Being someone that works in the trade, I find myself using a DA Sander every single day.
As an autobody technician or even as a DIYer, you’ll need a DA to remove paint.
Choosing the right DA will not only help you to get your job done quicker but will also keep you safe while working.
Many people leave the trade due to illnesses they’ve picked up. The most common are vibration white finger (HAVS), as well as cancer due to breathing in filler dust all day.
Buying the right DA and dust extraction will reduce the chances of both.
DA vs Orbital Sander? Is there any difference?
There is no difference between a DA and an orbital sander. The Dual Action is an orbital sander that combines the circular rotation and the orbital (oval) rotation.
You may also find people speaking about rotary sanders as well as rotary polishers. There are not any “rotary sanders. The most relevant comparison would be something like a pistol grinder. Whereas a rotary polisher is for professionals to use when refinishing paint.
For removing paint and performing repairs on bodywork, you’ll need a dual-action sander. Don’t be confused by the other tools that are being thrown about.
Features To Consider When Buying A Sander For Body Work
Everyone will look for different features when buying tools. I recommend paying attention to the features mentioned below, some of them are pretty important and will make sure that you stay fit and healthy while working the tools.
Body filler and car paint are no joke. These are full of cancergens which if breathed in, can cause cancer. This is why it’s highly recommended to work in a ventilated area and with a dust mask on.
Another way to stop the air from becoming filled with cancerous particles is dust extraction. Most professional shops will have extraction systems set up. Any major shop will provide you with extraction hoses too, all you need to do is connect it to your DA.
Some electric DA’s come with extraction/dust collection bags that hoover up some of the dust. A lot of these are useless, some work, but require frequent changing.
Fatigue & Vibration Rating
Another health concern that body technicians face is Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS). This is where your hands are permanently affected by the vibrations of power tools.
When you have vibration white finger (HAVS) you can’t do fine work. You will also be susceptible to blanching finger attacks. This is completely irreversible and should be taken seriously.
There are steps to take toward preventing HAVS. Try to buy tools with the lowest vibration rating & take frequent breaks when using them.
A lot of the low vibration tools are more expensive though. This may not be an option if you’re on a budget.
Another thing to consider is how easy the DA sander is to hold and its weight. If you’re a technician that does a lot of filler work you’ll be buffing a lot. The lighter and easier to hold the DA is, the better, especially if you work prolonged shifts.
Air vs Electric Sander For Auto Body Work
Choosing an air sander or electrical sander will be based entirely on your circumstances. You are able to buy electric and air sanders that are the same spec. A high-spec electric sander will cost you a little bit more upfront.
If you’re going to be in a workshop with a huge compressor and consistent airflow, it makes sense to buy an air tool. These are cheaper, easy to maintain, and rarely overheat.
But, if you’re constantly on the move and changing work locations then an electrical sander is the way to go. It’s much easier to find an electrical outlet than it is to find an airline.
The other bonus of using an electric sander is that it’s much easier and cheaper to get extra length out of an extension. Whereas buying huge airlines can be super expensive.
You could also go cordless, but, I’m not sure the technology is really there yet. Companies such as Milwaukee are great. They are paving the way in the cordless market, I’ve never seen anyone using a cordless DA in any garage I’ve been in.
While it’s not a huge feature, having an option to control the speed of your DA can be very useful. It’ll help to feather edges of repairs and may even help you with prepping and refinishing if you are doing that too.
If you do choose to go down the air tool route you’ll need to know what air consumption the DA sander takes.
This isn’t something you need to pay attention to if you’re working in a huge shop with big compressors.
But, If you’re working at home or in a small back street garage with a smaller compressor, make sure that your compressor can support it. Also consider whether anyone else will be using that compressor at the same time.
Best Air Sander For Bodywork
I personally believe that the best DA sanders for bodywork are Mirka ones. I used the Mirka ROS2 650CV for ages and absolutely loved it, but it’s fairly pricey.
The 3 air sanders that I’ve suggested below are absolutely outstanding and you can’t go wrong with any.
Best DA Sander For Autobody work : Mirka MRP-650CV
Best Mid Range Sander: Ingersoll Rand 300G
Best Budget DA Sander: TCP Heavy Duty 6″ Dual Action Sander
If none of these fit your needs, other brands I’d be looking at are Draper, Sealey, 3M and Snap-on. 3M and Snap-on will cost you stupid money though.
