The dual action polisher is often referred to as a “DA”. “DA” is simply an acronym for “Dual Action” and is much quicker and easier to say.
A Dual Action polisher is one of many ways to polish your vehicle. You can use your hand or one of the various machine polishers.
Many people are scared of taking the leap toward a machine polisher because it adds a level of confusion and increases the margin for error.
Unleashing a polishing machine on your paint using incorrect techniques can indeed result in horror stories, but, it’s rare.
As a beginner, you should know that 3 different polishing machines are commonly used in the detailing world. They are Rotary, Dual-Action, and Random Orbital.
Most of the horror stories that you’ve heard probably come from someone that was using a rotary polisher. Rotary polishers need more attention and I recommend that only professionals use them.
A Dual Action polisher on the other hand is much more suited to beginners, it’s where most of the pros first started. A lot of pros still use them today.
Using a DA is relatively risk-free after a couple of hours of research and practice on a test panel.
A couple of hours later your car may look completely different, taking your paint to a whole new level.
Continue reading this article to find the best dual action polishers for beginners, as well as many useful tips and tricks that you should know when first starting.
Table of Contents
What is a Dual Action Polisher?
Polishers are characterized by the way that their head moves. The Dual Action (DA) Polisher gets its name because its head moves in a dual motion.
The DA Polisher has a central spindle and the backing plate attaches to a second axis. This creates 2 different movements that work together and allows the pad to orbit around the center spindle.
An easy way to explain it is to use an analogy.
You can compare the way that a DA works with the earth. Planet Earth spins on its own, but it also orbits around the sun. A DA polisher works in the same way, it’s also why they’re often referred to as Dual Action Orbital Polishers.
Understanding the rotation will allow you to master the machine, helping to improve results and increase efficiency.
Things To Consider As A Beginner
When buying your first dual action polisher there are a couple of factors to consider. Someone with more experience will have a completely different buying criterion than a person who is just beginning.
Firstly, as a beginner and someone that doesn’t know how much time they’ll dedicate to polishing cars, you may want to keep it cheap.
It’s true that buying cheap, you’ll probably have to buy twice, but if you already have that in mind it’s not an issue.
Just be aware that some of the cheaper machines listed below will have their downsides and limitations. You may have to upgrade in the future unless you buy the Best Dual Action Polishers from the start.
Secondly, you may want an all-in-one kit to begin with.
Until you know what everything does, which polishes are best, and which pads you should use, it’s a good idea to buy an all-in-one polishing kit.
Doing this will ensure that you have the right pads and equipment and can start polishing your car right away.
Finally, you may want to consider whether you’ll be able to get used out of it or be able to resell it for good money once you upgrade.
I think that keeping your first DA polisher around is always a good idea, while you’ll probably not use it, it’s always good to have a backup just-in-case.
If you don’t like the idea of keeping a backup machine, the other thing to consider is how much you would be able to resell the machine for.
You might find that beginner machines don’t hold much resale value. This is because they’re made by unknown brands and manufacturers in the detailing community.
One thing is for sure, if you’re short on money, a DA polisher is a luxury, not a necessity. Don’t put yourself into a tricky situation just to make the paint of your car look on point.
Should You Buy A Short Throw Or Long Throw Polisher?
As a beginner, you’ve probably never heard of a short or long-throw polisher.
When detailers talk about short and long throw, they’re talking about the distance or size of the orbit that the machine is making.
The theory is that long-throw (bigger orbits) will cover more surface area in a shorter time, making it quicker and easier to correct the paint of a car.
Short-throw on the other hand is a smaller, more targeted orbit. Using a short-throw machine will allow you to hyper-focus and really dial in each area, however, it may also mean more hours of polishing.
Long-throw is obviously better for efficiency, Short-throw in theory could give you much better results.
Another factor that determines which polisher is best for the job is the car itself.
If you’re working on a car that’s completely flat (say a 1990’s Volvo), a long throw polisher will be great.
If you’re working on a car that’s a little more technical, with dozens of body lines and smaller, intricate panels, you may need a short-throw polisher for best results.
In an ideal world, you’d own both. A lot of pros will use a long throw and then do a pass with a short-throw on areas that need a little more correction. Doing this will improve efficiency while achieving the best possible finish.
However, since you’re a beginner and are probably detailing the same car every time, it’s best that you choose a polisher that’s best suited to your vehicle.
The Best Dual Action Polishers For Beginners
The truth is, you don’t have to buy the most expensive Dual Action Polisher to learn or achieve the best results.
