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Buff and Shine: An Insider’s Experience

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This article is written by John Shutz, the National Sales Manager for Buff & Shine. John walks you through his early years, learning the ropes and starting a detailing business. He also covers various topics like knowing your customer, along with a brief Buff and Shine history and some detailing pad technology. Take a look at this great read below!

30 Years Ago and Learning the Ropes

Managing a production detail facility is where I got my hands-on training, muscling around a heavy Milwaukee buffer burnishing paint at up to 3k rpms. Of course, foam pads were unheard of at that time, we used 100% twisted wool pads and brought in genuine lambskin pads for those “special jobs”. For any final finishing, we used the heaviest metal orbital polisher on the market, I believe it weighed in at 18 lbs. A real back breaker if you didn’t practice proper bending and stooping.

The tools we used back then were much less on the finesse side of things and a ridiculous example of this was a guy working for me that clearly took buffing into the stratosphere. He could actually buff out an auction car in less than two minutes using a high-speed grinder! It was a sight to behold and if Guinness had a world record for buffing a car in record time, he would hold the record. What was astounding, he moved incredibly fast over the car, the buffer didn’t have time to burn the paint, even at 4k+ RPMs. The first time I saw this demonstration I thought for sure the paint surface would look like abstract metal art afterward, but to my surprise the finish was passable, he didn’t leave behind a lot of swirls. Keep in mind the machine grinder can go over 4k RPMs and he was “all in” from start to finish, no variable trigger for this guy.

The only other industry that we supply buffing pads to that uses machine grinders is the composites industry, i.e., cultured marble. High production cultured marble shops commonly use grinders and to add some extra punch to it, if the grinder wasn’t enough, they would also use brick compounds.

There are certainly other ways to “skin a cat” and although using a grinder buffer is certainly not recommended, it does tell you the edge of the envelope can be pushed, even the fast guy with the grinder proved if you don’t dwell on the paint, you won’t burn it.

During my “tenure” as a detail manager and as a needed detailer, it seemed like out of 12-15 employees there were occasions when one or two decided to be elsewhere, that meant I would have to jump in to help out. We were expected to have whatever we brought in for detailing that day to be ready for the sales block that day or the following morning at the latest. Not only did the used car managers want their cars back quickly, most demanded quality at a low price. It was very challenging to meet these demands, especially when you have periods of employee unpredictability.

Working Outside Your Comfort Zone and Route Tips

How does this segment of wholesale detailing affect distributors who supply them with their car care products? The dynamic surrounding weekly route calls to a production detail shop is not that different than other customers a distributor may service, except the pace is higher. The keys to maintaining customer longevity are many, however, if a customer could depend on you to be there, or at least communicate any change in plans, your reputation is protected.

There are distributors that will cherry pick accounts, going to those that have comfortable surroundings, in other words, finding ways to avoid accounts where they have less working knowledge or were treated unkindly during a previous visit.

Calling on body shops is a good example, many mobile distributors either don’t recognize the potential, or they are too intimidated by the environment. This is the same self-imposed barrier sales people can put on themselves. In this instance, if you don’t have a body shop background, it’s time to start thinking about learning the basics, otherwise, the sales person or distributor will deny himself very good opportunities. At the very least attend a basic auto painting school put on by some of the bigger names in paint manufacturing. It’s a lot less complicated than you might think and if you already supply basics such as wash bay supplies, you have an opening to expand on.

Most of my body shop exposure was done making door to door shop calls after the company I worked for developed a new body shop line of products. Most contacts were cold calls and obviously, there were various forms of rejection, but who doesn’t experience that in this business? I learned despite the barriers that are thrown up, most business owners and managers do care about improving their systems, controlling costs and ultimately the quality of the service provided. Once they get over the initial sparring, maybe some new ideas will strike a chord, after all, you are there to represent their best interests as a problem solver.

