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Video: How to use a D/A and Rotary Buffer – Properly!

by

I get a lot of requests for information on how to properly use both the D/A and rotary buffers, and it’s just difficult to fully explain in text. So when I received a black Audi S4 that had been attacked at some point in its life by an un-trained technician wielding a rotary buffer and an old-school wool pad, I saw it as a great opportunity to create a video that captured the processes for both machines.

As you will clearly see in the video, the Audi had a severe case of wool-induced holograms (woolograms) and swirls that significantly impacted the overall looks of the vehicle. But with the right combination of tools, products, and techniques, this S4 was restored to its original glory.

The video was shot entirely in 1080 HD, but somehow during the rendering process it got switched over to old-school 4:3 from widescreen. Irony can be funny at times…  :)  But at least select 720p or higher resolution when viewing the video for the best playback quality.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below. And feel free to share this article / video on your favorite forum(s) and social media.

Todd Cooperider Esoteric Auto Detail
Todd Cooperider
Esoteric Auto Detail
Columbus, Ohio
EsotericDetail.com
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66 comments on Video: How to use a D/A and Rotary Buffer – Properly!

  1. Terry Kendrick says:

    Todd, enjoyed your video and demonstration. I own a DA and the microfiber pads.

    After D301, I finish down my my paint with Meguiars 205 followed by Menzerna 85rd. (Since I own a DA only)

    Is there a better way?

    • Thanks Terry.

      Well it really depends on the type of paint you’re working with, but I’ve found in most cases that you should only need one more polishing step as opposed to the two that you’re doing. Try using Menzerna 106FA as your second/final polishing step. This should provide enough cut to remove any haze left over by the D300/MF, and it should finish down perfectly with the vast majority of paints you’ll ever work with.

      • Bbob Geco says:

        Todd: your approach is differenct than Michael Phillips. you use the micro fiber pad on a DA with a swirl remover and finishe up with a black finish pad and a rotory polisher. Is it the tork of the Rotory that mkess you feel more confident to use it oto finish up the paint in a 2 step polish system? I have read on some forums about a 3 and 4 step process?
        I have a Mercedes-Benz 300E Black soft paint do I need to use a rotory to fish up or can I use the Micro Fiber Meguiressystem to do my two step before I wax.?

        Why don’t you do a CD or book?

        Bob Geco

        • Hi Bob.

          The current technology in my professional opinion provides for better compounding through the use of a D/A, with better finish polishing through the use of the rotary (on most paints). I have written about this subject quite a bit, and have said that manufacturers are working on refining the liquids and pads to bring finish polishing via D/A up to the level of what can be achieved on a rotary. Don’t get me wrong though, as you can achieve a tremendous finish with using the D/A as the last step, and most people would never know the difference between the two.

          With the way the D/A is capable of cutting and finishing in the compounding stage, particularly when using the Microfiber Cutting Discs, there’s no longer a need for the intermediate step (or two) on most paints. The day of the 3 and 4 step polishing process / system is gone. Sure, you’re going to run into special circumstances every now and then, but for the most part it’s completely unnecessary.

          As for your soft black Benz, it really depends on just how soft and finicky it is. On many of those soft, pure black paints, I have found that even with the softest pads and finest polishes with a rotary, it may still leave slight swirling that can only be seen when inspecting with the Brinkmann light from a few inches away…you’d never see it in the sunshine or under halogens / fluorescents. In these cases I’ll either use something like Menzerna SF4500 (formerly 85rd) on the D/A or Sonax NTPC also on the D/A.

          Sometimes it’s hard to just keep up with a few articles here and there and correspondence…let alone find the time to write a book or do a CD! Somebody needs to just come along and offer me a TV show (actually have a concept written!), so if you know of any show producers, give them my number. :)

  2. Roger says:

    Todd,

    Great info. Thanks for taking the time to do your blogs. I always enjoy and learn from them.

