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Aluminum Engine parts - I'm ok, but I want perfection!

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  • Aluminum Engine parts - I'm ok, but I want perfection!

    Hello guys, I’m new to the boards hoping to get some help.

    I have been polishing engine parts on my car for a while now and am wondering about my process.

    I just have been following the way I was told by a friend, which works most the time, but I often run into problems which take forever to fix.

    Here’s what I do for aluminum coated in the factory casting junk.

    Sand w/40, move to 80, to 120, to 180, 220, 320 to get it as smooth as possible, all chunks out, etc. No dings, dents, bumps, pimples.

    Then I move to Tripoli on a spiral sewn wheel.

    Lastly I use white rouge. I HAD been using a spiral sewn wheel but moved to a looser flap wheel and haven’t seen much improvement. So I will probably move back to a spiral sewn.

    I have been able to produce shiny results but never a perfect mirror-like finish. I’ve gotten to “blurry mirror” status, which still looks amazing from a foot away, but I’m always wanting better. It’s a sickness, as you know!

    I’m also using a 1400RPM drill which I’m sure needs to be replaced for something more fit and quick for the job.

    Before I move on to the next grit of sanding (which I do on a vibrating sander, then by hand) I always make sure it’s as smooth as I think it can get. I’m thinking I might be missing something here as I do get a few scratches left over. Am I to sand endlessly without seeing or feeling any results? I’m not sure if they are there and I just can’t tell.

    Would it be beneficial to use emery before OR in place of tripoli?

    Here’s a sunlit picture of my engine for anyone interested. The intake is the part I’m mostly worried about right now, as it’s large and prominent in the engine bay. It’s driving me nuts!

    If that doesn’t work, you can click on:



  • #2
    Also - I'm wondering if a metal polish, like Wynol or Mothers, would help me in that final stage to get the mirror like shine I want. They CLAIM it'll work, but I'm very skeptical when it comes to spending $10 per bottle or more, when it only takes me 5 minutes to decide whether it works or not. That's extra buffs I could be buying!



    • #3
      I know exactly what you mean. I bought my bike and got the bug and its become an all consuming part of my life now. Its never good enough. I can email some digital pics I took of the frame of the bike and you will see how detailed I am. Its one of the newer crotch rockets so part of the frame is rough cast and at the weld it becomes a silver anodized. The rough cast being the pain to level down. [/img]


      • #4
        Your process just needs to be modified, along with your tooling in my opinion. You should be polishing at between 2500-3600 RPM or so with 4-6 inch wheels. I personally use a 3450 buffer, with 8 inch sisals and 6 inch spiral sewns and loose wheels. Your 2 biggest problem are your tool speeds, and the fact that you're not using a sisal. 75% of the real polishing should be done with sisal wheels and black emory/super sisal compound. I dont even use brown, i go right to white after black. I suggest picking up a bench top buffer as your first step. Here is a pic of a few things i've done using the above mentioned method (black on a sisal and white on a loose):

        My camera is horrible and as we all know polished parts NEVER photograph well. Good luck.


        • #5
          hey tomg, that plug cover is awesome you could shave looking in that.
          is it steel or aluminum? i'm starting to get the polishing bug looking at your work


          • #6
            Thanks duke...polishing is pretty fun.....a lot more work if you ask me compared to powder coating. That plug cover is billet aluminum.


            • #7
              yeh, well i don't need any more work


              • #8
                duke i got that bug !!! and i am having fun with it .


                • #9
                  i think the thought of all that polish flying around and making a mess frightens me, as i only have 1/2 a double garage to work in.
                  she who must be obeyed would be very upset if i got polish on her car,
                  or on the floor on her side


                  • #10
                    Yeah, that black dust goes all over the place. Maybe you can pull her car out of the garage before you start and hang some painter's plastic to try and contain the dust.

                    I built a "paint booth" out of 4mil plastic and some 2x4s that I bolt together. I set it up in the driveway (The neighborhood HOA "snitch" always gives me **** for this) on top of some more plastic, don my spray gear and have at it. So far I've seen no evidence of escaping spray from the paint gun. When I'm done for the day, it breaks down in about 10 mins.

                    Maybe a similar setup would work for your polishing.


                    • #11
                      i guess i'll just have to bite the bullet & build a workshed in the back yard.
                      it's to cold at this time of year to work in the garage anyway.


                      • #12
                        Sounds like a personal problem. It was pretty nice here yesterday. Mid 60s, sun was out and the breeze was relatively warm. I actually broke out in a sweat buffing in the sun. (Or was I sunning in the buff??)

                        man it sucks to be in Southern California in the winter. hehehe


                        • #13
                          Newbe HELP

                          Just got an 8" buffer; 3/4 hp, 3450 rpm, 3/4" shaft.
                          It appears that it needs pads at least 3/4" thick to work. Right?

                          Here goes...I need the Right Stuff . I'll be polishing aluminum on my bike 90% of the time.

                          I've been reading a lot of the posts from this awsome forum, and trying to put everything in prospective. Only doing a fair job of it though.

                          Before getting the buffer I spent 8 hrs. sanding the aluminum parts I made for my new luggage rack with the following; 80 grit, then 120, 220, 330, 440 and finally 660.

                          Then went to polish it with a buffer we have at work, drill press, stupid stuff.

                          Started buffing, only to find out that I didn't completely remove one of the earlier layers of sanding 100%. ARGH!!!!! I was about to throw them across the shop before spending another 8 hrs trying to rectify the mess. "THAT's" when I knew I had to take it to the next step.

                          "Most aluminum I use is just mill finish".

                          Need to know:

                          METAL PREP WHEELS and COMPOUND(S)
                          1. What are the right wheels to use to avoid all the sanding BS I went through before?
                          2. Can I eliminat the sanding by just using compound and the right wheel?
                          3. What compounds and order should be used?
                          4. Do I need to have a separate wheel for each compound used?

                          POLISHING WHEELS and COMPOUND(S)
                          1.Size and type to get the best possible results, in what order, with what compound.

                          Thanks for your patience, I just want to be as good as all of you.



                          • #14
                            This is a simple explanation of how i go about polishing aluminum. Sand with greaseless compound on a spiral sewn whee(4 inch) on a low speed drill. I usually start with a 120-240. I than hand wet sand with a 320/400 grit to even the surface up. I than move to 8 inch double stacked sisal wheels with the black super sisal emory compound. Use very little compound often at this step. Spend a LOT of time on this step as the more you do now, the better it looks in the end. Pay careful attention to your cutting and polishing actions. I next move onto double stacked 6 inch loose wheels with the normal white rouge compound. Use more compound less often here. This gives me great results are seems to work the best for me. Polishing technique varies from person to person so it involves a lot of trial an error. Also pickup a set of long shaft extenders for your buffer, it makes life easiar. If you're using the buffer i think you are, dont use 8 inch loose or spiral sewn (if you decide to use brown rouges), its not strong enough, use 6 inchers. ALso make sure to clean with brake cleaner/alcohol inbetween compounds to prevent cross contamination. Always use different wheels with different compounds, never share. A hot part is a good part when it comes to polishing, it helps the compounds fluidize and work better. Theres tons of little tips we can all tell you, but the basics are where you should start and from there you'll learn tons more. Good luck.


                            • #15
                              i been using the greaseless on my buffer @3500 rpm and it has been holding up for 30 tears up the part if you are not careful... but with a low speed you get more time out of the bad ... but use i pad for each compound ... and they will add up like a bunch of rabbits ....