Vincent Technical Sections: -Serial Numbers/Production- Photo Gallery of Models - Brakes - Engine Overhaul - Vincent Engines - Wheels/Fenders - Instruments - Transmission - Clutch - Magneto - Tank/Seat - Suspension - Tools - Norvin - Electrics- Carburetors - Misc - Links -Vincent Parts/Services Suppliers - Polishing/Cleaning - Shipping Vincents-Electric Starter - Paint/Transfers


Procedures not recommended nor endorsed.
Be very careful and leave dangerous chemicals and techniques to professionals.
For example: A really serious problem with Carbon Tetrachloride as a cleaning agent  is that it is closely related to both chloroform and more importantly, carbonyl chloride.... otherwise known as Phosgene which can result from heating carbon tet and was used during WW1 as a serious poison gas.  Also, chlorinated compounds used to clean oil from metal may react under the UV created during arc welding to produce phosgene.

Polishng the exhaust pipe:  I bought some Bar Keeper's Friend to remove oil from my brand spanking new exhausts and it removed the oil so rapidly I thought it was a godsend.   Turns out it came from the other direction as my chrome was permanently dulled and have never been able to get it to glisten again.  (Romano 9/1)  I'd use oven cleaner myself or lacquer thinner.   Bar Keeper's Friend has pumice, which is a fine volcanic abrasive.  Do not fret, if you use a buffing wheel, with rouge and fine polishing compound, you will have a beautiful chrome part once again.  Carl Hungness  9/3/09
I have had very good results from passing crankcases, heads and other
aluminium parts through several cycles of the hottest water and steam wash setting on our ordinary dishwasher at home.  I would never subject aluminium alloy to any kind of caustic solution and I would avoid any professionals advertising this treatment, just as I would avoid sandblasting such parts. Prosper Keating  4/1/09

I take my UFMs to a radiator shop.  They do an excellent job of removing everything inside and outside of the tank.  On cleaning crankcases, I take them to a local place that still rebuilds automatic transmissions.  They have this huge cleaning machine that can clean a dozen automatic transmission cases.  The insides rotate and the cleaner is sprayed from many different locations.  The cleaning machine looks like a big round oil tank standing on its end.  The cases come out looking like new.  The only thing that is not completely removed is any corrosion which will come off using a 3M pad   .John Mead   4/1/09

Chrome Plating:
 Try these guys (above) in Failsworth, Manchester.  They did the nickel-plated frames for the original Heskeths, and a great job on my Norvin frame.  You take the whole job to them after stripping and cleaning the part(s), and they completely polish, acid pickle (etch) and plate in one session.  If bright nickel is required, then copper and chromium go on before the nickel. You'll see a chromed Triton swingarm on their home page, some HD cases, and (not sure if this is a good ad for them in Manchester's current climate), a chromed Walther pistol.
There is also a company in Denton, Manchester called Armacoatings (NW) Ltd at M34 3RQ (a short drive with your plated job from Failsworth), who will then oven-polyester coat the plated work for extra durability.  Make sure ALL the plating fluid is emptied from any hollows in your job... vital if you don't want claims against you for burns to the coating operatives!  Phil Blakeney  12/7/08
Exhaust pipe: Best to remove silencer and spray Easy Off Oven Cleaner on, let it sit, then wipe it off with a "scratchless" pad that you get in a grocery (same stop as the oven cleaner). Depending upon how bad the baked on stuff, leave the oven cleaner on for however long you need to, I have heard some folks say they leave it overnight. Me, I'm impatient and scrub like hell with the pad. The oven cleaner is like magic.  ( Be advised this is LYE which is sodium hydroxide and will take your skin off as well.  It's one of the few cleaners left that has any muscle. Good ventilation, gloves, goggles and other safety precautions a must. )  Assuming you are dealing with chrome or stainless. Use regular, appropriate polish for the final shine. I use Maguiar's (sp?) Chrome Polish.   Bev Bowen  8/14/08
UFM Cleaning: With the design of the filler neck tube there is difficulty  removing nuts and bolts tossed about within -  that's why I like the super hot steam wand  method.   The blast of  live steam and hot water loosens / liquifies deposits  and flushes out the crap.   Little can resist the combined effect of such a blast,  followed up by an alcohol flush to remove the water left behind.  Good idea to extend the wand up into the tank along the floor as far as possible of course,   while moving it about.   Sid  (12/23/07)
My Amal carbs are always tatty looking from tickling as the dribble leave a stain.   I tried some
Meguiar's Aluminum and Magnesium polish and to date, it is the best I've found to remove the stains. It only took a couple of minutes to make the float bowls look pretty sanitary again.  Word of warning: Don't use Bar Keeper's Friend on chrome pipes, it dulls them immediately.   Carl Hungness  6/27/07
Cleaning the UFM: I took the engine out and tank off so I could easily unscrew the oil line from the bottom of the UFM. UFM and Bramptons still in one chunk. Suspend the UFM from the joists in the garage with straps. Have a tray below to catch the residual. Rinse with regular old gasoline several times. The first time I just dumped in some gas and switched it around...and got tar chunks and grit. Then left it sit overnight and switched it around whenever I walked past, and got out the bulk of grit and small pieces of metal and very discolored gas. Filled up the oil tank with gas and left it sit for a week. As it was full, switching did not do much agitation. Drained part of the gas then violently shook the UFM then drained more, repeating the process until the UFM was empty.   It was absolutely astounding how much xxxx was in there.  I don't know how the oil passages didn't block up completely, but consider this a real lesson.  Joe Walsh 6/1/05 (this web site does not recommend cleaning anything with gasoline)
Molasses for Rust Removal: I would not use Muiratic, it is very harsh. The vjmc list has had numerous disscusions about this with Phosphoric being the acid of choice. (not recommended) There was a fellow I met in Hood River, Larry Henderson, who restored Model T's.  Larry's favorite rust remover was molasses, 5 parts water to 1 part molasses. He had a 30 gallon plastic garbage can that he would soak parts in. I was amazed how well it worked.  From OVM chat..7/16/02  (not sure if this was a joke..)
Magnesium Restoration and Care: (at bottom of fowwing website)     Bruce Metcalf  9/26/01