As a chemical rep, I worked with a couple west coast distributors who learned the potential body shops offered and were keen enough to pursue their business. In general, body shops aren’t seeped in the politics like dealerships can be, they pay in a more timely manner and you might find they don’t squabble as much over pricing. One particular distributor actually found it easier and less stressful calling on body shops and eventually that became 90% of his business and his monthly gross margin was 65 points.

VOC Law Hurdles and a Good Outcome

During the time I was on the road promoting a body shop line of products, the industry was going through some big changes brought on by the new low VOC (volatile organic compounds) laws that were enacted in California. Obviously, there was a lot of grumbling and resistance, any changes for that matter invariable brings this on, but in this case, it was a game changer. Those places incapable of meeting the standards of reducing harmful vapors into the environment or lacked the resources to do so were kicked to the curb. Similar laws were applied to the car care product manufacturers and also affected the guy mixing water based raw materials outside the regulation standards. At the end of the day, the effects of these new laws were met with skepticism, compliance can be both complicated and expensive, but to some who didn’t care and sought to continue dumping harmful chemicals down the storm drains, it was just a matter of time before the jig was up.

On the plus side, eventually, these new laws rewarded those in compliance and reduced the number of outside chemical bathtub manufacturers that for years legitimate industry people complained about. In the end, the VOC laws extended a helping hand to those in compliance.

The changes in paint formulas brought on by the new VOC laws was equally as huge and it hit a wide range of industries, it seemed everybody was affected, but after many challenges and a few years, paint products saw a major improvement in quality and this was visually apparent in the quality of paintwork at the body shop level. In short, the requirements brought up the industry to the superior European paint industry.

Once conformity was finally established, it was the best thing that ever happened. The technology was always present, for example, called on a couple shops in the Pacific Northwest and immediately upon seeing some of their finished work, I knew these guys were exceptional. Come to find out, both shops had conformed to the Euro standards well before the VOC laws had passed, even though at the time they were unaffected by the new laws since they were located outside California. However, they had enough foresight to know what happens in California is usually a start of a wave, from west to east. They realized their state would conform eventually to the new standards, so they decided to make changes before that became official. But, it wasn’t so much what was coming down the pipe regulation wise, they made the switch based on the superior reputation of two paint brands, Spies Hecker and Herbert Standox. Both German based and shared mutual business models. German paint pigments are known to for their high standards and of course, they are VOC compliant.

The Evolution or Revolution of the Mobile Distributor

The concept of independent mobile distributors making their own water-based products started back in the mid 90s. The market was getting tighter and margins reduced. Making your own products was popularized by a former car care distributor, the idea really caught on when known car care manufacturers decided to institute contractual agreements between them and their independent distributors. This fact alone was the driving force behind why many top national distributors to explore other options, so the guy who came up with the notion of small scale manufacturing was very timely because he came along around when manufacturers tried to increase their control over distributors by demanding product loyalty.

Once a few of the bigger distributors made the jump to making their own water-based products this essentially separated them from their main supplier and that included where they bought their compounds, polishes, waxes and a host of other related products. This movement grew in scope and it turned out to be revolutionary and eventually a positive step for those distributors who were brave enough to make the initial leap into the unknown.

Once the umbilical cord was severed from the parent car care product manufacturer, these remodeled distributors had to source alternative polish lines and associated products, another hurdle to overcome. We got a lot of calls from distributors at that time because previously many of them bought their buffing pads from their parent company. Once word got out to others that were on the fence about this new program and hearing the successes without limitations these individuals were having, they too made the switch. As this concept grew in popularity, many of those involved organized, they teamed up with others and formed co-op groups, this empowered them with new buying power and enabled them to negotiate for better pricing, in particular for water based raw materials and the product list goes on. It was much easier now being part of a collective of like minded distributors.

