How To Polish Aluminum on a Buffer Wheel

Most people pride themselves in being able to polish the aluminum parts of their car by hand. But being able to use a buffer wheel and skillfully direct it to bring a shiny polish to your car’s parts is a skill worth developing. While the idea of using an actual machine to polish might seem daunting for some, there are several suggested ways to go about it without having to worry too much.

  • Before starting on actual polishing, identify if the aluminum part you want to polish requires something as extensive as a buffer wheel. A good quick way to check is to inspect the surface of the metal itself. A smooth condition would reflect light nicely and require merely a bit of soap, water, and a round of hand buffing. A non-smooth surface to the metal, with a barely appreciable bounce of light against its surface, would be the kind of aluminum that will be in need of a buffer wheel’s touch.
  • Note if the kind of aluminum is coated or uncoated. Uncoated aluminum is best given a buffing wheel polishing compared to coated ones. Coated ones need only hand-based wash with soap and water most of the time since they are made to be more resistant to dirt and grime.
  • Keep in mind the importance of safety. Since a buffer wheel will be moving in high speeds and pushed against a dirty metal surface, it is quite likely that the wheel may launch off small debris and related particles. A pair of safety goggles and gloves is very important. It also helps to have numerous old clothes, which can serve as cotton-based rags when necessary. When working with the buffer wheel, always shut the wheel off during periods you are focusing on anything else. Never leave it running and untended.
  • Tripoli is a common polishing compound that is used to bring back the shine of Aluminum. It is a hard substance however, so be sure that the wheel’s turn throws any debris away from you. Apply the substance to the object first, before switching on the buffing wheel. Then with the buffing wheel running, carefully bring the object close enough to the wheel so that the buffing side is in contact with the wheel, without the wheel being pressed too much against the object. Feel free to add Tripoli when desired.
  • Do not mistake the buffing wheel portion for the polishing portion. Buffing tends to make a metal look duller with whitish streaks all over the metal’s surface. When you are done with the buffing wheel, it is time to shut the wheel off and use a clean cloth to wipe away all excess polishing compounds and begin polishing the area well. Switch to the softer cotton wheel to prepare for the actual polishing. A polishing compound such as rouge can be used, but always remember that compounds are always applied to the object and never directly to the wheel.
  • For harder to reach areas, see if you can use a mini-power ball buffer. These have foams that work very well with harder to reach areas.

Be cautious on how fast you set the buffing wheel, and how close you keep the object to the wheel. Keep in mind that constant contact generates heat, so always be careful.


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