Circular Polisher How To

Circular Polisher How To

Learn how to use a circular polisher, a.k.a, rotary polisher or professional high speed buffer, to restore your vehicle’s finish to showroom condition. These step-by-step guides explain the difference between a circular polisher and a dual action polisher, how a circular polisher works, and how to remove swirls and scratches with a circular polisher. Below you'll find a how-to describing the Edge 2000 Pad System, which applies to all double-sided pads with a center adapter. You'll also see the Lake Country CCS guide, which includes techniques that work with any pads with hook and loop fasteners and a backing plate.


What is a circular polisher?
Pinnacle Wax

A circular polisher has a polishing head that spins on only one axis, like a drill. The polisher is capable of spinning a pad at high speeds, typically 600-3000 RPM. The speed of the polisher produces more heat and friction than a dual action polisher. Therefore a circular polisher has the ability to level the paint very quickly and effectively.

A dual action polisher has a central spindle and an offset spindle where the pad spins, which create an orbital effect. The pad itself moves much more slowly than a pad on a circular polisher, which makes dual action polishers very safe but less effective at removing deep scratches.

The high speed spinning motion that makes circular polishers so effective at paint correction also makes them more risky in inexperienced hands. Circular polishers produce a lot of heat that can actually burn through the paint. You MUST keep a circular polisher moving at all times to avoid concentrating that heat on one spot. It only takes seconds to burn through the clear coat, color coat, and primer.
Popular models of circular polishers are the FLEX L3403 VRG Lightweight Circular Polisher, the Makita 9227C, and the DeWalt DWP849X.

A FLEX LK603VVB Circular Polisher is shown here. A circular or rotary polisher is best for scratch removal.
Keep a circular polisher moving at all times so
this heat doesn’t concentrate on one spot.

Facts about Clearcoat
Pinnacle Wax

The typical clear coat is about the thickness of two layers of cellophane wrapper – very thin! This is the layer that protects the color coat from the elements and gives the vehicle a nice shine. Because the clear coat is so thin, it’s very important to polish only when needed and to use caution with a circular polisher.

The Paint Facts - Typical Industry Paint Thickness Specs.
Pinnacle Wax

Paint thickness is measured in mils. 1000 mils =1 inch. A mil is not to be confused with a millimeter. A mil is a different unit of measure used to describe the thickness of wire, paper and other materials sold in sheets.

  1. E-Coat 1.3 mil - Electrocoat is an anticorrosion coat applied to both sides of the steel to prevent corrosion (rust).

  2. Surface Primer 0.7 mil - Initial protection layer with texture to assist the pigment layer in bonding to the metal beneath.

  3. Base Coat 0.6 mil - The basecoat is usually 0.5 to 1 mil thick (1,000 mils equal one inch).

  4. Clear Coat 1.9 mil - The clearcoat provides gloss for that "wet look," plus physical protection from the elements, including ultraviolet rays. The clear coat is usually between 1.5 and 2 mils thick.

Polishing Tips
Pinnacle Wax

  • Work at a slow speed and increase gradually if needed. Typically, you’ll work between 1000-1200 RPM, never exceeding 1800 RPM.

  • Keep the polisher moving at all times to avoid burning the paint.

  • Avoid corners and the edges of panels where the paint is thinner.

  • Work the pad flat against the paint or tilt the back of the pad slightly upward to avoid dragging it on the paint. Dragging the pad creates holograms, which are almost as unattractive as the swirls you’re trying to remove!

  • Many detailers use a circular polisher for paint correction and then use a dual action polisher for wax or sealant application since application doesn't require leveling the paint. Therefore, using a DA polisher for the final step of the process minimizes the risk of over-polishing the paint.

This guide will give you a good start, but you will develop your own techniques as you become more comfortable with the machine.

What problems can a circular polisher correct?
Pinnacle Wax

A circular polisher can remove severe swirls and scratches, oxidation, etching, and any other paint defect as long as they do not extend through the clear coat all the way to the color coat. If you can run your fingernail over a scratch and your fingernail catches, generally the scratch is too deep to be removed without rwet-sanding, or possibly repainting. If you have a deep scratch down to the color coat, you can’t level the paint to that point without removing a lot of paint.  Don’t compound the problem. Instead, leave that repair up to the professionals.

That said, many detailers enjoy the high speed performance and quick paint correction of a circular/ rotary polisher. All it takes is practice and a steady hand to master the art of machine polishing.


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