M.

Examples of DA polishers:

Porter Cable 7424XP
Griot's Garage Random Orbital Polisher
Griot's Garage 3" Mini Polisher
Meguiar's G110v2 Polisher



Cyclo Dual Head - Random Orbital Polisher

Ease of Use Ranking: 2

The Cyclo Dual Head Orbital Polisher has been used to polish airplanes. Airstream trailers, vehicles, RVs, and boats since 1952! It's useful for polishing auto paint and aluminum. The balance offered by the two polishing heads makes the Cyclo easy to learn. The dual heads are designed to mimic the motion of hand polishing to create a deep, uniform shine.

The Cyclo Polisher is versatile in that you can remove the Rubber Pad Holders and install a variety of different brushes for cleaning carpet, upholstery, leather, fabrics, tile and grout. Instead of the pad holders you can also use more traditional style screw-in backing plates. Many 4 inch Cyclo foam and wool pads are available.

If you want to try something different, Cyclo Doubleprecision Pads attach to the Cyclo using quick connect adapters. These pads are double-sided and available in a variety of foam compositions.

Cyclo polishers underwent a big innovation recently. Formerly, the Cyclo only had one speed. In 2010, the Model 5Pro with variable speeds was released. Detailers rejoice!

Cyclo Orbital Polishers are great for:

  • People new to machine polishing.
  • People looking for a safe, but more powerful polisher as compared to a traditional orbital buffer. Cyclo Orbital Polisher Variable Speed Model 5-Pro
  • People who only take care of their own car or their family's cars.
  • Anyone wanting to start a part-time or full-time detailing business.
  • Anyone with a detailing business that wants to add a DA polisher to their arsenal.
  • People that work in body shops looking for a tool to ensure swirl-free finish.
  • Boat owners looking for a better way to maintain their boat.
  • RV owners looking for a better and faster way to maintain their RVs.
  • Airplane owners looking for a safer, faster way to maintain their airplanes' finishes.
  • The Cyclo Polisher is a well-built and well-engineered polisher that offers you the ability to perform a lot of different detailing procedures from just one tool. Chances are very good it will outlast you too!

    Example of a Dual Head - Random Orbital Polisher

    Cyclo Polisher


Hybrid - Forced Rotation Random Orbital Polisher

Ease of Use Ranking: 3Flex XC 3401 VRG Dual Action Orbital Polisher

The Flex XC 3401 VRG Orbital Polisher is a forced rotation dual action polisher, or a hybrid polisher.

"Forced rotation" means that the buffing head oscillates at the same time it's rotating. DA polishers do the same thing but the FLEX 3401 uses a direct drive mechanical action to force the pad to both rotate and oscillate with no allowance for slippage. Remember, the DA polishers have free rotating spindle assemblies. The FLEX 3401 has forced rotation.

Because of this design, the FLEX 3401 has most of the power associated with direct drive rotary buffers but the safety of dual action polishers. You cannot burn the paint with the FLEX 3401 and you cannot instill swirls as long as you use DA-approved pads and products. The FLEX 3401 is the best of both worlds!

The FLEX 3401 is a little tougher to learn for a newbie than a DA polisher, but the transition is very easy if you're already familiar with DA polishers. If you're used to using a rotary buffer, it won't take you long to see the differences with the FLEX 3401. The progression of most detailers looks something like this:

Hand Polishing --> DA polisher/Orbital --> Forced rotation polisher --> Rotary/Circular


The FLEX XC 3401 VRG Polisher is great for:

  • People who have used dual action polishers and are ready for the next step.
  • People who are new to machine polishing but able to learn quickly.
  • People looking for a safe, but more powerful polisher as compared to a traditional orbital buffer.
  • People who only take care of their own car or their family's cars.
  • Anyone wanting to start a part-time or full-time detailing business.
  • Anyone with a detailing business that wants to add a multi-purpose tool to their detailing arsenal.
  • People that work in body shops looking for a tool to ensure a swirl-free finish.
  • Boat owners looking for a better way to maintain their boat.
  • RV owners looking for a better and faster way to maintain their RVs.
  • Airplane owners looking for a safer, faster way to maintain their airplanes' finishes.

The FLEX 3401 offers a lot more correction ability than a dual action polisher or a Cyclo Polisher.