In some cases, you may even be better off if you buy the cheaper one first. You may learn to appreciate more expensive equipment or even save money by deciding that the cheaper one does the job well enough.
While every DA is similar in the sense that they all work towards the same goal, they will differ in build quality, number of features, pricing, and so on.
I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the best Dual Action Polishers for beginners. These polishing machines and kits come in between $50-$250, meaning there’s an option for everyone.
Using all the information I’ve gathered below and my recommendations, I hope that you’ll be able to find the perfect beginner DA for yourself.
Chemical Guys TORQX Random Orbital Polisher One-Step Scratch & Swirl Removal Kit
Cable Length: 3 1/2 Feet
Weight: 4.5lbs / 2kg
Backing Plate Diameter: 5 Inches
Buy On Amazon
This Chemical Guys Bundle will give you a high-quality Torqx Dual Action Polisher as well as everything else that you need to get started.
If you have the money, there’s a lot to be said for buying quality and convenience.
The fact that it comes from one of the leading detailing brands just makes the deal even sweater.
Torq tools teamed up with the Chemical Guys to provide a sturdy and reliable dual action polisher.
It combines the industry-standard 8mm throw with a speed of 1200-4200 Orbits Per Minute to help you work as efficiently as possible.
When designing this DA, the two companies put your experience at the top of their list.
It’s super lightweight, weighing only 4.5lbs and fits comfortably in the hand no matter how you hold it.
As for backing plates, you’ll be able to connect any type of backing plate you want as long as it’s between 3 to 6 inches. This will allow you to switch things up whenever you want and make for a much more comfortable session of polishing.
The fact that it comes as one complete kit is great.
You’ll receive 5 different pads, giving you a buffing pad for every step of the process. On top of that, your money will buy you 2 different backing plates, a pad cleaner, conditioner, 3 Microfiber Towels as well as the DA Polisher itself.
I believe that outside of the Meguiars MT320PadKit (which is way more expensive), this is the best all-in-one solution for beginners that want to polish their car.
Buy the Chemical Guys Complete Detailing Kit From Amazon.
Griot’s Garage 6″ Dual Action Polisher
Cable Length: 10ft (With an optional upgrade to 25ft).
Backing Plate Diameter: 6 Inches
Buy On Amazon
Griots Garage is a company that I cannot get enough of. Their detailing products are quality, and so is their Dual Action Polisher.
When compared with the Chemical Guys option this DA costs significantly less. however, you will need to invest in pads, conditioners, and microfiber towels if you don’t already have them.
In terms of power, it can operate at much higher speeds, offering a simple 6 option control system with a low of 2500 and a maximum of 6800 orbits per minute.
When it comes to weight, it is 6lbs. This is slightly higher than the previous DA, but, its ergonomic design makes it feel lightweight in your hand at all times.
Griots Garage has made sure that you’ll feel comfortable at all times. You’ll find molded finger grips on the bottom, a rubberized palm grip, and even a 6 position rubberized handle for you to hold.
Another bonus is the fact that it comes with a 10ft power cord if you want you can even upgrade this further to 25ft.
While most of the time I’d opt for a lightweight extension cord anyway, I must say that having a longer power cord is beneficial.
Overall, the Griots Garage Dual Action Random Orbital Polisher is one of my favorites on this list. A premium machine from a premium brand.
If you buy it, it will cost you more money upfront than the products listed below, but, you won’t need to upgrade any time soon.
Just keep in mind the fact that you’ll still need to buy pads, towels, and products to go with it.
Buy The Griots Garage Dual Action Polisher from Amazon.
ChantPower 6″ Dual Action Car Polisher
Cable Length: 10ft
Backing Plate Diameter: 6 Inches
Buy On Amazon
As far as cheaper options go, this is the first Dual Action Polisher under $100.
When you choose a cheaper option, you shouldn’t expect to receive a premium product. Some will come close, but there’s always a reason why it’s priced cheaper than its competitors.
The ChantPower Dual Action Polisher is a 6 Inch DA that it’s great for beginners on a budget.
It offers a variable six 6 speed setup, like the Griots DA. With the turn of a dial you can switch between 6 different settings ranging from 1500 – 6800 orbits per minute.
The shipping weight of this product is just over 7lbs and it comes with some pads. I’d say that the polisher itself is around 4-5. Not too heavy, not too light.
