Griot’s 3” Orbital Polishers Compared

I recently decided I needed a 3” orbital polisher to compliment my Flex 3401 6” Random Orbital polisher that I’ve used for years when polishing the finish on cars. I couldn’t decide whether to get the Griot’s 3” Random Orbital (which is electric) or the Griot’s 3” Pneumatic Orbital (which is air powered). So I ordered both. Griot’s fantastic customer service and return policy made this decision easy.

This post provides a comparison of the two polishers…

I love driving my cars, but I almost love keeping them looking new more. If you’ve ever seen my 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera in person you’ll know that photos like the one below, while great, do not do how great the paint looks after almost 23 years justice.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine fell into a 1989 325xi with 149K miles on it. It had been sitting for 3 years after encountering some sort of electrical gremlin. He bought it for $1000.
I took the following picture the day he got it to another friend’s shop to see how bad it was mechanically (it wasn’t bad at all; he spent about $1200 getting it 100% roadworthy including new tires; I drove it yesterday and it drives like new!).

Over the two days we took my Flex 3401 and went at it. I started with an orange pad using Menzerna SuperGloss followed by Menzerna PO85Rd, followed by One Grand Blitz Wax.
Here’s the “after photos”.
The bonnet was has the best paint on the car. It came out extremely well!

The 525xi has a lot of “tight curves” that the 6” pad on my Flex polisher simply can’t reach.  Hence why I decided I had to have a 3” polisher.

Griot’s shipped both out to me and I gave them a quick test on the paint on my 4-post lift in my garage.  Here are my conclusions:

I did a quick test on the powder coating of my 4 post lift and my conclusions are as follows:

Griot’s Professional 3″ Random Orbital – $94.99
Summary: Way too big and heavy for what it does. And what it does, it does poorly. The lightest of pressure while polishing causes the “clutch” to reduce rotational torque, stopping the pad from spinning. The only way to keep any RPMs up is to BARELY touch the surface of whatever you are polishing.

Griot’s 3″ Pneumatic Orbital – $79.99
Summary: Works great! Much, much smaller, lighter, and cuter than the their electric 3″ random orbital.

I did not find the Pneumatic too loud at all. It makes a nice whine sound a bit like a dentist’s drill. I suppose after several hours of using it would get tiring, but that’s true of electric tools as well.

After spending about the same amount of time polishing a face of one of the posts of my red lift the electric 3″ Random Orbital shows no pickup of oxidation and even still shows polish! The 3″ Pneumatic, however, shows an expected amount of oxidation. The finish of the post also is clearly actually polished where I used the Pneumatic. The finish where I used the electric is just clean.

You’ll need a good air compressor to run an pneumatic polisher.  The Griot’s documentation says at least 4 CFM @ 90PSI, but I suspect you’ll only really want to go this route if your compressor puts out 8-10 CFM @ 90 PSI.

Here you can see just how tiny the 3″ Pneumatic Orbital is in my hand. Compare that to the last photo showing the electric model.

The big, fat, slow, and weak electric (can you tell I’ve made my mind up?):

If you have an air system that can handle a pneumatic polisher (more than 4 CFM @ 90 PSI) then the air based too is the way to go.


  1. Sandro says:

    Nice write-up, Charlie. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Bill Thorpe says:

    I have a Craftsman Pro 25gal that is rated for 5.8CFM @ 90 psi, wudda you think? I need to get a good 3″ and like the size of the pneumatic one. In any case great write up and those before and after pics are absolutely insane!

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