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Having The Right Tool For The Job

by

KMG - Tools

With the various shapes, curves and sizes of vehicles these days, it is almost impossible to properly finish a vehicle using a single tool.  Certain types of machines are better suited for different areas or situations.  There are lots of options for polishers on the market today ranging from random orbital polisher to a rotary buffer, or even a combination of these two type in a forced rotation random orbital such as the Flex XC 3401 VRG.  These types of machines all have good points to them along with some negative points.

Random Orbital (Dual-action) Polishers

Random orbital polishers, also known as dual-action polisher are typically the safest machines for use in the hands of a novice.  There are many options available when it comes to orbital diameter, also referred to as throw with 8mm being the most standard.  A very popular option in this class is a large throw machine such as the Rupes, Griots “The Boss” or various other makes available.  Large throw machines typically range from a 12mm throw all the way up to a 21mm.  These machines typically are more expensive, however most will find it difficult to go back to using a standard throw machine after working with a large throw.  Using a standard throw machine all day can take quite the toll on you if you’re not used to it.  These machines require downward pressure while running them, roughly 15 lbs. of pressure is recommended in order to achieve proper correction from the tool.  Large throw machines however require very little downward pressure, as the large throw provides most of the correction making it far less physically demanding to use.

The definition as provided in the Auto Detailing Guide – Detailing Dictionary on Detailed Image.

Random Orbital Buffer

  1. A power tool which attaches to a backing plate and buffing pad that uses random oscillation to spread a product onto a surface and/or utilize an abrasive to remove surface defects from a surface.

Rotary Polishers

Rotary polishers have been around for a very long time and are still widely used by many places.  In the hands of someone with a good amount of experience you can perform corrections much quicker than when using a dual-action polisher.  However, in the wrong hand these machines can cause a lot of damage to the finish on your vehicle, most common are burnt edges or holograms.  This damage occurs from running the machine at too high of an RPM or cutting into edges on the body and burning through the paint.  I very rarely ever get my rotary out to use on any of the cars I work on.

The definition as provided in the Auto Detailing Guide – Detailing Dictionary on Detailed Image.

Rotary

  1. A buffer that has no secondary action to its rotation. “ZOFRO Polishing Machine (Zero Offset Forced Rotation Orbital)”

Forced Rotation Orbital

In this area you get a hybrid of a rotary and a dual-action machine.  The Flex is the only tool that is made that performs like this.  I really have very little experience using a Flex, however they do have a large following.  Use of the Flex will still require a good bit of downward pressure like all other 8mm throw dual-action polishers, however it will not stall out in complex areas like other dual-action polishers.

This is a great comparison chart showing the different types of polishers/buffers available through Detailed Image including the specs for each.

Buffer Comparison Chart

Buffer Type Speed Dial Comes With Specifications Compatible Backing Plates & Pads
Porter Cable 7424XP

Porter Cable 7424XP

Random orbital
  1. 2,500 OPM
  2. 3,400 OPM
  3. 4,200 OPM
  4. 5,000 OPM
  5. 5,900 OPM
  6. 6,800 OPM
  • 6″ Pad w/permanent backing plate
  • Instructions manual
  • Side handle
  • Built in 6″ counterweight
  • Wrench for backing plate
  • 4.5 Amps
  • 2,500 – 6,800 OPM
  • 5.75 lbs
  • Spindle Thread 5/16-24
  • Speed Dial (1 – 6)
  • 90 day guarantee, 1yr mfg & 3yr parts warranty
Rupes LHR 21ES MarkII

Rupes LHR 21ES MarkII

Random orbital 2,500 RPM – 4,700 RPM Built in 6″ backing plate
  • 500 Watt output
  • Orbit Size: 21 mm
  • Machine weight: 5.73 lbs
  • Spindle Mounting hole: 8 mm x 1.25 mm female thread
  • Speed control soft start to prevent product sling
  • Electronic speed control maintains constant speed
  • New ergonomic front handle
  • 1 year warranty
  • Made in Italy
Rupes LHR 15ES MarkII