I have to say though, when compared to the griots’ DA, there are slightly fewer features for your hands. It comes with a D handle that can sit in 3 positions as well as a removable side handle. Yes, It’s not the most comfortable DA, but it’s not the worst either.
A big positive is the fact that It’s a “complete kit”.
For less than $100, You’ll receive a polisher, microfiber wash mitt, microfiber car towel, detachable side handle, 3 sponge polishing pads, and a couple of other tools.
Another added bonus is the fact that it comes with a 2-year warranty. Admittedly, if you’re serious about detailing you’ll probably be looking to upgrade within that period anyway.
Buy the ChantPower Dual Action Polisher from Amazon.
Best Budget DA Polisher
There’s no doubt that when you buy cheap, you often have to buy twice. In this case, it’s something that you should accept, this is simply a stepping stone before buying a good DA polisher.
When buying budget polishers, I’d recommend paying attention to the motor power, the RPM’s it offers and the price tag.
If the polisher comes with pads or any other attachments, it’s a great bonus, but don’t expect them to last long.
Keep in mind that after buying a machine you’ll still need to buy polish and polishing pads. These can cost a fair bit, so budget accordingly.
Best Cheap Car Polisher (US)
Zota Dual Action Polisher
Speed Range: 2000 – 5200 RPM
Check Price On Amazon
The Zota Buffer Polisher is a long throw Dual Action polisher that will help you correct and restore the shine on your car.
For the price, you’re actually getting a great piece of kit that will allow you to experience some features that only the best DA’s may have.
The 850W motor is rare for cheap polishers, however, the 5,200 RPM limit is probably a little lower than it could be. You’ll definitely be able to remove a lot of swirl marks, however, the more stubborn ones may remain.
On top of the powerful motor, the ZOTA buffer offers a 15mm throw. The “bigfoot” throw will allow you to work much faster, in comparison to the 8mm industry norm. In theory, it means you can polish the vehicle in half the time…
While you may not need it in your hands for long, its ergonomic design makes it great for longer polishing sessions. You can use a palm grip around the head, or hold it normally using the side grip and bottom of the polisher.
What really surprised me is the fact that this polisher has so many good features, and also comes with pads. In comparison to the pads that most competitors offer, these look rather good, and may last longer than just the first polish.
I’d definitely recommend the Zota Polisher to anyone that wants to begin polishing on a budget. It’s available in Mexico and The United States, coming with a 24-month warranty, meaning you’re covered until you decide to upgrade.
Ginour Dual Action Polisher
Cable Length: Around 9ft
Backing Plate Diameter: 6 Inches
Buy On Amazon
The Ginour DA Polisher is a very attractive prospect for beginners. It’s rated at 4.5 stars on Amazon with 190 reviews.
The 900W motor provides a stable speed, operating at a low noise, allowing for a pleasant session of paint correction without the need for earphones.
Similar to most polishers on this list, the Ginour offers a variable 6-speed setting that can be changed by simply switching a dial. On the Ginour, the lowest orbits per minute setting is 2000, with the highest being 6400 OPM.
Like the ChantPower DA, you can hold the polisher using a D handle, side handle, or using a palm grip. Unfortunately, after a while it may feel uncomfortable in your hands, but at 5.7lbs, it’s still relatively light, allowing you to go for hours at a time…
As well as the polisher and two detachable handles, you’ll receive 1 hook and loop base pad, 5 foam pads, 2 carbon brushes, and a packing bag.
If you have the polishing product, you’ll be able to start polishing your car as soon as it arrives.
It’s definitely the best DA polisher you can buy under $100.
Overall, a very solid product and will allow you to polish your car on a regular basis. You will outgrow it over time, but it’s definitely a great place to start.
Buy the Ginour DA Polisher from Amazon
Best Cheap Dual Action Polisher (UK)
Halfords Dual Action Car Polisher
Power Output: 600W
Cable Length: 5m / 16 feet
Backing Plate Diameter: 5 Inches
Buy From Halfords
In the UK, when it comes to automotive maintenance stores, we only really have Halfords. That being said, they’re pretty much everywhere.
The best thing about this polisher is that no matter where you live in the UK, you can reserve the polisher online and pick it up the same day, ready to go.
As far as power is concerned, it only outputs 600w.
It does allow you to choose between 6 speed settings, these vary between 1500 to 6800. Its recommended that you use speed 1 & 2 for spreading, 3 & 4 for polishing, and 5 & 6 for cutting.