    On the DA segment, with the Meguiar MF pad did you prime the entire pad with polish first (as many recommend) and then add a couple drops of polish (M105 in this case). It looked like you only used 3 drops of M105 without any pad priming? Thanks for any advice on using the MF pads and whether to prime or not.

    • Thanks Roger! I made a comment in the video that the pad was already primed, but that quick comment could easily get missed. Whether you’re using D300 or M105, you definitely want to prime the pad, and keep it clean as well for best results (preferably blow it out with compressed air after each working section…a door panel for instance).

      • Roger says:

        You are right….I did miss that the pad was already primed. Thanks for your advice about using MF pads.

      • Paul T says:

        How do you prime the pads? Is that for all pads or just MF pads? I’m new to detailing and plan on doing a complete detail on my ’04 pearl white Acura TL soon. I plan on buying a PC 7424xp for the whole job. After reading your NPB Acura TL job, i plan on using the same products you used, since my paint condition is almost the same, maybe slightly better.

        Any suggestions for my white paint vs the black in your blog example?

        Thanks! I love this site btw, you guys ROCK!

        Paul

        • Paul,

          I answered your other questions in the TL article. But for priming pads, it’s really polish and pad dependent. If using the Megs MF pads, check out my review / tutorial on those products.

        • Paul,

          I answered your other questions in the TL article. But for priming pads, it’s really polish and pad dependent. If using the Megs MF pads, ” target=”_blank”>check out my review / tutorial on those products.

  3. Great video Todd! This is definitely one of those request we get all the time and it should be very helpful for our readers!

    Cheers,
    Rasky

  4. Allen Tran says:

    Ahh, that reminds me, I’ve gotta redo the wax on my car before winter hits. I still haven’t gotten around to using the SONAX Paint Cleaner >.>

    I’ll check out the video when I have the time, nice to see there’s a 1080p option!

  5. Hamza says:

    Hi Todd,

    After your product recommendations I want to pick up the D300 and Meguair’s cutting disk but the only thing holding me back is that I have heard since softer paints (I usually work on Japanese cars) have less resistance to the non-diminishing polish a haze is left and can be cleaned up with a finishing polish like 85rd but I just wanted to see what you would have to say on this subject.

    • I would recommend getting the D300/MF Cutting Disc for compounding, and then have a few finishing polishes on hand depending on the type of paint you’re working with. If you have a “go-to” finishing polish, you can test the combination on that particular car and use it if it works. If not, be sure to have a backup product to go for depending on how the paint is reacting during the finishing process.

  6. sm says:

    Hey Todd.

    What do you think of these many polish brands. Because I’m newbie I wonder what would be best/easiest allrounder polish combo? My options are: Sonus SFX-1-SFX-2-SFX-3, Megs 105-205, Wolf’s 5N-0N, Scholl S17+-S40+ or Menzerna range?

    • Saul,

      Unfortunately, there is no “right” answer. It depends on what kind of correction you’ll be doing, and the types of paints you’ll be working on. While something like Megs may work great on many cars, you may need to switch up to a different finishing polish on softer paints. And the same scenario for the rest of them as well. So the thing to remember here is that what may be the perfect polish combo on one car may not be so perfect on the next car. You’ll need to make a selection, and then branch out and start learning some other polishes that you’ll use on cars where your main polishes won’t give you the desired results.

  7. saul says:

    But which would be easiest for newbie if I like to do soft/medium hard paints?

    • I would probably go with Meguiar’s D300 and MF Cutting Disc for compounding, and then Menzerna 106FA with a black pad for finishing. This combination should work great on most finishes.

  8. kostas skourtis says:

    Thank you very much for this direct and effective tutorial Todd.

    Having worked on a black Audi with orange and yellow LC CCS + PO203S the difference in (at least) cut with the MF pad + 105 seems *huge*! 1′.15” and 3 passes only to achieve such result. Simply fantastic stuff!

    How about dusting? On the vid it looked like there was none.

