What is a Car Buffer?

Ken Black

A car buffer, or auto buffer, is a buffer that is used in the car detailing process. They are often used at car detail businesses but can also be purchased for use by private car owners as well. Most buffers are orbital and turn at a high rate of speed so that the wax is applied to the car in a polished fashion. While hand waxing can accomplish the same objective, a car buffer can do it in a fraction of the time.

If not used properly, car buffers can damage your car.
If not used properly, car buffers can damage your car.

There are a number of things to keep in mind when using a car buffer. While the car detail shop may make it look relatively easy, auto buffers can substantially damage the car. This is why it is important, whenever automobile buffers are in use, to make sure the car has been cleaned, dried and is free from all debris. With the car buffer turning at a high rate of speed, any debris on the car can quickly scratch the surface. This even includes sand and dirt granules, which is why some recommend only using a buffer on a day with little or no wind.

Similar to orbital buffers, orbital sanders are often used for auto body repair.
Similar to orbital buffers, orbital sanders are often used for auto body repair.

There are two main types of buffers, the pneumatic and the electrical models. A pneumatic car buffer uses air as its primary power source. An electric automobile buffer simply plugs into a standard electrical outlet. Each has its own advantages and perhaps some disadvantages as well.

Pneumatic car buffers are relatively light, meaning they are generally easier to handle than electrical buffers. However, for those who do not have a portable compressed air supply, the ability to transport the buffer over great distances is diminished. It may be a good choice for those who are not planning to use the buffer much other than in a certain shop or garage.

The electrical car buffer is a good choice for those who want to be able to take it different places without the burden of also carrying compressed air supplies. Also, they are generally quieter than the compressed air models. Furthermore, electrical auto buffers are generally less expensive than their pneumatic counterparts, at least when comparing similar models.

Most car buffers come with a number of different options, including the size. Smaller ones used for general waxing purposes are approximately 7 inches (17 cm). Larger ones run 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm). The larger ones make it a quicker job, but also make it harder to reach tight locations, so a smaller one or hand waxing may be needed for many of those areas.

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Discussion Comments


What is a good price to pay for a complete car detailing including a buffing? I feel like the prices vary wildly. I've seen some places that advertise a whole car makeover for $25 and other places that charge well over $100. Is there really this much difference? Is it better to go low or high?


A heads up to anyone reading this. The article is right when it recommends leaving the buffing work to car detailing professionals.

I got a wild hair a few years back to really trick out my car. I bought a bunch or products to clean it inside and out. I also rented a buffer for a few hours. I had seen other people use one and it seemed simple enough so I figured I would give it a go myself.

Well long story shot, my car got covered with scratches and I had to replace one of the windows. Lets just say that things went kind of haywire. I had to have my car repainted and the window replaced all at a great expense. Boy did I have egg on my face that day. My wife just laughed and laughed. If I could turn back time I never would have tried to buff my car myself.

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