Rupes LHR 15ES MarkII

Random orbital 2,500 RPM – 5,300 RPM Built in 5″ backing plate
  • 500 Watt output
  • Orbit Size: 15 mm
  • Machine Weight: 5.73 lbs
  • Spindle mounting hole: 8 mm x 1.25 mm female thread
  • Speed control soft start to prevent product sling
  • Electronic speed control maintains constant speed
  • New ergonomic front handle
  • 1 year warranty
  • Made in Italy
Rupes LHR 15ES 15MM

Rupes LHR 12E Duetto

Random orbital 4,000 RPM – 5,500 RPM
  • Built in 5″ backing plate
  • Rupes Yellow Polishing Foam Pad – 5″
  • 400 Watt output
  • Orbit Size: 12 mm
  • Machine Weight: 5.73 lbs
  • Speed control soft start to prevent product sling
  • Electronic speed control maintains constant speed
  • New ergonomic front handle
  • 1 year warranty
  • Made in Italy
Rupes LHR 15ES 15MM

Rupes LHR 75E Mini

Random orbital 4,000 RPM – 5,500 RPM
  • Built in 3″ backing plate
  • Rupes Yellow Polishing Foam Pad – 4″
  • 400 Watt output
  • Orbit Size: 12 mm
  • Machine Weight: 5.07 lbs
  • Speed control soft start to prevent product sling
  • Electronic speed control maintains constant speed
  • New ergonomic front handle
  • 1 year warranty
  • Made in Italy
Rupes Big Foot iBrid Nano

Rupes Big Foot iBrid Nano

Rotary & Random orbital 2,000 RPM – 5,000 RPM
  • 1 BigFoot Premium Tool Case
  • 1 AC-DC adapter
  • 2 Rechargeable power pack
  • 1 Charger
  • 6 Buffing foam pads Coarse 1-1/4″
  • 6 Buffing foam pads Fine 1-1/4″
  • 4 Buffing foam pads Coarse 2″
  • 4 Buffing foam pads Fine 2″
  • 1 Zephir polishing compound 150 ml Coarse
  • 1 Keramik polishing compound 150 ml Fine
  • 1 Rotary connector
  • 1 3 mm orbit connector
  • 1 12 mm orbit connector
  • 1 Backing plate 1-1/4″
  • 1 Backing plate 2″
  • 1 Cloth wipe
  • 1 Cylinder brush
  • 1 Wrench
  • Comes in two sizes, long and short neck.
  • Can be used with a cord or with the rechargeable battery packs (both included)
  • 1 year warranty
  • Made in Italy
Griot's Garage THE BOSS G21 21MM

Griot’s Garage THE BOSS G21 21MM

Random orbital 0 – 5,000 OPM
  • Factory installed 6″ backing plate
  • Instructions manual
  • 21mm orbit size
  • 900W
  • 7.5A
  • 13′ Cord
  • 15 5/8″ tool length
  • 5.15 Lbs. tool weight
  • Electronic speed control
  • Variable speed trigger
  • 3x Griot’s Manufacturer Warranties (Lifetime Guarantee, Six Month Satisfaction, Two Year Comprehensive)
Griot's Garage THE BOSS G15 15MM

Griot’s Garage THE BOSS G15 15MM

Random orbital 0 – 5,000 OPM
  • Factory installed 5″ backing plate
  • Instructions manual
  • 15mm orbit size
  • 900W
  • 7.5A
  • 13′ Cord
  • 15 5/8″ tool length
  • 5.14 Lbs. tool weight
  • Electronic speed control
  • Variable speed trigger
  • 3x Griot’s Manufacturer Warranties (Lifetime Guarantee, Six Month Satisfaction, Two Year Comprehensive)
Chemical Guys TORQ 10FX Random Orbital Polisher

Chemical Guys TORQ 10FX Random Orbital Polisher

Random orbital 1,500 – 4,200 OPM
  • Two 6″ backing plates. One flexible and one stiff.
  • 8 mm Throw
  • 700 Watt Motor
  • 1,500 – 4,200 OPM
  • Variable Speed Control
  • Digital Display
  • Smooth Start Up
  • Reduced Vibration Control
Meguiar's MT300 Dual Action Polisher

Meguiar’s MT300 Dual Action Polisher

Random orbital 3,000 – 7,000 OPM
  • Instructions manual
  • Wrench
  • 8 mm Throw
  • 3,000 – 7,000 OPM
  • Variable Speed Control
  • Smooth Start Up
  • Reduced Vibration Control
  • Billet Counterweight
  • Digital Torque Management
Griot's Garage 6 inch 3rd Generation

Griot’s Garage 6″ 3rd Gen.

