I just bought a new car. In the past I maintained the finish of my cars by hand polishing and waxing. Over the years I'd gotten lazy and put it off because my last car wasn't in good shape and no amount of polish would fix the issues. That's all changed now, so I've been investigating the latest in cleaning and polishing "tech" on the Internet. What I found was a lot of professional detailer's videos showing how easy it is to get a good finish on a car with today's polishes and waxes. Almost all of them are using the Porter Cable 7424XP random orbit polisher.
First, the 7424XP: I've tried polishing wheels in the past and none of them were easier to use than hand buffing. The problem with the cheap ones is that they usually only run at one speed (too fast), and aren't counter-balanced, so by the end of the day my hands would be numb from holding the buffer all day. This one is a completely different animal. It can run at a very slow speed, is lightweight, and the counter-balance on the wheel minimizes vibration. It isn't cheap, but I'm sure it will last forever too. Being able to adjust the speed down makes it much easier to control and doesn't throw polish all over the place. I found it to be quieter than most of the cheap units as well (it's still a power tool so some noise can be expected. It might be worse if I were using it in a garage).
Now, on to the kit: If you are starting from scratch, this is a good kit to buy. It comes with all the pads, the hook and loop mount, and two microfiber cloths. The pads are color coded from very hard to very soft. I couldn't tell the difference between the black and red, but I think the order is like this: Orange: heavy duty cutting White: Medium cutting Blue: fine cutting Black: finishing/waxing Red: finishing/waxing
The pads are "just thick enough" to hold polish or wax, but not so thick that they soak up the liquid and waste it. They are a spongy material and look like they'll hold up for a few uses at least. There's no comparison to some of the "bonnet" type pads on some of the polishing wheels I've used in the past, which were usually made of terrycloth or some other fabric and only lasted one time. Since my car is new (literally delivered from the factory 3 days ago), I didn't need to do much cutting to remove swirl marks or other aggressive action. Just polish and wax (and I just polished the hood due to time constraints).
The kit also includes pad cleaner and conditioner. I didn't try the conditioner, but the cleaner works well, breaking down the wax easily under warm water. I'm sure this will extend the life of the pads as well.
And finally, the microfiber cloths are good for removing the cleaner and wax after it dries. They are just the right size to fit in a back pocket while you're working and don't leave any residue or lint behind. Two is a minimum to get started, I used old towels for drying off the car after washing, and these for the polish and wax. I'll be buying more in the future for the windows and interior.
About the only complaint I have is that it's expensive. But it does make it easy to get good results without a lot of hassle and time. It took me about 2 hours to wash and wax, vs most of an afternoon to wax by hand. There's still hand work to be done (around the grill and in the door jams), but for the large body panels it is quick and easy.
One last note: I used Meguiar's Mirror Glaze polish and Meguiar's NXT wax. It was getting cold last night (around 40°F) and the wax worked just great. No clumping or other issues at all.