has anyone ever used an orbital buffer?

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Mar 28, 2003
I'm curious if anyone has ever used an orbital buffer on a vehicle. I am somewhat scared of using one of these for general appearance because we've all seen the hack-jobs on cars out there --

-- but I was at a body-shop, and the tech was using one with very mind rubbing compound to remove orange-peel on a new clearcoat -- he did it VERY slowly and applied almost NO pressure and it did a GREAT job --

I am not intending this for a lazy-man's wax, but instead I wanted to clear up some clear-coat scratches on my lovely pearl green with a very mild rubbing compound and a buffer --

-- ouch, even using the words "rubbing compund" and "buffer" in the same phrase makes me nervous!!


I used the buffer in a drill. It works at removing scraches but leaves swirl marks.
There is a swirl removing compound that you can use with the buffer.

Not to rain on your parade but- DON'T TOUCH ONE-

First, NEVER use rubbing compound on a new paint, you will destroy the paint.

Second, The orbital in the picture you attached and a proper detailing orbital are entirely different machines. A proper detail orbital is $200-500.

Third, If you have not done detailing in the past, do it by hand, it will keep you out of trouble.

Fourth, Consider paying a good detailer $300 to remove these scratched and then do maintence yourself. Ask bodyshops who they recommend.

Five, It will take 6+ hours to detail the LC correctly

Six, if you still want to do it yourself, check out carcareonline.com for some great info on how to detail, and what products work best for your paint.

I would hate to see you screw up your paint. Detailing is a skill and it takes time to develop. If you decide to do it, go slowly by hand with the right product.

A foot note:

On older cleat-coat finishes such as yours it will be VERY easy to burn the edges of the panels, IE door edges ETC. Also the clear will be very thin and will burn thru easily. If you go thru the clear, the base coat will die a rapid death and you will get a new 5,000 dollar paint job. :eek:
DOGG -- you all are GREAT -- thanks for saving my 80 -- !!

I'll get e detailing at a reputable shop --


eric 8) 8) 8)
If you want to do it yourself, buy some 3m Imperial Hand glaze from carcareonline and put some elbow grease into it! I use my Porter Cable Orbital on my car frequently...with the correct products it is fine, but I defer to CDan's experience. ABSOLUTELY do not use rubbing compound of any sort. All you need is a swirl remover (like 3m IHG) for clear coats and a soft 100% cotton or microfiber cloth. Read the How-to section at car care or autopia.com
watch out for "pros" too. Had a tree branch fall on my hood. A few scratches. Went to a "pro" shop to have it buffed. Looked good. After a few months paint started to peel... Must have used too potent a buffer.

Bought an orbital later on for another car. Never brought myself to using it. But used the Meguiar's 3 step system by hand to bring back a finish that had not been waxed or washed in *years*. Worked great, and looked terrific afterwards, but the first panel I did, I followed the directions and got some swirls -even though I did it all by hand...
caution is in order...
[quote author=RWD link=board=2;threadid=7580;start=msg63745#msg63745 date=1068986206]
I also use the Porter Cable orbital buffer on my trucks with no problems at all. I'd stay away from rubbing compound though. Here's a little more info:

wow -- this is a great site -- thanks, RWD!

That pic of your truck had me having flashbacks to the naked guy reflection in the teapot on ebay....I averted my eyes at first....whew!
Try turtle wax color cure wax. I use the silver on my truck and it turns out quite nice. But the true test of it is on black cars and the black wax is simply unbelivable. It does an extremely good job. I do beleve that they have it in green. Check either autozone or pepboys or where ever you get you wax. Just dont touch a buffer, reason 1. my dad put swirl marks all over his expedition with one of those random orbital buffer things. reason 2. 1963 T-Bird professionally buffed before a car show and the wonderous idiot who did it burned off the paint in two spots. (small, but still noticeable). NO MACHINE WILL EVER TOUCH MY VEHICLE. unless its spraying water and i'm in a touchless car wash.

I always do the BMW by hand, but my LC isn't exactly a cream puff. So a cheap (not very powerful) random orbital buffer and NuFinish do a good job. I can't imagine a random orbital buffer with a good, soft cover and non-abrasive cleaner/wax doing damage.

Perhaps there are some heavy-duty commercial random orbital buffers that I'm not aware of.
Obviously, stay away from those buffer/grinder things that spin at 10,000 rpms or more.

I've done quite a bit of detailing on my cars and for others as well. I use a random orbital buffer that does an excellent job and does not leave swirls. Also, if you are using a polish wax or rubbing compound make sure that it has never been frozen. A friend of mine had a "pro" detail his pristine '73 911. The guy used a polish that had been kept in his garage over the winter. When he buffed the car, it pretty much ruined the paint job. Once your polish/compound freezes, throw it out.

To do an 80 right, it does take a chunk of time. A lot of surface area to work with.
I have used one of those orbital buffers, and I think it works fine. I have watched most detailers work with a large Makita buffer - not orbital - I have used one on a boat, but would never let a detailer near my vehicles with one.

I just did my 80 by hand - a all 3 steps of the Mothers system - but only because I had left the buffer in trunk of the car and my wife was away for the day.

You would have to be a dope to burn the paint with the orbital. You can scratch the clearcoat if you use a cheap pad or pick up any debris on the pad. I usually only use mine to apply the final wax coat.

Brent is right about the Zaino. Great stuff but a little spendy. Reminds me... I need to place an order for more Zaino.
The Zaino was a real labor of love the first application. Per Sal Zaino's excellent instructions I washed the beast with Dawn to strip all the old wax. Did that twice because I'm anal! Then clayed the entire thing very well. Talk about great results! Even the detailer that comes to our office commented on the smooth shiney finish on a 9 year old truck. That's a compliment coming from a professional. Then did the two step application required for his polishes. Goes on and comes off very easily. All elbow grease, no buffer. As much a pain in the arse as our beasts are to wash due to size, the amount of metal vs glass doesn't make these cruisers much bigger to wax than a conventional car IMHO. No affiliation, just a very satisfied customer.
I must put a coat of Z5 on my truck once a month -- the stuff is lovely -- between that and Leatherique, everything's pampered over this way!!


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