Can You Use A Random Orbital Sander For Car Polishing?

Whether you are a hobbyist, woodworker, or automotive detailer, an orbital sander is a great tool to have. It is commonly found in garages, woodshops, and auto body shops and can be used for buffing and sanding different materials such as wood and metal.

You can use a random orbital sander for car polishing. However, you must ensure the sander comes with variable speed options and the proper attachments, including a variety of polishing pads. The amount of pressure you apply to the tool, along with your skill level and practical experience, will affect not only the sander’s performance but also the outcome of the finished product.

Can You Use A Random Orbital Sander For Car Polishing?

Now that you know an orbital sander can be used to polish vehicles, let us explore this topic further and in more detail below. I will discuss how to polish a car using random orbitals as well as what the difference is between a sander and a polisher. I will also point out the best sanders for car polishing and at what speed it should be set for the best results.

So, if you are ready to learn more about orbital sanders in relation to automotive detailing, then please read onward!

* This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Can You Use a Dual Action Sander for Polishing?

A dual-action (or random orbital sander) is recommended for buff or polishing.

Most car professionals will often recommend having two separate tools – one for doing the ‘really dirty’ jobs (such as sanding out patch panels) and another for paint correction and detailing.

See below for examples of these tools under the subheading entitled: What Kind of Sander is Best for Cars?

Can I Use My Orbital Sander as a Buffer?

To turn your 5-inch orbital sander into a buffer, attach the polishing pad to the sander, and use the hook-and-loop sandpaper.

Some companies, like Porter-Cable, for example, make polishing pads to fit the larger, 6-inch models. Provided you use the fine lambswool pad, you should have no trouble buffing or polishing your car to a high-gloss shine – with no scratching!

What Pads are Used for Polishing Cars?

There are three types of attachments used on sanders to polish cars. These include:

  • foam
  • wool
  • microfiber buffing pads

All three can be used with a random orbital sander or rotary polisher, provided the pad is of the same diameter (or slightly larger) than that of the backing plate on the tool.

Most car detailers have at least three pads of each type at the ready!

How Do You Polish a Car with a Random Orbital Sander?

To polish a car using a random orbital sander, you need to follow the steps below:

  1. Begin by examining the sander to make sure it is in proper working condition – this safety precaution should be taken before using any power tool.
  2. Attach the buffing pad to the sander and apply polish in a dot-like pattern across the entire surface of the pad.
  3. Press the pad all around the working area without turning the sander on – this helps spread the polish evenly while preventing it from flying off when the tool is started.
  4. Once the polish is evenly distributed on the surface (and there is only little left on the pad itself), select a medium speed setting and switch the sander.
  5. Work slowly on a small area and apply just enough pressure to audibly hear the sander change pitch.
  6. Gently and carefully move the sander back and forth over the surface, overlapping as you go – this will help blend the polish smoothly and prevent any unpolished ‘gaps.’
  7. Once you have completed the job to your satisfaction, switch to a finishing pad and finishing compound.
  8. If you have not achieved the desired result, switch to a more aggressive pad and/or polishing compound.

A car polishing kit is recommended and comes in very handy. It contains everything you need to do the job right with professional-looking results. Torq TorqX Random Orbital Polisher Kit (Amazon affiliate link) is a great choice. It includes the sander, pads, and polishing compounds. Available through an online retailer like, do yourself a favor and check today’s price!

What is the Difference Between a Sander and a Polisher?

The main difference between a sander and a polisher is the spin rate. An orbital polisher rotates at a much slower speed than that of an orbital sander. This helps prevent burning through the paint, especially along the edges of the vehicle.

It is still possible to use an orbital sander for polishing, provided you have the right attachments.

As well, the sander should have variable speed settings so you can control it easier, which will also help prevent noticeable swirl marks in the paint surface.

What Kind of Sander is Best for Cars?

A random orbital (or dual action) sander is best for cars. A standard orbital sander can leave unsightly swirl marks whereas a random tool version will not. The reason being that a dual-action sander works in two ways – it moves in a random pattern while orbiting in a circular motion at the same time.

As well, the random orbital sander provides an added weight feature that can be either locked or unlocked. In locked mode, it can buff or polish at a faster rate.

This not only enhances performance but also improves the overall look of the finished product.

A great tool to check out is the Maxshine M8 Pro Dual Action Polisher (Amazon affiliate link). It is specifically designed for polishing cars. It removes scratches with ease, preventing swirl marks, and providing a perfect finish! it is a must-have for automotive detailers.

⭐️  ToolsOwner's Choice

Maxshine M8 Pro Dual Action Polisher

Buy on Amazon

(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

This tool is available through online retailers, such as, for example. It is highly rated, easy to use, and a great value for your money! Ideal for beginners and professionals alike, this tool makes a great addition to any garage or workshop.

However, if you are on a budget and looking for a tool that can be used for woodworking as well, then check out the Black & Decker BDERO 100 Random Orbit Sander (Amazon affiliate link). It is a reasonably priced, high-quality tool that is compact, ergonomic, and versatile.

💰  ToolsOwner's Budget Choice

BLACK+DECKER Random Orbit Sander

Buy on Amazon

(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

What is the Best Speed for Car Polishing?

The best speed for polishing a car using a random orbital sander is anywhere between 1,500 and 4,000 OPM’s. Since random orbital sander has variable speed settings, they allow you to maintain better control over the tool. Better control equals a better finish.

Make sure to choose a sander capable of reaching 12,000 OPM’s, if possible. Being able to crank up the speed, if necessary, not only provides you with more versatility but also helps remove intense swirl marks. And, since it is a random orbital sander, you need not worry about burning the paint.

If you are using a circular polisher, slower is better. Therefore, a speed somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 RPM’s is recommended. This tool can get quite hot, especially when used at high speeds.

And, while a little heat is good for clear coating more pliable, too much will end up burning the paint.

Other factors including skill level, practical experience, and time allotment will also affect the aesthetic outcome.

Making sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions is the key to achieving a high-quality, professional-looking paint finish.


In conclusion, you can indeed use a random orbital sander for car polishing. Be sure to have a variety of polishing pads on-hand as well as a model with adjustable speed settings.

Maintaining constant control over the tool is the key to professional-looking, high-quality results. Many factors affect the end result, including the amount of time you have, your skill level, and your experience.

Hopefully, this article has been helpful to you. Thanks for reading and go and make that car shiny again!

Cheers, tools owners!

Related articles:

Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.