Detailers in the Buff! – A quick guide to why a “buffer” isn’t just a buffer

Detailers in the Buff! – A quick guide to why a “buffer” isn’t just a buffer

So it’s time to get that “cut and polish” you’ve been thinking about, over the last few years your car’s paint is starting look a bit dull, swirl marks are making it look bad in the sun and maybe the dog’s jumped up on the door one too many times. Great, time to get it “buffed.


You’ll (hopefully) be starting to wonder why there are “detailers” offering a cut and polish for $150 and some offering it for $800, we’re going to briefly touch on one element of that today – buffers.

Those of you who have used us to perform a cut and polish (or paint correction as we refer to it) will probably know this as we like to try to educate as much as possible. (Very) Long story short, there are two main types of machines we use to correct damaged paintwork;

1)      Rotary Buffer  – (We like the Makita 9227CB)

–          The old school style. The Rotary buffer rotates in one direction, it also has a forced rotation, this means that no matter how much pressure you put on the paint, it will continue spinning.

–          So what does this mean? This means it will “cut” very quickly – removing defects well. However – it also has the ability to burn the paint and leave holograms (PRO-TIP : You won’t see holograms in the shade, always check your car in the sun or bright lights before leaving, not sure what they look like click here) or even burn through the clear coat completely (resulting in an expensive respray).

–          Rotary buffers are still very important, especially working on hard or severely neglected paintwork. Used by TRAINED PROFESSIONALS, the results are amazing. However, in the hands of a back yard cowboy, they can cause a lot of damage, very quickly.

Diagram explaining the differences in the rotation – Picture courtesy of

car detailing brisbane

2)      Dual-Action (DA) Polisher – We like the DAS-6 Pro (or the Rupes Bigfoot if you have the $$$!)

–          The younger, gentler member of the family. With modern day paint jobs the need for a rotary buffer has diminished, although it still has it’s placed.

–          Contrary to the Rotary, the DA rotates in 2 directions, in circles and also the pad moves up and down vertically, resulting in an oscillating pattern in various orbits.

–          This results in much lower chances of holograms and other paint damage being caused. It also doesn’t have a forced rotation, meaning that when there is too much pressure on

the machine it will actually stop rotating, this pretty much eliminates the chance of burning through the paint.

One of the big issues here in Australia is that the high street automotive stores all sell rotary buffers, this means any average Joe can pick up a “buffer” and some compounds and then proceeds to call themselves a “detailer” and operates without training and often without insurance. We spend  A LOT of our time fixing these guys work (so maybe we should be more thankful for them!) but this means customers are spending twice when they needn’t be.

So two things to take out of this;



• Research on how to use it or I HIGHLY RECOMMEND buying a DA from a specialty store or online.

Two Reasons Why Your Sponge Could Be Costing You THOUSANDS of Dollars“Quality is not an act, it is a habit”? – Aristotle

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Swirl marks are microscopic scratches in the surface of paint that show up like cobwebs in bright light. They are caused by incorrecting washing and drying where dirt particles in the sponge and chamois leave microscopic scratches in the clear coat.

Solution – Single stage correction package will remove approximately 60-70% of swirl marks, dual stage 70-85% and triple stage 85-95%.


Lack of Colour depth is where the colour has faded but isn’t classed as oxidised, typical on one stage paints that don’t have a clear coat.

Solution – Single stage correction will improve colour depth however dual stage correction is recommended if you want to remove swirls at same time.


Finger nails, rings and car keys scratch the paint around the door handle and leave unsightly marks.

Solution – Spot machine polishing, although these scratches are usually too deep for 100% correction our spot correction can make these marks almost invisible. Great add for people trying to sell their car. Price $ 20 per panel when added to a detail or $75 call out fee + per panel.


Ghosting refers to the outline or visible stencil left on the paint after stickers/decals are removed. It is the contrast between the fresh paint that was protected under the vinyl sticker and the exposed paint that has faded and appears dull in comparison.

Solution – Spot dual stage machine polishing is the most affordable solution, $45 per panel and $75 call out fee. Depending on the colour of your car spot polishing may not be advised. The polished area will vastly contrast the unpolished paint. Lighter coloured cars can get away with single stage polishing at $20 per panel. Full dual stage paint correctionis recommended on darker coloured cars with these defects.


Oxidised paint is where the paint appears chalky and dull, it’s caused by breakdown of the paint from exposure to sun,water and oxygen. More common on single stage paints and white, red, and black cars.