Mirka MRP-650CV Pneumatic Sander
Max RPM: 12,000
Noise Levels: 75 (dB)
Air consumption: 485 l/min
Vibration Rating: 3.2 m/s²
From what I’ve seen in the trade, Mirka is by far the most used brand of DA Sander. They’re the industry leader when it comes to sanders and abrasives.
The Mirka MRP-650CV is my #1 recommendation on the list. If you’re setting up a garage, or looking for a DA sander that’s going to last you forever, this is the one.
It has a standard 6″ pad which means that it’ll fit any regular 6″ sanding disc, especially the ones from mirka themselves.
What I love most about this is the fact that it feels light but sturdy in the hand. It weighs only 0.93kg, which isn’t too heavy or too light. You’re not going to be complaining that it’s too heavy after sanding for 20-30minutes.
The maximum RPM is 12,000 but you can adjust the speed of the sander by moving the red slider that’s underneath the unit.
Thankfully, even at full speed the vibration isn’t bad at all. Mirka have it measured as producing 3.2 m/s².
Finally, it does have dust extraction capabilities. This could be for any hose system in a shop or even the mirka/festool portable vacuums.
The only downside of this sander is that you constantly have to hold down on the trigger. This is both good and bad, but after sanding for a while, you do wish that you could lock the sander so that it was “always on”.
Ingersoll Rand 300G Edge Series 6″ Air Random Orbit Sander
Max RPM: 10,000
Noise Levels: 92.6 dB
Air consumption: 226 l/min
Vibration Rating: 4.7 m/s²
It’s easy to get carried away and spend obscene amounts of money on a DA sander.
Thankfully Ingersoll Rand have made it so that you don’t have to. At just over $100, the 300G sander offers everything that you’d get from a mirka sander for half the price!
The pad is 6″, which again seems to be industry standard allowing you to use most sanding discs on this DA with zero issues.
Surprisingly, this DA Sander weighs less than the mirka one, weighing in at 0.87kg. The difference wont really be noticeable in all honesty. but, again, there’s no issues using this sander for prolonged periods of time.
It also comes in with a max rpm of 10,000. Again slightly slower than the mirka one but not bad. The speed is variable but there’s no dedicated control dial. It changes based on how much you press the trigger down.
Unfortunately, despite its “low vibration” claims, it produces more vibration than the mirka sander coming in with 4.7 m/s2. It’s still a low vibration tool. You shouldn’t expect to see any ill health as a result of using it, but, it’s not the lowest vibration DA ever made.
Despite most of the cheaper DAs not offering extraction capabilities, this one does.
The Ingersoll Rand 300G sander can be connected to your standard extraction system with the right hoses. This means your shop stays cleaner and you significantly decrease your chances of breathing in cancergens.
Again, another great sander, but there is one pretty big downside for me.
If you’re used to the hook and loop system that mirka and other DAs tend to use, ingersoll recommend using self adhesive sanding discs. They also go as far to say that you shouldn’t try a hook and loop pad on it either as it could easily come off.
For the mid range price point, its probably the best you’re going to get.
TCP Heavy Duty 6″ Dual Action Sander
Max RPM: 10,000
Air consumption: 127 l/min
When it comes to budget DAs, you’re not getting much better than this. The TCP 6″ DA will do the job and more for under $100.
Coming with 2 backing pads, you are able to choose between a PSA pad and a 6″ hook and loop pad. This means you can use any type of sandpaper you want if you change the pads. I’d stick with hook and loop personally.
Like most of the other sanders on this list, the TCP one weighs just under 2lbs. It also has a really nice head that’s easy to grip for prolonged periods of sanding.
While it doesn’t quite reach the speeds of the mirka sander. 10,000RPM is more than enough to get the job done. You can also control the speed by adjusting the leaver underneath the unit, which is surprising for a cheap unit.
Another surprise is the fact that it’s “vibration-free”. TCP don’t provide a vibration rating. They claim that it’s completely vibration free thanks to its heavy duty ball-bearing construction.
