DetailingWiki Newsletter
    Get free and automatic updates on new articles
    We respect your privacy. No data is used for anything other than sending the newsletter!


Troubleshooting – Dual Action polishing

Written by:

Listed here are some typical problems associated with dual action polishing, with causes and possible solutions to try. If you are having problems achieving the correction you expect, or getting a polish to finish down, here’s where to look. This is a very generic troubleshooting guide to help you solve some problems you may encounter.



Correction not at the desired level, swirls and scratches remain.
Possible causes:

  1. Polish and pad combination too light for paint and defects
  2. Polish not being worked to its full potential
  3. Work area too large
  4. Marks to deep to remove by machine polishing
  5. Defects below top layer of paint


  1. Step up to a more aggressive polish and pad combo and repeat polishing. Keep steeping up abrasive level until desired correction is achieved*
  2. Ensure polish is being fully worked – residue should go clear and for many polishes vanish and start to dust slightly. Takes a good 2 – 5 minutes depending on polish being used**
  3. Reduce work area to no more than 18″ square, but ideally 12″ square or even smaller on hard paints or hot days where polish can dry out quickly
  4. Any mark which catches the finger nail will be very hard to fully remove by machine polishing. Wet sanding is an option for severe RDS, but even this wont solve an iddue of a deep scratch which will need painting and flatting to fully repair.
  5. On rare occasions, defects can be flashed in below the clearcoat (typically only if car has been poorly resprayed). It is not possible to reach these marks without removing the clearcoat – respray required to fix.

* Exercise caution as abrasive polishes remove small amounts of paint, the amount of which increases with aggression of pad and polish. Ideally check the thickness of the paint before using aggressive compounds.

** Problems with fully working a polish can arise from a few things – see below.


Polish dries out and appears to be worked too fast (under a minute).
Possible causes:

  1. Too little polish used
  2. Too large an area worked at any one time
  3. Machine speed too high
  4. Panel or ambient temperature too high


  1. While only a small amount of polish is required (a couple of beads per section, sometimes a little more), initial passes require a little more polish to prime the pad. Too little will result in it drying out too quickly and not properly working.
  2. Large work areas allow polish to dry out before it has had a chance to fully work, reducing the work time and the level of correction and quality of finish achieved. Reduce to 12″ square or less on hot days.
  3. While many polishes are happy to be worked at speed 5.5 to 6 on typical DA polishers, others need to be worked at slower speeds (5 or below). If the polish appears to be drying out quickly, consider reducing the machine speed.
  4. High ambient or panel temperatures can dry out polishes before they have fully broken down. Always try to avoid direct sunlight and high temperatures, the ideal is to be working inside. Where this is not possible, reducing the work area and machine speeds can help prevent the polish from drying out too quickly. A spritz of water or quick detailer can also help but be careful this does not adversely affect the polish lubricants.

Different related articles

  • The best lights
    Detailing Miscellaneous
    It is often asked on detailing fora and social media: "what is the best lights". Off course there is a difference between certain products and brands, but it is important to know what you are asking. In this guide I will try to explain what the problem is with this question unless it is asked more in-depth....
  • A guide in detailing Steps
    There are many different steps you can take while detailing. A maintenance wash has different steps than a deep-clean wash or a 3 stage polish. In this guide I will give a very general idea on the order of those steps. More in-depth articles regarding every step will follow. This articles serves to give people a quick overview....
  • What is rubbing polish
    Rubbing polish is the act of using ones hand or skin to apply the polish to the surface by hand, and creating a moving effect in order to get a polishing effect on the surface underneath. The method can be compared to applying wax by hand....
  • Introducing a Newbie to DA Polishing
    The DA (Dual Action) polisher is considered by many to be the machine to use if you are new to machine polishing, though as discussed elsewhere, this is not always the case - rather, you should try wherever possible to try both styles of machine (DA and rotary) and see which suit your style the best as many will find the vibrations of DA polisher unsettling and this struggle with the control of the machine can actually make it more dangerous than the smoother rotary....
  • What is sandblasting
    Sandblasting, or abrasive blasting, is the act of spraying a surface will small abrasive particles that are launched at very high speed and interact with the surface in a way similar to sanding....
  • What is a glass polish
    Detailing Miscellaneous
    A glass polish is a specially designed product that can polish glass. Normal polish isn't hard enough to have an effect on glass, but glass polish solves this problem. ...

Links to this article

There are no external links to this article. Yet.

Stay up to date with our free newsletter
Always be the first to know about new updates, articles and other informative content.
Don't miss out, opt in!
We respect your privacy. No data is used for anything other than sending the newsletter!