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Troubleshooting – Dual Action polishing

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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.

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