Note: The FLEX 3401 does require that the operator pay close attention and have a steady hand to control the machine. Remember, this is a more powerful polisher than a DA polisher.

If given the opportunity to test drive a FLEX 3401, take it! Most people who try it end up purchasing one and becoming big fans of its performance. The FLEX 3401 is a perfect happy medium between DA polishers and rotary polishers.


Example of Hybrid - Forced Rotation Random Orbital Polisher:

Flex XC 3401 VRG Forced Rotation Dual Action Polisher


Direct Drive Rotary Buffers - Circular Polishers

Flex Lightweight Polisher Ease of Use Ranking: 4
Full size Models Ease of Use Ranking: 5  

Rotary buffers are the preferred tool of detailing professionals, such as those working in body shops and mobile and fixed location detailers.

Rotary Buffers, also referred to as circular polishers, use powerful electric motors to power direct drive gear systems that force a spindle to rotate in one circular direction. All that power is delivered through the pad to the paint. This design makes rotary buffers the best tools for paint correction, but they are also capable of removing paint very quickly. Rotary buffers offer the highest risk of  burning the paint but, if you can master their use, they offer the greatest paint restoration potential.

In a body shop situation, after fresh paint dries it may be wet-sanded or color sanded to remove Orange Peel by sanding the textured surface flat. After the finish is sanded flat, the next step is to remove the sanding marks. This requires a polisher that has a lot of power to cut into the paint and level it. A rotary buffer is often used for this job because it works fast.

For paint reconditioning, rotary buffers are the fastest, most effective choice for removing deeper defects like swirls, scratches, etching and water spots.

The dual action polishers, the Cyclo Polisher and the Hybrid Flex 3401 can all remove these types of deeper, serious defects but not as quickly. They don't have the same type of power as a rotary polisher.

The power of rotary buffers enables them to remove serious paint defects quickly but they come with a high level of risk. You can easily burn or grind through the paint and expose the underlying paint or even the metal!

It is very important to take the time to master the rotary buffer in order to prevent costly mistakes.

Notice we've listed two Ease of Use Rankings at the top of this section. The small FLEX Lightweight Rotary Polisher is a bit easier to handle so it gets a ranking of 4. Most rotary polishers are heavier and bigger, and therefore they get a ranking of 5.

Rotary buffers are the most difficult to master. It's a good idea to try your hand at using a dual action polisher to get a feel for machine polishing. Then learn how to use a rotary buffer through a combination of hands-on training and practice, practice, practice.

Rotary/Circular polishers are ideal for: FLEX PE14-2-150 Rotary Polisher

  • Anyone with a detailing business that wants to add a more powerful tool to their detailing arsenal.
  • Enthusiasts that have mastered one or more of the other groups of tools and are now ready to move onto to the rotary buffer.

Compared to the other groups of tools, using a rotary buffer will require the most upper body strength including hands, arms, shoulders, back, stomach and even leg muscles. You must have control over the polisher to ensure consistent, swirl-free results.

Examples of Direct Drive Rotary Buffers - Circular Polishers:

Flex L3403 VRG Lightweight Rotary Buffer
FLEX PE14-2-150 Rotary Polisher
Makita 9227C Rotary Buffer


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Porter Cable 7424XP Dual Action Polisher <font color=red>FREE BONUS</font></b>
Retail Value: $149.99
Our Price: $129.99
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Griot's Garage Professional Random Orbital 3 Inch Polisher
Regular price: $99.99
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Meguiars Dual Action Polisher G110v2
Regular price: $209.00
Sale price: $179.99
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Cyclo Orbital Polisher Variable Speed Model 5-Pro
Regular price: $350.00
Sale price: $330.00
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Flex XC 3401 VRG Dual Action Orbital Polisher <font color=red><b>FREE BONUS</font></b>
Retail Value: $359.99
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FLEX PE14-2-150 Rotary Polisher <font color=red><b>FREE BONUS</font></b>
Regular price: $419.99
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FLEX L3403 VRG Lightweight Circular Polisher <font color=red><b>FREE BONUS</font></b>
Regular price: $299.99
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Makita 9227C Variable Speed Polisher
Retail Value: $249.99
Our Price: $199.99
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