    Finally, have you noticed any panel heating with the black pad (I am guessing LC. CCS or flat?) on the way you used it for the burnishing step?

    Once again thank you for the help to all of us out there!

    K

    • Once you see it on video, you realize why I have been singing the praises so much of the MF pads in particular! You’re not going to come close to that level of cut and finish with foam pads on paint like this.

      With 105 you’ll get some dusting when using it with the MF pads, but it’s not a deal breaker by any means.

      I was using a flat black pad, and I had been monitoring temperatures both on the compounding and the finish polishing stages and never exceeded 100 degrees on the surface with the methods and speeds I was using.

      You’re quite welcome!

      Thanks, Todd

  9. Kevin says:

    Hi Todd,

    Thanks for the great video. Though this question isn’t related to proper use of polishers, my question is if you can tell me how you are priming the pads. Are you priming the pad with detail spray or with product?

    If product, how much product are you using? I’ve yet to use M105 on the MF’s pads, but I’ve found that too much D300 on a cutting MF pad makes the product hard to work with? I end up with product not breaking down, product “caking” onto the paint, and the fibers on the pad not staying fluffy.

    Thanks.

    -Kevin

    • Kevin,

      Thanks for checking in. It sounds like you’re using too much product perhaps for priming and for polishing as well. I think your answers can be found in my article on how to use the MF system.

      • Kevin says:

        Thanks Todd.

        I was able to quickly take a look and seem to have found what I was looking for. I should actually read captions. I thought that all the red/pink was the pad already primed.

        I agree with your point about the pad being primed but NOT drenched in product. I had to learn it the hard way. I’ve found that pads that have too much product, that are moist, or over applied with detail spray or water tend to not to play nice.

        With that said now, I think that I am still not priming the pad enough, at least not as much as you are, so I’ll have to try that. I use 4 or 5 pea size drops to prime the pad.

        Thanks again!

        -Kevin

  10. Roy Kunz says:

    Hi Todd,
    Thanks for another very informative video, just a couple of questions I’m running the UK version of the same polisher would you always recommend speed 4 ½ for all correction work and do you have any concerns about the MF pad or backing plate falling especially when applying firm pressure?

    Thanks, Roy.

    • Hi Roy, and thanks for checking in from the UK!

      I’ll usually vary the speed from 3.5 to 4.5 depending on how the paint is reacting. I prefer the slower speeds when possible, but on this Audi it preferred just a bit more speed. And if you take a look at my long term follow up article on the Megs MF system, you’ll see that I’ve been using the MF pads and BP for almost a year now, and they’ve been almost indestructable! Make sure that you have the Megs backing plate with it and not another brand…the two work together and you can lose cut with another brand as well as generate too much heat.

      Thanks, Todd

  11. Alan says:

    Hello Todd,

    First off thanks for taking your time and posting up this great tutorial video!

    In the video you said that during the last few passes to use less pressure but I read a thread on a forum that says when using a DA polisher it is better to maintain the pressure so that you can get a better finish after. I’m kind of stuck now and not too sure which technique I should use. Not sure if it appropriate but here is what it says:

    “Keep pressure on the dual-action polisher through out the buffing cycle”

    It has been a common suggestion to reduce pressure on your last pass or two over a working area. While this practice has benefit when using a rotary polisher that moves the pad in a circular fashion it has some unwanted results when using a dual-action polisher. While it is arguably more important when using a non-diminishing polish such as M205, to achieve maximal results when finishing with a dual-action polisher maintain firm and consistent pressure through out the polishing cycle with any finishing polish.

    Why? One of the benefits of a dual-action polisher is that they move the pad across the paint in two distinct patterns, an orbital motion and a circular motion. This random action, if used correctly, is beneficial to the polishing process for a number of reasons. The pad is always in a constant state of acceleration, both positively and negatively. When downward pressure is reduce the pad will begin to absorb the orbital motion, much like a blob of Jello jiggling on itself. This causes on even pressure between the contact area of the pad and the paint which can result in an uneven finish. Keeping even pressure on the machine ensures that a higher percentage of the beneficial orbital-motion is transferred through the pad, to the paint.

