How to Choose Buffing Pads: A Beginner’s Guide


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black and white polishing pads

Everyone wants a beautiful car. In order to restore that factory gloss or buff your vehicle until it shines like new, you’ll need some good buffing pads. With normal driving, weather, and age, a vehicle’s paint and finish dulls. Buffing pads are the best way to clean the exterior of your car, polish it to a new shine, and repair scratches, dings, and scuffs.

The best way to choose the right buffing pad for your car is to look at budget, function, and material. Picking the right buffing pad will make your vehicle look beautiful and new again.

What Are Buffing Pads?

Buffing pads are circular polishing tools commonly used to wax, buff, and polish paint and other materials. Buffing pads are typically made of wool, microfiber, or foam. Some are made for manual application, and others can be attached to power tools for speedy and efficient buffing. Buffing pads can be used to apply wax or sealant to your vehicle in addition to buffing out scratches and dings. They are the best applicator for detailing your car.

Think of buffing pads like a gentle sandpaper. Because of their finer application, they can remove dirt and smooth out surfaces. When applying wax, it’s a good idea to use buffing pads because they’re flexible, soft, and absorbent.

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What Are The Benefits Of Buffing Pads?

  • Helps Remove Scratches: Buffing pads are the superior applicator for buffing out dings and scratches, fixing surfaces, removing defects, and making your vehicle look new again.
  • Properly Applies Products: Buffing pads evenly distribute polish, wax, and finishes across any surface. Because of their shape and design, they are the most reliable way to give a real shine to your vehicle.
  • Requires Less Product Overall: Buffing pads use less product than other applicators such as towels, which saves you money in the long run. It also means the coats that are applied are even, and won’t leave unsightly residue or marks.

Some buffing pads need to be used with machines, like the Dual Action Orbital Polisher or a Rotary Buffer. These machines come in all shapes and sizes, similar to a drill, and have many different uses. Many polishers have “beginner-friendly” flat pads that are best for those who are new to machine buffing. 

What Are The Benefits Of Buffing Pads?

Buffing pads are all specifically designed to hold their polishes across the pad’s surface, using a specific kind of abrasive. With these abrasives in place, buffing pads are akin to extremely fine sandpaper. Since buffing pads are very porous, they absorb any spent oils generated by the polish.

Buffing pads are very flexible and can apply their product evenly to concave and convex surfaces. This allows them to buff out damage and apply an appropriate finish to any surface. These pads are also absorbers—they can trap heat and also transport cold air across any working surface. Heat will inevitably damage the surface of paint, gloss, or wax, and they’re specifically designed to redistribute friction and prevent this.

Overall, buffing pads are the most efficient way to remove defects, apply polish, and reduce the time spent on a project. They hold their polish better than a towel, and when using a machine apply consistent and even buffing or material removal.

What Buffing Pad Is Right For Me?

Buffing pads come in foam, wool, or microfiber. These pads can be used with your Dual Action Orbital or Rotary Polisher, as long as they fit with the backing plate of your chosen polishing device. The backing plate is the part of your hand held polishing machine that holds the buffing pad.

There are lots of subtypes of pads available on the market, in varying degrees of correction and cut. Aggressive pads are more for removing paint, blemishes, and defects, while less aggressive pads are for applying a smooth finish. Typically you will begin any job with the more aggressive pad, and then work your way down to the less aggressive pad to leave a beautiful shine behind.

Wool Pads

Wool pads are for jobs that include light to heavy compounding and cutting, polishing, and finishing. Wool pads have abrasive effects because of the coarseness of the pad. Real sheepskin wool pads perform the best and help you buff out deep scratches with ease. Wool generates less heat than microfiber, and gives the best results with soft lacquers or sticky paint. Wool pads are less effective as a finisher compared to foam or microfiber.

Foam Pads

Foam pads can be very soft or very coarse, depending on the need. Their variations have many uses and combinations, and their structure allows them to quickly apply force and remove scratches. Soft foam has finer cell structure, good for applying a high level of gloss with the lowest possible abrasiveness.

Microfiber Pads

Microfiber pads exist in varying quality and are often a choice somewhere between wool and foam. They can absorb product efficiently, are suitable for coating, but also can apply a nice shine. Microfiber pads work great on deep scratches in hard lacquer.

What Buffing Pads Do I Use?

Compounding Pad

This is your most aggressive buffing pad, used with cutting compounds that help remove any surface defects, dings, and scratches.

Polishing Pad

Use this pad with any polishing compound with a lower cut and less aggressiveness. This is the next step for removing scratches and surface defects, and won’t leave a polish or nice finish on its own.

Finishing Pad

This is for your final products, such as wax or sealant that has no aggressiveness at all and is only for finishing. The finishing pads are for restoring your finish and protecting the coat. 

Like with all things, there is a right tool for the job. Whether you go with wool, microfiber or foam, or if you need differing buffing pads for removing scratches or applying a beautiful finish, PartsAvatar has got your back. The world of buffing pads might seem initially overwhelming, but the degree of choice enables you to take care of your beautiful vehicle with the care it deserves!

Kathryn Fowler

Kathryn Fowler is the Marketing Manager at PartsAvatar. She's been passionate about cars since childhood. She loves examining different components of cars to understand their operation. Kathryn started writing blogs on automobile parts to share her love for cars and educate automobile enthusiasts worldwide.

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