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Technical Polishing aluminum

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Dave G in Gansevoort, Oct 23, 2021.

  1. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 795

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    I'm closing in on finishing up rebuilding my trailer and have been ruminating over the formerly bright aluminum tread plate decking. I widened parts of the trailer and beefed it up to increase the capacity to 3500 pounds. So now there are 4 new pieces of bright aluminum tread plate decking and the oldest pieces are dull.

    My problem is that I am basically lazy. Any suggestions for polishing the plates that won't take days each? Alternately any suggestions on maybe dulling down the newest plate?

    Or any other suggestions? Keep in mind that I am basically lazy and half Scots i.e. cheap. Thanks for not laughing too much...
  2. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 7,305

    from Michigan

    A little work on a wire wheel can do a pretty good job of evening out the finish of aluminum parts.
    Really shiny back to medium shiny.
    Really crappy back to medium shiny.
    hotrodjack33 likes this.
  3. Jones St.
    Joined: Feb 8, 2020
    Posts: 970

    Jones St.

    Pix of the dull ones. Then what experience do you have with power tools?
  4. Paint it all....
    seb fontana, lippy, X-cpe and 3 others like this.

  5. Guthrie1068
    Joined: Sep 15, 2020
    Posts: 59


  6. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 30,027


    Nothing good ever comes without applying a bit of effort. The effective lazy way is to find out who the local guy is who polishes semi truck aluminum wheels and fuel tanks. Those guys are usually portable and go to the work and are usually found around truck stops or semi truck shops.
    The other way is buy the same stuff you would get to polish a set of dingy polished aluminum wheels and get after it.
  7. A Boner
    Joined: Dec 25, 2004
    Posts: 6,220

    A Boner

    Try SOS pads!
    loudbang likes this.
  8. If you're talking about the deck, and it's diamond plate, don't worry about polishing it, it will just get scratched and dinged over time. The product they use to clean aluminum wheels on cement trucks (I assume it's a mild acid) will gently etch the surface and give it a semi-dull finish. Could be a problem if you used cad plated or raw steel fasteners, so do a little homework before you get torpedoed by MY lazy ass! good luck
    Hnstray likes this.
  9. Listen to 48Chev ,
    Those truckers keep their tanks and other aluminum shiny,,,,looks like chrome usually .
    Guys are available to do that,,,,check around.

    loudbang and lothiandon1940 like this.
  10. texasred
    Joined: Dec 3, 2008
    Posts: 1,119

    from Houston

    rent a floor buffer
    loudbang likes this.
  11. chris bozic
    Joined: Oct 31, 2010
    Posts: 26

    chris bozic
    from Pittsburgh

    I have used a floor buffer on our enclosed trailer several times over the years. Rented from the local Home Depot for a day. It gives the floor a nice uniform, clean, brushed finish. This is on a smooth aluminum floor. If you have diamond plate type tread plate with the raised diamond treads, it is probably going to tear up the buffing pads pretty quick and not get a good uniform finish. For diamond plate floor I would probably try an acid type cleaner.
    loudbang likes this.
  12. indyjps
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 4,390


    If the aluminum is mounted you can use a buffer. Same as paint. Not the little jitterbug thing they sell for waxing. Use a wool or fuzzy type wheel.

    I've used all kinds of stuff to polish aluminum, regular old rubbing compound and even toothpaste(non gel) work well to get a first cut and a good shine.
    If you want mirror shine you need to move up to specific compounds. *I'm going for cheap here. Since that was the ask.
    You can buff dry or semi wet. On a large area like this, semi wet, misting with a spray bottle would keep it moving.
    It will make a huge mess, wear junk clothes, tape off or cover anything around the work area.

    I like turtle wax ice on polished aluminum. I thought this stuff was goofy when it came out. Only bought it to use on black plastic trim on late models, works well for that. Tried it on polished aluminum and it holds up longer than regular wax. I use carnuba on paint.

    Aluminum can be unpredictable to polish. So many types - Cast, forged, rolled, machined with different grain and surfaces. What works on one part may not work on another. Do a test area and see what's cutting cleanly.

