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Old 04-25-2005, 09:09 AM
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What the heck is it?

Well, the wagon is off to the paint shop and I'm planning to clean up all the trim while it's gone so the old beat up stuff won't embarrass the new paint.
My problem is that I don't know what kind of metal it is. It's an 81' Malibu wagon....if that's any help, and a magnet will not stick to it. It doesn't seem to have any kind of coating on it so I don't think its aluminum. Stainless maybe? How do you tell?
I've read that there are slight differences in the way various types of metal should be polished as well as different ways to try to prevent them from tarnishing. Any suggestions?
I tested a piece by wet sanding, starting with 220 to remove scratches, and working up to 1500 before switching to red compound, then white, then polish and it turned out great but it was a heck of a lot of work! If there's an easier way to restore really wasted trim I'd love to hear about it!!

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Old 04-25-2005, 10:59 AM
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80's iron

That might actually be stainless steel, because a magnet won't stick to stainless. I don't think that an 81' wagon would have an all aluminum body. what is the gross vehicle weight of your wagon?
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Old 04-25-2005, 11:02 AM
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Probably an aluminized alloy...................by the 80s, GM was too cheap to use much stainless.
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Old 04-25-2005, 11:19 AM
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It's just the window trim, drip rail, etc. that I'm doing. I'm sure the body is steel. That booger is heavy 3,200 without a driver.
Whatever the trim is made of is some tough stuff! Been working on sanding out some scratches this morning and it really wears the paper down quickly. I just don't know what to do with it once I get it all polished up. Clear lacquer or wax?
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Old 04-25-2005, 02:09 PM
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If you are talking about trim, I seriously doubt there is any stainless, I think it was all anodized (with a clear after polishing) aluminum. There is also a lot of chromed pot metal in those years.

Brian
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Old 04-25-2005, 05:27 PM
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Well all I know is that stainless wasn't magnetic. I forgot about the use of crappy pot metal, which sucks if you have to weld it or shape it. I was roped into welding a model car body made of pot metal by my little cousin which took forever and turned out looking like dog meat. What grit sandpaper are you using? Walmart stores carry a paint and rust stripper made by 3m. It's only a few bucks and is used with a drill I think. A friend of mine who is a painter uses these and sais that they work really well.
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Old 04-25-2005, 07:30 PM
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Sorry for the confusion guys! What I'm trying to polish it just the trim or molding pieces....you know, the shiny silver stuff....or at least the stuff that used to be shiny and is now all scratched and dull. te he
I'm beginning to think that maybe it does have some kind of coating on it because when I tried just using Mothers polish on a piece that wasn't in bad shape it looked better but there was still a milky looking film on it when the light hit it just right. Maybe tomorrow I'll try oven cleaner or paint stripper on a spot and see what happens.
I've been starting with 220 grit wet and working up. So far the 220 has been enough to get the scratches out, it just takes a LOT of rubbing. I've got one of those 3M thingies.....don't know what the proper name is. It works pretty well for removing paint and rust but I think it would be way too course for something like this.
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Old 04-25-2005, 07:40 PM
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It is anodized aluminum. If you started buffing or sanding, the clear has to be striped off now.

Brian
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Old 04-25-2005, 09:32 PM
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It's all anodized alluminum on that year, there are products available for removing the anodized coating. Once the anodize is removed the alluminum sands and buffs easily and will look way better than new. You'll need to polish it lightly now and then while on the car to keep it from oxidizing. The anodized coating is for protection from the elements. Do a search on removing anodized coating and I'm sure you'll find a lot of info. Bob
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Old 04-26-2005, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baddbob
It's all anodized alluminum on that year, there are products available for removing the anodized coating. Once the anodize is removed the alluminum sands and buffs easily and will look way better than new. You'll need to polish it lightly now and then while on the car to keep it from oxidizing. The anodized coating is for protection from the elements. Do a search on removing anodized coating and I'm sure you'll find a lot of info. Bob

All that trim is anodized as stated above. Anodizing is a purposely oxidized aluminum surface which is treated in electro-plating baths that produce a thick aluminum oxide coating that is very stable. It is wearing out your sand paper because aluminum oxide is what they use in premium grinding stones - second in hardness to diamond! To refinish your trim you will need to chemically totally strip off that oxide coating, otherwise you will never match the coated/non-coated surfaces. You CANNOT polish the existing aluminum oxide surface - it will always have that 'coated' look. Once the bare aluminum is repaired and polished, have it clear powder coated and it will be better than new. From the factory it was bright but never near-chrome shiny like polished aluminum. Bigger plating shops can strip the anodizing. Check in Hemming's Motor news classifieds for mail order shops that will do it if you can't find one in your town.
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Old 04-29-2005, 02:32 PM
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Stripping anodizing

Bluebu. I've heard that original Easy Off oven cleaner will strip off anodizing. Be sure to get the stuf in the yellow can. Just be sure to follow all of the safety warnings. This stuf is highly caustic. That's what disolves the aluminum.
You might want to think about what I did with the trim on my Malibu wagon. Get some 3M striping tape, I used 3/4", and carefully lay tape on the bright work. I wanted a blackout look for the side windows and windshield and back glass frame, so I used gloss black tape. This stuf works great and won't come off. Just be sure to peel the protective coating off after applying the tape.
Send me a PM with your email and I'll send you some photos, if you're interested.
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Old 04-30-2005, 06:56 AM
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Dang! Just typed a long reply to this and lost it in cyberspace!

Thanks guys!! I did some poking around the internet and finally confirmed that sodium hydroxide, lye, will indeed remove the anodizing from aluminum but I wasn't able to find any instructions on how to mix or use it so I decided to do a little experimenting. I've used lye in the past to strip furniture so I know what can happen if you use too strong a solution or if you leave it on an item too long....don't ask!
You are right, Grogetter, the original Easy Off oven cleaner is nothing more than lye so I decided to use it rather than guessing at the ratio of lye to water for a bath.
After some experimenting I discovered that spraying it on full strength and letting it sit for 20 minutes did the trick without eating into the aluminum underneath the coating. The only problem I had was that the foam tends to have air bubbles in it that leave the coating spotty in places. I pretty much eliminated that problem by waiting 10 minutes, after the first application, and spraying a second coat over the first. That removed the anodizing evenly. Once the coating was gone the molding sanded and polished up very easily. It turned out looking much better than it ever did new!
I think that mixing a lye bath would be better for small pieces but for larger stuff the oven cleaner is definitely the way to go and you can't argue with the price!
Good idea with the tape!! I'd originally planned on painting all the bright work black but after seeing the dark blue on the jambs I began to think that the car might need some bling so I'm planning on polishing up all the moldings and then putting it all back on one side of the car before deciding which pieces to black out. Wouldn't want the old wagon to look like a hearst!
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