These events had the largest impact on the traditional way of doing mobile sales in the wholesale reconditioning industry. To take it one step further, with the exchange of new ideas within the co-ops, this was the short-term goal, subsequent discussions covered a wide array of topics dealing with manufacturing processes, product evaluations/selection, costs, compliance regulations, and a host of other matters. Although tough to implement, distributors I have spoken to agreed it was the best business decision they ever made and many of them at the time were at a point of stagnation in terms of company growth and gross margins. Where the change had a huge impact was in the growth sector. Because of competitive pressures resulting in less margins and the inability of their main supplier to adjust pricing, they were unable to grow their business. That all changed once the smoke cleared and left enough financial room where they could bring on more employees or recruit sub-distributors. I don’t think it was a coincidence that once the effect of this large exodus of bigger distributors hit home, a few of these previous parent companies were put up for sale. The map of who’s who in the chemical manufacturing business has changed dramatically since those events gained momentum in the late 90s, early 2000s.

Even before the mass exodus period, these distributors had to do some clever thinking to overcome price driven attitudes, something always present in the car sales business, actually a reality no matter what business your in. But they had to strategize how to counter price driven competitors too. As examples of improving a point of sale position, I’ve mentioned the concentrated program, inventory control sheet, consistent service intervals, prompt communications, product and skills education, compliance and exploring other market opportunities, these were just a few ideas born out of pressures distributors faced every day. Making their own products, upgrading the performance quality of those products, better margins enabling growth and conforming to compliance regulations put them in a better position to compete, the age old problems of sales never go away, but these guys stepped up, made changes that tested their resolve. Yet subsequent to that big decision they put their heads down and raced to the finish line. It was a gamble, but somewhere in their story is a positive lesson, at the very least a positive outcome.

Bite the Bullet and Put Your Customer First

This following applies to all sales people, whether paint jobber to shop calls, mobile independent distributors and fast forward to internet sales of today. Since I was responsible for getting out approximately 1300-1500 detailed cars per month, a process of controlled chaos, I absolutely needed a chemical distributor or supplier that was consistent, had a full inventory of quality products (of our most needed products), and was reachable, not only that, but one that calls back promptly. I was under pressure to keep costs down, but I also understood the concept of value. If a water-based product could be diluted and still maintain effectiveness, even though the initial cost was more, I get that. Later in my career as a car care chemical rep, it was amazing how many people could not comprehend the value of concentrates and how much money they could save converting to them. I think it’s all a mind game with the numbers, just as someone capable of filling their gas tank would only put in enough to get through the next day. By avoiding more costly initial purchases and turn a blind eye to what makes better long term sense, maybe a manager is trying to satisfy the needs of the accounting department or avoid having to answer product acquisition questions, who knows. If he/she cannot afford to step up to the value step, one that benefits more over the longer term, maybe they are in the wrong business.

Finding ways to strengthen a customer’s trust in you is always a good thing, in this case a distributor can improve his position by offering ways to save his customer money and also ward off his temptation to shop your products. Offering concentrates (where possible) instead of “RTU” or ready to use products is one way to highlight yourself. However, many distributors do not go down that road because selling RTU products is more profitable and only approach the topic when faced with pricing competition. In that case it’s either lower your RTU prices or offer a concentrate, likely a degreaser, glass cleaner or any product capable of being diluted. The dilution rates are high, therefore the ratio of water to product can be adjusted to fit your expected or workable margin for the product. The lesson here is being pro-active and since I’m a believer in Murphy’s Law, so should the distributor because it’s just a matter of time before a competitor will come knocking on your customer’s door, looking for business. Of course, there are other considerations to contend with, for instance, are we talking about a crossover product that is apples to apples?

Many customers are always looking for a better deal and there are those skeptics who think prices are better on the murky horizon. Unfortunately, product knowledge and brand knowledge on the customer’s part or those in accounting reviewing invoices have a range of knowing little or nothing at all about your product’s features and benefits. Dealing with pricing over your brand is one thing and that is manageable for the most part, but it’s not uncommon for distributors to sell the exact same product, for instance, an accessory like a buffer, a plastic bottle or a trigger head sprayer. In a scenario where a competitor submits a price list, they may be clever enough to recognize this lack of knowledge and purposely deflate the price of generic items. I’ve seen accounts come under question and some even lost customers where a seller over charges for a generic item, I mean to the point of sticking their necks out far enough for the customer to lop off his head. The moral of the story here is to use pricing caution on obvious generic accessory items.

