Aluminum Polishing


Personally, I think it’s a crime when people paint their aluminum engine covers. Polishing them is SO easy and the results look so good.  Others may have other and maybe better methods, but here’s how I do it.

We start with a typical 30+ year old clutch cover, clear coat yellowed, tarnished, pitted, and scratched.
* Pull the cover from the engine.  I suppose it could be done with it on, but having it in your hands makes it much easier.

* Use some heavy duty paint remover to strip the factory clear coat.  I’ve even used the stuff called ‘Aircraft Remover’, the funny thing is that the label says not to use it on aircraft.  The suff in the spray can is a waste, buy the gel stuff in a can and brush on.  You may need additional passes to get it all off.
*  Start hand sanding with 200 grit sand paper (100 if there’s a lot of damage) .   Then to the kitchen sink to do the wet sanding (note I’m single and live alone).  I generally used one sheet each 300, 400, 600, 1000 grit.   The higher the number the finer the grit, the smoother the finish.  The smoother you get, the closer you’ll get to that mirror like finish.   This part is the most time consuming and requires a lot of elbow grease.


*  Now back out to the garage for some serious power polishing.   I’ve thought about getting a bench grinder, but currently I use my $15 Harbor Freight Angle Grinder with buffing wheel and some jewelers grade abrasive (green).  Spend a couple of extra bucks for the thicker pad, they are pretty cheap any ways.    You can also get little buffers for those hard to reach places.  When I first started I used a hand drill buffing wheel, but honestly the angle grinder spins a lot faster and has a lot more power.   Buff away in all directions on all sides.  With some practice you’ll get a feel for the right amount of abrasive and how hard you have to work it.  I put my parts a bench vice using an old rag to protect the cover from the metal of the vice to hold it while I’m buffing.  Wear eye protection too and take all necessary safety precautions.   It’s easy to loose control.  I’ve shoot a tappet cover across the garage before.  Plus buffing wheel bits and abrasive residue will be f
lying everywhere.
*  Then for the final touch.  I user Mother’s Aluminum polish with either an old cotton t-shirt, polishing rag, or an old cloth baby diaper for the final rub down (keep those old cloth baby diapers, they are awesome for polishing).  Again, this part takes more elbow grease, but the work is worth it.
* Remount the cover with some nice stainless steel bolts.  Done.

A clutch cover takes me about 2 and a half hours, smaller parts less.
In the past I’ve tried putting clear coat over my polishing work, it only dulled the shine.   Sure, having that raw aluminum exposed increases it’s chances of it tarnishing again, but I just hand polish with Mother’s Aluminum polish once or twice a season when I’m detailing my bikes.



  1. Ted says:

    HI Mike,
    I use Mother’s Aluminum polish to..Good stuff…
    Nice write up. Thanks.
    Is the last pic at the Muskegon hot ride/bike show?

  2. kenb says:

    Nice work and yes I too like the polished work, some thing about the mindless work that can be very gratifing. Yea I once polished up my case’s on the rt1 360, my dirt mount. Abit nuts!

  3. toe. says:

    thanks for this. ive been trying to figure out a good way to do this.

  4. Blackwidow says:

    alot of work but it looks like it pays off

  5. Migustigus says:

    Harbour Freight also does a 220v grinder, I pulled the grinding wheels off it and bought buffing wheels from a polishing suppliers online. I can do a clutch cover for an XS in 20 mins on this bad boy. Well worth the investment, esp if you’re gonna end up doing more than one build. Nice work , Ted, Keep it up. 😀

  6. Hello this is Hotrod, Love this article, I just pulled off both my cases off my 1980. I was going to paint them Laqure Blk, and Flat Blk. But I like his methods better. Thanks again for the article, Hotrod.

  7. tony says:

    Mike, i agree with you, i hate to see people paint these covers, i’m no expert, but i think all that sanding would take care of the clear coat, i have an 82 that was left outside by the shore, everything was pretty rusty, the side covers were badly oxidized, i wet sanded them with a little soapy water, 800 grit paper and an electric palm sander, than polished them with a tube of that stuff mikes xs sells. i wasnt going for the chrome look, i just wanted to make them look stock, and they came up nice, without a whole lotta work. good looking bike you have their, great color, is that a differant swing arm, and wheres your battery and electronics? thanks for posting your project, tony

  8. Mark says:

    Mike, thanks for the article. I was contemplating painting my covers, but when I read this I decided to keep them clean. I’m halfway done and glad I didn’t paint them. Thanks again.

  9. Dale says:

    Mike I always polish my aluminum parts, you are right they do look better than paint. I just wanted to let you know your front tire is mounted backwards on your red bike.

  10. Mike says:

    Dale, the front wheel on the red bike has dual brakes, it’s not backwards.

  11. Dale says:

    Mike, I can see that it has dual discs. I am not commenting on anybody’s mechanical abilities here, I just noticed that the tire (not the wheel) is mounted backwards, you know, with the arrow pointing towards the motor.The reason I know this is because I have the same front tire and I mounted it backwards the first time. It is really easy to do, and it happens more than you think in shops everyday. The ‘V’ should point to the front, not the back. I’m sure that it works fine, it is only a matter of safety in the rain. Good luck…

  12. fanoboss says:

    Thanks for sharing.