Unfortunately, when it comes to handling, you don’t have many options.
The only way to hold this polisher is by using the handle and the bottom of the machine. It’s not the most comfortable machine to hold either, there are no rubberized grips or anything to make it easier to hold.
Halfords Dual Action Car Polisher comes with three pads. The red one is hard and designed for cutting, yellow is for light cutting and polish, and black one that is for finishing. These pads are alright for beginning, however, Id encourage quickly upgrading, if not straight away.
As far as getting started goes, this is a great polisher that will provide great results and last you long enough to save for a better machine.
That said, if you are able to spend £30 more, I’d opt for the Das 6 Pro instead, it has more power and will last you many years without the need for an upgrade.
Katsu Dual Action Polisher
Speed Range: 2500 – 5800 RPM
Check Price On Amazon
The Katsu Tools DA is the best cheap dual action polisher I was able to find in the United Kingdom. The Guild Polisher from Argos comes close and is cheaper, however it only has a 600W motor.
If you’re looking for Power at a fair price then this Katsu DA is a much better choice. It comes with an 850W motor that also has a soft start feature, helping to prevent polish from slinging or loss of control when starting up.
Like most other Dual Action polishers, this one comes with a 6-speed dial that lets you change the speed on the fly to suit your needs.
The lowest speed is 2500 RPM, with the highest being 5800 RPM. I recommend using the lower speeds for applying wax, and the higher speeds for swirl mark removal.
Unlike the Zota Tool, this one comes with the industry-standard 8mm throw. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it offers a nice middle ground between speed and precision, hence why its the industry standard.
While the shape and size of the machine is fairly similar to other models, its not the most comfortable. Youll receive a D shaped handle and a side grip that you can switch between, however, if you were to use a palm grip it would be very uncomfortable.
Another thing that will make your long polishing sessions slightly unpleasant is the noise. The Katsu DA is relatively noisy, and some people even recommend wearing ear defenders for prolonged use.
Unfortunately, this machine doesn’t come with any pads, however, at just over £50, you will have plenty left in the budget to buy a polish and some pads.
Cheapest Dual Action Polisher (AU)
Speed Range: 2000 – 6400 RPM
Check Price On Amazon
Weirdly, for a country that’s heavily focused on car care and maintenance, I found there to be a lack of good dual action polishers available.
I looked at Repco, AutoBarn, and even Automotive Superstore without much luck. Even Amazon was lacking.
That being said, out of the few choices, I was able to find this Zeroomade Polisher. The main downside is that its a US import, meaning it comes with higher shipping costs.
This Zeroomade polisher comes with a 900W motor that powers up straight away. This is something to keep in mind, most people prefer models with a soft start so that they don’t sling product everywhere.
In terms of RPM, this is the fastest polisher on the list. You’ll be able to go all the way up to 6400 RPM helping to remove those ugly swirls, quicker and easier.
The 9mm throw is slightly bigger than normal, however, you probably won’t see any difference, especially as someone that is new to polishing.
As for the design, its similar to any other good DA. You can use the D-Handle, Side Grip, or even a palm grip. Admittedly the bottom of the polisher is lacking any grip features, which is a little disappointing.
The set does come with pads though you should look into getting some higher quality ones as soon as possible. That being said, you are already investing a lot in the machine itself.
How To Cut and Polish A Car Using A DA
Using a polishing machine is still somewhat similar to polishing your car by hand.
The main differences are that it’s much faster, allows for a much deeper paint correction and there’s a lot more margin for error.
As long as you research how to use a dual-action car polisher beforehand and make sure to follow the steps below you’ll be perfectly fine.
I would recommend going to the scrapyard and getting a “test panel” to practice polishing first. This will allow you to learn the process and make mistakes without having to worry about damaging someone’s car.
Buy the best car polish, grab your DA and let’s get to work!
Wash, Dry And Decontaminate The Vehicle
When it comes to detailing and even bodywork, the preparation actually contributes to the finish a lot more than you may expect.
It’s important that you wash the car properly, using the two bucket car wash method, removing contamination and preventing any further scratches or swirls.
After you’ve done that and thoroughly dried the car, you’ll want to perform some sort of paint decontamination stage.
A lot of the time, even after washing, your car will have stubborn contaminants left on your car.
You may have to remove bugs, tar, tree sap, iron filings, and much more. To remove these, you should use Bug & Tar Remover and even give your car the clay bar treatment.
