A little while ago I wrote what has become one of my most read posts on the differences between a dual action polisher, rotary polishing machine and orbital buffers. Since then I have been asked on a number of occasions which is the best dual action polisher to buy.
There are of course many variables when looking to choose the best dual action polishing machine for your own needs. Some will buy on price, others performance, maybe even on weight or a combination of all these factors.
In this post I aim to give you an unbiased dual action polisher comparison of many of the popular machines and consumer brands including Meguiars and Chemicals Guys as well as some of the not so well-known names i.e. Flex, Rupes & Shurhold
Before getting into the detail of comparing each car polisher side by side, let’s first look at what makes a good dual action car polisher. (But if you want to get straight into the detail you can scroll down to the comparison chart)
What Makes A Recommended Dual Action Polisher
The very first thing to consider is the overall quality of the machine. In this article I will only look at machines that have a good reputation for quality and reliability. There are some very cheap dual action polishers on the market but if you are looking for a machine that is going to last I would recommend you stick with those that consistently get good ratings.
Next is the “Throw” of your dual action polisher. This is the size of the orbit that the machine covers when in action. The bigger the throw the faster and easier it is to get the job done.
The speed of your dual action polishing machine will be another important factor. Most quality dual action car polishers will have a variable speed control ranging anywhere from 1800 orbits per minute (opm) to around 6800 opm. These are usually marked as speed settings i.e 1-6. For example the speed settings of the Porter Cable 7424 are:
Speed 1 – 2500 opm
Speed 2 – 3300 opm
Speed 3 – 4000 opm
Speed 4 – 4800 opm
Speed 5 – 5800 opm
Speed 6 – 6800 opm
These maybe subject to slight change with variances in model and machine improvements.
Then there is the weight to consider. Depending on the size of your vehicle and how often you need to use the machine the weight of your dual action polisher may become an important factor when choosing the best one for your own use. Some of the lightest machines are just a little over 2kg, where as some weigh somewhere nearer to a hefty 4kg.
Many of the latest dual action polisher machines now come with a load sensor which measures the amount of downward pressure being placed on the cars panels and automatically adjusts the power and torque to ensure a constant speed is maintained as the downward pressure varies.
If you have set yourself a budget you will want to find a machine that not only sits within your budget but also has the best of the criteria mentioned above.
Unfortunately dual action car polishers can vary in price quite significantly and additionally depending on which country you are buying from, ranging anywhere from $32-$335 (£25-£260) in the USA, whereas in the UK it could be anywhere from £60-£400 ($77-$516). Based on current exchange rates of £1=$1.29.
The Top Rated Dual Action Polisher Comparison Chart
Top 3 Dual Action Polisher Reviews
Any of these dual action polishing machines would be a great buy. The choice really comes down to your personal preference. Like with any detailing product, you can get some really top end car polishers if you’re willing to spend the cash, but there equally great products to suit every budget.
Pre 2007 the only serious choice for a dual action polishing machine would have been the Porter Cable 7424, Then came the meguairs G220 to steal the show. In 2014 the MT300 came out and took the machine polishing market to a new level and the new and improved Meguiars MT320 came to challenge the PC dominance.
This model introduced the digital torque management that electronically adjusts torque to maintain speed when machine polishing to create the perfect finish.
Digital torque management, electronically adjusts torque to maintain speed when machine polishing
These machines are well-built, sturdy bits of kit. The D shaped handle make it easy to grip and control and the variable speed settings make it easier to choose the right speed for the job.
The MT320 also comes ready supplied with the starter pad kit including a foam cutting disc, polishing disc and a finishing disc for the perfect shine.
Rupes LHR15ES Big Foot
When launched onto the market a few years back the Rupes LHR15ES Machine Polisher really set the standard for other machines to follow. Rupes is an Italian based tool manufacturer with a pedigree that dates back to 1947.
The LHR15 is engineered to the very best standards and is one of the lightest machines of its type and quality available. It’s also has a soft-start function which means that it gently builds up the speed when first started so as not to unevenly disperse your detailing product.
However the biggest innovation Rupes made with this machine was in its’ “Throw”. Appropriately named Big Foot it has a 15mm throw compared to most other machines which only have 5-8mm.
This means you can cover a bigger area quicker. Thus the combination of this, the build quality and ease of use make it the ideal choice for the professional detailer, serious enthusiast or beginner who only wants the best.
The Flex XC3401 is the next best thing to a rotary polisher but with the safety of the dual action. Unlike the other machines reviewed here the Flex is a “Forced Rotation Dual Action Orbital Polisher”. The others are known as “Dual Action Random Orbit” polishers.
The XC3401 has a powerful 900 watt motor and an impressive orbit speed range of up to 9600 opm.
Made in Germany the build quality and engineering is also excellent, with the machine also easy to handle, although might take just a slight more getting use to than the Meguiars or the Rupes, but not by much.