Random orbital
  1. 2,500 OPM
  2. 3,360 OPM
  3. 4,220 OPM
  4. 5,080 OPM
  5. 5,940 OPM
  6. 6,800 OPM
6″ DA backing plate included
  • Powerful 7-Amp, 850-Watt Motor
  • 2,500 – 6,800 OPM
  • Variable Speed, Wider RPM Range
  • Wider 5/16″ orbit pattern for faster and better results
  • Ergonomic Adjustable Handle
  • Available with 10′ or 25′ cord
  • Lifetime Warranty from Griot’s
Griot's Garage 3 inch

Griot’s Garage 3″

Random orbital 3,500 to 10,000 OPM 3″ DA backing plate included
  • 240 Watt motor
  • 3,500 – 10,000 OPM
  • Soft start, constant speed feature
  • An ergonomic built-in grip at the head of the unit
  • Heavy duty cord
  • Steel bevel gear drive for smoother operation
  • A standard style backing plate with a 5/16″ shaft
  • Lifetime Warranty from Griot’s
Flex XC 3401 VRG

Flex XC 3401 VRG

Forced random orbital
  1. 3,200/160 OPM/RPM
  2. 4,500/200 OPM/RPM
  3. 5,800/270 OPM/RPM
  4. 7,000/330 OPM/RPM
  5. 8,300/400 OPM/RPM
  6. 9,600/480 OPM/RPM
  • Instructions manual
  • 5.5″ backing plate
  • Handle
  • Alan wrench
  • 7.5 Amps
  • 3,200 – 9,600 OPM
  • 160 – 480 RPM
  • 5.75 lbs
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Lock-on button locks the trigger
  • 1 year mfg warranty
Flex PE 14-2 150

Flex PE 14-2 150

Rotary 600 – 2,100 RPM Side handle included
  • 10 Amps
  • 880 Watt
  • Tool Fixture: 5/8″
  • 5.6 lbs
  • Speed without load: 600 – 2100 RPM
  • Overload protection
  • 1 year mfg warranty
Makita 9237C-X3

Makita 9237C-X3

Rotary
  1. 600 RPM
  2. 900 RPM
  3. 1,500 RPM
  4. 2,100 RPM
  5. 2,700 RPM
  6. 3,000 RPM
  • Makita 9237C
  • Wool and blended pad
  • 6″ backing plate
  • Makita nylon tool bag
  • Bail and side handle
  • Hex wrench & centering post
  • 10 Amps
  • 600 – 3,000 RPM
  • Spindle thread 5/8″ – 11 UNC
  • 6.6 lbs
  • Variable speed trigger w/lock on button
  • 1 year mfg warranty
Flex PE 8 Kompakt Rotary Polisher

Flex PE 8 Kompakt

Rotary 1,300 – 3,900 RPM
  • Instructions manual
  • Side handle
  • 7.6 Amp motor
  • Compact design (12″ long & 4 lbs)
  • Easy access to tight, hard to reach areas
  • Soft start and smooth feel
  • Quiet
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty

This chart is also available in the polishing section of our Detailing Guide.

I typically use at least two (2) different machines on every project, however at times I will use up to four (4) different tools depending on the size and complexity of the vehicle I am working on.

Currently my personal machine arsenal consists of the following.

