How to Restore an Aluminum Finish on Motorcycles


Aluminum as a material of motorcycle construction and dress has become more and more prominent in recent years as manufacturers aim to make low-weight economic bikes. Some claim that the material doesn't have the same "luster" that chrome does, and so opt for heavier chrome-plated parts. Restore and dress up the look of your low-weight motorcycle by refinishing aluminum parts by hand.

Things You'll Need

  • 600 grit waterproof sandpaper
  • 800 grit waterproof sandpaper
  • 1000 grit waterproof sandpaper
  • Aluminum polish
  • Bucket
  • Rag
  • Using your owner's manual or motorcycle shop manual, remove the parts of the motorcycle that are to be polished. The most common polished aluminum parts are the side-covers, exhaust and wheels.

  • Fill a bucket with clean warm water and drop in a few pieces of 600 grit waterproof sandpaper. Allow them to soak for 5 minutes.

  • Lay out the parts to be polished on a cloth or tarp. This will make for easier cleanup of dust and shavings later on.

  • Choose the first part to be polished, and take a piece of 600 grit waterproof sandpaper out of the bucket. Begin sanding lightly and evenly over the entire surface. Be sure to sand out any scratches or valleys in the surface of the part. Keep the sandpaper wet at all times to make sanding smoother and more even.

  • Discard any used sandpaper, and use a wet rag to remove any dust or sand left behind on the surface. Inspect the part to be sure sanding is even and smooth.

  • Clean and refill the bucket with warm water. Drop in a few pieces of 800 grit waterproof sandpaper and allow them to soak for 5 minutes.

  • Sand the entire surface of the part lightly with 800 grit waterproof sandpaper. Keep the sandpaper wet at all times Be sure that sanding is even and that no valleys form in the surface.

  • Use a clean wet rag to wipe away dust and sand. Inspect the part. Continue sanding until the part looks smooth and relatively shiny.

  • Clean and refill the bucket with warm water. Drop in a few pieces of 1000 grit waterproof sandpaper. Allow this higher-grit paper to soak for 10 minutes.

  • Wet sand the entire surface of the part very, very lightly, ensuring an even, smooth finish. Keep the sandpaper wet, and replace sheets if necessary, as high-grit paper will go dull very quickly.

  • Clean the part thoroughly with soap and hot water. Allow the part to air dry completely. Using a rag to dry will leave streaks that will show through the polish.

  • Spread a thin layer of aluminum polish over the surface of the part. Using too much will result in a "muddy" finish. Using a clean, lint-free rag, buff the polish to a shine evenly and thoroughly. You may apply more polish at any time if necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be vigilant when buying sandpaper for finishing purposes. Using non-waterproof sandpaper will result in an uneven and gritty finish.

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