So you’ve ordered your polisher and feel a sense of special power soon to hit your fingertips. You need to equip the orbital polisher with the right backing plate & foam pad setup. Essential components of your setup should include:
– at least 3 to 5 pads of varying grades and textures
– maybe a new velcro backing plate depending on what comes with the polisher
There are a ton of foam pads out on the market and grades are confusing as ever since manufacturers mix color types. A basic principle to understand for pad size is the smaller the pad, the greater the aggressiveness. Since the pad has less surface area to touch the surface, the machine’s ability to be stronger and far more aggressive increases. So small pad = more power & less coverage, bigger pad = less power & more coverage. For backing plates (BP) measurements are pretty easy to understand: a 3.5 inch gets 4 inch pads, 5 inch gets 5.5 inch pads, and 6 inch gets 6.5 inch pads/7.5 inch pads. Let’s start with the backing plate first by breaking it down with each polisher.
If you get the PCXP often distributors will throw in a backing plate, (CoastalTool), but some of the boutique vendors do not. The Griots polisher *I believe* comes with a backing plate, currently Autogeek includes it in the bundle. A 6inch setup isn’t bad, a huge majority of purchases start with the 6/6.5 inch setup.
If you go with the Meguiars polisher, the M68DA flexible backing plate is suppose to be designed to be bundled with 7 inch pads. However if you run 6.5 inch pads with the M68DA the clearance on the edge of the pad is somewhat short. You run a slight risk of plastic hitting the paint by a small margin (its absolutely normal, however if you are a novice its nice to be cautious). If you run the stock 7 inch pads, W8207 or W9207, the aggressiveness of correction will decrease, however your coverage increases. Given the increase in power I would say running the stock Meguiar’s 6 inch backing plate & 7inch pads are a safe bet for power & usability. Personally I would go for something more aggressive for correction.
If you are looking for an aggressive polishing setup I suggest the choice of a 5 inch backing plate. In my opinion every person should start with lake country low profile 5.5 inch pads since the workability is quite significant. Since the thickness of the buffing pad is reduced from the conventional 6.5 inch setup it allows you to pressure the polisher into the panel and allow it to buff away freely. For serious paint correction the slight change will notice immediate results with polishing/cutting pads. The 6 inch setup is still a very good setup, covers the majority of first accessories, is safe, and easy to use for any person.
If you for sure are looking to Detail for profit down the road, a 4 inch setup is an ideal route to purchase now. Running the 3 inch backing plate/4 inch pads will enable you to break into the correction area of a rotary. Since the area is so small in coverage, the aggressiveness increases friction and abrasion. Buy the 4 inch pads and you can use them down the road with a rotary. Besides a significant difference in power, the 4 inch pads are great for wheel polishing or tight areas around your car.
There aren’t many actual companies that create from start to stop all original foam pads. I suggest Lake Country pads since 1) they clean easily 2) they do not degrade fast 3) great customer service should the pads break 4) basically the main manufacturer on the market. I still need to research into buffing pads since its silly how much rebranding goes on.
Current Designs – Pros/Cons
Flat – Flat pads have fallen in as the go to pad. They are simple and straightforward. A constant parallel motion with the paint is the basis for any type of proper polishing. Running flat pads are way more workable, produce even finish results, and they make up most of the foam pad designs. I push new users to flat pads since you can’t go wrong at all with the design.
HydroTech – The new closed cell pads are good, however they are pretty stiff, hard to clean, and dry. if you have an idea of some basic detailing these might be a good pick given their roughness and ability to breakdown polishes.
CCS – in my opinion a big flavor of the month for a year or two, the pockets can create suction when used by a rotary, and heat dissipation isn’t a problem with a PC. Dust can buildup within holes, product build up isn’t necessarily a good thing. This pad design is more of a personal choice, since circular rotary polishers like the option of having pockets and a cooler pad.
Kompressor – A more newer design more for correction since the pad is designed to contour to the paint. I again advise people to stick with flat to get use to properly polish.
So what do grades do you chose? A few must have pads would be: light cut pad, finishing pad, and polishing pads. Those are the bear essentials for any good polisher setup. You should not focus entirely on the color of the pad, but more on the ppi and indicated level of cut.
