Choosing a Buffer for Your Boat

Get the best tool for the job with these tips.

Wax is a great protectant, but polish is often necessary to truly bring back the shine of your boat’s gelcoat. Manual application and buffing, however, is time consuming…not to mention a workout. A power buffer will get better results in less time and with less effort. Here’s how to choose a power buffer and keep your boat looking showroom fresh.

Purchase a Dedicated Buffer

Porter-Cable Variable Speed Polisher
For the best control, look for models that feature a swappable, left or right side handle. It will increase user comfort, as well as provide more control over the tool's motion.Courtesy Amazon

Although they may be adequate for small jobs, the standard battery-operated power drill is not ideal for buffing your boat’s hull and deck. Most drills will eventually bog down as they lack the necessary power for quality buffing and polishing. Batteries also often don’t last the time needed to get the job done in a timely fashion. A designated buffer/polisher will produce far better results in a shorter period of time.

Random Orbital Polishing Action Produces The Best Results

Black & Decker 6-inch Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher
A quality, random orbital polisher doesn't have to be expensive. Smaller, 6-inch models can be found for under $30.Courtesy Amazon

Professionals may use high-speed rotary buffers but their high RPM and one-directional spinning action can be too powerful for the average do-it-yourselfer, resulting in unsightly swirls or even burns to your hull’s finish. Random orbital polishers move the pad in a random orbital motion across two axes, producing excellent results without bogging down, leaving swirl marks or superheating the surface. Tip? Buffers with variable speeds allow you to fine-tune the action for waxing, buffing, polishing, or removing oxidation.

Choose The Right Pad Material

Milwaukee Variable Speed Polisher/Sander
For easy cleaning or swapping of buffing/polishing pads, look for pads that attach with convenient hook-and-loop fasteners.Courtesy Amazon

Choose the proper pad size and material for best results. Smaller, 6-inch pads often prove easier for the novice to handle. Foam typically work best on slightly faded surfaces; wool is ideal for removing oxidation. Clean the pad regularly to produce the best finish. Pros often rely on a paint stirrer, held against the buffing pad while in motion, to remove excess polish.