Best Dual-Action Polishers: Improve the Texture of Your Vehicle
Restore the showroom look of your vehicle with a dual action polisher.
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Ray Prince / LAST UPDATED ON September 30, 2021
Dual-action polishers represent the next step up over elbow grease and microfiber cloths. They polish, buff, and sand your paintwork, improving its texture and luster while removing light scratches and excess contaminants at a much faster clip than hand polishing.
Nowadays, there are many types of dual-action polishers to choose from. They all vary in terms of style, oscillating speed, auxiliary features, and learning curve. Keep reading to learn more about our recommendations for best dual-action polishers, along with tips on best practices, benefits of dual-action polishers, review of top brands, and frequently asked questions.
This is a corded buffer and polisher combo designed with an ergonomically shaped handle that allows the user to work comfortably.
- Allows the user to control and maintain a specific speed
- Can be used on different types of materials
- Designed to offer years of reliable service
- Backed with a three-year limited warranty
- A bit heavy
- There’s a learning curve to controlling the speed
This is a 120-volt waxer and polisher with an ergonomically shaped body, which conforms to your hand for fatigue-free polishing.
- Affordable and easy to use
- Smoothens out the surface, and removes dirt and grime
- Vibrates to avoid damaging paint finishes
- Works on all surfaces, including kitchen walls
- Vibrations can strain your hand during lengthy detailing
- Only one speed setting
This is a corded, random orbital tool with two handles that help provide a quick, uniform finish when waxing, buffing, or polishing.
- Decently priced
- Effectively removes stains, swirl marks, and scratches
- Two handles provide a secure grip and reduce fatigue
- Ideal for both small and large projects
- Dual handles make the unit bulky
- Awkwardly positioned power switch
- Doesn’t operate at variable speeds
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Dual-Action Polishers
- Removes scratches and swirls. Dual-action publishers can be used to buff out minor to major scratches and swirls. It can also leave a mirror-like shine that can last for months.
- Variable speed settings and even polishing surface. Some dual action polishers carry variable speed settings, which allow speed adjustment based on comfort level and torque needed to repair minor or major surface damage. Additionally, dual-action polishers use billets, which ensure the polishing surface remains level even when extra pressure is applied. This allows the waxing product to be evenly distributed throughout the paintwork.
- Safe on paintwork. When a dual-action polisher is pressed down on a surface, it stops spinning and starts to vibrate. This action allows heat to dissipate, protecting your paintwork.
Types of Polishers
Also known as random orbital polishers, dual-action polishers use a spindle to spin in two ways – in a circular motion and using smaller circular motions within the head using an off-center connection to produce a shaking effect. It uses two axles to spin, not one.
There are key differences between dual-action polishers, each with a different name. Fixed orbital publishers are top-mounted and contain larger pads for applying wax and sealants. In turn, dual-action random orbital publishers is a term used synonymously with dual-action polishers and long-throw dual-action random orbital polishers use an offset axis from the pad’s center, resulting in larger area coverage, Lastly, dual-action forced rotation polishers use a direct driven pad, which continues to spin even with applied pressure.
These types of polishers work best in smaller spaces.
Rotary polishers use a single axis to spin in one circular direction. This helps build up greater heat and friction to cut paint off quicker and remove deeper clear coat scratches.
In short, deciding between dual-action or rotary polishers boils down to experience. Dual-action polishers produce less heat and friction than rotary polishers, creating a lower risk of burning through your paintwork. In addition, it cuts paints more slowly and produces a mirror-like finish if used correctly. This makes it a better choice for beginners. Opt for rotary polishers if you are looking to cut and remove severe clear coat damage quicker.
If you had to decide between one, go with the dual-action polisher. It can produce the same result as a rotary polisher, only at a slower rate.
Founded in 1910 by Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker, Black+Decker is one of the world’s most popular power tool companies. It is responsible for the world’s first portable power tool, followed by the world’s first nickel-cadmium-based cordless electric drill (1961) and the world’s first cordless outdoor product, a cordless hedge trimmer (1962). Other firsts include the DustBuster (handheld vacuum) and the Mouse Sander (1998). Our highest recommended Black & Decker dual-action polisher is the Black+Decker 6-inch Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher.
Founded in 1961 by Nick Anton, WEN produces a wide range of power tools, power generators, and woodworking tools. Our favorite WEN dual-action polisher is the WEN 6010 6-Inch Waxer/Polisher.
Founded in 1901 by Frank Meguiar, Meguiar recently celebrated its 120th anniversary as one of the world’s most popular surface care product companies. It all started with a bottle of furniture polish before expanding to horseless carriage wood finishing products. Today, it and is an avid sponsor/participant at more than 100 car shows and more than 3,500 car club events a year. Our favorite Meguiar product is the Dual Action Variable Speed Polisher.
Dual-Action Polisher Pricing
- Under $150: Dual-action polishers that fall in this range are best used for smaller home maintenance projects. They carry a lower RPM rating and smaller buffer pads.
- $150 and up: Dual-action polishers that fall in this range are the ideal choice for professional polishers. They hold high-speed ratings (up to or above 3,000 RPM), are ergonomically focused, and come with additional safety features such as automatic shutdown and speed locks. They may also come in corded or cordless options.
Here are the most important features to consider when purchasing a dual-action polisher.