Selling Value and Handling Product Inconsistency

Selling value is a smart strategy, they may often cost more at the outset, but offset that with longevity and performance, however, there is one caveat that comes to mind. We all know how important product consistency can be, customers have an expectation it will be the same from week to week, this is reasonable. 99% of the time it’s a leap of faith between you and the distributor or manufacturer you buy from. It’s a matter of time before you receive a product that doesn’t match up to a previous order or batch, whether it’s the product color, consistency, or aroma. In any case, this is like being double teamed, because if you are caught unaware of a product aberration and pass it on to a customer, a red flag will go up. Try and catch these inconsistencies before you are put in a defensive posture by a customer.

Where you can protect yourself against product inconsistencies and the rumor mill usually involves water-based products, but not always. It seems there isn’t a location in my travels where the topic hasn’t come up where a distributor has been accused of watering down cleaners or degreasers, posed either by the competition or pulled through by a detailer employee loyal to another distributor. Typically, in the wholesale segment, water-based products are sold in 1 gal, 5 gal, and 55 gal quantities. Most are contained in plastic bottles or drums, many times the plastic container is clear enough where you can discern the color of the product inside, different shades of the color. Herein lies the start of the problem. If the manufacturer sells you a water-based item and the product color doesn’t match up, a call to the manufacturer is next. Many distributors buy cleaners and degreasers in large quantities and if the product color is just slightly off, compared to the previous order, he may just pass it on. But, in the case where the color obviously the wrong shade, again, instead of sending the batch back, at the very least you should advise the customer and protect yourself against any unwarranted accusations. It’s not something that happens frequently with a reputable company, but I’ve personally seen it. It’s amazing how some customers react when they believe firstly, the color is different and therefore the product is not as strong, etc. What you don’t need are accusations of tampering or watering products down floating around. Customers don’t always tell you what’s on their minds, it’s always best to advise them of the possibility of variations due to environmental conditions at the time of manufacturing. Some distributors carried around PH test strips in the event a question related to product color and/or strength.

Building Trust – Inventory Control Sheet & Putting a Face on the Business

I was fortunate to have about eight years of being a car care product rep and this responsibility took me to 11 western states. I say fortunate because I was able to work with a number of different distributors, usually riding with them on theirs routes for three or four days. This led to some helpful sales revelations, some of which I already cited, but one I felt worth mentioning because it was clearly effective, but not widely done. That is a simple inventory control sheet. Nothing fancy, just a weekly or turnaround date log of sales on graph paper. The first time I encountered it was while riding with a distributor in California back in 1988. After his routine encounter with the detailers, he did something else not enough distributors do and his efforts are actually a two-part sales tip.

He took me up to the owner’s office to show him his weekly inventory control sheet. The distributor was keen enough to arrange an appointment in the early days of making cold calls and during the course of their conversation, knowing there are those dealer owners and managers skeptical of supply vendors he asked the dealer some key questions, one of which was how many new vs used cars were sold monthly and if the dealer was ever given any easy to read documents showing monthly chemical purchases. This question peaked the dealer’s interest and the distributor was eventually given the opportunity to service the account.

The distributor introduced me to the owner and then presented his weekly inventory control sheet that basically is a copy of the PO, but more detailed and cross referenced to the date. That is when the dealer directed his conversation to me and said the inventory control sheet was the best thing ever offered to him and the fastest way he could review all chemical purchases to his dealership. The message I got the document established credibility and trust in the distributor. It was something I took with me and shared to anyone I worked with subsequently. If your company ever expands into route sales in some fashion, a simple inventory control log kept current is a great tool, customers appreciate them and they work well to enhance your trustworthiness.

Another example of establishing a business bond with customers was revealed to me by a distributor in Santa Barbara County in California. Her father ran their car care product distributorship for years prior, so she already had some inside help to start with. Although she had no direct training in route sales or anything automotive, she had the talent to work with people. Over the next five years she owned the business, she expanded it greatly, built equity and sold it for a good profit.