Solution – Single stage correction can be effective on white or lighter coloured cars with light oxidation. On heavily oxidised cars, dual stage correction is highly recommended. Spot polishing is not applicable and only full correction packages should be considered.


Caused by vegetation and scrub rubbing against sides of the vehicle that leaves visible scuffs. These marks range from swallow to quite deep scratches.

Solution – Dual stage polishing is recommended as the first stage orbital polishing is better suited at resurfacing the affected areas with its more effective cutting action. The second stage of polishing restores gloss and further rounds off the deeper scratches.


Bird droppings are very acidic and start eating into your paint the moment it hits, heat and dry weather will amplify the reaction, it’s important to clean any droppings off as soon as you see them. If you still see a ghosting outline after washing you have an etching mark where its has eaten slightly into your paint. If the mark looks like the one in the picture sourced from meguiars online you only have light etching and this can be corrected with machine polishing.

Solution – Spot dual stage machine polishing is the most affordable solution, $45 per panel and $75 call out fee. Depending on the colour of your car spot polishing may not be advised. The polished area will vastly contrast the unpolished paint. Full Dual stage paint correction is recommended on darker coloured cars with these defects.


Paint transfer is occurs when a car panel comes into contact with another painted object with force and leaves a layer of paint behind. Common paint transfers are yellow paint marks left from bollards or garage door frames. The actual paint transfer can be polished off with great success, however there are usually a few deeper scratches that are left behind. The polishing stage will reduce the appearance of these scratches but if you can see the undercoat on your car, it’s time for respray.

Solution – Spot dual stage machine polishing is the most affordable solution, $45 per panel and $75 call out fee. Depending on the colour of your car spot polishing may not be advised. The polished area will vastly contrast the unpolished paint. Full Dual stage paint correction is recommended on darker coloured cars with these defects.


Bird droppings that have been left too long can eat all the way through the clear coat. If the mark is crazed, or cracking as shown in the pictures this is unfortunately clear coat failure and can only be fully repaired by repainting. The clear coat has been penetrated and no amount of polishing will remove all traces of the defect.

Light crazing and cracking can be vastly improved and is much more cost effective than painting, many customers still opt for an improvement by our Dual Stage spot paint correction. Although we can not guarantee restoration we can make the marks less visable for a fraction of the cost of repainting. Is a popular option for clients trying to improve their cars for sale.


Random deeper scratches are very common and depending on the depth will determine if they can be polished out. The general rule of thumb gives you an instant idea if the scratch is correctable. Run your thumb nail over the scratch and if a indentation is felt then generally the scratch is too deep to successfully correct by polishing. Normal wear and tear will see your car pick up a few deeper scratches over time. If the scratch is a different colour and you can see bare metal or primer, only repainting is your option. Where deeper scratches have not penetrated all the way through the clear coat you have more options.

A popular choice is to get the area polished to reduce the appearance of the marks first and then determine if you can live with the result. Alternately if chasing 100% correction respraying is your next option, remember that respraying just one door panel can cost $350-600. Dual or even triple stage paint correction package may give you a great outcome and permanently reduce appearance of those scratches without the expense of repainting your car.


There are actually three types of water spots but we will only focus on two of the most popular. The first is mineral deposits that sit on top of your paint and is usually a combination of magnesium and calcium. These minerals are soluble in your town water and when the water evaporates from the surface the minerals are left behind causing unsightly water spotting. This type of water spot can be removed with specific chemicals and light polishing.

See our single and dual stage paint correction packages to restore these spots. The other type of water spotting is where the same minerals have been left on the paint for some time and has started to eat into the paint. This causes deep etching and proves very difficult to remove. Due to the excessive time involved to polishing out these defects we do not offer this service in a mobile sense as it takes more than one days labour. Keep posted for our workshop location at the end of the year.


If there is paint missing and the scratches show the undercoat or even the base metal then repainting is your only option.


Clear coat failure is caused by long term exposure to the elements. This comes in the form of bubbling, blistering and peeling. Nothing can be done to fix this apart from repainting. See your local body shop for a quote.


Throwing eggs may seem harmless but cause irreversible damage to car paintwork. The small hard shell fragments cut into the paint at the point of impact and can only be fixed from repainting. A premium quality paint protection like our Modesta Liquid Glass has been know to prevent damage in some circumstances.


It makes my blood boil when I see senseless vandalism. If your car is keyed unfortunately respraying those panels is your only solution.