Circular Polisher Guide

This simple step-by-step guide will explain how to use your circular polisher to remove paint imperfections and rapidly improve the quality of your finish. Keep in mind, circular polishers are recommended only for professional detailers or experienced hobbyists due the increased risk of PAINT BURN. If you are inexperienced with machine polishing, start with a dual action polisher and become familiar with the process. Once you become comfortable, graduate to the circular polisher.

What is a circular polisher?

A circular polisher, is sometimes referred to as a rotary or high-speed polisher. It's called “circular" or rotary because the head spins on one axis. It spins typically from 600-3000 RPMs. This single motion allows a circular polisher to level the clear coat that surrounds a scratch so that the scratch's “edges" disappear. Professionals who want to completely remove a deep scratch must use a circular polisher.

The heat is on! Circular polishers get much hotter than dual action polishers because the pad is spinning at a high speed. You MUST keep a circular polisher moving at all times so this heat doesn't concentrate on one spot. It will burn through the paint in seconds.

You can minimize the risk by practicing on scrap car panels before you attempt any work on your own vehicle. You can pick up old parts at your local junk yard for a fee, but it's definitely cheaper than repainting your vehicle!

Popular models of circular/rotary polishers are the FLEX PE14-2-150 Rotary Polisher and the DeWalt DWP849X.

Facts about Clear Coats

So you may understand the thickness of clear coat, think of the cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. Remove it and press the two sides together. This thickness represents the depth of clear coat that protects your pigment layer. The outer surface of the clearcoat is the “hardest" and “densest" and is impregnated with the critical UV protection. This surface, assaulted by bugs, bird droppings and acid rain gets worn away revealing the softer underlying clearcoat which provides less resilience and protection.

The Paint Facts - Typical Industry Paint Thickness Specs.

E-Coat 1.3 mil - Electrocoat is an anticorrosion coat applied to both sides of the steel to prevent corrosion (rust).

Surface Primer 0.7 mil - Initial protection layer with texture to assist the pigment layer in bonding to the metal beneath.

Base Coat 0.6 mil The basecoat is usually 0.5 to 1 mil thick (1,000 mils equal one inch).

Clear Coat 1.9 mil - The clearcoat provides gloss for that "wet look," plus physical protection from the elements, including ultraviolet rays. The clear coat is usually between 1.5 and 2 mils thick.

Polishing Tips


  • Keep the speed slow. Use your circular polisher at its slowest speed setting. This means typically between 1000 and 1200 RPM. Unless you're planning on refinishing a vehicle, there's no need to ever exceed 1500 RPM.


  • Another equally critical factor in preventing PAINT BURN is keeping the polisher in constant motion to reduce the build up of heat. Heat build up is especially critical toward edges and corners where the paint is thinnest. It is less problematic in the center of large panels.


  • Work the pad perfectly flat against the paint or with the back of the pad tilted slightly upward to avoid dragging it on the paint.


This guide will give you a good start, but you will develop your own techniques as you become more comfortable with the machine.

What problems can a circular polisher correct?


A circular polisher can remove almost any scratches or swirls and most oxidation, as long as they do not penetrate beneath the clear coat. A good way of assessing a scratch is to run your fingernail over it. If your fingernail catches in the scratch, it generally means it is too deep to be removed without professional help. Scratches and swirls that extend through to the color coat will require repainting or a touch-up at the very least. Do not attempt to remove these scratches because you can remove the entire clear coat, resulting in paint system failure.

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