All sales people face similar issues plying their trade and all have been subjected to being replaced by the competition. How can you strengthen your position? Of course, there are many opinions, many good ones, but the one simple thing according to her was an effort to at least get to know the principal customer, the owner would be ideal.

She knew how to handle herself and made the effort to know something about the business owner, after all, at the end of the day she knew we are all human and in her previous occupation, strengthening personal business relationships with the key player is relevant no matter what you are selling, after all, people buy from people. Making an effort in this sales psychology came natural to her, she was just that way. She cited one instance when new used car manager (trying to make name for himself) decided to switch chemical vendors, but at least he approached the dealer owner first with his money saving plan. According to the distributor in question here, she told me if she didn’t make the extra effort to know the dealer, even if their conversations were brief, he actually saved her from losing the account. Of course, she had to make some tweaks, but apparently the dealer went to bat on her behalf because he simply knew her. It’s much easier for the decision maker to let you go if they don’t know you, but that doesn’t mean making a pest out of yourself either!

Consistency, One Key to Success and the Rabbit Distributor

As a field sales person, distributor, or even stationed inside working the phones, one more tried and proven example of holding on to accounts you worked so hard to earn in the first place is consistency. It is quite common to go into “cruise control” once you have become comfortable with landing and servicing an account over time. If your service, shipping, stocking, etc., have remained unchanged, there is no reason to doubt you’ll be blindsided by bad news from a customer. Don’t take it for granted that even little slips won’t amount to anything, you think you have a tight relationship and before you know it your ambitions to win new accounts overshadow those who got you there in the first place.

As an example of consistency during my chemical rep days I worked with one particular distributor for about five years. As with all successful distributors, they have good work ethics and interact well with people. Personal styles are different, that’s understood, but this distributor proved you don’t have to be engaging, nor spend much chit chat time to succeed in a big way. Where he excelled was timing and consistent service, he was the human version of the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Many customers told me, in one way or another, that when he promised he would be there on a certain date and time, barring a disaster, he was there.

This guy was a master at running a route that took him over long distances every week. His customers regarded him so highly it didn’t matter (in my mind) he appeared more interested in getting in and out of the account fast and moving on to the next. He didn’t have many words to say but smiled when he had to, I learned later his route plan had everything to do with the math. In other words, the more stops he made the more likelihood of increased volume in sales, makes sense. He went from stop to stop, no wasted effort, talking only when asked a question and off he went to the next stop. His behavior did not leave enough time for anyone to judge him I suppose, but above all else it had to do with his consistency, people could depend on him. He put to rest any rising anxiety about not showing up that day or showing up late.

If you can plug in consistency, some form or fashion of it as it applies to your work, people extend you “passes” for things they might complain about otherwise. I’ve always said this guy could sell car care products anywhere in the USA and do well just because he was so damn consistent! Sure enough, he moved back to his home state a couple years later and did it all over again, but this time built up a three or four truck operation. Another uncanny attribute he had, unlike the majority of mid to large sized distributors, he couldn’t be bothered with sourcing accessory products from the outside, he bought most everything he sold directly from his parent car care product manufacturer and likely paid more as well. But he didn’t care, he wanted to write only one check a month and minimize invoices. He was on a mission.

Short History of our Company, Buff and Shine MFG.

Buff and Shine Manufacturing originated in 1988. The owner name is Richard Umbrell and his father owned a car care product distribution service specializing in the car wash industry. When Richard was a kid, he would sometimes ride along with his dad on his sales and service calls, I actually learned this from one of his Dad’s customers. The customer owned a detail shop in the Riverside area of California and after many years of laboring away eventually changed course and went to work for a chemical manufacturing company.

Eventually, he became co-owner of probably one of the most successful car care product manufacturer in the USA and today his products are sold worldwide. He remembers Richard as a little kid stopping by his detail shop with his Dad and thought that was pretty cool.

