Know the Difference Between Buffer vs. Polisher


Once I made a call to a guy for polishing my car, and he asked me why I would want to polish my car instead of a compound? Then I said I want to get rid of all the scratches and blemishes from my car, and what he said was, polishing won’t help unless I compound my vehicle.

Now, what if I asked for buffers?

Well, buffers are relatively mild and leave a tinge of spark in your car. And in this process, you barely need to depend on compounding.

So, what will the results be if we compare buffer vs. polisher? And how would you determine the appropriate cleaning buddy for your vehicle?

Let’s find out!

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What Does a Buffer Do?

Firstly, let me make it clear to you that buffer and polisher aren’t entirely different.

Buffer is a process that uses a polishing substitute, which helps to remove the defects, harsh scratches, pigmentation, oxidation, or blemishes.

Buffers not only helps to retain the shine and glossy look but also wipe out gross stains.

Here, when you determine to rely on buffers, you want to be sure that your car will be clean and seem new at once.

You don’t need to opt for multiple cleaning processes if you can solely buffer your car.

How Does a Buffer Work?

The acid and base intensity needs to be controlled when it comes to cleaning. Traditionally, caustic soda is used for buffer cleaning purposes.

And if you have a fine knowledge of chemistry, then you must know that buffer helps to keep the balance at the pH level.

When weak acid reciprocates with a strong alkali, the pH level starts increasing drastically, which may lead to contamination.

In this case, buffer effectively restricts the drastic changes and keep the reaction in control.

Moreover, buffers are mostly orbital and run at high speed when cleaning. They can be either pneumatic or electric.

In pneumatic buffers, it’s driven by the air-compressed power source, whereas electric buffers require plugged-in electronic access.

If you ever hand-waxed your car, then you must know that buffers can do the same, but the difference here is buffer completes the task two times faster than hand waxing, and thus, it’s less time-consuming and effective.

Benefits of Buffers

  • Buffer helps to restore the shine and also removes scratches and oxidation
  • It keeps the acid-base level balanced which prevents possible contamination on the vehicle surface
  • Rotary buffers may work in one direction, and the process is relatively slow, but it gracefully cleans and retains the shine
  • Some buffer motors are heat resistant so that the engine doesn’t overheat in action
  • Buffer cleaning doesn’t require multiple cleaning processes as it fulfills all of your cleaning expectations
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Drawbacks of Buffer

What Does a Polisher Do?

Okay, so first, let’s talk about polishers. Well, as I have mentioned about compound while discussing polisher, you may want to know the reason.

See, anything requires a cause for taking action.Now, if you want to remove all the harsh scratches and gross debris from your car, then polishing won’t help you at all. Why?

Because polisher remains harsh on the surface but leaves a shine on your car, or you can say it restores the glaze that you had. Sometimes, you want a mild pop in your car, and polisher works great for such purposes.

Now, if you want to remove the patches and blemishes from your car’s surface, then you will need to compound it, which is an effective way of cleaning vehicles.

After compounding, you move forward to polishers, which gives a finishing look and locks the glaze!

How Does a Polisher Work?

Generally, when you want to smoothen the surface and alter the hazy look into a shiny one, you intend to use polishers. However, when using wax, you require polisher along with some strong abrasives.

Anyways a polisher includes 4 parts, which are the motor, spindle, backing plate, and lastly, the pad. How do they work all along?

Well, first we have a motor which is called the powerhouse. Because all the other parts directly or passively depend on it.

Mostly the spindle because the engine allows it to move in variable speed. Here, the motor can be either air compressed (pneumatic) or driven by electricity.

Now, the spindle that is affixed with the motor holds the backing plate. This backing plate may drive in a solo direction, or it can spin independently.

Usually, the plates are made out of plastic or rubber. Here these backing plates assist the pads in moving back on forth or staying in one particular direction while cleaning.

Backing plates clutches the pads well by hooks or loops, and they are incredibly elastic when it comes to moving on the surface.

Lastly, you have the pads which come in a wide range of varieties and sizes. Bigger pads work intensely, where small pads leave a gentle impact. You are going to have microfibre, wool, foam, or combination pad material, which needs a polishing compound (abrasive) to progress the task.

