Car Care / Griot's Garage / Tech

Virtues Of Our 5.5 Inch Foam Pads Explained

5_inch_foam_pads_explained_thumbnailBuffing pads are as critical to paint correcting as tires are to a race car’s performance. Like a tire, a pad interacts with a stable surface, impacting how energy is managed including grip, firmness, rigidity, and heat management. All these attributes have a major effect on your paint finishing results, so choosing wisely is imperative.

Buffing pads are offered in many variations; a wide range of sizes, a multitude of shapes, configurations, and construction techniques; not to mention the number of different raw materials manufacturers can use. We have discussed the difference between foam and micro fiber pads here already but our recent addition of a 5.5″ foam pad to our lineup that includes a 6.5″ pad has raised questions regarding the benefits and drawbacks of pad size in the paint care equation.

Q: “How much greater is the pad area of the 6.5″ pad compared to the 5.5”, and what does that mean?

A: Our calculations show a 5.5″ pad sports a total surface area of 23.76 in² and a 6.5″ pad has a total surface area of 33.19 in². The pad surface area difference between the two is nearly 40%! The effects of this difference on the detailing process will be addressed later in this post.

5_inch_foam_pads_explained_02Q: “What is the benefit of retro-fitting the 6″ random orbital to the 5″ pad system?”

A: The advantages of our 5″ system includes variables such as…

Energy transfer: More power to the paint

The energy generated by the random orbital’s motor is transferred through the output shaft/counterbalance via the backing plate. This energy is safely controlled via a random orbit, but can be influenced by the pad type and size selected. The more energy transfer, the greater the defect removal capabilities. For example, our Micro Fiber FAST Cutting Pad and Orange Correcting Foam pad absorb less energy, having a more efficient transfer. Conversely, our Black Finishing and Red Waxing pads absorb more energy making them less aggressive delivering waxes and sealants in a less aggressive fashion. Our 5″ system exhibits more efficient energy transfer than our 6″ system (6″ and 6.5″ pads), improving paint correcting capabilities.

Additionally, the smaller the pad size, the more aggressive the tool becomes, as the energy is being focused on a smaller area. Not only does the energy transfer increase, the pressure from the weight of the tool and downward pressure from the user is also focused on a smaller area; applying more pounds per square inch. Larger pads, like our 6.5″ offerings, distribute that pressure across a greater surface area, diminishing the paint correcting capacity.

Pad rotation: Faster rotation delivers quicker correction

Pad rotation is affected by pad size because less surface area equates to less surface tension, reducing the resistance to the random orbital’s application of torque. As a result, the pad rotates at a higher RPM. The more rotation, the more defect removal/paint correcting abilities. Remember, the downward pressure applied, pad firmness, and the liquid being used determine the pad’s ability rotate and work the surface. The more controlled rotation, the more defect removal/paint correcting abilities. The benefit to rotation exhibited via a random orbital is that it’s free and not direct drive. In other words, the rotation will slow or stop if the pad encounters a body line or molding. This contributes to the safe user experience, contrary to that of a direct drive/rotary machine that will continue to spin even when encountering said body line or molding. A 5.5″ pad will rotate generally 15-20% quicker than a 6.5″ pad, thus contributing to more efficient defect removal capacity.

Maneuverability: Navigate the corners with ease

A smaller pad will track more smoothly across complex body panels and reach around trim, bumpers, and lights. The tighter platform contributes to a more connected feel for the paint, delivering a more precise approach on body panels.

Q: “What are the drawbacks of retro-fitting the 6″ random orbital to the 5″ pad system?”

A: There are only two minor drawbacks of retro-fitting our 5″ system…

Heat dissipation

By virtue of its smaller size heat dissipation is less on a smaller pad. But the elliptical buffing motion of a random orbital dramatically minimizes the dangers of heat-related damage. As a result of higher pad rotation and energy transfer, a 5.5″ pad creates temperatures averaging as much as 10-percent higher than a 6.5″ pad, resulting in more effective defect removal. It is worth noting that regardless of pad size selected, the heat ranges generated are still well within the safety parameters of today’s paint finishes.

Pad maintenance

A smaller pad requires more frequent cleaning, as product/paint loads the pad quicker. We recommend briefly running a Pad Conditioning Brush on the pad face after every panel.

Q: “Won’t a smaller pad mean longer detailing sessions?”

A: This depends on the size of the area you are detailing; i.e. a small trouble spot where a dangling fuel cap has left a blemish for instance versus the entire vehicle. A smaller pad is able to better concentrate its buffing effects on a smaller target so it will be quicker.

The smaller size may enable you to prevent loading polish/wax residue into cracks and crevices as a result of the improved control. This would reduce overall detail time, minimizing the cleanup of jams and emblems.

Also, the severity of the defects in question can make a smaller pad the right call. For example, a 6.5″ pad may take two full buffing cycles or more passes to remove the same stubborn defect a 5.5″ pad may accomplish in one pass.

Q: “What are the benefits of a 6.5″ pad?”

Bear in mind, the benefits of a 6.5″ pad is its ability to cover more surface area with reduced passes. If the paint surface is defect free and fine-finishing or waxing/sealing is your primary goal, the larger pad may enable you to perform the process quicker because pad aggressiveness is no long part of the equation. So, tackling a large SUV, RV, or boat with a 6.5″ pad makes sense.

Look at your pads like ratcheting socket wrenches. You’ll need a long handled driver to break loose over-tightened bolts, a short handled driver to get at bolts in tight quarters, and a standard driver for regular bolts that require average amounts of nimbleness and leverage. So it makes sense to have both 5.5″ and 6.5″ pads in your car care toolbox.

5_inch_foam_pads_explained_01Q: “Will the 5″ Orbital Backing Plate fit my Griot’s Random Orbital?”

A: The 5″ Orbital Backing Plate fits recent model Griot’s Garage 6″ Random Orbitals (p/n 10750, 10765, or 10813), and random orbital/dual-action tools that accept a 5/16″ – 24 threaded shaft. It is not compatible with the four-screw mounting system on the original Griot’s Garage Random Orbital (p/n 10925).

Bottom line, the 5.5″ pads may enable a user to better remove paint defects like scratches, swirls, and stains. When correcting paint, it is best to correct only finishes that have incurred defects and use the least aggressive method when doing so. Don’t correct the finish if it is defect free! The smaller pad may enable you to access tighter spaces and improve control when approaching body lines or moldings. The reduced weight of the five inch system may contribute to smoother machine operation as well. Hopefully this post sheds some light on the differences between our foam systems.

Have fun in your garage!




  1. Ralph Law says:

    With all the benefits and the promoting of hype regarding these 5.5″ pads – why not simply offer the DA polisher with either a 5″ backing plate or a 6′ BP? Do-it-yourself folks will be better served using smaller pads.

    Having to be forced to buy GG pad to obtain a 5inch back plate from the GG website is ludicrous and simply chases customers to other sites.

    • Hi Ralph,

      Thank you for the recommendation about our 5″ system and offering the plate as an option on the orbital. Customers are what drive much of our development and your idea will be forwarded on to our marketing department.

      In the meantime, you can purchase the 5″ Orbital Backing Plate individually from our website or out of our most recent catalog on page 9. ~john

      • I don’t think to many people will exit over 49.99 for a conversion kit????? Yeah, I’m going to switch over to the x brand and spend 399.99 on a polisher that Griot can do at a much smaller impact to my pockets….. Yeah that makes sense…… thanks Griot for updating your system to stay competitive in the market and increasing the correction power of your product.

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