I suppose there came a time in Richard’s life the idea of creating a better buffing pad was achievable, even at the young age of 18. That set-in motion his manufacturing company and to this day and I’ve been a witness to a dedication to the highest quality standards, using only the best raw materials, production facilities and offering all this at competitive prices. When I mention consistency, I believe Buff and Shine Manufacturing has never lost sight of this standard, never has never will.

Richard was fortunately gifted with a high mechanical aptitude and curiosity. He was always interested in the engineering aspects of what makes things tick and having this ability was invaluable to building the business from day one. He was personally involved in designing and assembling many of the machines required and has continued to keep them well maintained or upgraded as specifications and market demands change.

I don’t know where Buff and Shine would be without these personal qualities, but certainly seen it first hand working for the company these past 23 years. What I appreciate most is that dedication to excellence and an unwavering ambition to create the best and most innovative buffing pads in the world.

In conclusion, I think one indication of our company stability is the lack of turnover. In this regard, we have Julio Mondragon, Customer Service Mgr., Mona Ruvulcaba, Production Mgr., and myself, International Sales Mgr. The three of us account for 71 combined years of employment with the company. Worthy of note are those people who do the hard work in manufacturing, many have been with us for years, in some cases 20 years or more.

The Lead Up to the Detailing Revolution

It is a high priority to stay abreast of any auto reconditioning and auto body related developments in both the chemical and especially the machine tool end of our industry. Without question, the introduction of the long throw DA polisher and to a lessor extent, the force rotation DA has been the largest influence on the wholesale and retail auto reconditioning market that I can recall in my 30 years in this business. These machines caused a ripple effect because now, for the first time the opportunity for the masses to engage in auto detailing at the highest level was created. Up until this time, there was a machine technology lull, the industry in all segments relied on the rotary buffer and to a lesser extent, the traditional DA polisher. Yesterday’s car enthusiasts were limited to using hand application and the only viable tool at the time was the traditional DA or big and bulky random orbitals.

Not until foam pads came along in the late 80s did we see a measurable change in quality control at the professional level. With the introduction of foam pads, the rotary buffer received a positive boost since foam pads were better suited for final finishing performance. At least now any swirls left behind by a rotary buffer, using a foam pad and the correct product could remove them instead of simply hiding those imperfections with a hand applied glaze. A coating that easily washed off revealing the swirls again. Foam pads also made some headway in more demanding environments such as body shops whereby European style foam pads started to make their way here, piggy backed on European made compounds and polishes, mainly AutoGlym products from the UK. Europe was far ahead of us in paint and foam pad technology at the time and we only caught up to them when the low VOC paint standards were introduced in the late 90s, early 2000s. In other words, paints composed more of high solids and less solvents.

Add to the mix the introduction of body clay in the early 90s, where surface preparation processes improved and clay served as a further catalyst for interest and growth of the reconditioning industry. By drawing more attention to clay’s ability to remove rail head dust spots and paint over spray, detail professionals could now make a decent profit removing overspray and clay bar paint preparation prior to buffing became more popular. I would be remiss if I didn’t put a plug in for microfiber towels. They also contributed in a big way in many applications, i.e., window cleaning, final finish rub downs, and polish and wax residue removal. As you know, it only seemed obvious microfiber could have other applications in detailing, for us, we eventually developed high quality microfiber buff pads.

Things were changing quickly, but the industry had to wait for more than decade before the long throw and force rotation DA polishers made their mark and changed the industry in an unprecedented manner.

I refer to the period after foam pads were introduced and before the modern DA polishers as the “pre-starting point” detailing revolution and the expansion of detailing to the masses. Foam pads had more of a positive impact on the wholesale industry, i.e., detail shops and body shops, because the buffer of choice was still the rotary machine. The majority of car enthusiasts were intimidated by the high-speed machine (due to it’s learning curve) and no one was really promoting it as a practical option. The internet wasn’t a driving force yet, the missing player was yet to arrive.

