The only way to get your paint properly dialled in and looking is best, is to polishing using a Dual Action Polisher.
There is an obscene number to choose from these days, which is why I’m bringing you my best dual action polishers for beginners.
What is a DA Polisher?
The keyword here is dual action polisher or “DA” as it’s often referred to.
Back in the not-so-olden-days of automotive detailing, the weapon of choice had always been the rotary polisher.
In most cases, a rotary polisher is simply a power grinder with a polishing attachment, which is usually a microfiber or foam pad depending on the level of the job. While this machine can deliver spectacular results, it requires the skill and patience of a professional detailer.
With a rotary polisher, if you do it wrong there is an impending danger of burning through the paint. And by this, I mean removing sections of the paint from the metal. Not good!
Hence the proliferation of dual action polishers. You can read more about all the differences between dual action and rotary polishers and how to use a DA polisher below.
Why DA Polishers Are Good For Beginners
These handy detailing tools are less powerful than a rotary polisher and are a much safer method of polishing for beginners and even professional detailers.
The use of a DA doesn’t take years to master or practice. In fact, a couple of hours on a test panel and you’ll likely have the basics to get your car looking pretty sweet, but also means that you won’t be burning a hole through your paint.
Mastering the DA will take time and there are many methods that you can use to get some pretty awesome results. I talk more on this later in the article. For now, let’s jump into what I think are the best dual action polishers for beginners on the market right now.
Related: Best Car Polish
The Best Dual Action Polishers – Top 4
Here is a list of the best dual action polishers for beginners:
- Meguiar’s MT320 Dual Action Polisher Pad Kit
- Poorboy’s World Dual Action Polishing Machine
- VonHaus Dual Action Polisher
- Dodo Juice Buff Daddy (DAS 6)
What I really like about the Meguiar’s brand is the easy-to-use nature and professional results of their products. The Meguiar’s lineup of polishes and waxes can be applied by hand or machine, and you can achieve marvellous results using both methods.
One such product is the Meguiar’s Dual Action Polisher Pad Kit. This kit contains a basic starter set for the budding DIY auto detailer. Now, this DA polishing kit is not the cheapest, but you get a complete set of detailing tools including three polishing pads.
You get a 5” red foam cutting disc along with a buffing pad that is ideal for compounding or removing large and heavy scratches and swirls. The kit also comes with a 5” yellow foam polishing pad to further refine the compounded finish. This will give your paint the smoothness and shine of a brand new finish. Last up is the 5” black foam finishing disc. This is the perfect buffing pad for applying wax or sealant to protect and enhance the shine of the paint. All of the included pads are machine washable.
But the star of the show is the MT320 dual-action polisher tool. Beginners are better off with a DA that is easy to use, and this tool is one of the best in this regard. It comes with a thumb adjustable speed dial and a redesigned outer casing to improve ergonomics and control. It even comes with new electronics.
The Meguiar’s MT320 dual action polisher even includes a digital torque management system that automatically regulates and maintains the ideal torque and speed as you use the machine.
I loved the inclusion of the soft start function that will prevent slinging compound, polish, or wax all over your clothes or garage. This DA tool can spin between 3000 to 7500 OPM (orbits per minute) for a faster and more efficient detailing experience.
Since the Meguiar’s MT320 is a high-quality dual-action polisher, there is no danger of burning or damaging the paint. This DA polishing kit may be pricey, but it remains a solid choice for beginners and professionals alike.
- Digital torque management, electronically adjusts torque to maintain speed when machine polishing
- New billet counter weight ensures smooth, precision and balance in the DA machine.
- The dual action orbit and rotation mean that you never have to worry about damaging paint.
2) Poorboy’s World Dual Action Polishing Machine
Where the Dodo Juice Buff Daddy below lacks in power for heavy compounding jobs, the Poorboy’s World Dual Action Polishing Machine more than makes up for it. This tool is touted to be among the most powerful DA polishers in the market today.
The Dodo Juice Buff Daddy only comes with a 500-watt motor. The Poorboy’s World DA Machine is equipped with a 900-watt motor. That’s almost double the cutting power in the same convenient and ergonomic tool.
The increase in power is going to work well for tougher jobs, but it’s not a necessity for all detailers, especially if you’re only looking at 1 or 2 stage corrections. It also comes with a variable speed setting that allows you to oscillate the machine between 2500 and 6800 orbits per minute. It comes with the same universal 5-inch (125 mm) backing plate to accommodate standard-sized buffing and polishing pads.
The 5m cable is another massive plus in my eyes and even eliminates needing to have any sort of extension cable for most garage setups. Having a longer cable might make the machine a bit trickier to store, but it allows for freedom of movement meaning you can concentrate fully on the job at hand rather than thinking about cable restrictions.
The Poorboy’s World Dual Action Polishing Machine comes with a handy storage bag, but unfortunately no buffing pads unlike the Meguiar’s MT320 DA polisher. You do pay less for the kit, so you need to work out what sort of package is right for you.
