Random Orbital Sander for Car Polishing

You want to polish your vehicle but are not looking forward to doing it by hand. Conversely, purchasing a proper polishing motorized device is not that appealing either because of the expense and that it will sit on the shelf most of the time. But what about using another device you may already have to do the job?

Can You Use a Random Orbital Sander for Car Polishing?

Car Polishing with Random Orbital Sander
The answer is yes, you can use a random orbital sander to polish the paint on your vehicle. The sander itself is suitably designed for use as a polisher. However, you will need to choose a random orbital sander that has variable speed options. This is because polishing and sanding require different speeds in order to accomplish their primary tasks.

The most important thing to do before you use random orbital sander as polisher is to thoroughly clean it. As you know, RAS is primarily a woodworking tool that can also be used for removing paint etc. Any saw dust or sand particles caught inside the sander will ruin your car paint.

So, remove the pads, blow air, and wipe it completely to make sure that it is free from any dust from the prior uses.

In addition, you will need the proper types of pads most suitable for polishing. Because of the popularity of the random orbital sander, there are numerous types of polishing pads that are available.

Types of Pads for Polishing

You can find many different sizes, material, and texture of polishing pads. There are basically five different types based on the material from which the pad itself is made.

  1. Foam Pad
  2. Microfiber Pad
  3. Wool
  4. Denim and
  5. Felt

Each type of polishing pad has its advantages. But essentially the material is rigid enough to hold the polishing wax and spread it evenly around the surface while being soft enough to not damage the paint itself. Since the first three are the commonly used types, I will explain more about them.

Microfiber Polishing Pads

Microfiber is the newest and offers advantages over both wool and foam in terms of getting the results that you desire. They have fine soft fibers with flat face and is excellent for buffing to get shiny finish.

Microfiber Cutting Disc

Wool Pads

Wool is the most traditional of materials used for polishing given its unique qualities that make it perfect for holding polish. Polishing pads made of natural wool produce less heat compared to microfiber pads and hence can be used for longer period of time. They are rough compared to microfiber or foam and hence mostly used as compounding buffing pads.

Wool Buffing Pads

However, wool pads are primary designed for polishers without orbital motion.

Foam Pads

The foam is also quite suitable material as a polishing pad thanks to its flexible nature. The biggest advantage of the foam pad is that it can be manufactured in different hardness (stiffness) and textures.
Hex-Logic Cutting Pad
The Hex-logic honeycomb pattern on the surface will allow the pad to retain polishing compound longer.

Which one you choose is up to you and your budget, but you cannot go wrong with any of them. If there is one with an advantage, it may be the microfiber pad because of its advanced design.

Random Orbital Sander Vs Dual Action Polisher

Both random orbital sander (RAS) and DA polisher works on similar principle. The sanding or polishing pad spins as well as orbits or in small circles which avoid swirl patterns on the polished surface. The main difference here is that in a random orbital sander the orbiting motion small (typically 1/8”) whereas the dual action polisher orbits in a much larger circles (from 5/16” to 3/4” depending on the size of the machine).

With the motor directly over the pad, the weight of the orbital sander does add better balance, but it is also applying more force to the surface. This can be problematic as polishing requires more finesse than force.

DA Polisher on car
The DA polished usually has an L-shaped design similar to an angle grinder where the drive shaft is perpendicular to the body of the machine. The motor inside the body will transfer the motion through a crown and pinion which has a different weight distribution compared to the sander.

Polishers also come in D-shape where the motor is directly behind the pad. However, they come with D-handles which will enable you to control the force applied on the car body. With Random Orbital Sander you have very little control over the pressure applied on to the workpiece surface.

Pros & Cons of Using a Random Orbital Sander as a Polisher


Arguably the biggest upside to using a random orbital sander is that you do not have to purchase a polisher if your budget does not allow for it. The sander can do the job with the right types of pads of which there are many available.

In addition, the sander is easy to use when polishing as you can apply constant pressure with your palm when compared to using a standard polishing device. For those who need to occasionally polish their vehicles, then you can save a considerable amount by using your existing orbital sander and purchasing a few polishing pads.

However, there are downsides to using an orbital sander as a car polisher, even if you use the proper pads.


The most obvious con is that the orbital sander is not designed for polishing, but for sanding away the material. Sanding and polishing not only use different pads, but weight, motion, and vibration of the sander is different compared to a device that is primarily designed to polish.

The sander also rotates the polishing pads at a higher speed compared to standard polishing devices. This is because sanding requires considerably more force and speed to remove the paint while polishing is only designed to remove the fine projections on the surface.

The size of the pad is also an issue since they tend to be smaller compared to pads for polishing devices. The result is that more force is applied to a smaller area.

To properly polish the paint, the right amount of rotational force is needed. Sanders rely more on oscillation to remove the paint. So, the result is that it takes more effort and care with an orbital sander to properly polish a surface due to the lack of rotational force.


The bottom line is that an orbital sander can do the job, but not as fast or as efficiently compared to a device that is specifically made for polishing. If you only polish occasionally and are on a limited budget, then an orbital sander is a solid option. You could also use an angle grinder for sanding and polishing. But if you do a lot of polishing and want greater control over the results, then purchasing a device primarily made for polishing is a better option.