The Porter Cable 7424 (also known commonly on detailing forums as a ‘PC’) is an incredibly versatile tool that anybody can use. With as soft and easy as our paint is to scratch and swirl, I think this tool should have come with the car. If you haven’t polished your car since you bought it then you likely have noticed the swirls and marring on the paint. A lot of that comes from what you use to wash and dry it with, but regardless of how the marks got there, they can be easily wiped out with the right tools.
This is what I would call a Buffer or an Orbital Polisher:
These are the kinds that people use because they saw their dads using them. Well, their dads used them because they saw their fathers using them. They are way out of date, ridiculously slow, and often just very very cheap. The typical Buffer costs about $50 bucks at WalMart and has about the same chance of improving the looks of your car as if you spent the same $50 bucks on Popsicles. They might be good at spreading wax, but that is really the limit of their functionality.
Then you have your ‘Rotary’ machines.
These are much more serious machines. You’ll see these at body shops frequently because they are required if you are going to get wetsanding haze out of fresh paint. They are heavy duty machines with an enormous potential for damage to your paint if not used correctly. I could probably post about a hundred pictures of damage caused by these machines. Actually, let’s just settle for one. This is what a rotary can do to your paint in the hands of an inexperienced operator:
This kind of thing is caused by the heat and friction these machines cause. They can leave holograms in the paint which do not simply wash away or wax off. They can be removed though, so at least holograms aren’t permanent damage. Rotary buffers CAN do other kinds of damage which is permanent, however. You can literally burn the paint right off your car with one of these. You can also restore your paint to factory perfection, so it is all in how much skill you have. Rotary machines take a lot of practice to master.
And then that takes us to the Dual Action Random Orbital polishers like the Porter Cable 7424:
Now this is a great machine that you have no reason to be afraid of. It has a ton going for it too. It is cheap (roughly $100 bucks brand new online), it is durable (I’ve had my PC since 2002 and I bought it used from a friend who had been using it for several years prior), and it is incredibly durable. Unlike the nylon geared ‘el cheapo’ buffers, this is a serious machine. Porter Cable knows how to do things right and this is probably going to outlast any of the cars you use it on. Like I mentioned, mine has a solid ten years of use on it being used probably somewhere around 15 hours a week six months out of the year. I have no doubt it will survive any project you put in front of it.
There are other versions of this machine out there. Meguiar’s has one, Griot’s has one, Flex has probably the best, and there are other lesser known manufacturers that have similar designs, but I wouldn’t recommend any of those guys. Meguiar’s, Griot’s, Flex, and Porter Cable are the brands I would trust.
You can use the PC either with two hands or one hand. In some cases it is necessary to use both hands, but when reaching across the roof or hood it is sometimes difficult to have both hands. The nice thing about this tool is that it isn’t going to get away from you if you are only using one hand. Just keep a grip on it and you should be fine. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about. You can tell by the pad on the PC that this is through 3 different stages of polishing. The red pad is my cutting pad for swirl removal. The green pad is what I use for applying the paint cleaner (in this case the Wolfgang Pre Wax Polish Enhancer) and the black pad is what I use for applying the final wax or sealant (Wolfgang).
The more you use this tool the more certain muscles will get a workout. Don’t be surprised the day after your first full polish job when you are sore in different places or if you have a blister on your thumb. That is just the way it is until you get used to it. Obviously I’m not the biggest guy in the world, but polishing a car is a good workout and you will definitely notice it in your arms and shoulders after awhile.
Very Important! Here are a couple tips on PC usage that you may not have considered. Never lift the PC off the paint while it is spinning. Always keep contact between the paint and the pad while the PC is on or else you will just end up flipping product all over the car, the walls, and yourself. Trust me on that. Turn the machine on and off while the pad is on the paint. Also, don’t wear anything that will scratch the paint. Necklaces, belt buckles, rings, watches, etc.. All of that can cause damage if you accidently rub against the car. I wear an apron for a couple reasons. Number one it is a great place to carry product around with me while I’m polishing the car. Number two is that my belt gets another layer of material between it and the car. When you are reaching across the hood or over the roof you don’t want to hear a grinding of your belt buckle and the paint. Especially on our paint. That is another reason to be careful with your watch. Large metal watch bands would love to scratch your paint. Take off your watch and rings while detailing if you feel they will be in the way. One more tip is regarding the cord. The best way to keep the cord from dragging along the paint is to throw it over your shoulder. That way you never have to worry about it. It is also much easier to move around the car when you aren’t trying to flip the cord out from under the tires or get it off the side mirror.
Cleaning your pads on the fly is pretty easy. Pads are much easier to clean when they are freshly used than after they have dried. What I do with mine is simply spray them off, shake the water out, and then put them on the PC for a short spin on setting 6. That usually gets enough water out that you can get back to work. If you spray the pad with high pressure and only aim at the front, then usually the back doesn’t get wet. If the Velcro gets wet on the back then you will have a hard time getting it to stick back on the PC. I would also suggest letting the pad cool down a bit before washing it off. Right after use there is a lot of heat that has been transferred from the pad up to the backing plate. The glue on the Velcro backing might be a little soft and it is a good idea to let it cool down before you risk getting it wet. Check out the Grit Guard Pad Washer review on here for another great way to wash your pads.
Something else that you might want to consider when polishing your car is to tape off the plastic trim. Polishes stain plastic trim if you don’t clean it up right away. The only trim on the Legacy that I see problems with is the area around the sunroof. Everything else seems to clean up pretty easily. To mask off the trim you want to protect, just use normal blue painters tape. It doesn’t leave sticky stuff behind and it will protect anything you don’t want messed up. You can also use it to cover any seams you don’t want product getting in. Just keep in mind that anywhere you tape off isn’t going to get polished or waxed. If you need to mask off seams around the door handles or body panels, then you might want to consider using really thin strips so you don’t end up with swirls left underneath where the tape was.
One other tip that isn’t PC related is in buffing off the product. I use a towel under each hand so that I’m not leaving streaks or smudges on the car. I also use latex gloves while detailing since all those chemicals can dry out your hands. After you have spend a few hours polishing up your lady’s car the last thing you want is for her to be in the middle of rewarding you and then make a comment about how dry your hands are.
f you run into stubborn areas where the product just doesn’t want to buff off then you might want to spray a little quick detailer or even just water on it. I keep a bottle of Four Star Gloss Enhancer handy for those situations. If nothing is available then you just need to use a little pressure on the towel while buffing. This is also an effective method:
The bottom line is that the PC is the easiest tool for detailing that you can use. You may have a lot of questions about how to use it and what to use with it and a million others, but once you get the tool in your hands you will figure it all out. It is an amazingly easy tool to use and you have nothing to worry about. If you do decide to get something like this and you have any questions, then don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I’ll be glad to offer any advice that might help. Enjoy your detailing!