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Old 12-16-2011, 06:03 PM
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Cleaning tarnished aluminum

My underhood polished aluminum is really getting tarnished. I've tried a number of polishing compounds but nothing seems to work. The valve covers are die cast aluminum. These were pretty nice when new but have been a real pain to even keep clean. They look terrible now. I got after them with some metal polish today and all that happened was the tarniish got polished. Even after using a buffer.

Help!!! What can I use to clean this mess up???

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Old 12-16-2011, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bentwings
My underhood polished aluminum is really getting tarnished. I've tried a number of polishing compounds but nothing seems to work. The valve covers are die cast aluminum. These were pretty nice when new but have been a real pain to even keep clean. They look terrible now. I got after them with some metal polish today and all that happened was the tarniish got polished. Even after using a buffer.

Help!!! What can I use to clean this mess up???
I hope someone can come up with a solution. I asked that very question a couple years ago and it ended up with polishing with Meguire's or Mother's, neither of which helped that set of mid line valve covers - and as you said, polished the defects. I replaced that set with "premium" Billet Specialties, and while they aren't as bad, still have the white speckles and a haze that just wont buff out. One cure is to chrome plate them, but I prefer the somewhat muted tho shiny billet aluminum look. The other is to take them off and put them to the buffing wheel.

I've been thinking about that some over the past while - none are actually billet aluminum, but cast. It's my gut feel that while we can buff/clean them today, that tomorrow, next week or .... they will be as bad. Those white spots and 'speckles' are caused by entrained oxygen during the pour in some cruddy plant with little quality controls in some Far Eastern country, causing oxidation through the porous surface.

You can see how bad mine are here:

Dave W
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Old 12-16-2011, 09:12 PM
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Here's a product I found while looking to get the water spots and tarnish off of my tri-toon boats pontoons....and yes I was skeptical at first. It's called "Gords Polish" and can be found at www.gords.us. You use the polish and #0000 steel wool and BELIEVE me it really works. I had to stop using it on my pontoons because they started to get too shiny.

I've used it on my satin alum. '32 gas tank cap and my PRC radiator...shined them up to a highly polished finish that you can see yourself in. Gord's website has video's of polishing up very badly tarnished semi truck wheels, big oil field tankers....all kinds of stuff. Look at the web sites and make your own decision. It was around $35 for the big 32 oz. bottle but the Gords.us has it for $29......
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Old 12-17-2011, 02:13 AM
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You cI can also order smaller quantities of this.

Ireland...you VC's are beautiful compared to mine. haha I can see some spots that are the beginning of the mess I have.

I can have the VC's chrome plated pretty reasonable but I'm not convinced that it will be the solution. I think it is poor quality of casting. My wheels polish up very nice as does the blower scoop.
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Old 12-17-2011, 05:28 AM
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What you have to do with tarnished aluminum, is sand to down below the affected areas. The tarnish is actually pitting (microscopic). You start with a coarser paper and work your way to super fine paper and then polish with your compounds. I restored a couple of sets of wheels this way. Its a lot of work.

Or...You can take them to a professional buffer with the equipment to do it
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Old 12-17-2011, 05:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poncho62
What you have to do with tarnished aluminum, is sand to down below the affected areas. The tarnish is actually pitting (microscopic). You start with a courser paper and work your way to super fine paper and then polish with your compounds. I restored a couple of sets of wheels this way. Its a lot of work.

Or...You can take them to a professional buffer with the equipment to do it
I did my RV's aluminum wheels 2 years ago with steel wool and the compounds when I bought it (used) - and they looked pretty good. This coming spring, they will need it again, but more aggressively, i.e. wet and dry papers, then a coat of clear as I NEVER want to do that exercise again.

It sounds like it's time to drag out the motorized buffing wheels and the rouge as I'm thinking that the Gord's shown above wont do the job on cast as what their advertising is promoting is mostly sheet(Airstreams, tanker bodies) and billet stock(truck wheels), not reclaimed Japanese econobox engine blocks. Still might be great stuff once it's clean

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Old 12-17-2011, 02:40 PM
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Polished Aluminum

After you polish your aluminum use a product called Shark Hide (google it for a description) that is sold by Eastwood. Follow instructions and you won't have to polish every year. Great stuff.
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Old 12-17-2011, 03:15 PM
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one of the best ways i have found, is to put some smaller buffing wheels on your die grinder or dremel
and get out the polishing compound-go to work
you can also just use mothers (or whatever your paste/liquid alum. polish of choice is) and smear it around with the mini buffers
get where you can, and then you can blend it in by hand, if you cant get to the whole thing
if they are really bad i have found a greasless sanding compound ( i use the 320 grit) that works really well at cutting through the tough stuff first

then when you get them pretty good - you have to just go over them once in a while (A.K.A. maintance)
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Old 12-23-2011, 09:28 AM
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Use Brownpolymer to stop the corrosion

Once you get the alum sanded and polished you rub or buff with brownpolymer.
The alum will maintain its shine and salt water or acid doesn't have any effect on the alum. It leaves a film that's a protean Lipid membrane which organic material will not stick. Which also means that gas, oil or brake fluid will just wipe off. Doesn't collect dirt.
Thanks Randy
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Old 12-23-2011, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matts37chev
one of the best ways i have found, is to put some smaller buffing wheels on your die grinder or dremel
and get out the polishing compound-go to work
you can also just use mothers (or whatever your paste/liquid alum. polish of choice is) and smear it around with the mini buffers
get where you can, and then you can blend it in by hand, if you cant get to the whole thing
if they are really bad i have found a greasless sanding compound ( i use the 320 grit) that works really well at cutting through the tough stuff first

then when you get them pretty good - you have to just go over them once in a while (A.K.A. maintance)
This is my preferred method as well. I will wetsand with 400 grit paper on the worst areas and then start with buffing compound and die grinder. I did a set of original socal valve covers for my 51 and they turned out pretty good. The socals were never mirror polished so I just brought it back to what would have been original for the day.

If you are starting with something that was once mirror polished it should get there again with some work. It took me about 3 hours of solid work just to do two valve covers.

I'd finish off with mothers. It will take any of the compound residue off and I think it is one of the best out there for final polish.
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