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What should I use to wax and buff the hull?

2013 June 17

Dear Boat Doctor,

I would like to machine wax my boat and I am looking for the best tool to use. I have seen people using large automotive-style buffers, but these seem like overkill for my purposes. I'd like a nice motorized buffer that will cut down on my manual labor and not some over-the-top, professional-level tool.

Craig Lyons

Corpus Christi, Texas

Dear Craig,

Waxing and polishing by hand can be daunting because there is a lot of area to cover and you need to use a little elbow grease to do a good job. Power buffers can do a fine job, but they are big, heavy tools, and used improperly can cause damage to the finish of your boat.

A better choice is an electric dual-action polisher with a foam pad. This is a relatively new tool, or really the evolution of an old one. These tools can work as hard as a professional orbital buffer, but they are lighter, cheaper and more forgiving. Dual-action (sometimes called random orbit) means the pads rotate around a central spindle and the spindle oscillates around a random center. If used with a light touch, they orbit like a big buffer, but pressing too hard makes them stop turning to prevent heat buildup and damage. The tool provides twice the action of hand-polishing. My favorite is the Porter-Cable 7424XP, which you can usually find for less than $150.