CSI – Customer Service Index Makes it’s Mark

In the 1980s it became clear the body shop industry needed upgrading, customer satisfaction was down and industry leaders decided it was time to utilize features of a program new car dealers were catching on to, in other words, the CSI or Customer Service Index.

In this context and during my time managing the detail facility, I experienced my first encounter and applying some of the principles of CSI. We were located next to a large body shop that did auto body work for six dealerships. At that time most repaired cars were delivered undetailed, basically blown out with an air gun and washed only if they were in poor condition. However, the body shop manager approached me one day and asked if we could provide a better clean up on a car that was owned by a very particular customer. The car had a crunched quarter panel and was repaired by the shop but when they tried to deliver the car, the customer rejected it, complaining the re-painted panel didn’t match the factory paint. If you saw the car you would agree, but it wasn’t a paint mismatch, it was a failure to present the car properly detailed and specifically, the painted panel wasn’t blended to match the OEM adjoining panel. I saw this as an opportunity to prove a point and not until a couple years later, with the growing acceptance of CSI standards, did the notion of incorporating minimum clean-up found it’s way into the workflow of the body shop industry.

Upgrading quality standards started to gain traction in some segments of the body shop industry. I still recall a front page splash in Auto Body Today (or News) regarding the CSI program. Many points were made, but the one I reflected on had to do with the poorly prepared car we were asked to take care of. These opportunities have the reputation of turning a bad situation into a positive one, on orders of magnitude. The pressure was on him to perform better as customer feedback surveys were a growing part of the new CSI programs. I also saw it as a way again to prove the point of delivery was a powerful moment.

In this body shop scenario, take the time to prepare a car for delivery by not treating the repaired areas as separate from the whole car, make an effort to draw one’s attention to the entire car and away from the repaired panel. This strategy was just one of many and long called for by industry leaders. We conducted our standard detail on the vehicle, blended the new panel into the OEM paint and knowing how impressed people are with a steam cleaned engine compartment, we threw that in as well.
The delivery was epic, the car was presented with the hood open and that is where the customer paid the most attention to. It was like he forgot about the repaired panel because he was so impressed at the contrast between the before and after the appearance of his car. Before long we were assigned at the minimum to do vehicle clean ups on all repaired vehicles and more extensive details on a case by case basis. The body shop manager was happy with this outcome and I liked the extra income the services provided.

Modern DA Polishers have Revolutionized the Detailing Industry – The Internet

The introduction of the long throw and forced rotation dual action buffers revolutionized the detailing industry, period.

These new machines have enabled less experienced users, even beginner enthusiasts the means to achieve results equal to and in most cases better paint surface correction than ever before. Not only were they intuitive on the learning scale and you can’t ignore the role the internet has played in all aspects of the popularization of these products not only at point of sale, but the educational tutorials and instruction videos are invaluable in elevating the reconditioning industry to heights never imagined.

The new DA polishers have built-in flexibility, enabling them to both cut and finish to high levels. I wouldn’t go so far to say the DA machine has replaced the rotary, far from it, but they certainly can do things on a broader front rotary machines cannot do, unless you are of the rarer breed of having exceptional high speed buffer skills. They can’t match the rotary in a sprint buff, or cut as deeply, but they can eradicate (under the right paint conditions) 1500-2000 grit color sand scratches. This kind of performance was unheard of with older traditional DA machines, which are limited to light polishing, finishing, and waxing applications, but you have to put up the noise and hand numbing vibration those machines produced.

The new machines rectified all that and made machine buffing a more friendly affair, from cutting to finishing. I would categorize the long throw buffers and the force rotation buffer supplementary tools that work alongside the rotary buffer, there are still many professionals out there using the high speed as their primary compounding tool and following with the DA machine as their finishing solution. Of course, if you are inclined to use the high speed from start to finish, you are more or less obligated to use foam pads at some point in the process, but preferably during final finishing with a DA machine to remove surface imperfections caused by the high speed buffer. Imperfections in the form of compound and polish swirls to which the unskilled user contributes to. So, in many cases, it’s personal preference what to use, but theoretically, the new DA machines can do it all.

