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Roadfly Magazine
Issue Seven
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Roadfly Magazine
G. Gordon Liddy
Issue Seven
May 27, 2003
G. Gordon Liddy
Credit Card Rewards Programs
Frozen Rotors
Bentley Continental GT
Porter Cable Buffer
Coming Next Issue
Jay Leno
Hot Rod Tour
Paint Film
Porter Cable Rotary

Detailer's Dream: Porter Cable Random Orbital Buffer
By Steve Litscher

(Tuesday, May 27, 2003 5:45 PM EST)

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Mention to someone that you're going to detail your car, and their reaction is usually sympathetic. "Oh, you poor thing! Your arms will be dead!" Despite this outpouring of sympathy, the person often requests that you detail their car when finished with yours - so much for the sympathy.

In years past, detailing was a bit of a pain, especially if you didn't have access to tools like the pros used, including buffers, magical compounds and waxes that were easy to remove. Buffer? Did I say buffer? No way, no how - those things are dangerous! My cousin's best friend's neighbor knew a guy who tore his mirror off and burned his paint with a buffer! Are you insane?

There's a common misconception about random orbital buffers, especially with folks who aren't real familiar with the finer nuances of detailing. Most confuse the random orbital buffer with a rotary (or direct-drive) buffer. Rotary buffers are more apt to cause damage, as they have more powerful motors, generate more heat, pressure and speed, and are usually used with more aggressive pads (including wool).

Rotary buffers can be found in just about any paint repair shop, and are often the preferred tool of "professional" detailers. Unfortunately, when used incorrectly they can introduce new swirls, damage paint and even remove trim and other permanent accessories. Rotary buffers operate with a heavy duty, high speed, direct drive motor - in other words, the buffing pad is attached directly to the output shaft of the buffer, much like a drill bit attaches to the motor of an electric drill.

The "spin true" nature of the rotary buffer can introduce swirl marks, especially if used incorrectly, which is why you often see so many cars driving down the road with massive "rotary ghosting" (my term) and other nasty operator induced swirl marks.

A Random Orbital Buffer (ROB) is a completely different machine. It has a much more forgiving personality, has less power, generates less heat, and does not spin in a true circular pattern. Contrary to what some naysayers would have you believe, the ROB can achieve results similar to those of a rotary, especially when used properly; but the main benefit comes from the ease of use and massive safety margin.

Porter Cable has been making a ROB for many years, and its most popular model is the 7424. Commonly referred to as the "PC7424" (Porter Cable 7424), it has become the tool of choice for many detailers, both enthusiast and professional alike. Open any tool catalog, and you're almost certain to find the PC7424 - it's a popular and incredible piece of detailing machinery.

In addition to the PC7424, Porter Cable also markets a very similar machine, the 7336. Both machines feature the same basic "platform" - the main difference results from the backing plate size and counterweight size. We'll talk more about that in a second.

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