Flat: (Yellow) Cutting, (Orange) Light Cut, (White) Polishing, (Gray) Finishing, (Blue) Finessing
Hydro Tech: Either (Cyan) Advanced Cutting or (Tangerine) Ultra Polishing
CCS: (Yellow) Cutting, (Orange) Light Cut, (White) Polishing, (Green) Polishing/Finishing, (Gray) Finishing, (Blue) Finessing, (Red) Ultrasoft
Kompressor: (Purple) Heavy Cutting, (Yellow) Cutting, (Orange) Light Cut, (White) Polishing, (Green) Polishing/Finishing) (Gray) Finishing, (Red) Ultrasoft, (Gold) Jewelling
4 inch pads run in: Flat (Orange) Light Cutting, all 7 of the CCS grades, both HydroTech grades
1 or 2 Light Polishing Pad: CCS Green or Orange/Green Flat. – For All in One products or Light Polishes
1 or 2 Finishing Pad: Flat Gray , Hydro Tech Tangerine Polishing (Yes a bit aggressive, however you can lighten your passes) – Applying Waxes/Sealants
1 or 2 Polishing Pad: White Flat, Hydro Tech Tangerine, Kompressor White, CCS White – For Polishing
If you have more pads it is easier to swap and cut time. Less pads means you will be cleaning pads more often and relying on one pad for the entire car.
I did not cover Meguiars, Uber, or 3M, but they all make good pads as well.
So you are probably confused at this point since distributors offer so many grades, name structures, and types of pads. Here are the routes you can go:
For the serious detailer or professional: Get 4 inch & 5.5 inch pads
4 inch: 1 Flat Green, 1 Flat Orange, 1 Flat Black
5.5 inch: 1 set of HydroTechs (Cyan & Tangerine), 2 Flat Greens, 2 Flat Black, 1 Flat White, 1 Flat Orange
For the casual detailer who wants more abilities down the road: 5.5 inch pads
5.5 inch: 1 set of HydroTechs (Cyan & Tangerine), 1 Flat Greens, 2 Flat Black, 1 Flat White
For the beginner & novice detailer: 6.5 inch pads.
6.5 inch: 1 Flat Green, 1 Flat Black, 1 Flat Blue, 1 Flat White
Coastal Tool: $120 for PC7424XP, 6 ounce counterweight, free shipping. Personally would go with another distributor’s backing plate, I don’t like CCS pads.
Detailers Domain offers:
– PC7424XP, all sizes for flexible backing plates, 6 inch counterweight
– Pad wise: Uber pads, Black CCS / Flat
– PC7424XP (counterweight included, not a backing plate), Griots Garage Orbital, Meguiars G110v2 – ability to change to all flexible backing plate sizing.
– Pad wise: Flat, Hydrotech, CCS, Kompressor Meguiars Soft Buff
– PC7424XP, all sizes for flexible backing plates, 6 inch counter weight.
– Pad wise: Flat, Hydrotech
A great route for the G110 v2 would be Meguiar’s simple 3 grades in their soft buff 2.0 pads: Yellow Polishing, Black Finishing, Burgundy Cutting.
You can order the Meguiars G110v2 straight from AutoDetailingSolutions.net and grab matching Meguiars polishes & pads.
Yes you can go with Gloss it & 3M pads. They are pricier and different in design, the difference isn’t substantial when your beginning to learn
I don’t like box kits or big packages, I rather buy each components to what I prefer. Box kits are nice as gifts since well they are one package for the user. Buffers rarely go on sale since the margins on them are so small. You are better off looking for accessory deals.
A few other notes
I would not promote the use of bonnets to remove wax, its far easier to just use your own elbow grease.
Please no cheap buffers you find locally, one drop and they will break. Also proper accessories are so hard to find.
This guide covers random oscillation buffers that are not forced guided like the Flex 3401. The motion and amount of gearing the 3401 isn’t the best for a novice polisher, plus its more designed to the serious professional & detailer.
A word of caution: an orbital can take more paint away from the polish if they are bundled with a cutting pad and a heavy large abrasive polish or compound. Think of it as randomly mushing large beads of sand into a fine surface. Unlike a rotary which in a circular and abrades evenly with a coarse polish.
A random orbital cannot do the work of a circular rotary polisher 100% of the time. They are however such great aids in the correction/finishing process. Since the rise of non-abrasive polishes the market is transitioning orbitals doing more correction work. (Google Kevin Brown Method).
Yes you can burn paint if you don’t know what you are doing with the wrong technique and knowledge!
Time to Polish: Where to go from Here
– If you are serious about paint correction, read into the Kevin Brown Method.
– Unsure of what polishes to choose? Menzerna 106FA or 08RD is a nice start. Locally available at Carquest would be 3M Ultrafina. My personal favorites would be Optimum Polish & Finishing Polish. Meguiars #205 Ultra Finishing Polish is the next great staple.
– YouTube: There are quite a few Orbital guides available, especially from Autogeek.net
– ShowCarGarage Video on PC buffing, I haven’t viewed it so I can’t say for sure its the best guide.
Learn More from Mike Phillips from Autogeek
Yes there is bias, down the road I’ll gear people toward another setup. Still confused? Just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll create a custom setup or offer any info.