Reviews

Best Dual-Action Polishers: Improve the Texture of Your Vehicle

Restore the showroom look of your vehicle with a dual action polisher.

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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.

Best Overall
DeWalt Buffer/Polisher
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Summary
Summary

This is a corded buffer and polisher combo designed with an ergonomically shaped handle that allows the user to work comfortably.

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • Expensive
  • A bit heavy
  • There’s a learning curve to controlling the speed
Best Overall
DeWalt Buffer/Polisher
Best Value
WEN 6010 6-Inch Waxer/Polisher
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Summary
Summary

This is a 120-volt waxer and polisher with an ergonomically shaped body, which conforms to your hand for fatigue-free polishing.

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • Vibrations can strain your hand during lengthy detailing
  • Only one speed setting
Best Value
WEN 6010 6-Inch Waxer/Polisher
Honorable Mention
Black+Decker Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher
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Summary
Summary

This is a corded, random orbital tool with two handles that help provide a quick, uniform finish when waxing, buffing, or polishing.

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • Dual handles make the unit bulky
  • Awkwardly positioned power switch
  • Doesn’t operate at variable speeds
Honorable Mention
Black+Decker Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher
Closeup Of Dual Action Polisher
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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

Dual-Action

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

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.

Top Brands

Black+Decker

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.

Makita

Headquartered in La Mirada, Calif., Makita is a global manufacturer of premium quality power tools. One of its best dual-action polishers is the Dual Action Random Orbit Polisher.

WEN

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.

Meguiar’s

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.

Key Features

Here are the most important features to consider when purchasing a dual-action polisher.

Speed

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.

Design

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.

Storage Bag

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.

Safety

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.

Other Considerations

  • 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

Best Overall
DeWalt Buffer/Polisher

Our favorite dual-action polisher is the DeWalt Buffer/Polisher. It features a powerful 12-amp motor and onboard variable speed adjustment from zero to 600/3,500 RPM, more than enough to tackle major paintwork scratches. We love its ergonomically shaped body with a three-position bale handle and D-handle, along with a two-finger variable speed trigger for a comfortable grip, even at higher speeds.


A hook-and-loop backing pad also makes it easy to swap out accessories. Although pricey, it is well worth the cost.

Best Value
WEN 6010 6-Inch Waxer/Polisher

If you want to get your car looking its best without breaking the bank, check out the WEN 6010 6-Inch Waxer/Polisher. The fixed-speed electric motor spins at a rate of 4,000 oscillations per minute. This speed is great for all-purpose use, though care should be taken to prevent overworking painted surfaces. The compact design is easy to operate with just one hand.


The 6-inch backing plate is intended for use with any similarly-sized elastic bonnets, and two are included. The applicator bonnet spreads polishing compounds or waxes evenly and thoroughly. The terry cloth bonnet wipes surfaces clean for a bright finish that’s far better than what you would likely get by hand. While the alternatives on this list offer more power and versatile features, this polisher is a great choice if affordability is your top priority.

Best Fixed-Speed
Black+Decker 6-inch Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher

If you’re looking for a powerful dual-action polisher that is easy to maneuver, you might prefer the Black+Decker 6-inch Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher. The single-speed motor operates at 4,400 oscillations per minute, for a bright, crisp shine. Two handles make this compact unit easy to control, especially on curved surfaces and sharp edges. The 6-inch disc is designed for use with removable bonnets rather than stick-on pads. 


One foam applicator bonnet and two polishing bonnets are included with the purchase of this tool. You’ll have everything you need to get right to work polishing, waxing, and buffing with your favorite car care products. This option is also backed by a two-year warranty. Because of the high speed of this motor and fixed speed setting, this should be used with care. Improper use can damage paint more quickly than less powerful alternatives.

Best Kit
Avid Power Polisher

Get a bargain on a great tool by choosing the Avid Power Polisher. This competitively-priced option offers a wide range of speeds. A six-position dial lets you select motor speeds from 1,500 oscillations per minute to 6,800 oscillations per minute. You can use the lowest speeds available for cleaning and polishing, or speed things up to apply the finishing touches to your detailing. 


It may feel heavy, but the auxiliary handle provided can be rotated 90 degrees to provide a comfortable handhold as you work. The 6-inch backing plate is designed for use with 8-inch pads. Three pads included with this polisher: one for removing swirls and blemishes, one for removing scratches, and one for finishing the surface. Additional pads can be purchased as a set, so you always have the tools you need.

Honorable Mention
Meguiar’s Dual Action Polisher

For waxing and polishing painted surfaces, you can use Meguiar’s Dual Action Polisher. It has a lightweight body weighing only 5.4 pounds, and the weight is well-distributed throughout the tool so that it can feel well-balanced on your hands. It also features a multi-position D-handle for comfort and enhanced control.