  • Griot’s Garage The Boss G21:  used with 6.5″ pads on larger flat panels such as roofs, hoods or doors
  • Rupes LHR 15ES mkII:  used with 5.5″ pads on larger areas also, but mainly on areas where the larger 21mm throw and pads might not work such as some fenders, doors or side skirts.
  • Rupes LHR 75E Mini:  used with 3″ and 4″ pads for smaller tighter areas such and front and rear bumper covers, pillars or mirrors
  • Pneumatic DA polisher:  used with 2″ pads for grilles and other very tight areas
  • Makita 9237C-X3: used with 5.5″ pads.  I actually use this more for interior work such as cleaning seats and carpets.
  • Flex PE 8 Kompakt (soon to be added):  for use with 1″, 2″ or 3″ pads for very tight areas where a DA might not be accessible

While it is not required to have different tools for various size pads, when operating a business you want to be as efficient as possible…  The time lost having to stop and change backing plates on a machine adds up through the course of working on a vehicle.  Everyone will have a different opinion of which type of machine is the best or even which brand is best, however any brand or type of machine is fully capable of achieving great results.  This will always be a personal preference.

The other important thing to have on hand is various types and sizes of pads.  While I am not going to get into pads for this article, I will be following up with another article discussing the importance of having multiple types and sizes of pads.

Kevin George
Kevin M. George
KMG Detailing
Lebanon, PA
KMGDetailing.com
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11 comments on Having The Right Tool For The Job

  1. Kyle Allen says:

    In my opinion, the PE8 is overrated

    – Needs a soft start trigger
    – Awkward trigger, even after rotating the body to relocate it
    – Tippy, especially with an extension

    I find myself using my HF Pneumatic w 2″ and old PC with 3″ DAMF

    • Kevin George Kevin George says:

      Kyle, I do agree with a few of your comments. However I would not say it is overrated. The tool works great for the purpose I wanted it for, which is very tight areas that a DA is not able access.

  2. Jeff says:

    What tools do u used with the Mikita for interior cleaning seats floor?

    • Kevin George Kevin George says:

      Jeff, sorry for the late response. I will use it with carpet brushes on occasion for floors, and I also use it with microfiber pads for cleaning seats on occasion. Not something I do all the time, but there are times where I will use it if I have it out.

  3. Angel Ricado says:

    I really like using the rupees. It would be very difficult for me to try the flex, after hearing a lot of retailers complain about its weight. I just ordered the meguiars mt3000. I too enjoy the flex pe8 for those very difficult areas on the cars. I was completely satisfied when a client of mine scratched his center console polished plastic area. Pe8 just made it super easy to get in the area i needed and client was extremely happy. He figured I was not able to get it out.
    I really feel that having the right tool for the job will separate you from the other guys. Sometimes it makes sense buying the polisher sheen your others still work.

  4. Jai McRae says:

    I hear there are rumors that Flex originally took the idea from Makitas forced rotation polisher the BO6040.

  5. John M Barquera says:

    I just purchased the Griot’s Garage 3″ Orbital Buffer to get into tight or small areas, my question is can I use an extension bar on an Orbital Buffer to aid in working the small areas? I watched a YouTube video where a short bar, (it looked to be around 3″inches) was attached to a rotary buffer with a 3″ inch backing plate.

    • Kevin George Kevin George says:

      John, you really can not or I say should not add an extension to one of the random orbital polishers. This would likely through the balance of the machine off, which is why you do not see extensions for DA really available. This was a good question however.

  6. Danny says:

    Hi, I’m pretty new to detailing and looking to purchase Porter Cable 7424XP since I’m a beginner. But im somewhat confused on the backing plates, If I have a 3″ backing plate, can I use buffing pad bigger than 3″ or do I have to purchase a 5″ backing plate if I want to use a 5″ buffing pad. Or should I just purchase a 5″ backing plate and use a 3″ pad when needed.

    Thank you

    • Reece @ DI Reece @ DI says:

      Danny – If you have a 3″ backing plate, we would recommend using 3″ pads. If the pad is slightly larger than the backing plate that is a good thing, but never go smaller. If you go smaller, you leave the sides of the backing plate exposed and that leaves you open to the danger of hitting the paint with your backing plate. If you are looking to use larger pads, we recommend picking up a larger backing plate. For example, if you are using the 5.5″ pads, you will want to use the 5″ backing plate.

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