How to Wax a Car With a Buffer or By Hand

How to Wax a Car With a Buffer or By Hand (Everything You Need to Know)

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Last Updated on December 25, 2023 by bluefuze

Curious about how to wax a car with a buffer or by hand? Read on for everything you need to know.

Do you want to see your reflection in your vehicle every time you walk by it? If so, you may be looking for information on how to wax your vehicle.

Furthermore, the benefits of waxing don’t stop with aesthetics. This process can provide your vehicle with significant protection against scratches, keep the paint intact, and improve your vehicle’s resale value.

how to wax a car with a buffer

Types of Buffers & Polishers

Buffers and polishers are tools you can use to work a polishing solution into a vehicle’s surface to smoothen its appearance.

These machines exist to replace the traditional method of hand polishing. Before these machines’ inventions, car owners had to work the polish into paint and apply waxing solutions by hand. This manual method was appropriate for older vehicles with single-stage urethane and lacquer paint. However, it’s much more challenging to polish and wax modern-day vehicles with multi-layer finishes. Hence, many vehicle owners turn to a buffer or polisher for assistance.

A modern polisher or buffer features four main elements:

  • The motor: The variable-speed motor operates the spindle and is often electric or pneumatic.
  • The spindle: The spindle attaches to the motor and holds the backing plate. Depending on the type of buffer you have, the spindle can be fixed or spinning.
  • The backing plate: The backing plate traditionally consists of plastic or rubber. It’s often quite flexible and holds the polishing pad in place.
  • The pad: The pad holds the polishing solution. It typically contains materials like wool, microfiber, or foam.

At this point, you should have a basic understanding of a buffer and polisher’s anatomy. The next step in understanding how to wax a car with a buffer is learning the types of products available.

Below, we’ll describe the main type of buffer and polisher so that you can decide which one is right for you.

Rotary Buffer

A rotary buffer looks a lot like an angle grinder, as it has a removable or fixed handle located off to one side. It’s the standard tool that most vehicle owners use, as it targets larger areas more generally.

This device’s pad rotates in a circular motion with the axis located at the spindle’s center. It rotates in one direction, and the pad’s outside diameter spins faster than its inside diameter.

Vehicle owners most often use this kind of product to remove defects, heavy swirls, and sanding marks.

Take the DEWALT 20V MAX XR Cordless Rotary Polisher, for instance. This item produces up to 2200 RPM and is ideal for polishing large-scale areas within minutes.

Orbital Polisher

Orbital polishers look a lot like dual-action sanders that you can find in a woodshop. They often have easy-to-grip handles out to the side or over the top.

The backing plate and pad spin on different axes than the spindle does, and their rotation can be free spinning or forced. Car owners find these products most useful for removing light to moderate defects. They’ll also use them to apply and remove wax. Orbital polishers tend to be more technical tools because of the precision they provide.

For example, the Avid Power Orbital Polisher produces low speeds for buffing and waxing, but it can reach higher speeds if you need to remove paint defects or the effects of oxidation.

How to Use a Buffer On a Car

Learning how to use a buffer on a car is quite simple. If you can follow a few steps and exercise care while doing so, you’ll be in excellent shape! Here are the steps for how to use a buffer on a car:

Step 1: Assess the Severity of Damages.

Does your vehicle only have a few scratches? You may be able to get away with a mild gauge polish and buffer head. But if the damage is severe, you’ll have to find a heavier gauge of polish and a more abrasive brush head.

Note: Never use a buffer on a car without applying polish. This product is much too abrasive to use on its own.

Step 2: Select a Test Spot.

Don’t begin buffing your vehicle blindly. Start with a two-foot test spot that’s not noticeable to others. Begin with slow side-to-side and up-and-down movements.

Step 3: Find the Right Polish & Buffer Head Combo.

Observe how the results turn out. If you aren’t making progress, consider changing the type of polish and brush head you’re using.

Once you find the perfect combination, you can buff the rest of your vehicle in two-foot increments. If you come across a particularly severe blemish, apply more pressure with your tool.

How to Wax a Car With an Orbital Buffer

Interested in learning how to wax a car with an orbital buffer? Before we describe the process, we’d like to distinguish between waxing and polishing. People often use these terms interchangeably, but they’re far from the same verbs. Waxing involves coating your vehicle’s exterior to protect the paint. Polishing is simply the process of giving your vehicle its finalized glossy shine; it’s more cosmetic than anything.

Now that you’re familiar with the differences between these terms, we’ll provide an overview of how to wax a car with an orbital buffer:

  1. Wash your vehicle to remove any dirt and dust and allow it to dry.
  2. Split your car up into sections.
  3. Follow the instructions on your wax’s packaging for specific guidelines. In most cases, you’ll apply a small amount to the buffing pad’s center.
  4. Run the device over your predetermined section using circular motions. Ensure there’s always enough wax on the pad to prevent damage.
  5. Use a clean microfiber towel to remove excess wax.

How to Wax a Car With a Polisher

Learning how to wax a car with a polisher is very similar to using an orbital buffer. With your dual-action (or random orbital) polisher in hand, follow these steps on how to wax a car with a polisher:

  1. Wash your car thoroughly.
  2. Divide it into sections in your head.
  3. Apply the wax over the polishing pad.
  4. Run the polisher over the area you’d like to start in. Use long, sweeping strokes.
  5. Run the device across your vehicle slowly. Apply gentle pressure.
  6. Travel in the same direction as the metal “flows.”
  7. Let the wax dry and remove any excess residue with a microfiber towel.

As you can see, learning how to wax a car with a polisher involves a lot of the same steps as using an orbital buffer. But because this tool is gentler and offers more precise results, you must use it a bit more carefully.

Final Thoughts — Learning How to Wax a Car with a Buffer

Waxing a car by hand is possible, but it’s very time-consuming. You’ll need to use a microfiber to rub the wax with circular motions and buff out the leftover product with the towel’s other side. Going through each panel manually can take a lot of effort. Instead, you can learn how to wax a car with a buffer or polisher. Once you find your rhythm, you’ll look forward to this aspect of car maintenance!

Be sure to also check out my other posts on power tools: