View Full Version : Buffer help

03-16-2006, 08:02 PM
I have an old buffer in my garage that i would really like to use. I have just turned of age to drive, got my new car, and want to start detailing. I remember, however, the first, and last time my dad used the buffer. It burnt all the paint on the hood of his car. The paint looked all faded and terrible to the point where he needed a new paint job. Since then, i have been terrified of this buffer. I want to use it in hopes that my car will have a nicer finish, but im so afraid to ruin my paint too. Did this happen because of the buffer, or because of the technique used...or both. I know my dad really had no clue what he was doing, so that's probably why it happened. If anyone can answer these questions, and help explain to me how to properly use a buffer (without ruining my paint), i would greatly appreciate it. (If it makes any difference I have a metallic black finish)


03-16-2006, 09:31 PM
Here is something I wrote for another board that might help point you in the right direction and help you see the light. ;) This article is still a work in progress, but it is functional for now.

The PC is an incredibly versatile tool that anybody can use. With as soft and easy as our paint is to scratch and swirl, I think this tool should have come with the car. If you haven’t polished your car since you bought it then you likely have noticed the swirls and marring on the paint. A lot of that comes from what you use to wash and dry it with, but regardless of how the marks got there, they can be easily wiped out with the right tools.

There are a lot of differences between buffers, polishers, random orbit polishers, rotary, power buffers, and whatever else people name their polishing tools. Let’s just make it easy….

This is a Buffer:


Buffers are what I call ‘el cheapo’ products. You can get them from anywhere between $20 bucks and $80 bucks. Even the highest priced buffer is nothing compared to a PC. They are all the same and it just comes down to what they are made of. Some have metal gears and some have plastic gears. Obviously the plastic geared ones are the cheaper ones and will just break sooner. They will all cause you the same grief. For an amateur a buffer is only good for one thing and that is waxing. Try to use this to remove swirls and you may end up with the famous buffer burn that I’ve mentioned before. These things generally generate too much heat when turned up fast enough to break down polishes and they cause these funky 3D looking holograms in the paint. That is called ‘buffer burn’.

This is a Rotary:


All I can say about a rotary is that I don’t use them. They are a more effective version of a buffer that is capable of literally polishing the paint right off your car. While a buffer will just screw up the paint, a rotary can remove it. Sometimes you need power like that, but again… for an amateur these machines just create problems. Get experience with a PC before you step up to a rotary. Rotaries are professional tools that require some skill to use. I don’t use one because I simply haven’t ever come across a problem that I needed one for. The PC has always done the job for me.

This is a PC:


The PC is the safest of all the polishing tools. It is a random orbit polisher. What that means is that the pad spins while it rotates. Kind of like how the moon rotates while it orbits the earth. The pad on the PC does exactly that. On one hand the pad is spinning fast, but it is also on a second sort of off center spin that causes it to orbit. The effect is a kind of ‘jiggle’ of the pad that helps avoid burning the paint. The pad simply doesn’t spin in one place long enough to cause any damage. That isn’t saying that if you were using a cutting pad and a very aggressive product that you wouldn’t burn paint off the edges or even the middle of a body panel, but used with a little common sense and practice you will find that this tool is the safest and easiest to use out of all of them. If you gave this machine to a 5 year old with the right pad and a little wax then they could quite safely wax your car with it. I couldn’t say that unless I had tried it too. http://legacygt.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif

You can use the PC either with two hands or one hand. In some cases it is necessary to use both hands, but when reaching across the roof or hood it is sometimes difficult to have both hands. The nice thing about this tool is that it isn’t going to get away from you if you are only using one hand. Just keep a grip on it and you should be fine. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about. You can tell by the pad on the PC that this is through 3 different stages of polishing. The red pad is my cutting pad for swirl removal. The green pad is what I use for applying the paint cleaner (in this case the Wolfgang Pre Wax Polish Enhancer) and the black pad is what I use for applying the final wax or sealant (Wolfgang).




The more you use this tool the more certain muscles will get a workout. Don’t be surprised the day after your first full polish job when you are sore in different places or if you have a blister on your thumb. That is just the way it is until you get used to it. Obviously I’m not the biggest guy in the world, but polishing a car is a good workout and you will definitely notice it in your arms and shoulders after awhile.

