Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cleaning and polishing all the exterior aluminum parts

The 40-year-old aluminum really looked dull. So I bought a couple of buffing wheels, some polishing compound, and some steel wool.  I started with the drip guard above the door.
Drip guard before cleaning and polishing.
Underside of the drip guard.
 The drip guard was bent out of shape and really dull.  Removing it required drilling out the centres of the rivets, which left the backsides of the rivets trapped between the fiberglass shell and the Ensolite.  First I removed the remaining butyl tape from the underside.  Then I installed a cotton buffing wheel on my bench grinder and applying a layer of Mibro #3 polishing compound.  It was slow going, and the shroud on my grinder got in the way just a little.  But after a few minutes the dull oxidized surface was cleaned away, and the shine started coming out.  I probably spent over an hour working on the drip guard, but I also tried to re-shape it.

The jalousie windows were next.  I couldn't maneuver them around the bench grinder, so I put a 4 1/2" buffing wheel on my electric drill and then I was able to reach most of the exposed surfaces.  But they required a little more work than the drip guard.  The insides of the frames had to be scrubbed with fine steel wool.  I couldn't get the buffing wheel anywhere near them, so I finished them off with Never Dull, which is a cotton/wool substance impregnated with a liquid polishing compound.  The exterior exposed surfaces cleaned up well with just the buffing wheel treatment.  In a few places I had to give the outer surfaces a rub with fine steel wool also.
The exterior aluminum surfaces are really dirty and dull.
The screen frames and the inside window trim were fairly easy to clean up and polish -- they hadn't been exposed to the elements in the same way as the exterior parts had been.  I worked with the drill mostly, and each took about 10 minutes.

The underside of the belly band had a thick build-up of what I assume was aluminum oxide -- it resembled the kind of mineral deposits that can accumulate inside plumbing parts.  These I had to use three grades of steel wool to remove before buffing with the wheel on the end of the drill.  Each of the two belly band pieces required over an hour of work.
Polished and unpolished parts of the belly band -- a huge difference.
The awning rail and the small crank-open window that goes in the door were each fairly easy to clean up.  And that completed the job.

Here is the jobsite -- buffing wheel on drill, steel wool, and Never Dull.
Drip guard and awning rail re-installed.  Now they shine!


  1. What kind of rivets and rivet gun did you use to put your jalousie Windows back in?

  2. I used stainless steel bolts instead of rivets. The original factory installation would have been with steel rivets, and there were acorn nuts screwed onto the inside nub. I put thin hex nuts on the bolts and then acorn nuts on top of those, both stainless steel. This was Paul Neumeister's advice.

  3. Thank you Louis, for your detail article about polishing aluminum parts. You described everything very clear here.
    I got many informations i was looking for on the web.
    This blog is really helpful to me.

  4. The article seems to me a quick yet relevant source of factual information on Cleaning and polishing Aluminum Parts. I think readers like me would benefit more from this post if you can add some details about the benefits of Polishing. I would be eager to see something like that as I’m planning to add similar resources to the blog section of our website Sandersreview. Thanks a million, Louis!