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Polishing up Aluminum with pealed lacquer
I haven't seen this here so will post my run through as my bike is apart and needs to look better.

Older bikes have an issue that plagues most and is a pain where the lacquer coating on the aluminum parts starts to peal or get worn away. Yes it sucks and takes a bit of elbow grease but you can be shiny again with a bit of work.

It is best if you can remove the part as it is so much easier to work with, but not necessary if you want to just look good, but honestly removing the part is really best. For this I am doing an alternator conversion and had to remove the timing belt covers and then say the real problem with cleaning them up, pealed lacquer.

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I will say you need a few things to do this job, but the results are worth the money!

Nothing here is rocket science and your results will be exactly how much work you put into it. I will mirror my covers. an example is from a barn find 1987 honda rebel which I have sold, but is a good example of what can be done.

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And after on bike polishing.

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Note: Here is you do remove the protective coating, but at the point as the example photos whats the point, so it takes more maintenance to maintain but is ready for a quick run over with some Mothers to look good as long as you keep it up. Looks better then stuff you clean and looks spotty due to the damaged lacquer.

*** Clean all the grit off the surface before busting out sand paper!***

*****Parts that are covers are usually cast aluminum, don't use power tool sanders and always always use long strokes except in tight areas****

I take the 120 grit and just break the surface over all of the part. This includes the nooks and crannies. The areas that still have lacquer on them hit a bit more. The reason for this is the lacquer will gum up paper in the dry sand process as it removes. It is the nature of what it does.

Don't worry you will be back at this process again to break the stubborn lacquer again I will show pics tomorrow showing what I mean.
1984 GL1200 Interstate
#1 04-11-2013, 05:09 PM,
Use paint remover to remove the clear coat, then 400 grit it will eliminate a lot of sanding.
#2 04-11-2013, 09:28 PM,
I usually don't recommend remover as if you are not careful part damage can occur quickly.

I will agree if you are experienced yes use it but be watchful when using it. And yes I normally use it but interruptions can cause a issue quick on cast aluminum parts.
1984 GL1200 Interstate
#3 04-13-2013, 08:12 AM,
Well here we go, a couple before pics.

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I cheated a bit and bought a medium grade sanding sponge to help in the initial contour sanding. I used this to break the lacquer from the aluminum. Works nice but you loose the feel of it.

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Here are just some pics showing areas where the lacquer is present.

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I see I need to break this up to 5 pics per post.

Example of the lacquer coming off as you work.

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Here is where I am done with the medium sanding sponge. nothing spectacular but it has definitely cleaned up.

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I sanded it all with a 220 grit dry then proceed into wet sanding. Wet sanding is nice just keep it wet and drench the paper anytime it feels like it is starting to drag. Also if you suddenly feel a chunk under the paper stop and clean the paper in water and clean the surface you are working on.

320 wet
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.jpg   IMG_0147.jpg (Size: 62.8 KB / Downloads: 13) 600 wet
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1200 wet
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Now at this point the part is not near done, but am going to now break out power tools and use a die grinder with a 1/4" arbor to begin to polish wo see what really needs more work. Once you start to use the black polishing rouge you will begin to see what needs work.

Here is a easy to get polishing kit that works great for parts.

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When using a die grinder be careful about how you work the piece. Don't work an edge with the rotation pulling towards the edge ALWAYS work with the rotation pulling into the surface being polished. Working this way you minimized the chance of having the chuck on the tool damaging the part. The polishing wheels will grab the edge of the part too fast for you to stop it from causing damage.

My understanding is you could use a drill to do this too, but since I have tools that spin at the best rpm's for the job I use them.

After using the black rouge.

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A note here is with the kit you have 3 different size wheels and 4 different rouges. When using black, always use the smallest wheel. Reason is that for final polishing you want the highest rpm to the surface of the part. also the smaller wheel with the black cutting compound lets you work the odd contours to get out the marks you want cleaned up. The largest wheel is for finish polishing, I recommend buying an additional wheel in the 6" range for final polishing.

This part is not done, as the polishing shows you where it needs more work.

but I did take it to the next level and use the bigger wheel with the red rouge to show the results. For most this will be good enough, but I want mirror finish so will go back to sanding the areas that need it to remove any marks from the first time through. Here are pics of where I am at.

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1984 GL1200 Interstate
#4 04-13-2013, 01:01 PM,
very nice, worth the effort
The only stupid questions are the one's that are not asked.

#5 04-13-2013, 03:35 PM,
Very nice finished job and great post. Seeing this post reminds me of all those hours spent on my 1969 Norton Commando polishing the aluminum and it was very time consuming although extremely satisfying. Today, with the engine in my Wing painted black I just need to wash it occasionally and if it needs touching up I just use a spray can and it looks like new again. Why did I paint it black in the first place? Clued in engine builders know that an engine painted black can actually produce more horsepower (5%) due to the thermodynamics involved. Though I've got to admit that a sparkling polished aluminum or chrome engine sure looks pretty. Please let us know how long the shine stays bright.

P.S. Are you sure that it is lacquer on your aluminum? I always thought it was clear powder coat on our Wings' engine parts.
Ed (Vic) Belanger - 1954-2015
Founder of

#6 04-15-2013, 03:48 PM,
P.S. Are you sure that it is lacquer on your aluminum? I always thought it was clear powder coat on our Wings' engine parts.

I did too???
1986 SEi Limited Edition. 1985 Aspencade
If it's not broke, I can fix that!
#7 04-15-2013, 04:09 PM,
Believe me Vic, it stays that way very long, and also doesnt take up much in the way of effort, a coating of wax, keeps it looking good.

well if powder coat comes off with paint remover or brake fluid.....
The only stupid questions are the one's that are not asked.

#8 04-15-2013, 04:42 PM,
Actually it is a lacquer, all of the parts are run through a bake process, but it is not powder coating. The process is similar but not powder coating in the realm of what powder coating is. The other aspect here is I want a mirror finish to what I am doing. Clear powder coating is never clear as a powder coat, It always discolors under aluminum if made to be mirrored. Once done is easy to re-polish a couple times a riding season to maintain by hand. wax on wax off basically. just use a non-acidic wax.
1984 GL1200 Interstate
#9 04-20-2013, 03:24 PM,
Your coating must be different than the ones I've touched, because, I tried soaking the parts in lacquer thinner and it did not soften or make a difference in the surface. I was a professional auto painter for a number of years, so, I have a pretty good handle on how paint and coating systems work. Powder coating is pretty much just powdered paint and when baked at a fairly high temp it gases all the solvents away. It's the solvents that make paint weak and succeptable to other solvents like brake fluid and anti freeze. I love the looks of highly polished aluminum and I'm anxious to see pics of the finished project or better yet, come up to our meet on August 17th in Sudbury and show us how she shines in person.
Ed (Vic) Belanger - 1954-2015
Founder of

#10 04-20-2013, 03:49 PM,

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