The best dual-action polishers allow users to control their rotation and speed using manual speed settings. Manual speed settings should incorporate a speed dial with very small differences between one speed level to the next. Today, dual-action polishers are rated in revolutions per minute (RPM) or orbits per minute (OPM). Any dual-action polished rated at 3,000 RPM or higher works well in buffing out deep scratches.
A dual-action polisher should allow an ergonomic, comfortable grip in the palm of your hand. Units should comprise an ergonomically shaped body along with an extra side handle or D-handle to help combat hand fatigue.
Do not underestimate a good storage bag for your dual-action polisher. Storage bags allow your dual-action polisher to remain upright and in a fixed position to prevent jostling within a toolkit or on a table.
Corded vs. Cordless
Dual-action polishes either come in corded or cordless options. Cordless options allow you to work without cables tangling beneath or around you. Look for cordless designs that run on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts at least a continuous hour per full charge. If deciding to go corded, we recommend a minimum cord length of 30 feet, which should easily snake its away around the most crowded garages and workshops.
Look for dual-action polishers with automatic shutdown and speed locks, which prevent the motor from increasing or decreasing speed while in use.
Additionally, some dual-action polishers are known for excess vibration. Be sure to read online reviews to see if this is a common problem with your machine.
- Vibration. Dual-action polishers typically vibrate as part of the buffing process. However, you don’t want a polisher that vibrates since it can strain your hand and lead to inaccurate finishes. Before buying a polisher, check the user reviews to see if excessive vibration is a big issue with the machine.
- Corded vs. Cordless. Most random orbital polishers on the market have a corded design and need to be constantly plugged in to work. However, you may want more freedom to move around without cables tagging behind as you work. In that case, you can go for a cordless design that runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Best Dual-Action Polisher Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Dual-action polishers generally use three types of pads: compound, polishing, and finishing. Each pad works with different products. Compound pads are generally catch-all pads that work down deep scratches. Polishing pads in the middle of the scale, chipping away at small imperfections. Finishing pads add sealants, waxes, and other treatments to finish the deal.
- As a general rule, use the machine’s weight to apply pressure to the surface. Do not lean on or add weight to your dual-action polisher. Any unnecessary weight could cause your vehicle’s paintwork to chip away and come off. As a general rule, apply light pressure for regular buffing and medium pressure when removing defects, such as light scratches.
- Before polishing your vehicle, be sure to perform a pre-wash. Pay close attention to your rocker panels and lower doors, as they are closest to the ground. Machine polishing a non-pre-washed vehicle could cause dirt, grime, and debris on your paint to swirl and damage your paintwork. For extra points, use a clay bar to lift iron deposits and other oddities.
- Before polishing the entire vehicle, perform a quick dry run on a test spot to ensure your technique and results are up to par. Pay attention to controlling speeds and motion.
- With every buff, focus on a small 2-inch by 2-inch area using no more than four pea-sized dabs of polish. Check your work after finishing each 2-inch by 2-inch area before reapplying polish. To make it easier, divide your vehicle into sections using old newspapers. Strip off the old newspapers from unpolished areas as you go.
- Don’t forget to keep the pad level on your paintwork’s surface and avoid working under direct sunlight.
Q: What is a dual-action polisher?
A dual-action polisher is a power tool that's used to smoothen out your vehicle's bodywork and for applying wax. It combines a circular and spinning action, which creates a double or dual action. It also vibrates while it spins so that it doesn’t burn through the paint.
Q: What is the best dual-action polisher?
Though we picked DeWalt Buffer/Polisher as the best overall dual action polisher, finding the best polisher is subjective depending on the functions you are looking for. You may prefer a waxer/polisher combo over a sander-polisher. Therefore, any of the polishers on our review could be the best for you.
Q: Can a dual-action polisher remove scratches?
Yes, it can. The repetitive spinning action can help smoothen out minor scratches and fill it with automotive wax and paint. However, it doesn’t produce enough heat to remove deep scratches on the paintwork.
Q: What’s the difference between a polisher and a buffer?
Both terms are used interchangeably. However, the term polisher is used more when referring to high cut compounds and the term buffer is used more when applying wax to your paintwork.
Q: Which polisher should I use: a dual-action polisher or rotary polisher?
Deciding on either a dual-action polisher or rotary publisher generally comes down to experience. Dual-action polishers spin in two directions to cut down on heat and friction, cutting down on the likelihood of permanent damage. Rotary polishers rotate in one direction and produce greater heat and friction for deeper scratches. In short, if you had the choice of either, go with the dual-action polisher.
Q: Can you burn paint with a dual action polisher?
Lower friction and heat generated by dual action polishers reduce the likelihood of burning paint. However, if a dual action polisher is held down to excess pressure for more than several seconds to one spot, then you will likely burn through the paint. Note, we highly recommend dual action polishers, not rotary polishers, for beginners.
Q: Are dual action polishers safe?
Yes, dual-action polishers are very safe. Today, they come with ergonomic handles, variable speed settings, and soft start buttons for a firm grip, reducing the likelihood of any mishaps.
Admittedly, the DeWalt Buffer/Polisher is the best dual-action polisher because it’s easy to use, energy-efficient, and versatile enough to offer a wide range of speed settings to accommodate different detailing projects. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider the WEN Waxer/Polisher.