Car Care / Car Culture

Mythbusting Paint Correction – Better by hand or machine?

Editor’s Note – This is the first of a series of articles on paint care myths. Jason Mathews has been burning up the highway for 20 years as our National Events Manager. He has more one-on-one face time with our customers than anyone else in the company. So he’ll be dispelling misconceptions… starting with fear of the machine buffer.

At pretty much every show we’ll get multiple people come up and tell us they have swirl marks and scratches they’re trying to take out. I usually ask them the question, “Are you trying to do this by hand or machine?” A lot of the time they say they don’t have a machine and just want to do it by hand. And therein lies the problem… it’s very tough to get out these types of defects and oxidation by hand. They need to rely on the speed and power of a machine to be successful.

A majority of the time they are scared of a machine. Some of the biggest misconceptions are; you have to be a professional to use a machine, they create a lot of heat and burn paint, and in general they just are not as effective or easy to work with compared to hand application. They’ve heard horror stories about buffers burning paint or 30 years ago they used a single-speed, direct-drive machine with a wool bonnet and hurt their paint and now their perception is that machines are bad.

Machine technology has evolved to a point where a child can use a machine safely on a car without burning paint. We have self-parking cars. It’s technology. Just because you weren’t good at parallel parking maybe you’re blind in your right eye, now your car will do all the work… the throttle and steering … bam you can parallel park.

Nine times out of ten when you show somebody how to use a Random Orbital and they see the benefits of it appear right before their eyes… we talk them through the capabilities and design of the machines and they get it… the light bulb flashes and it’s no longer a question.

It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to get somebody comfortable running a machine. It is rewarding to see somebody take that machine, feel its weight for the first time, put it on the hood and go to town. They get comfortable with it, use it at high speed, low speed, move it around and feel the vibrations. They pretty much convince themselves that machine buffing is easy and fun.

If I’m at the demo hood and a guy walks up saying he’s scared to use a machine and wants to get scratches or swirls out by hand. I’ll take a Scotchbrite pad and rub scratches into the hood right in front of his face. This is my favorite demo. So they can see there’s no snake oil, this isn’t magic. Then I’ll walk them through the process… running a machine with correcting cream, some wax, and they’re sold. They walk away saying, “I can do that.” Sometimes they want to get home right away to get started.

Some customers just prefer working with their hands and I do think there is something to be said for that. What I have noticed, especially with nicer cars, more high-end cars, that these valuable collector cars have owners who enjoy doing it by hand. In my opinion, there is some sort of love of the automobile that’s transferred when you’re working by hand versus a machine. With a machine you can lose that kind of sensitivity because you’re just blazing through it. But when you’re rubbing a car down, feeling every curve, every contour, there’s something happening on another level there. Sometimes if you just got the car and it’s an old car working by hand is a great way to get to know the car intimately before you start detailing it on a regular basis.This is fine when waxing a car but I need to be clear that correcting defects, even mild defects, by hand is very difficult. The bottom line here is working by hand should be a personal preference decision not something done because of an unrealistic fear and an unwarranted intimidation factor associated with machines.


  1. Stephen Myles says:

    WOW !……what a brief but straight to the heart comment and does it ever apply to me !!! I’ve used Griot products for years but it’s time for me to be instructed PROPER usage. When and where are upcoming shows or seminars in my part of the world (Cincinnati) ? Please advise and many thanx !!!

  2. Jeff Thompson says:

    Thank you for this illuminating insight and guide. I’ve detailed cars mostly by hand, and I do, indeed, enjoy feeling the styling contoursand varying paint textures of a car. Yet removing paint defects in this manner always disappoints me.
    I’ve happily used Griot’s products for more than 20 years, and I’m so looking forwards to replacing my buffer with a new one from you!
    Thank again.

  3. Robert Sewell says:

    I find your products to be so benign that it is hard to ruin anything. I use your power buffer on my 1997 Porsche Carrera S and get great results.

  4. Great demo @ BMWCCA Oktoberfest ! Thank you for supporting the club!

  5. Greg snyder says:

    High desert Porsche club of Bend Oregon just had a cars and coffee meeting on paint protection and polishing with griots products and buffer. They took my fear of using the buffer away and the results were amazing! Love griots products and my valentine present ( griots buffer) is on the way!!

  6. Enjoyed your article on buffing, buffers and how to. You have convinced me to give your buffer a try. Will let you know how it goes. I have messed up paint with old buffers and ended up tired and no help from hand work.

  7. Would you please do give a talk about using different speeds on the buffer. How do you know the proper speed for applying different products?

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