Despite the sander having a whole host of premium features, it doesn’t offer dust extraction. If it’s important to you, this is not the sander to get. Unfortunately, you’ll not find many cheap options that actually offer extraction.
For the price, I don’t think you can really complain about this DA. It’s ideal for auto body work and costs under $100. This is perfect for an apprentice as their first DA or a DIYer in their home garage.
Buy the TCP Global Professional 6″ sander from Amazon
Best Electric DA Sander
If you don’t have a compressor where you’re working, or just want an electric DA Sander for the road, I’d recommend taking a look at the ones below.
Unfortunately the electric sanders are fairly pricey, especially if you want one that’s compatible with a portable vacuum. You’ll always be able to find cheap options, but the longevity of the cheaper units are questionable. As they’re mostly high vibration units and have little to no extraction.
Best Electric DA Sander & Vacuum: Mirka Deros MID650 Sander & Extraction
Budget Electric Sander:
Mirka Deros MID650-912-5 6″ Sander & Extraction
This is the best of the best. If you’re an independent business or DIYer looking for a portable electric sanding and extraction system, this is the one to get.
The sander itself is the Mirka Deros 650CV 6″. This is mirkas first ever electric sanding machine that’s both brushless and has no external power supply.
Weighing only 1.07kg, It’s capable of up to 10,000 RPM which is the same as a majority of the air sanders on the market. This can be changed by moving the motor speed lever, like most other mirka sanders.
The vibration isn’t too bad either, coming in with a vibration rating of 3.4 m/s². Alone, this is perhaps the best electric DA sander on the market.
As for the extraction, it’s known to reduce airborne dust by over 99%. This is almost dust free!
Some dust extractors can be noisy, but mirka have added an “auto-start” feature that recognizes when the DA sander is being used and turns on when in use. As soon as you put the DA down, it stops extracting.
There is also an always on mode though, just in-case you’re rubbing filler with a hand block for example.
Festool 576070 Random Orbital Sander ETS 125 REQ-Plus
If you aren’t in the market for a sander and extraction unit, this standalone Festool DA is a very popular option that will allow you to add in an extraction unit later on.
Festool are a very well known company in the industry and is used in bodyshops around the world.
This sander is what I believe to be the best electric DA sander for auto body work. It weighs a little more than the other options at just under 2.5lbs. That said, it’s still light enough so that you can sand those huge repairs without too much fatigue.
As for the RPM, this festool sander is capable of 12,000 RPM. That’s more than the electric sander from Mirka. It’s also variable speed, allowing you to work anywhere between 6,000 – 12,000 RPM.
Unfortunately there is a little more vibration with this sander with an average vibration level of 4 m/s². This isn’t going to be that noticeable, especially when compared to a 3m/s² sander. It’s still relatively low vibration and shouldn’t cause you any harm.
The Festool sander does come with a “chip collection” bag, I’m not sure how useful this will be for auto body dust. Yet, if you do want to buy the dust extraction unit to go with it, it’s much cheaper than the mirka option.
I believe that this is a good idea for those that are looking for a cheaper top of the range option. Both the standalone DA or the DA & extraction are great pieces of equipment.
DEWALT Random Orbit Sander
The dewalt random orbit sander is slightly smaller than the rest with a 5″ backing pad. This is by far the cheapest electrical DA on the list and will cost you under $100.
Despite the price and the fact it’s a “cheaper” sander. Dewalt are a very reputable company. Many people trust and believe in them, as a result, all of their products have to be of a certain standard.
This small but powerful sander is capable of up to 12,000 RPM. The working range is anywhere between 8-12000. You can adjust this with a variable speed dial with 6 different speed settings.
Dewalt claim that the sander is low vibration as a result of using a separate counterweight. There’s no specification stating the levels produced by this tool.
If you ever plan on connecting it to a dust extraction system dewalt have made the extraction connection an odd size. As a result you’ll need to buy another adapter so that it can connect to the standard 1 1/4 hose. This should set you back around another $30.
Fortunately the dust collecting bag is actually quite good. You won’t need to upgrade to a dedicated extraction system straight away, its just something to keep in mind.
For the price, I don’t think you’ll be able to find any better. Don’t get me wrong, this tool has its downsides but it’s a great sander for under $100 and it’s manufactured by an industry leader.