Table of contents
Rupes Bigfoot polishing systems are hands down, no questions asked the best polishing system we have ever used. From their dual action polishers, wool pads, microfiber pads, and foam pads to their polishing and cutting compounds. We have literally removed every other brand of polisher from our shop.
If you are a customer of our detailing shop in Grand Junction, CO, you can rest assured that the paint correction process we use, and even the quick polish and protection we use on detail, is the best you will see. We also include paint correction on all ceramic packages. If you are a professional in the detailing industry or an avid DIYer, the purpose of this article is to explain the offering to you.
Why We Love the Rupes Bigfoot System
First, notice we said system. The polishers, pads, and compounds all work together. When you throw a different brand of pad on a Rupes polisher it completely throws it off. Don’t take my word for it. Take your polisher and let it spin with no pad. Then a Rupes pad. Finally another brand. These things are balanced so perfectly that another brand of pad throws it off.
Speaking of balance, the lack of vibration alone is a game changer. They are more comfortable to use than any other product we have ever thrown away — I mean tested….
While I was at the Denver facility it was clear that much of the manufacturing was done in-house. As we dug in deeper we learned that all of their product is made in the USA or Italy. I am not talking about buying a motor from Taiwan and putting it into a plastic shell from Mexico while working in the USA. We are talking about the fact that they wind their own motors and literally build as many of the components as possible.
We can get a level 2 polish on at least 80% of the vehicles we see with a yellow wool pad and fine polish in a single step. If we ever have an out-of-warranty polisher in need of repair, we send it in with $100 and they rebuild the whole thing
Types of Polishers
For our purposes, there are three types of polishers. Rotary, Random Orbital Dual Action Polishers, and Forced Action, also known as gear-driven polishers. While there are still some applications for Rotary polishers in the RV, Marine, and even Auto Body industries; for the purpose of auto detailing there are better options. A rotary polisher simply spins in circles. As you add more force it cuts deeper. It is very easy to burn through paint, cause holograms, and have other issues. Many will rationalize that if you have a major issue, a dual-action polisher is simply not as efficient. We disagree. The bottom line is if you cannot remove a scratch with a coarse pad and cutting compound using a standard polishing technique, either your arms are moving too fast, you have the wrong combination, the scratch is through the clear, or you should jump to the X-Cut Wet sanding system and remove it quickly and easily.
In today’s detailing world, the dual action polisher is king. While a rotary polisher only has one movement a DA polisher is random and uses two movements. Random orbital dual-action polishers are most easily categorized by what is called the throw. In simple terms that is how far off of center the dual-action polisher swings. So for example an LHR21 will swing 21mm whereas an LHR 15 will swing 15mm. If you press on a dual-action polisher too hard it will stop performing.
The third type of polisher is loved or hated. A gear-driven or forced rotation polisher mimics the actions of a dual-action polisher. The difference is a forced rotation polisher just keeps spinning no matter how hard you push. In theory, you are combining the one advantage of a rotary polisher with all the advantages of a dual-action polisher. In reality, there are sacrifices on both sides. The huge advantage of this type of polisher is you can learn how to use it very very quickly. If you are a DIYer with no training or a shop that needs to onboard someone quick, having this type of polisher on hand might be a good idea. We do not use them, but they are gaining in popularity for a reason.
Pad size and throw work together in most respects. A larger pad size and a larger throw mean you are covering more area with each pass. So give me a 12″ pad with a 30 mm throw and let’s go knock some cars out! Not so fast…..
More About Throw
I recently spent three days in a class with Jason Rose at the Rupes facility in Denver. We spent a lot of time talking about the throw and the various impact it has. The bottom line is what do you need?
The short answer when someone asks me which polisher they need, my answer is YES. If you are a detail shop working on a variety of vehicles and varying conditions, you need multiple polishers. In our shop, we have multiple LHR21 and LHR15 and at least one iBird Nano, the Mini (LHR75E), and the Duetto (LHR12e).
The truth is we are a high-end shop performing lifetime ceramic coatings, paint corrections, and paint protection film. Having all of these polishers on hand is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
Not everyone is in our situation, so let’s get into some specifics.
If my wife called me on the phone and said you need to sell all your polishers but one, I would be completely devastated and probably ignore her 🙂 But if I absolutely had to I would keep the LHR15. The LHR15 is a 15 mm throw and a 5″ backing plate. It’s slightly oversized for some sports cars and slightly undersized for a large truck or SUV. While it is not ideal in every situation a skilled operator can polish almost any vehicle with it. The LHR15 is a jack of all trades.
The LHR21 has a 6″ backing plate and- you guessed it- a 21mm throw. Personally, I drive a Chevy 2500HD High Country. We live and work on the Western Slope of Colorado where big Trucks and SUVs are very common. The LRH21 makes quick work of larger vehicles while still being comfortable to use.
X-Cut. It has literally changed our lives when it comes to removing scratches and imperfections…. We measured and could literally remove less paint and remove scratches faster by sanding.
The LHR12 is perfect for small vehicles. As the Duetto name implies it is also a dual-purpose tool. Grab a foam interface pad and an X-Cut foam-backed wet sanding disc and you can wet sand larger areas quickly and safely.