- Orbit Diameter/Throw Size – 8mm
- Variable Speed 2500-6800 OPM
- Powerful 1000-watt motor
3) VonHaus Dual Action Polisher
The VonHaus dual action polisher has to be one of the best value DA machines that I’ve tested for a long while. It’s the cheapest in this test and even though you’re saving money, you sacrifice very little as a trade-off.
In terms of spec, the VonHaus can hold a candle to most of the competition. Its spin rate can vary between 1500-6000rpm and comes powered by a cracking 600w powerhouse.
The 5″ pad size is standard, so you are able to use a wide range of aftermarket pads with this. However, it does come with a pack included, meaning that you’re good to go straight out the box.
As soon as you get the VonHaus in your hands, it feels really solid. It’s strange because if I were to do a blind test with this and the Meguiars, I think it would be hard to tell them apart in terms of which is the higher-end model.
Cutting power is really good. Lots of factors come into this, obviously, but for the weekend warrior, with the right combination of pad and abrasive, you’re going to be able to get 90% of defects, without too much trouble.
There aren’t too many negatives, but it does feel a little on the heavy side. After several hours of paint correction, you do start to feel it, which is down to ergonomics, as much as anything.
Finally, the 6m power cord that is attached is great and plenty long enough to keep moving around the car. Overall, there are few better value DA polishers than the VonHaus right now!
- POWERFUL – backed by 5 amps, the polisher buffer operates at six different speed settings from 1500-6800 RPM (no load) to buff and polish metal,…
- COMPLETE KIT – includes 4x pads, 1x microfiber cloth & 1x wash mitt, all neatly packed within 1x canvas carry case
- ERGONOMIC ADJUSTABLE HANDLE – features D handle for added control. Secure the adjustable handle in a suitable position for added operational comfort…
4) Dodo Juice Buff Daddy (DAS 6)
Is the Dodo Juice Buff Daddy the big daddy of DA polishers? It comes close.
It may lack the power of Meguiar’s MT320, but it also comes with variable speed settings. When it comes to the price and the quality of results, the Dodo Juice Buff Daddy does offer good value, and this is one of the main reasons why it makes the list.
One of the things that I particularly liked was the 3-metre power cable. This will give you the freedom to work around the vehicle without feeling restricted like shorter cords will do. The 5-inch (125 mm) backing plate that can accommodate buffing pads of a similar size and the kit even comes with a convenient carrying bag to easily organize all your detailing tools.
The Dodo Juice Buff Daddy dual-action polishing kit does not come with buffing pads, unlike the Meguir’s and it’s here where you are likely going to be saving money.
The only negative that I found was the flimsy power switch that sometimes got stuck or made you really work to turn it on or off. But, then at this price point, you can’t expect them to be perfect.
The Buff Daddy is a product that many beginners are going to love working with. It’s relatively light, ergonomic and moves at speeds that aren’t going to destroy your paint, whilst also offering great results.
What’s the difference between a rotary and dual-action polisher?
Rotary polishers are more powerful and can spin at higher revolutions per minute. Due to the nature of this tool, the pad attachments will spin at a constant revolution regardless of the pressure that you apply.
The biggest enemy of polishing machines is heat. Heat is a double-edged sword. Modicum amounts of heat are required to effectively remove scratches and polish the paint to a glorious shine. However, too much heat is not good.
Rotary polishers have a tendency of inflicting a lot of heat on the surface due to the powerful and constant spinning motion. This means eating up or burning the paint. Truth be told, rotary polishers may produce faster results due to the sheer cutting power. But in the hands of an inexperienced user, this polishing tool will likely produce more harm than good.
If you see a professional using a rotary polisher, take the time to watch the movements of the machine as it glides over the paint. The person will most likely continuously move over the surface and avoid idling on a particular section of the finish. This is the easiest way to avoid burning or eating the paint. Since a rotary polisher produces more heat, you’ll need to move the machine swiftly as it spins over the surface.
If you’re a budding DIY detailer, dual-action polishers are a much better bet. The word ‘dual action’ means the pad oscillates while spinning in a circle. Think of it like the Earth rotating in orbit as it also spins around the sun. The oscillating movement or random orbit movement of a dual-action polisher generates less heat on the surface of the paint.
Dual-action polishers are inherently gentler and less powerful than rotary polishers. However, DA polishers are safer to use and are better suited for beginners. You can essentially leave the DA polisher spinning over the paint without any danger or harming or damaging the finish.
Which polishing pads should I use?
Good question. There are a plethora of polishing pads in the market. It all basically boils down to what you want to achieve and the type of job involved. Buffing pads are generally classified in three categories: foam pads, microfiber pads, and wool pads.
Each pad can be further classified as compound, polish, and finish.