The unit can operate from 3,000 to 7,500 orbits per minute, and a thumb adjustable speed dial lets you adjust the speed to suit the application. Digital Torque Management electronically maintains the selected speed level for accurate detailing. Though the unit vibrates excessively, a cleverly positioned soft start button provides soft starts so that you can better handle the speed and vibrations as they pick up.

Honorable Mention
Makita Electronic Polisher/ Sander

Makita's Polisher provides an easy way of removing minor scratches, swirl marks, and restoring the lustrous shine of your vehicle or boat's paintwork. It's rated at 120 volts so that it won't reflect on your electricity bill. Also, it's driven by a 10-amp motor that delivers 600 to 3,000 rotations per minute, so that you can use it for light polishing or heavy-duty sanding. The onboard variable speed dial lets you adjust the motor speed to suit different applications. 


To ensure that the polisher doesn't vibrate uncontrollably, you can press the soft start button for a smooth start before you increase the speed. When you need to make a perfect finish, you only need to press the lock-on button to maintain a constant speed. It's somewhat heavy, but you will appreciate how effortlessly you can switch from polishing to sanding.

Honorable Mention
Rupes Random Orbital Polisher

Featuring Italian design and craftsmanship, Rupes Random Orbital Polisher is an easy-to-use polisher best used for paint correction. It’s driven by a 500-watt motor and operates rather quietly despite the powerful motor. Having such a powerful motor means that it can be used in a professional setting to remove heavy paint defects. Also, a variable speed control lets the user adjust the speed, and you can choose between six different settings to handle various applications. 


For better control of the polisher, it comes with a soft start button that also helps avoid detailing accidents. More safety features include an anti-spinning feature that prevents high-speed rotations to create swirl-free finishes. Also, it uses a 6-inch Chemical Guys polishing pad to polish any painted surface. It’s a bit expensive, but it can fit into tight spaces, making it worth the extra cash.

Honorable Mention
Goplus Dual Action Polisher Kit

If you are looking for a waxer, grinder, and buffer from one power tool, then the Goplus Dual Action Polisher Kit could work for you. The kit comes with a car polisher, removable side handle, a sponge pad, and a chuck key. It features a 950-watt motor and six variable speed settings, ranging from 2,000 to 4,800 rotations per minute. You can maintain a steady speed by pressing the safety-lock switch, which locks the machine at one speed setting so that you don’t have to keep your finger on the speed dial. 


The unit has an ergonomic design that reduces hand fatigue. It can be held at three different positions: main handle, side handle, and D-shape handle. It’s also lightweight and made of durable nylon and TPR material. However, the unit tends to overheat but will be back to running smoothly once you give it a few minutes to cool.

Honorable Mention
Porter-Cable Variable Speed Polisher

Porter-Cable offers a random orbital sander and polisher that strikes the perfect balance between comfort and usability. It features a 4.5-amp motor, a 6-inch polishing pad, and weighs only 5.5 pounds for fatigue-free operation. The electronic variable speed dial lets you adjust the motor power from 2,500 to 6,800 OPM to handle different applications. The motor is quite noisy, but it can maintain a constant speed for you to work comfortably. 


Porter-Cable includes a removable, two-position side handle that helps you achieve better control for accurate detailing. It can be attached at either the left or right side for a better working angle. It’s also compatible with 5/16 - 24 spindle thread accessories, thereby increasing your options when it comes to the tools you can use for sanding or polishing. 

Honorable Mention
Makita Dual Action Polisher PO5000C

The Makita Dual Action Polisher PO5000C offers two rotation modes: random orbit with forced rotation and random orbit with free rotation. Forced rotation works great on deeper scratches and swirls and free rotation is softer, good for waxing and polishing. The kit also includes a hex wrench, plastic backing plate, and three hook and loop foam polishing pads in white, orange, and black.


On the ergonomic front, the Makita Dual Action Polisher PO5000C also excels with an easy-to-reach thumb-based speed dial, rubber knob for holding, and a healthy 1,600 to 6,800 RPM range that can take on the toughest assignments.


Our only drawback with the Makita Dual Action Polisher PO5000C is its small orbit diameter, which means it doesn’t cover a large surface area with each application. Expect bigger polishing, buffing, or waxing assignments to take a bit longer than average.

Honorable Mention
Chemical Guys Torq 10FX Orbital Polisher

The Chemical Guys Torq 10FX Orbital Publisher is an all-around workhorse, fitting square in the mid-range category. Intuitive digital controls allow users to adjust the speed with smooth transitions between speeds. Performance is solid. With a generous 8mm orbit diameter (throw) and 1,500 to 4,200 OPM range, minor to major scratches can be grounded down in seconds.


Our favorite feature with the Chemical Guys Torq 10FX Orbital Publisher is its varying pad sizes, compatible with 3- to 6-inch diameter pads. This gives it plenty of pop in covering all sizes of surface area from small scratches to extensive paintwork damage.

Tips

  • 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.

FAQs

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.

Final Thoughts

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.