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Should You Use a Rotary Buffer at Home?

Just because you see them at the shop doesn’t mean they are a good DIY option.

Vehicles which have extensive paint damage or long scratches down the body are often considered to be the ideal candidate for a rotary buffer. And while this method may be useful for fixing damage in major paint repairs, it is not recommended that the hobbyist use one, especially if the damage is minimal. Using a rotary buffer on a vehicle without a professional level of experience can not only cause further damage to the paint area, but can compromise the integrity of the underlying materials of the vehicle.

Heat and pressure

Think of the practical functionality of a rotary buffer. A high revolution-per-minute (RPM) device is being applied with pressure to a surface. Even under minimal pressure, the buffer and the structure of the vehicle are at odds with each other. And while the vehicle will most likely not receive a hole in the hood or the side of the vehicle (unless rust and oxidation of are already extremely corroding the vehicle), you can quickly ding up and dent up a hood if too much pressure is applied. We use rotary buffers because they can fix extensive damage if used properly. The high-speed buffer’s simple circular motion, combined with continuous high RPMs, causes friction at the point of contact with the paint surface, thus creating heat, which slightly softens the paint. This heating action allows for correction of paint damage such as heavy oxidation and deep scratching; it is also one of the reasons why high speed buffers can actually CAUSE paint damage due to improper use.

The bouncing buffer

It is not uncommon to see damage caused by a rotary buffer “getting away” from the operator. Because the rotary buffers run at too high a speed for a novice to use, this can result in the buffer bouncing along the side of a vehicle or over a hood, causing more scuff marks and damage to the paint than what was originally being repaired. When used by an untrained hobbyist, any high powered circular power tool is very likely to produce more damage when used at high speeds.

From a professional standpoint, dual action polishers or orbital buffers are not on the same level in terms of power and functionality as a rotary buffer. But for an amateur, a dual action polisher or orbital buffer shouldn’t be a problem for even the most inexperienced. Since they operate at lower RPMs they won’t rip all paint away from panel seams or damage your clear coat like a rotary buffer could. For a keen DIYer it would be best to start with one of those options.

Too much power can be a bad thing

When trying to fix a minor scrape or damage to a vehicle using a rotary buffer may be overkill for the job. Because the rotary works at high RMPs and because the heat causes the paint to weaken, a small area of paint which needs to be buffed and repaired may be more ideally handled with a DA or an orbital buffer. Keep in mind that even when using an orbital buffer, that careful consideration should be given to the direction, application, and the motion of the buffing in order to reduce the risk of having visible circles after repair. In cases where the dual action and/or orbital buffer is not available, it is strongly recommended that you take your vehicle to a professional to have the repair work done. Repairs done at shops like Island Color are completed by a professional and are guaranteed to last. There will be no risk of damage to the rest of the vehicle, and the car will be returned to showroom condition. You can’t say that about a DIY job in a friend’s garage.

While it is admirable to try new things, especially when it comes to the maintenance and upkeep of your car, such as changing the oil, rotating tires, and checking the fluids of the vehicle (as everyone should learn to do), it is not recommended that you try using any heavy equipment which can further damage your vehicle or cause you bodily harm.

Having an issue with major surface damage to your vehicle? Give us a shout, we would love to walk you through some options.

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