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Benefits of Polisher

  • Polishers help to regain the shine your car
  • It leaves a spectacular shine if you apply it after compounding
  • Orbital polishers work faster, and the outcomes are reasonably impressive
  • The cleaning process with orbital polisher is effortless. Because you don’t need to stress, as in, no matter how much pressure you put the result will be as mind-blowing as expected
  • It saves your money

Drawbacks of Polisher

  • Polisher that uses compound and powders is a messy cleaning process and is time-consuming as well
  • It requires hard labor as it includes multiple cleaning steps
  • Polishers need additional attachments which can be costly
  • It doesn’t last long; even if orbital polishers are budget-friendly, you will need to polish your car frequently, and it will eventually make you spend a lot of money
  • The mechanical polisher is utterly expensive and gradually distorts the surface and leads to corrosion

Types of Polisher & Buffer

Typically, you have a rotary buffer and orbital polisher. And both of them are different regarding performance and bears distinct results and risks.

So, first, let’s talk about the rotary buffer. How does the rotating mechanism work? Well, the pad and spindle will rotate together in one particular direction. The direction is permanent and bears no apparent or passive changes.

Also, even if it is a mechanical rotary buffer, it won’t vibrate when performing.

But in orbital polisher, the pad rotates around the motor making constant axis alteration. Here the direction keeps changing, and it works faster than rotary buffers. Also, orbital polishers create vibration when driving the pads around the motor.

However, there are also other subtypes of both rotary buffers and orbital polishers, which are made depending on the different mechanisms such as dual action orbital, fixed orbital, forced dual-action rotation, etc.

Buffer vs. Polisher

Buffer Polisher

1. It cleans less aggressively and remains gentle on the surface.

1. Polishers are relatively aggressive and often damages the surface.

2. Buffer removes sticky residues, scratches and restores the gleam.

2. Polishers are used when you want the same shine back or expect an extra pinch of gloss in your car exterior. It can’t remove the scratches alone if you don’t use wax or compounds along with it.

3. In buffers, the rotary mechanism is primary.

3. In polishers, the orbital device is primary.

4. Buffer cleaning is inexpensive as it mounts cleaning, smoothening, and makes the surface shine at once.

4. Polishers indulge in multiple cleaning tools and processes. Hence, it’s relatively expensive.

5. Buffer cleaning doesn’t require much time.

5. Polisher cleaning is time-consuming unless it’s orbital polishing.

6. Buffer cleaning lasts long.

6. Polishers start losing their glaze after a couple of months.

Can you use a polisher as a buffer?

You may think that buffer and polisher are two entirely different things, but no! By the term “buffer”, you mean polishing a car so that it could be free from all the scratches and hazy appearance.

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It means buffer cleaning includes polishers, and when you refer to polishers differently, it may only stand for polishers with a different mechanism.

Because buffer and polisher have one key difference, and it’s between the rotary buffer and orbital polishers.

Otherwise, there are no significant differences between the two. Both exist to accomplish your cleaning aspects.

Which One to Choose?

You may want to know how to pick the right one for the best performance. Well, here’s the drill: if you want to restore the shine, then using polishers will be enough.

On the other hand, if you want to remove all the harsh lines, scratches, and debris from your car, then choose buffer cleaning, and you are going to get a glossy look as a bonus.

Now, why would I go for polishers if buffers can do the job?

See, you can always choose according to your preference, but the logic being here is why you would spend extra bucks on buffers if you only need polishing? I mean, if your car hasn’t any scratches or oxidation yet, then what’s the sensible reason to go for buffers?

You can just go for a decent polishing and get your work done.

Also, if you want it done by the professional car washers, you can ask them to use wax or compounds before applying polishers.

The finishing and spark you are gonna get after a perfect compounding and polishing will leave you jaw-dropped. And yes, it works better than buffers if you use it along with compounds or waxes.

So, first and foremost job is to determine your preferences and requirements, your budget, and consider whether the cleaning process is gonna be tedious to you or not.

Choose the easiest yet effective way!


1. Which buffer type is best?

High speed buffer is the best because it is better to work with.

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope it helps you to narrow down your farther queries regarding buffer and polishers.

Also, keep in mind that both of them require strong abrasion to clean, and excessive usage may cause ruptures on the surface.

Try to keep track of the times you will go for buffer or polisher cleaning.

It will help you to have a fine gap for the next cleaning picks.

Good luck!

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