A Guide to Buffers for Professional Automotive Detailing

auto detailing career

If you need to give a car a shine to make it look brand new, a buffer is the right tool for the job. For any auto detailer, an auto buffer is one of their most essential tools. If you’re considering a career in auto detailing, then knowing as much about buffers as possible can help you thrive on the job.

It’s useful for any auto detailer to know the ins and outs of how buffers work, and which one is right for certain tasks. Here’s what you should know about buffers as an auto detailer.

Machine Buffers Have Many Advantages Over Hand Buffing

Although some auto detailing purists might still argue that the best way to polish a car is to do it by hand, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, a mechanical buffer will likely give the vehicle its best possible finish. While doing it by hand can avoid burning edges or leaving swirl marks on the vehicle, it won’t have the same speed or consistency as a buffer will, nor will it have the same pressure. So long as it’s used properly, a mechanical buffer is almost always preferable to buffing by hand. Furthermore, while small jobs may be easy to tackle by hand, if you have to do a large area, then you will want a buffer. Also, some clear coats can’t get a perfect finish through hand buffing and in those cases a machine polisher such as a buffer is the best solution.

Using a buffer can fix issues with clear coats better than if done by hand
Using a buffer can fix issues with clear coats better than if done by hand

There are Usually Two Kinds of Buffers: Rotary and Dual Action

Many buffers in professional auto detailing involve two distinct types: rotary and dual action, also known as high-speed and random orbital buffers respectively. The rotary, or high-speed, types of buffers are often used for the lion’s share of polishing and paint correction jobs. Dual action/random orbital buffers can also be trusted with less risky jobs, although it’s a more time-consuming process than using a rotary buffer and a bit harder to control. 

While both types have a spindle, backing plate, pad and motor, there are differences in terms of the pad’s rotation around the buffer’s motor. The spindle of a rotary buffer rotates with the pad in one direction without any orbiting, oscillating or vibration. On a dual action buffer the spindle and pad move on a different axis, leading to the pad orbiting, oscillating or vibrating.

There are two kinds of buffers and each has its benefits and drawbacks
There are two kinds of buffers and each has its benefits and drawbacks

Those in Professional Auto Detailing Will Need High Quality Polish and Backing Plates

Also worth keeping in mind during your auto detailing career is ensuring your buffers are kept in the best possible state. This can be done partially by choosing the best polish. In fact, choosing a high quality polish is arguably just as important as choosing the right buffer for a particular job. Ideally, use a polish that is non-staining, works on all clear coat types, and has a long working time. If you are using a dual action buffer, be sure that you have the right backing plate for the job. A good idea is to use a backing plate that is a bit smaller than the pad in order to prevent the backing plate from hitting and damaging the paint.

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