    If there's an old anodized coating on the aluminum that's failing, you can use oven cleaner or mild acid to strip it off. Then start polishing. It's a lot more work.
    Don't leave oven cleaner on aluminum, do small sections and get it on and off. More applications is better than a hard etch. Wash with soap and water.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2021
    loudbang and Lost in the Fifties like this.
  13. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 795

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    Thanks for the inputs. If it hadn't been after 11 last night when I got around to posting this question, I'd have run out to the garage and taken a picture. Here's one now. DSCN1273.JPG You can see my dilemma. The 3 tread plates from the left side is brand new for the widened bits, center is 26 years old from when I 1st built the trailer, and on the right is approximately 6 years old from when I filled in the center of the trailer to make it more useful. Regarding my familiarity with power tools, my wife would tell you that there isn't a power tool invented that I don't have. That's not entirely true, but I'm closing in on it after 55 plus years of buying, begging, borrowing, and just plain acquiring tools.

    I never thought about using a floor polisher. A scrub brush and some Comet might just be the answer. As long as I end up with a relatively uniform look, I'll be happy with the results.
  14. rtp
    Joined: Aug 14, 2007
    Posts: 191


    Go to a floor covering store see if they will give you some scraps of loop pyle carpet . Use it with your favorite polish.
    The carpet will stand up to the diamond plate . Will not give you a mirror finish . But will last longer than a buffing pad .
    loudbang and klleetrucking like this.
  15. Jones St.
    Joined: Feb 8, 2020
    Posts: 970

    Jones St.

  16. metlmunchr
    Joined: Jan 16, 2010
    Posts: 777


    Search for "aluminum brightener" on YouTube. A couple vids show using the stuff on weathered aluminum diamond plate on truck toolboxes. Looks like it works pretty good with very little effort.
    loudbang likes this.
  17. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 795

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    Thanks everyone. I've got a lot of checking out to do. Thanks for the responses...
  18. Ebbsspeed
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,603


    Polishing aluminum might be traditional, but in light of past deleted threads I'm surprised this one is still alive.
  19. rusty valley
    Joined: Oct 25, 2014
    Posts: 2,823

    rusty valley

    Back when I worked for a place that had big trucks, they used a product called "agent orange" on all the wheels and fuel tanks etc. I believe its a mild acid, and they would spray it on, wait an hour or so and pressure wash it off. While it did not produce a shine like a buffing would, it really cleaned everything up, and brought it all to a uniform looking "sorta shiny" finish. Something like that may just blend in the new to the old look
    loudbang and '28phonebooth like this.
  20. Park it ouside in the weather. It will dull out fast. Yoi cant get any lazier than that.
  21. jaracer
    Joined: Oct 4, 2008
    Posts: 1,221


    I bought the car in my avatar as a kit. It had a lot of aluminum pieces, radius rods, steering arms, suspension arms, bumpers, etc. The winter I put it together I decided to polish all the aluminum. Polishing aluminum is nasty, everything you own turns black. I vowed to never polish any aluminum ever again. Now I let someone else do it.
  22. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 18,675


    Do what I do.

    Bring it to the polisher, with a wad of cash. Pick up when done.
  23. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 795

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    I'm afraid this might be what happens by default. That's how the current decking got tarnished, why change now? Seriously I'll probably finish the trailer and assemble it, but not get a round tuit until spring... if ever!
  24. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 5,670

    from Ks

    Call one of those wet blaster guys and have him blast it all. Bingo, all looks the same. Lippy
    seb fontana likes this.
  25. Met-All and a wool buff. Used it on the "big rigs" for years.
  26. seb fontana
    Joined: Sep 1, 2005
    Posts: 7,140

    seb fontana
    from ct

  27. Yep, makes you understand why having stuff polished isn't cheap. I still do my own when it's needed, but between the labor for the initial polish and the continuing labor for maintenance I've found it isn't needed as much anymore... LOLOL

    Seriously, I'd paint it all and throw some sand onto the wet paint for a non-skid surface.
  28. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 795

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    That's another consideration. I suppose I could use Rustoleum bright aluminum paint and redo it every couple of years. Just roll it on...
  29. ssffnomad
    Joined: Jul 23, 2008
    Posts: 732


    Dave , call me in the morning. We have a local guy that’s does a lot of mobile Stainless & Aluminum polishing.
  30. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 795

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    Will do. Thanks Stretch...

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