The LHR75E has a 3″ pad and is great for body lines and other tight areas. It is also my go-to tool for taking out small scratches. Like the Duetto, it works great with an X-Cut sanding disc.
The iBird Nano is both battery-powered and ac power. We love to use it on door cups and hard-to-reach places. Personally, I will go around the edges with a nano or 3″ first as well as any smaller areas. My business partner Jeremy seems to make an LHR15 dance in those areas — so we will leave that to preference.
A quick story about the LHR75E with X-Cut. It has literally changed our lives when it comes to removing scratches and imperfections. I first tried it under Jason’s watchful eye on a rental truck in Denver — well we practiced on a hood first. We measured and could literally remove less paint and remove scratches faster by sanding. So I get back from the training and we have a full front PPF on a small Ford that is used to commute from Colorado to the Oil Fields of North Dakota every month. The bumper felt like sandpaper and our PPF applicator told us that there was simply no way the film was going to stick.
We grabbed our LHR75 that I had purchased on my cell phone after trying it. We also grabbed an X-Cut disc and a foam interface pad that Rupes had sent me home with. In about 6 minutes we had a smooth bumper ready for PPF. I will go into more detail on the X-Cut sanding discs in a later article.
I love Rupes pads but I do not love how they are sold. They give multiple measurements that make it confusing. There are times people will think they are buying a 6″ pad and they are buying a 5″ pad that is closer to 6″ on the polishing side. Always know the size of your backing plate and pay attention to the labels on the pads. Use the packing plate measurement. On a side note, Rupes polishers are made to very exact tolerances. Don’t just throw a 6″ backing plate on an LHR15.
I am going to oversimplify this a lot and I will go into more detail in another article.
Within each type of pad, white will be the finest. Then yellow, followed by blue. Often white is referred to as Ultra fine, yellow as fine, and blue as a coarse. In most cases, yellow is our go-to and we would consider it a medium. More on pad selection in a moment.
There is also a variety of materials used for pads. Rupes has traditional foam pads, wool pads, and microfiber pads. Generally speaking, using the same color of the pad, the foam will be the least aggressive and microfiber will be the most aggressive.
Rupes conveniently follows the same color code for their polish as they do their pads. That does not mean you can only use yellow polish on a yellow pad. The type of pad and polish you use is determined using a test spot.
Rupes refers to their while ultra-fine polish as Uno. Uno pure is one of the cleanest wiping polishes I have seen and is great to use before a sealer or ceramic. Uno protect is a single-step polish and finish. Uno advanced is the next generation of Uno Protect. The same idea, it just lasts longer.
If we are doing a detail that does not include a paint correction, we will polish the vehicle with Uno protect or Uno advanced. Typically with a yellow wool pad.
Pad & Polish Selection
A good detailer will remove as much paint as necessary to achieve the necessary result. A great detailer will remove as little paint as necessary to achieve the necessary
There is only one possible way to know the best combination to use. That is to try them! When you get good at this process, you will often find you can get a Level two polish in a single step.
I like to start on the hood. Prime your pads (see the next section) and polish a small area. More on area sizes later. I start with yellow yellow (Yellow pad and yellow polish). I prefer wool in most cases. Next to that, I will try Yellow Blue.
If I get the right result, I know what to do. If it is too aggressive, I will go from a wool pad to a foam pad. If it was not aggressive enough, I will try yellow-blue again and focus on arm speed. If not I will either up my pad to a microfiber or more likely try Blue Blue — in which case I typically will need to do a two-step polish. One thing that has stuck with me since my training: A good detailer will remove as much paint as necessary to achieve the necessary result. A great detailer will remove as little paint as necessary to achieve the necessary result.
The paint on vehicles is getting thinner and thinner. You should always test thickness first. If you can get a nice paint correction with a single step, there is no reason to remove more paint by doing a two-step. You can have a better long-term result for the customer and be more profitable at the same time.
Apply four drops or lines to the pad. Set the speed to two and run in the same place on the surface for 20 seconds.
Wool & Microfiber Pads
While foam pads spread compound and prime easily, wool and microfiber pads need more help. Create circles of polish on the pad, spread them evenly then run in place on the surface for 20 seconds at a speed of two.
Efficient Arm Speed & Area Size
Slow is fast. As I was told at the plant, you should be working so slowly that if your boss sees you they would fire you. Work in an area about the size of 6 pads but never wider than your shoulders. Overlap your passes by 50%. Make one set of passes left to right and another up and down (crosshatch). The process should take 45 seconds. Then repeat in next area.
Important Note: Since the goal of the Uno Protect and Uno advanced is not a paint correction, the process is different
Additional Helpful Hints
- Stay a thumbs width away from body lines
- Do small detail work first
- Learn how to clean and blow out pads effectively
- Close the bottle.
- Watch the entire Bigfoot Series Playlist
About The Author
Justin Krauss is the Co-Founder and Sales Manager of Auto Detailing 360. Auto Detailing 360 is an Authorized Rupes Distributor located in Grand Junction, CO. Auto Detailing 360 is also a Ceramic Pro Elite Dealer. As an elite dealer, they do detailing, ceramic coatings, paint protection film, and window tinting out of their Grand Junction Shop.