Angle grinders for car detailing: can it be done?

Can angle grinders be used for car detailing?

Angle grinder being used

by Chris Williams |

Professionals have very specific tools for very specific jobs. DIYers and hobby mechanics are more likely to only use a few tools frequently, such as power drills and socket sets, while more specialist equipment can sit idle for long periods of time.

To avoid outlaying cash for infrequently used equipment, it makes sense that many DIYers try and have single tools and devices that are versatile and capable of performing multiple tasks.

In the case of car detailers, this can have people looking at polishing machines and angle grinders. Both are handheld, and both spin quickly - what's stopping a grinder from being repurposed as a polisher from time to time?

Could you, or rather, should, double an angle grinder as a polishing tool when the need arises? That’s the issue we’re addressing here.

How an angle grinder works

• An angle grinder comes in a range of sizes, from 100mm diameter disc sizes to well over 200mm
• The angle grinder rotates the disc in a single direction at a high speed
• The speed and the disc are intended for cutting or grinding a surface
• Some angle grinders have variable speed settings, and some more basic ones don’t
• For some automotive purposes, such as car restoration, an angle grinder can be a very useful tool.

How a polisher works

• A polishing machine comes in two forms: rotary and dual-action
• Rotary polishers operate like angle grinders but at slower speeds
• Dual-action polishers have random orbital movements, like orbital sanders but also at slower speeds.

The question of polishing and buffing

Angle grinders are more powerful than polishers and they can rotate at far higher speeds.

Polishing and buffing demand delicacy to prevent damage to the car’s clearcoat via heat build-up. Fast-spinning angle grinders can easily cause damage to a car’s paintwork because of this, and so too can rotary polishing machines.

In short, this means that extreme care is needed when using rotary tools for polishing or buffing. By contrast, dual-action polishers are excellent at dissipating heat and are very easy to use, even for novices.

If you do want to use an angle grinder for polishing or buffing it must have variable speed, operating down to below 3000rpm, rather than a simple on-off switch.

The bottom line

Ultimately, we don’t recommend using an angle grinder for car detailing.

They’re liable to cause more issues than they solve. There is nothing wrong with polishing and waxing your car by hand, and if you do want to use a power tool, there are some excellent, inexpensive dual-action polishers around (the best of which we’ve listed below).

The best car polishers

Draper Storm Force 01816 Dual Action Polisher

Editor’s pick
Draper Storm Force 01816 Dual Action Polisher

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Simple and well made, this dual-action polisher is perfect for DIYers.

Einhell CE-CB 18/254 Cordless Car Polisher

Best 254mm/10-inch buffer
Einhell CE-CB 18/254 Cordless Car Polisher

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A user-friendly cordless buffer that covers large body panels quickly. Part of the Einhell Power X-Change family, the 18V batteries are also compatible with other Einhell and Ozito cordless tools.

Hyundai HYDAP900E Dual Action Car Polisher Kit

Best polishing kit
Hyundai HYDAP900E Dual Action Car Polisher Kit

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With a no-load speed starting at just 1500rpm and coming with a range of polishing and buffing pads, this is a great starter kit for those new to polishing tools.

Ryobi R18P-0 Cordless Polisher

Ryobi R18P-0 Cordless Polisher

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The R18P-0 dual action polisher is powered by the same 18V batteries as the rest of the Ryobi 18V ONE+ range. It’s also quiet and very easy for DIYers to use. However, if you need batteries too, this is a more expensive option.

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