    Thanks!

    • Alan,

      That sounds like a Kevin Brown tech article if I’ve ever read one. Am I correct? Kevin (a friend of mine) breaks it down to the smallest technical level unlike anybody I know…he’s a walking encyclopedia.

      Anyhow. I feel that information pertains more to a foam pad on the D/A than the MF pads as they have a lot of “squish” that can absorb the orbital motion. And I do feel that it is a bit paint dependent as well. At least when working with MF Cutting Discs during the compounding stage, I have found some paints that finish better when maintaining pressure, and others that finished better when tapering off the pressure at the end. When you’re doing your test sections on the car, try each way to see which one finishes down better and go with that method. So what I’m saying here is that there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer when it comes to pressure during the compounding stage…test to see what gives you the best results on each car on that particular day.

  12. Justin says:

    I was making my first compounding attempts with the new MF Cutting Discs and was noticing that as I applied moderate pressure the pad would stop spinning, and it would cause reverse rotation. To get the pad to spin I would consider myself giving light pressure, but not nearly enough as much as you were (seemingly) applying during this video. It’s hard to see the line on your backing plate … was the pad spinning, or is reverse rotation expected during the moderate pressure time? I was able to get a very impressive correction using the D300, but it did take two stages. I primed the pad correctly, very light amount of product, and was getting it to break down to a nice thin film that wiped off with little effort. Once it got to that stage, I spritzed it with water and made a few more passes. I am also working on a very difficult hood with a lot of slopes (01 SS). I do have some M105, but didn’t give it a try as I only have the MF finishing pads, and didn’t know how it would finish out with the AIO.

    Thanks for the video Todd!

    • Justin,

      You definitely don’t want the rotation to stop spinning, or go into reverse rotation. If the pad isn’t completely flat, it will cause it to stop spinning pretty quickly. Once you spend a little time with it, you’ll get a better feel for how much pressure you can apply and how to manipulate the downward force to maintain the normal rotation of the backing plate. Have fun!

      • Justin says:

        I got it figured out pretty well now. I was able to remove almost all the micromarring and swirls from another “professional” detailer. However I am still seeing some, and very little at that, faint long straight marks. The halogens don’t show them, only the Brinkman up close and personal. I also noticed some hazing, especially on the black sections. I will see how it finishes down tomorrow. Taking my time on this. My first correction attempt, and so far it’s been straight forward. Thanks for the great website. I have learned lots over the past year.

  13. Mike says:

    Where do you get the thick backing plate that you use un the rotary

    Thanks and great work

  14. James Wentworth says:

    Great video and demonstration on proper polishing and technique. You Todd, are my go-to-guy and have been for a few years on detailing a vehicles paint the proper way and will be in the future. This is a great video along with all of your other ones you do.

    At the end when you were finishing down with PO106FA you started at 900 which is setting 1 on a pc7424xp? And what was the other speed that was used I am pretty sure the rpms jumped up and wasn’t sure what setting was used before you ended with 900 as well. I could be mistaken that it was just the release of pressure though.

    Thank you very much.
    James

  15. Quynh-thi says:

    Great video….got it to work on the iPad :)

  16. sam says:

    Hey Todd I just have a couple of questions. First my paint has very bad swirls and holograms from a former owner. My question is do you have and experience with Nissan factory paint, And my next question is i have a place on my rear bumper about 8 square inches where the clear coat is flaking off. It looks to me that the rear bumper has been repainted at some point so i don’t believe it is factory paint.

    • Nissan, as with most Japanese paints, is typically soft-to-medium (swirls/mars easily, yet corrects relatively easy). And if you have clear flaking off, you’ll need to get that re-painted!

  17. sm says:

    Hey Todd.