Very Important! Here are a couple tips on PC usage that you may not have considered. Never lift the PC off the paint while it is spinning. Always keep contact between the paint and the pad while the PC is on or else you will just end up flipping product all over the car, the walls, and yourself. Trust me on that. Turn the machine on and off while the pad is on the paint. Also, don’t wear anything that will scratch the paint. Necklaces, belt buckles, rings, watches, etc.. All of that can cause damage if you accidently rub against the car. I wear an apron for a couple reasons. Number one it is a great place to carry product around with me while I’m polishing the car. Number two is that my belt gets another layer of material between it and the car. When you are reaching across the hood or over the roof you don’t want to hear a grinding of your belt buckle and the paint. Especially on our paint. That is another reason to be careful with your watch. Large metal watch bands would love to scratch your paint. Take off your watch and rings while detailing if you feel they will be in the way. One more tip is regarding the cord. The best way to keep the cord from dragging along the paint is to throw it over your shoulder. That way you never have to worry about it. It is also much easier to move around the car when you aren’t trying to flip the cord out from under the tires or get it off the side mirror.


03-16-2006, 09:31 PM
If it is as old as I suspect it mite be better to purchase some quality products that can be applied by hand. To get you started with a process that you can maintain the paint as well as protect it.

Is it a two handled, one speed, 10 inch pad kind of thing? Ot is it a rotary?
It would be nice to be more specific.

03-16-2006, 09:31 PM
Cleaning your pads on the fly is pretty easy. Pads are much easier to clean when they are freshly used than after they have dried. What I do with mine is simply spray them off, shake the water out, and then put them on the PC for a short spin on setting 6. That usually gets enough water out that you can get back to work. If you spray the pad with high pressure and only aim at the front, then usually the back doesn’t get wet. If the Velcro gets wet on the back then you will have a hard time getting it to stick back on the PC. I would also suggest letting the pad cool down a bit before washing it off. Right after use there is a lot of heat that has been transferred from the pad up to the backing plate. The glue on the Velcro backing might be a little soft and it is a good idea to let it cool down before you risk getting it wet.



Something else that you might want to consider when polishing your car is to tape off the plastic trim. Polishes stain plastic trim if you don’t clean it up right away. The only trim on the Legacy that I see problems with is the area around the sunroof. Everything else seems to clean up pretty easily. To mask off the trim you want to protect, just use normal blue painters tape. It doesn’t leave sticky stuff behind and it will protect anything you don’t want messed up. You can also use it to cover any seams you don’t want product getting in. Just keep in mind that anywhere you tape off isn’t going to get polished or waxed. If you need to mask off seams around the door handles or body panels, then you might want to consider using really thin strips so you don’t end up with swirls left underneath where the tape was.


One other tip that isn’t PC related is in buffing off the product. I use a towel under each hand so that I’m not leaving streaks or smudges on the car. I also use latex gloves while detailing since all those chemicals can dry out your hands. After you have spend a few hours polishing up your lady’s car the last thing you want is for her to be in the middle of rewarding you and then make a comment about how dry your hands are. http://legacygt.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif


If you run into stubborn areas where the product just doesn’t want to buff off then you might want to spray a little quick detailer or even just water on it. I keep a bottle of Four Star Gloss Enhancer handy for those situations. If nothing is available then you just need to use a little pressure on the towel while buffing. This is also an effective method:


Please add any other tips that you can think of. The PC is a great tool and probably one of the best investments for the value of your car that you can make. Your paint is the most expensive part of your car and proper care is essential to retaining vehicle value.

03-16-2006, 10:40 PM
OC that is a very, very good writeup on buffers and polishers. Extremely easy to read and user friendly. (I do also like you using your son as a final buff )

Nick, chances are the buffer you have is not going to work exactly as anticipated. If you can provide pics, we can all give you hints on how to use it to the best of its ability. I suspect, with time, you will need to move up to a PC. Trust me they are well worth the price ....


03-17-2006, 06:45 PM
I'll probably just eventually by a pc. After seeing what the buffer did to my dad's car, i really don't want to mess with mine. Thanks for the help.