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Old 03-19-2006, 08:44 PM
davestlouis's Avatar
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Location: Cincinnati, OH
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polishing parts...

The vintage forum seems to have gone dead all of a sudden. I'm bored and was picking around on the hotrod forum, and saw a cool-looking AMG cam cover for the M110 engine. That got me to thinking about polishing and otherwise dressing up my underhood areas. It seems to me, it would be easy to get the air cleaner cover shiny, specifically the one on my 420SEL, but what other parts are readily polished? For that matter, how would one got about it? The only part I've ever polished was the slide on a cheap pistol. I used a Dremel tool and jewelers rouge, and it would take an eternity to do larger parts that way. Any techniques you folks have used successfully?
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Old 03-19-2006, 10:16 PM
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Location: near Scranton, PA
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For valve covers, I think super-fine sandpaper (600 grit to start) and the finest steel wool works well, then use polish and rub it by hand pretty much. For my intake manifold, I used a Calphalon-branded anodized aluminum cleaner. It worked very, very well! In this pic, my valve covers have since lost their original luster as the clearcoat I used on them didnt hold up well.
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Old 03-19-2006, 11:04 PM
Strife's Avatar
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: KY USA
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I polished quite a few parts on my engine. If you have a lot of patience, an inefficient and fairly expensive way to do it is with a drill mounted arbor and some wheels andpolishes you can get at Lowes or Home Depot. Better is to order some stuff from Caswell plating (like an extension for a grinder, for example). I'm not sure what parts on that vintage car would be iron and what would be aluminum but I polished, for example, my air cleaner (the whole thing was fairly easy), distributor (fairly easy, very nice casting) alternator (pretty easy), accelerator servo (not too bad), water pump (difficult), power steering pump (really difficult), alternator extension from the block (horrible), and the fan (absolutely do not do this).

The pulleys and some other stuff were chrome plated. Be aware that early valve cover castings are rougher than later ones (in my limited experience) and how good of a result you will get is very dependent on how much you want to sand (off) to get rid of most pits. You will not get rid of all pits because in a rough casting sanding will expose more voids. For really rough castings, those small flap wheels (60-80-120 grit) are great. The Dremel will come in handy for nooks and crannies. Wetordri sandpaper - 180,320,600 grit is great, and so is a body sanding pad (like a think rubber sheet). Buying big packs of wetordri on eBay will quickly pay for itself as opposed to buying retail at rediculous markup.

I'ts really, really dirty work and you better wear a mask; If you use a bench mounted buffer/converted grinder, review the proper technique. You do not want a part to come flying at your head, or worse, your car(!) at 100 MPH. I had only one thing get away, but that was exciting enough.

I didn't clearcoat anything but I don't drive my car in wet weather at all and my valve covers have held up well for about two years so far with minimal dulling. The way aluminum oxidizes, the thinnest layer of oil, wax, etc will prevent aluminum oxidation. One nice benefit of polishing is that it is now very easy to keep the engine clean and also it's easy to spot small leaks before they get bad.

A lot of people think that everything was chrome plated!

There is one picture of a part of my engine in the gallery.
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Last edited by Strife; 03-19-2006 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 03-19-2006, 11:38 PM
300SDog's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: central ky
Posts: 3,602
Metal is porous. If you baste alloy housings like valve covers, vacuum pump, alternator and power steering bracket in engine oil then wipe it clean in a week you will end up with deep clean lustre. Ever notice how the oiliest part of the valve cover under the breather tube is also the cleanest?

Oil em up then wipe em down after they marinate for a week, says me. They wont shine like chrome but you'll get a clean deep gray finish from aluminum alloy components. Works great against dry oxidation of aluminum too.

Another idea is squirting tranny fluid on rusty looking nuts'n bolts all over the car, suspension and steering gear and brake nipples, etc. I keep an oil can of the stuff in the engine compartment for this. Major problem with old cars is nuts'n bolts rusting frozen. None of the engine compartment bolts and nuts are rusty/dry on my car. All metal loves oil. Its probly the best 'finish' you can apply.

(edit: And the Vintage Forum never goes dead. Post a thread and it can kick around for at least a week, nothing wrong with that.

Last edited by 300SDog; 03-19-2006 at 11:59 PM.
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