Professional Carwashing & Detailing

All about rotary buffers

May 18, 2011

These are the dominant buffing machines used by professionals for all types of paint finishes, either electric or air. You want to use one that has a variable speed control. The correct buffing speed is determined by the type of damage you are correcting.

  • Low speed (1200 - 1500 RPM): Most effective on newer, high tech paint finishes which are more reactive to excessive heat build-up and static.
  • High speed (1600 - 2500 RPM): Ideal for use on older style, single-stage acrylic lacquer and acrylic enamel paint finishes.

NOTE: High speed buffers require a higher level of operator skill.
Be sure you have a rotary buffer with the correct speed range for the particular products you will be using. Some chemical manufacturers recommend that a high-speed buffer be used with their products; others recommend an orbital or dual-action. In order to obtain the best results, always match the buffer speed to the products you are using.

A relatively new concept in buffing, the BUFFPRO utilizes the axiel motion of a drum-style pad to buff and polish a painted surface. The major benefits of this tool is that it leaves or swirls or holograms in the paint, typical of a rotary buffer. And, it will easily remove existing swirls in the paint. It is easy to use and it’s use can be mastered by a novice after use on one car. Comes with a selection of both wool/foam cutting pads and a foam polishing pad.

Two more cautions regarding the use of a buffer:

  • Many manufacturers recommend using a high-speed buffer, which helps in repairing clear coats — but it may be wrong for special finishes. Just be sure that the products and buffer are appropriate for the finish on a particular vehicle before using them.
  • A high-speed buffer can cut through or burn paint quickly. To avoid unnecessary damage, only a skilled operator should be using a high-speed buffer.

R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a nearly 40-year member of the car care industry. He is also the executive director of the International Detailing Association and a member of the Western Carwash Association Board of Directors. Abraham can be contacted at