Because it is a forced rotation machine the gearing on the backing plate is different to that of other dual action machines and in the early days you would have been limited to backing plate and pad size options.
However there are now more options available for this machine making it a serious contender to be at the top of anyone’s list when choosing a dual action polisher.
What Is The Best Dual Action Polisher For Beginners?
As a beginner you don’t want to spend a small fortune on your first dual action polisher. The ideal machine will be a combination of price, features and handling. I would recommend you consider one of the machines with a load sensor torque control so that as you are practicing and learning you keep a steady speed in your polishing.
My own personal preference for a beginners dual action polisher would be the Meguiar's MT320 Dual Action Machine Polisher . This machine has a number of factors going for it. First it does have the torque control. It also has the mighty Meguiars brand behind it for both service and support. And it also comes in at a good medium price point.
For a more in-depth look at machine polishing check out this video (23 minutes) How to use a DUAL ACTION POLISHER – Detailing 101
I must stress however that this is my own personal favourite dual action polisher for beginners. Your criteria may be a little different.
One tip I would recommend is to get hold of an old car bonnet or trunk lid from a scrapyard and once you buy your first dual action polisher, practice on that before giving it a go on your motor. It’s not that you are likely to do any damage to your car, it’s more for building up your confidence and handling for a better result and finish when you start using it for real.
Should I Buy A Dual Action Polisher Kit?
There is a good argument for buying a complete dual action polisher kit. Especially if you are a newbie to machine polishing.
Some polishers will come with a pad or two and others just as the bare machine. You will also need to look at what pads, compounds, polishes and wax/sealant you will need to complete your set-up. This of course will depend on what you want to achieve from using your polisher.
As you can see from the options, some will come with a complete set of pads and a range of products for various jobs, whilst others will be a more basic kit for a single stage i.e a finishing pad and sealant.
Again depending on the work that needs doing will determine what kit you go for but ideally you may want at least one cutting pad, a couple of polishing pads and a finishing pad. If looking for a machine polishing kit that also includes detailing products it is best to choose a kit with a recognised brand of product packaged with it i.e. Meguiars, Pinnacle, Chemical Guys, Poorboys, Dodo Juice or one of the other respected brands within the detailing community.
What’s The Difference In A Cheap Rotary Action Polisher?
Many of the really cheap rotary action polishers have limitations compared to the machines reviewed in today’s article. Many can be heavier and not so well designed so making them a little harder to use and control. You might also find that the backing plate is fixed, thus limiting your choice of pad sizes. (Normally 9-10 inches)
You might also discover it difficult to get hold of spares should anything go wrong and the reliability is likely not to be on a par with the established brands.
If budget is a key factor in your decision then machines like the: (Most of these will be single action orbital polishers and buffers)
What about the Meguiars G3500 DA Power System?
The Meguiars G3500 is an interesting development. It enables enthusiasts to enjoy the benefits of dual action polishing without the expense of buying a dedicated machine. It does however rely on you having a suiable power-tool to use it.
The Meguiars G3500 is a dual action fitting that fixes onto the end of your corded drill with an rpm between 1200 and 3500. It comes ready supplied with its own polishing pad.
You can also purchase packs for difference applications such as correction/cutting, polishing and finishing. These come with the relevant pads and Meguiars product for the job at hand.
Whilst enabling the option of dual action polishing to a much wider audience at a lower cost you have to take into consideration that the footprint is much small than standard as it used 4″ pads. And depending on the type of drill you have will also depend on how easy it is to hold, handle and control. It it not going to be as comfortable to use as a dedicated machine.
Dual Action Pads & Plates
There is a vast array of pads on the market that are suitable for use with a dual action polishing machine, the type and use of which I will cover in a future post.
They also come in a range of different sizes and colours. Most manufacturers use the colours to help identify the type of pad. i.e. Meguiars cutting pads are a burgundy colour, the polishing pad yellow and the finishing pad a very dark grey.
When it comes to size, the bigger the pad the quicker you will be able to work. A common size pad for general detailing work is 6″. And to ensure the pad is held securely onto your car polisher you will need a suitable sized backing plate i.e. for 6” pads you will need a 5” backing plate, for 5” pads a 4-” backing plate and for a 4” pad, a 3-3.5” backing plate.
You will note the suggested plate size is just a little smaller than the pad size it is used with. This is recommended to help avoid any damage should you accidentally tip you machine to the side whilst polishing.
With the pad larger than the plate it will prevent the harder edge of the plate making contact with and damaging your paintwork.
Top Rated Pads And Sets:
Over To You
Do you use a dual action polisher? Which in your opinion is the best DA polisher? Have you had any good (or bad) experiences of using a DA machine – has it transformed your detailing regime? Are there any machine that you would recommend that I have not covered here. Please share your thoughts and experiences with us using the comments box below.