Foam is the most common type of buffing pad for DA polishers. Thicker foam pads are generally intended for aggressive compounding jobs while softer and thinner foam pads are great for polishing and waxing. Foam pads are also great when working on hard paint.
The latest material to be utilised for buffing pads is microfiber. This pad is touted to be stronger and more aggressive than foam pads. Even though microfiber buffing pads can also come in a variety of textures, thicker pads are reserved for cutting while thinner or softer pads are ideal for polishing and waxing. However, microfiber buffing pads are not great for soft paint and may leave micro marring on darker finishes.
Wool buffing pads are typically utilized in rotary polishers. However, some manufacturers also come up with wool pads for DA polishers. In terms of cutting strength, wool pads are in the same category as microfiber pads. Thicker wool pads are more aggressive and will offer stronger cutting power. But then again, wool pads will also leave micro-abrasions on darker paint due to the abrasiveness of the wool fibres.
Remember that choosing the right buffing pad is just as essential as choosing a dual-action polisher. Both factors will contribute greatly in producing the best results.
Do I need a mini DA?
In a nutshell, no. Professional detailers will have an arsenal of dual-action polishers including mini DAs. Dual-action polishers with smaller heads are great for polishing over smaller gaps. You can also use a mini DA to remove hairline scratches on sensitive interior trim. But for polishing paint, a conventional-sized DA will do the trick.
How to use a dual-action polisher
It’s pretty much similar to doing the job by hand, but at a much faster and more efficient rate. Keep in mind that the results will vary depending on a lot of contributing factors including the general condition of the paint, the type of compound or polish, and the type of paint job (whether soft or hard).
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Go get a panel from the nearest scrap yard to practice on first. They are often free and the way that I first started to get into polishing.
There is no right or wrong way of using a dual-action polisher. However, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind. For heavy compounding jobs, I fancy the Meguiar’s #105 Ultra Cut Compound. In terms of polishes, the Menzerna Super Finish 3500 is on top of my list. You can read more about the best car polish in a separate article.
Step 1 – Wash and dry the vehicle completely
Wash and dry the vehicle completely. Make sure all exterior surfaces and clean and free of dust, dirt, or moisture. It is preferable to detail the vehicle in a garage to reduce the presence of dust and dirt on clean paint.
Step 2 – Inspect the finish for bad and good patches
Inspect the finish. Not all sections of the vehicle will be infested with scratches, swirl marks, or oxidation. This will give you a general idea on the type of buffing pads to use and whether the vehicle will need to be compounded or polished before waxing.
Always start with a fresh and clean buffing pad whether you’re compounding, polishing, or waxing. It is best to have separate pads for each type of job.
Step 3 – Saturate the pad with compound or polish
Saturate the pad with compound or polish before proceeding. This will avoid sling. The trick is to apply three to four drops of polish on the pad and work the product all over the surface of the pad using your hands. Make sure the pad is evenly distributed with polish before starting.
Step 4 – Distributed the polish on a slow speed
Start with the pad on the car and turn it onto a low speed. Spread the polish over the surface area you are working on to make sure the polish has been evenly distributed. Note that at this low speed we haven’t started the correction stage, just merely distributing the polish.
Also, work in small areas, 50x50cm should be sufficient. As you more confident you can increase this if needed to speed up the process.
Step 5 – Turn the speed of the DA to mid-high setting
Turn the speed of the DA up to a mid-high setting. Then move the pad across the pain slowly in across hatch motion. I like to work from left to right, overlapping 50% of the previous pass each time. I then come back and work up and down.
Step 6 – Remove the polish with a buffing cloth
At this point, I turn off the DA and remove it from the surface. Then, using a plush microfiber buffing cloth, remove the polish and inspect the paint.
Step 7 -Inspect the paint
Now is the time where you see how much work really needs to be done. If you have been using a fairly strong compound, like Meguiars 105, then you are going to need to use a refining polish like Meguiars 205 to remove the haze from the paint.
If your paint wasn’t in too bad condition and you started on the least abrasive polish, then this single pass might be all you need. This is also known as a “single stage polish”.
Step 8 – Last-stage protection
Once your paint has been fully restored and you’ve got it to the standard that you are happy with, then apply a last-stage protection. For this, I like to use a good quality car wax, but you can use sealants or ceramic costings if you wish.
So that’s my take on what I think are the best dual action polishers for beginners at the minute.
What I will say is that a lot of the products that you see are very similar and often just rebranded. But, there is a lot of cheap tat that gets sent over from places like Asia, costing £30 or even less and not even worth the box they are sent in.
I always feel with something like that this that it’s best to be sticking to one of the higher-profile brands and also to check real-world reviews on them. After all, it’s not just a shampoo or car wax that you are using, this is a high-powered machine that can if used incorrectly, ruin your car.
The flip side is, that using one of these machines, is really very simple. As long as you apply a little common sense, take your time and use the correct tools, you really can’t go wrong. Plus, it’s the best detailing tool that you can use to get your car looking showroom condition.