    Are you going to test Scholl or Wolf’s Chemical polishes sometime?? They are very interesting ranges.

  18. Alex Ngo says:

    Thanks for the vid! It answered a few questions I had lingering in the back of my mind for a while, but there’s still one question/answer that kinda eludes me:

    I was reading on the bottles of the MF kits and a few other polishers and they generally say to apply light to moderate pressure. What’s considered light and/or moderate pressure? I’ve seen one video where the gentleman mentioned that applying roughly 5lbs of force to the PC 7424XP would be roughly ideal. Is this roughly true or would it be best to kinda play around with it to see what works best?

    Thanks!

    • You need to play around with it to figure out just how much force works best for each paint you’re working on, and with each pad, polish, etc. Your 5lbs of force will be different from mine, which will be different from the next person’s. When working with the MF pads, you’re going to be using a lot more than 5lbs of pressure, but if you’re using a foam pad and a polish like Menzerna Power Finish for example, you’ll be using much less than the MF pads. The pressure you use is pad dependent, polish dependent, paint dependent, and also dependent upon what level of correction / level of defects you’re trying to achieve.

  19. Paint Docter says:

    Hey Tod,
    1st of I just want to thank You for all the help and tips you provide, it has helped me tremendously develop my skills in auto detailing. I’ve been detailing for over 4 years and now I’m planing to go for a career in it. So just out of curiosity how much ($) will it be for a job to be done professionally on a car like you have here. I know it’s different by state and local area, but just a ball park figure?

  20. Ken Wilson says:

    Great video Todd. Nice to see a talented pro sharing their acquired skills.

  21. T. Garrett says:

    I do not own a D/A buffer but i do own a rotary, can i still correctly polish my car even though i dont have a D/A buffer or will the finished product turn out different?

    • As you can / will see from plenty of articles here in the DI blog, you can achieve great results in your compounding stage by using a rotary. It’s just that compounding via D/A is the direction the industry is heading…which is why I feature it in this video. You’ll want to use the same concepts / techniques for your rotary that I show here.

  22. T. Garrett says:

    Thanks the reason i asked was becuase im a beginner and Im afraid to ruin my paint because i have heard that a rotary is difficult to use and mostly for professionals. Also do know of any good low priced polishers that i could buy to begin detailing my car with? Thankyou.

  23. Ray Scott says:

    I have a Porter Cable D/A, can I get the same results using foam pads as opposed to microfiber. Also, what exactly are holograms. I’m still learning and would like to know. Thanks.

  24. Victor says:

    Hi Todd,

    I recently purchased a new BMW 3 series and I noticed that the car had not been properly detailed at the dealership. I bit like the black audi you were detailing. I guess there is more holograms/swirl marks than anything more sinister. I am reluctant to take it back and I want to do it myself and achive a similar finish to the audi. I have had some experience in car detailing but very limited usage of an orbital or standard buffer. Can you tell me the best way to approach this – I would like to do it myself. What do you think?

    Thanks Victor

    • Victor,

      You can definitely do it yourself with the investment of a D/A buffer, pads, and polishes, but you’ll want to invest an equal amount of time reviewing the tutorials we have provided here on the DI blog. You can get a lot of great information from the experience of our professional detailers…that’s why we have put this together. Which color BMW did you get? The answer to that will dictate which polish / pad combinations you’ll want to start with.

  25. Ray Scott says:

    I only use a Porter D/A polisher and currently use M105/205, and Blackfire products with Lake County foam pads. Would you recommend the 300D with MF pads followed up by a good polish for vehicles which need some compounding/polish. If so, what grade of pads for both compound and polish.

