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A Guide to Machine Polishers

In Detailing Products

By system on Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Is a machine polisher safe to use on my car? The answer is: Yes.

Machine Polishers provide amazing results that are simply not possible by hand polishing, with advances in technology over the last 5-10 years, there are a lot of machine polishers that are completely safe and very easy to use – even for total amateurs.

Where do you start – We get asked a lot “which is the right polisher for me” or “which is the best polisher?” and with so much choice out there now the various styles and types can be confusing. Here is a quick guide to the different types of polishing machines and hopefully you find one that suits all your needs:

Random Orbital or Dual Action – RO / DA This style of polisher is relatively new and has evolved from earlier Random Orbital Sanders – the difference being the size of the orbit (stroke), and the speed of the oscillation (opm). Sanders oscillate very fast (8,000-12,000 opm) and have a small stroke (2-3mm) while Polishers oscillate more slowly around 1,800-6,000 opm and have a large stroke 8-21mm. Which means that Random Orbital (RO) Polishers can ‘cut’ and actually have the power to permanently remove swirls and marks in the paint, but the great point is: they are very safe because of the oscillating motion. They will not cut as fast as a Rotary Polisher but they can deliver similar results, and are better for finishing and soft paints.

Now to explain the different styles of RO/DA polishers – this is most easily done using the Orbit size:

8mm Orbit – DAS6 and DAS6-Pro This was one of the first of the ‘new style’ of RO Polishers and has been in the market for well over 5 years, proving very popular with enthusiasts looking to achieve real polishing results versus the old-school method of trying to hand polish. Machines like the DAS6 and DAS6-Pro have revolutionised the industry because they are suited to complete beginners who have never used a machine before, within 5 minutes they are completely comfortable and achieving great results. Please do not confuse this machine with the cheap ‘wobbling’ or cordless ones they sell in most auto-stores, these have 500W or 850W of power to permanently polish paint. Another benefit of the DAS6 and DAS6-Pro is the ability to change the backing plate to suit a variety of pad sizes from 80mm which allows polishing the tightest areas and curves, like the dedicated small pad machines, and up to a maximum of 165mm which is perfect for most panels of the car. These polishers accept foam pads or the new technology of microfibre pads to allow extra cut.

Best suited to: Both DAS6 and DAS6-Pro are suited to Beginners who want to polish their paintwork and get real results, but have never dared to put a machine on their car. The DAS6 is the easiest polisher to master quickly and the most economical, while the DAS6-Pro offers a little bit more grunt (850W) to get the job done a bit faster, or as a standalone ‘finishing’ machine for serious enthusiasts and detailers.

15mm Orbit – Rupes LHR15 and Mint DA-L15 Rupes created this orbit category with the Rupes LHR15 or ‘Detailing’ edition which looks and feels very similar to the Rupes 21mm, a long-handled polisher which was the first in the ‘Bigfoot’ Series, like most innovative tools there are now similar machines like the DA-L15. The 15mm orbit sits nicely in the middle of 8mm and 21mm machines for both polishing ability and versatility, it offers a lot more cutting/polishing power than the 8mm (or 12mm) orbit machines but the flexibility is slightly limited by the size of the orbit/stroke for tight corners and polishing closely into edges and trim – however it is more versatile than the 21mm orbit as you can imagine. Both polishers in this category orbit slightly faster than the 21mm ones, but still lack some of the 21mm’s raw grunt on large flat panels. The 15mm sector is a good compromise and more aimed at Detailing environment rather than Panel Shop polishing. The backing plates of the 15mm polishers are designed to accept both Foam and Microfibre however in just one size of 150mm face diameter.

Best suited to: Serious Enthusiasts to Professional Detailers looking for a more powerful RO machine but without compromising all precision, perhaps in combination with an 8mm machine for complete coverage and correction. The Rupes LHR15 offers European quality, while the Mint DA-L15 offers great performance for a lower price.

21mm Orbit – Rupes LHR21 and Mint DA-L21 This is where serious RO polishing started, with the ‘Bigfoot’ Rupes LHR21 Mark II known because of the huge footprint it lays down when polishing the full 21mm orbit. This larger orbit offers more cutting/polishing power for paint correction, the closest anything has come to a Rotary but still not quite there. Your polishing time will be quicker than the smaller orbit RO machines but there is the large drawback of curves, corners and contours – the 21mm does not overly like them and with modern vehicles comprising of lots of curvy bits these days it can be quite a challenge. The 21mm machines are great for polishing large open flat panels; roofs, bonnets etc but when it comes to anything intricate even like contoured doors or bumpers it does struggle to polish the area consistently. The main advantage of this machine is that it is still much safer than a Rotary Polisher, so unskilled staff in commercial operations can use this without fear of doing more damage than good. This polisher is used with matching foam pads only, in only a 180mm diameter size.

Best suited to: Panel Shops or Professional Detailers that are looking to polish cars quickly, and usually used in combination with other machines for complete coverage and correction. Not really for the beginner or someone who wants a singular polishing machine. As above; the Rupes LHR21 offers European quality, while the Mint DA-L21 offers great performance for a lower price.

Mini Polisher – Rupes LHR75E This is a specialised category that offers a 12mm orbit like above but on a small machine utilising an 80mm pad (only size). The Rupes Mini is perfect for polishing all those hard to access areas; bumpers, a-pillars, door handles, number plate surrounds and many more. With the 12mm orbit it still offers great cutting/polishing ability especially when combined with Microfibre pads. It has a short body, variable power settings and runs very smoothly offering you complete control in delicate areas.

Best suited to: Perfectionists and Professional Detailers looking for exceptional results on all areas of the car. Always used in combination with another sized machine for the main areas and flat panels.

Rotary This style of polisher has been around for a long time and has been used by industry for many years. It is a direct geared machine that rotates around a central spindle, usually fitted with a 6”-9” pad. It has very fast cutting ability through high torque, but an inexperienced operator can ‘burn through’ paint and cause damage to trim and rubber surrounds easily – not to mention holograms or swirl marks left behind. Older versions were heavy 4-5kgs and hard to handle, while newer styles are more usable and ergonomic at just 2-3kgs. Used mainly in bodyshops, car dealerships and by commercial detailers.

Best suited to: professionals who have been machine polishing for many years, it offers fast cutting ability and is good for hard paints. First time enthusiasts should not try to learn with a Rotary Polisher.

So coming back to the original question of Which Polisher is right for me? – it really depends on you:

Is this your first polisher and you only have a car or two to polish every 6-12 months? A DAS6 should suit your needs perfectly – if you own cars with Harder Paints (Mercedes, BMW, Audi, VW…) and again want something versatile to start with, maybe the DAS6-Pro. If you are looking to polish more cars or on a frequent basis, even weekly then maybe invest in a 15mm polisher as your main machine offering you a balance of power and agility. And if ‘speed’ is the main requirement the 21mm RO Polishers deliver this for large areas – but ultimately nothing cuts as fast a Rotary Polisher, just as long as you know what you are doing!

However combining 2 machines will give you the best of both worlds, a lot of the top detailers will use a Rotary Polisher or 15/21mm to cut/polish and a Mini or 8mm polisher for all the intricate polishing – changing down pads and polish options for further polishing/finishing stages to remove any holograms or hazing and achieve that insane gloss and depth in the paint.

If money is no object then Rupes would be your choice offering smooth European quality and stylish looks. If you are looking for more value for money, Mint ProTools have been selling and supporting RO polishers for over 8 years with a lot of happy customers – the choice is yours.