Failure to remove contamination may result in your pad getting dirty quicker, which in turn could drag dirt and debris across the panel creating more scratches and swirls.
Once you’ve properly cleaned the car, you’ll have a better idea of how much cutting and polishing is necessary, helping you to choose your pads and the level of paint correction you will perform.
Polishing Your Car Using A DA Polisher
The first step to polishing a car is to grab your pad and apply three or four drops evenly across the pad.
Once you’ve done this, grab your polisher and select a small work area on the car.
Rub your polisher across the chosen area to apply product onto the car before switching the DA on at a slow speed.
At this point we’re still just spreading polish, we’ve not actually started paint correction. Doing this will minimize any sling, and allow you to evenly distribute the compound or polish across the area you are working on.
After the polish is distributed evenly across the panel, it’s time to take it up a notch.
Turn your DA up to a med-high speed and work the panel in a hatch motion. You can work left to right, up and down, overlapping the previous pass for best results.
Don’t go too quickly! When using the DA, there’s very little risk of burning the paint. Make sure that every pass is slow enough to actually correct the paint, simply gliding over each panel is a waste of time.
Also, don’t turn the speed up too high, this will result in you losing control and potentially wasting more product as you sling it from the car.
Once you feel as though you’ve made enough passes, turn the polisher off and lift it from the vehicle.
Wipe away any remaining product with a plush microfiber car cloth to see the finished results.
When you see the results you have two decisions to make. The pass may have been enough to remove the swirls or you may need to make another with a heavier cutting pad or compound.
Over time, as you learn and gain more experience you’ll understand exactly where to go and which products to use. In the beginning though, it may feel like you’re very inefficient and are constantly chasing your tail.
Once you’re satisfied move onto another area and repeat the process until you’ve finished polishing the car.
Apply Wax, Sealants, Or Ceramic Coatings
Because you’ve just spent hours polishing your car, it’s only natural to want to protect that finish.
The best way to do this is to apply a wax, sealant, or ceramic coating. Admittedly a ceramic coating is going to be much more beneficial but it’s not for everyone.
Click here to learn what ceramic coating is and what it will do for your car.
If you’re in the market for a new Wax, I’d recommend Meguiars NXT Generation Tech Wax. It offers superior water protection while providing your paint with a whole different level of depth and it’s very easy to use too.
You can apply wax with a DA Polisher, use a very light pad, a little bit of product and move quickly.
If you’re interested, I’ll go over that in-depth in another article.
What pad to use for polishing?
For the beginner detailer, the variety of polishing pads can be scary and confusing.
Each polishing pad does something different and will help you work towards different goals.
Buffing pads are generally made up of 3 different materials, you can get foam, microfiber, and wool pads.
You’ll also find that there are 3 different purposes for each pad, compound/cutting, polishing, and finishing.
Below I’m going to try my best to explain the use for each pad in the simplest possible way.
This will help you to get a base level of knowledge, but the best knowledge comes from experimenting with the different types of pads yourself.
The majority of buffing pads are made of foam. They’re incredibly versatile and can be used in almost every situation.
Foam pads come in many different shapes, sizes, and surfaces, such as waffle foam, hex, or even just a plain flat surface.
The general idea is that thicker and denser pads are used for the initial compound or cutting phase with lighter foam pads being used to finish a car with polish or wax.
It’s really easy to get caught up in trying to find the perfect pad. If your kit comes with some, just use them, if not, do a little research and find the best foam pads for your goals.
Microfiber pads are a more aggressive option than their foam counterparts.
Fibers are a type of abrasive and will cut paint better than a foam pad, helping to remove swirls and scratches quickly and more efficiently.
While you can get light microfiber pads that will allow you to finish a car, they may not provide as nice a finish as a light foam pad would.
Microfiber pads are best used on DA’s, however, they require slightly different techniques and polishing products for the best results.
I’d suggest moving on to microfiber pads after you’ve learned to use foam pads.
Synthetic Wool pads are only for the experienced… or beginners that can afford to make huge mistakes.
The wool buffing pad is used on rotary polishers and offers a very heavy level of correction, sometimes being used to correct heavy sanding marks from 1200 grit sand paper.
Pros may use wool pads to cut or compound a car because it’s much quicker and creates less heat from the friction.
Wool can however leave micro marring which will need to be removed using a foam pad.
Ever since foam pads have become popular, wool pads have become slightly obsolete. You don’t need to worry about them as a beginner, because they’re not recommended for DA’s, only rotary polishers.