  26. Atoy says:

    Hi Todd. Have you compared ht crimson with black pads on finishing using menz 106fa, 85rd and sonax ntpc? I noticed you always use black pads. Thank you

  27. Wayne says:

    Todd, I find this whole blog very interesting, as 1, I almost never read blogs, but 2 and more important, I learned YEARS ago, the hard way,, that rotary polishers can be extreemly dangerous! but that said, I got much better with time, and from the days of Liquid Ebony forward I was able to really get my cars to glisten. haven’t used the machine in maybe 15 years, just good old fashioned elbow grease, with every new fangled polymer, carnuba, exotic or otherwise [it] finsih of the day. From the old world Blue Coral, to 2 weeks ago a new, very easy to apply & remove Maguire’s semi/synthetic liquid wax. Now I just bought a Midnight blue [2005] BMW 330xi who paint is pretty good for the most part, with very little halograms…but then again it may have been repainted in spots by the prior owner! I do have a fe nice sratched near door handles, which is suprising since you don’t need to insert a key…and one on the room. I was NOT thinking of compounding at all, just a light polish, then right to wax. I do have a version of the popluar PC DA, but never used it. Do I use the PC backing plate, or????, and flat 5″, 6″ etc.. or oversized ? Then I noticed with foam pads, there are flat edged ones, and curved ones, both either oversized or not. Boy the choices are wide! Then to your suggestion, we have MF. Are the micro fibre [pads], actual pads, or are they MF covers that go over the base pad ? I asked a local commerial paint supply shop and they didn’t know anything about MF! Fianlly, and I am sorry for the very long message, but this is a new pony to me…which detailing products would you reccomend for this car ? (I should mention that I polished the car with a rotary lightly), then hand waxed it, but know I need correction, so I am working backwards. In advance, thank you very much for all of your comments & help!

    • Wayne,

      Just get yourself some 5.5″ Meguiar’s MF pads, a Meguiar’s 5″ backing plate (important to use the Megs one with the MF pads…works better), and some Megs D300 compound. While this may not get rid of large scratches, it’s capable enough to get through most of the stuff. My Megs MF system tutorial may be helpful to you.

      Just get the normal Lake Country flat black finishing pads for your finishing on the rotary. A good finishing polish to team with it would be Menzerna 106FA. Also check out this video as it goes over both DA compounding and rotary finishing.

  28. Steven says:

    Hey,
    Im just starting to get into the detailing world. Im 18 and on kind of a budget. im trying my best to learn how to clean a car correctly. I have a crap car to practice on so I can detail other peoples cars nicely.
    So far I have learned to (in order)
    -wash
    -dry
    -clay bar
    -polish
    -sealant
    -wax

    Now i have the products to wash and i bought the mcguires clay bar kit. Im just looking for recommended products to use as a polish, sealant, and wax… that is under preferably $75
    I bought just a tiny 6′ ryobi orbital buffer and was going to use that. And also could you tell me if i should use a foam pad or a microfiber pad for the polish, sealant, and wax.

    Thanks!!!

    • john says:

      hi todd, whrn finishing with 106 on a makita do you prime your pads at all with qd?cant seem to find the rite amount of product to put on pad to get a decent wipe off

  29. Ryan says:

    Todd, the second time you show the finish on the car, I assume that is after the work with the buffer?

    Can you please give a list of all items used in this video?

    D/A model, Rotary model, pads on each, cutter/polish/wax or otherwise.

    The change you made on this is just plain sexy!

  30. Larry B. says:

    I’m using the Flex 3401 and want to try the Meg MF cutting disk. As you know the closest back plate for their pads for the Flex is 4 3/8″. What do you guys think?
    Thanks

  31. Roberto says:

    Hi Todd,

    Thanks for all the great articles, I’ve read a bunch of them and learned so much. I recently decided to polish my car, 2010 VW CC (Deep Metallic Black). I was able to remove most of the imperfections using the PC7424XP and Chemical Guys V36, I then followed up with Menzerna Power Lock which is simply amazing. The hood was the worst part since it had some chips/scratches and other stains (previous owner). Question is can I go back and compound the hood after using the sealant? I’m thinking I’d have to remove it first?
    Thanks!

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