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What to look for before you buy a dual action polisher

Mitch Avatar By: Mitch | Last updated June 12, 2022

polisher getting rid of paint defects


Polishing is one of the steps in maintaining the car that is often forgotten by owners. After all, washing and waxing may just do the job for newer vehicles. However, polishing brings a lot of benefits for ensuring that minor scratches and contaminants will be removed thoroughly. It also adds more shine and luster to its design. 

While you can manually polish the car, it is generally advised to instead use a mechanical polisher. These can be purchased in car equipment stores. In the early days of polishing people would use a rotary polisher, but that often led to burning through the clear coat or paint. This is because the rotary goes in a fixed circle. Now people have started using dual action polishers, which create a random orbit, and reduces the risk to you and your paint.

Find out what you should look for in a dual action polisher so you don't waste money on a machine that isn't good for you. You don't need to spend $500 plus for something you might use once or twice. But you also shouldn't be getting a super cheap one if you plan to use it often, as you will be burning out the motors quickly. Find out what we suggest in our article today.

What are the types of mechanical polishers?

The first type of a mechanical polisher is the rotary polisher. This uses a single polishing head which rotates on the car’s surface. These are usually cheaper. However, a common complaint about it is the possibility of damaging the paint of the car that comes from the heat build-up when the polisher is pressed on the surface for a long time. Generally, these are preferred for cutting or removing the scratches of the car. These also work faster. Because of this, users need to be extra careful with using it to maintain the quality of the paint.

The second type is called the dual-action polisher. These are also called the random orbital polisher. Its main difference from the rotary polisher is that it utilizes both oscillating and rotating whenever polishing the car. This is intended to have the same effect with circular hand motion, but with the aid of mechanical power as to make it faster. It is generally safer to use by the owner themselves as it lessens the heat applied to the surface which does not damage the paint.

Both are recommended but dual-action polishers are generally more advised if you plan to polish your car at home.

What are the features that you should look for in a dual-action polisher?

First, you should look at the speed of the polisher to make sure that you can have shorter polishing times. This can be measured with the amount of revolutions or orbits per minute (either RPM or OPM). Generally, you must decide on the speed depending on the surface of the car. It is also good for a unit to have a lot of options for speed so that you can adjust it depending on the specific car you are handling. It is mostly advised to have more of the speed to be able to handle deep scratches.

Next, users should look for a unit that is comfort in design. After all, the unit will continue to vibrate and oscillate while you are holding it which puts pressure on the hand. This will go on for a long time, too, depending on the severity of the surface. For this, users should look for a unit that has an ergonomic shape which makes it sturdy to hold while comfortable at the same time. This can be determined through the different contours of the unit. Side handles and D-handles can also be helpful.

Lastly, it is also helpful to have safety features that are built-in to the unit. This to ensure that beginner users will not damage their car’s paint in the process which is the main selling point for dual-action polishers. A useful tool is an automatic shutdown feature that activates when the unit is incorrectly used which may damage the paint. It also helps to have a speed lock that can prevent it from being too fast or slow for polishing the unit. Lastly, it is also good to have a cordless function that gives more comfort in polishing the car through different angles. It also helps in reaching through the different parts of the car.

It is also good to look for a unit that generally vibrates less. This is usually unavoidable because of the oscillating action of the unit. However, having one that vibrates too much may put too much stress on the hand of the user. It can also cause damage to the surface and inaccurate polishing.

Our choice for best dual action polishers

So now that you know what to look for or an idea ( hopefully ) we will go over what we think are the best choice in the class.

Cheaper, maybe use once a year , not heavy duty.

When we did our reviews of the best dual action polishers for begginners , we found that Griots was usually coming out on top. Our initial choice was a Griots polisher, but it has since been replaced by the G9. Don't get us wrong, it is still our top choice but it is a bit more expensive now. So if you are looking to do one or two quick polishes the $169 might be a bit much. This is why we would suggest taking a look at the harbor freight dual action polisher.

It can usually be found at less than $100 so is cheap enough that it won't break the bank, and is a decent machine. You might feel more vibrations, but if its a smaller job this shouldn't be a make or break issue.

More expensive, longer term and time use

While the Griots brand does have a cheap option they also have a more expensive option. Their Griots G21 long throw option is just amazing. As the name implies, it has a longer throw so can really clean up big areas fast. However, the downside is there that you can't get into smaller places with it. So if you have the luxury of having a nano polisher for those smaller spots this might be great for you.

Final thoughts

Dual action polishers come in all different sizes, feature sets, weights, and option packages. What works for you will depends on your budget, time, and amount of experiance. 

The one thing that we love about Griots is that it comes with a lifetime warranty. You really can't go wrong with that. But their prices are starting to sneak up, as everything in the world is in all honesty.