Briefly, the long throw refers to the size of the orbit or how far out the pad travels relative to the buffer center. One orbit axis is powered while the second is free spinning, hence, dual action. The movement is random to a degree, but in the case of the Rupes DA buffers, they offer a variety of machines with different throw lengths, such as 12mm, 15mm and 21mm. Each machine has a corresponding sized backing plate and you must use a buffing pad of the same diameter, they aren’t interchangeable. From what I have seen on the professional market, the 21mm long throw seems to be the most popular, in the States at least. In short, people really like them because they are very smooth with little vibration and have enough torque and spin to cut effectively. It goes without saying, their ability to finish is second to none.

At this time, the Rupes isn’t the only long throw buffer on the market, since it’s release and success, other manufacturers have jumped on the band wagon, using mainly private label Chinese made machines of varying quality, but at a much lower price point.

The other machine to mention is the Flex 3401 or forced rotation DA buffer. This gear driven machine powers both the spin and orbit action, unlike other DA buffers, the Flex force rotation machine produces consistent buffing patterns and likely more aggressive action. It isn’t classified as a long throw buffer, having pretty much a smaller and standard 8mm throw. I owned the Flex 3401 and used it once, but I traded it back when Rupes came out with their Nano Mini DA buffer. A remarkable machine that accommodates smaller foam pad sizes in the 1″, 2″ and 3″ diameters. It is both cordless or hardwired and at the flip of a switch you can go from random orbit to rotary action, amazing piece of kit I must say. I have two motorcycles so the Mini Rupes was obviously a better option than the Flex and besides which I already had the Rupes 21. However, since I enjoy testing new buffing pads and buffing machines, I was drawn to the unique Makita PO5000C 5″ dual action random orbit polisher because it offered both random action buffing and force rotation buffing mode. It is advised to use the force rotation mode if aggressive polishing is required, meaning both axis movements are powered, while the random action setting whereby only one axis is powered is suggested for finishing. I also like the fact the machine has a slow spin-up, this thoughtful feature minimizes the “torque effect” as I call it. My initial testing of the Makita DA polisher was very positive, I was impressed and look forward to working with it more.

In the early days of foam pad buffing, many of the pads were thicker, up to 2″ and more. If paired with a standard buffer and if equipped with a variable trigger, but ignored, the machine will go from stop to fast immediately. Expecting the user to modulate the trigger was too much to ask.

If you were to view the start-up action in slow motion at the moment the trigger is depressed, you will see the upper part of the foam pad start to spin, but for just a moment the pad to paint contact remains still. During this time the torque created by the buffer causes the foam pad to twist but the energy at start-up doesn’t cause the top and bottom of the foam pad to spin uniformly. The upper foam starts to move first followed by the lower foam contact point, hence the momentary delay before the full spinning action begins exerts a great amount of tension and stress on the buffing pad’s hook and loop connection to the backside of the foam pad. Since the backing plate velcro is a much stronger material, velcro to velcro chafing is a problem too, especially when using the Rupes long throw style DA polishers. Not only do you have a powered axis working, the turning action is extended by the long throw feature. These dynamic movements are punishing on velcro and the glue that connects these parts together. In addition to the greatly increased stress on these parts, there is a lot of heat build-up due to friction as well.

These physical forces caused problems with delamination of the velcro to foam connection after the introduction of the long throw polisher. In short, we ascertained the cause and implemented a solution that resulted in a stronger product.

One effective solution to mitigate the torque effect was to reduce the thickness of the foam pad. Over time it was determined the “sweet spot” foam pad thickness was 1.25″. This revelation improved matters, but other companies still struggled with delamination and because we have always studied and tested raw materials, our policy is to use only robust and materials resistant to high heat cycles, we incorporated these improvements and I can proudly say confidently our products are compatible with any of the aggressive behaviors the newer DA machines can throw at them.

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