If you get your cases and covers stripped and cleaned chemically, which is excellent by the way, you need to pay special attention to the oilways and threaded holes when they come back. In my case all were contaminated with a gritty paint residue from the stripping of what was a Shadow motor in my case. I found that the best way to make sure all the oilways, especially in the timing cover, were really clean was to use pipe cleaners (as in tobacco) dipped in lacquer solvent thrust back and forth along each oilway and then to air blow thoroughly. You can twist the pipe cleaners together to get the right diameter to tightly fit the oilway. Here in the States they sell a bristled type of pipe cleaner which is particulary effective.  Tim Holcroft  03/21/01

Crankcase cleaning: Another trick, for the low tech spray can crowd, is (after a thorough precleaning) to put the cases in the dishwasher and run it through a few cycles.  Only thing to watch out for, is some dishwasher detergents are tough on aluminum, but a trial run with some junk parts should determine how much of a problem this is. Good rinsing, by running it through again with no soap, is important and very easy.   Steve Lindbloom  11/26/00

I only spray WD 40 or similar on bikes. If it gets into anywhere, unlike water, it will help. Just do not use it near your brakes. I put that because someone's bound to remind me.  60 lbs psi shifts all the dirt you want. Thats aerosol pressure.  The only time you should get water on your bike is when you ride it, in the rain.  Trevor  11/26/00

The best product I have found for cleaning motorcycles is S100.  They make various cleaning chemicals, all bike oriented.  The stuff really works.  Use this ONLY on a cold engine and really rinse it off.  It does not dry well and will leave crusty white oxidation on aluminum.   The cheaper route in the US is a product called Simple Green, sold as a general purpose cleaner.  Doesn't work as well, but is good for in-between clean-ups.  Glenn Bewley  11/26/00

Crankcase cleaning: On the last Vincent engine I rebuilt, I took the cases to a large automatic transmission rebuilder.  He had a machine that spun the cases in a hot spray.  When they came out they looked new inside and out.  John Mead  11/21/00

Once again..Please leave Methylene Chloride, Trichloroethylene and other unfamiliar chemical treatments to

The product I can thoroughly recommend is Loctite Natural Blue Cleaner and degreaser.  It is the only cleaner I know that will clean and clear out the residues in a Carburettor that has not been used for a long time.  It is just used in the dilution advised on the bottle and washed off with hot water after having been allowed to stand for about 24 hours.  It also has the advantage of being bio-degradeable and gentle to the hands.    D.J.Peters  11/18/00

Cleaning Gas Tanks:  An  easy source at very low cost is to purchase Muratic Acid  at any large modern hardware outlet.  Half gallon costs only  3 - 4  bucks.   Used commonly to clean concrete  garage floors of stains, rust, etc.   Do not shake violently the tank while filled with  2 or 3 handfulls of  loose nuts & bolts,  lest  you leave lots of little dents through to the outside surface. Rather tilt it end for end as you slowly rotate in space.  This way  you will scour and scrape the inner surface as the HW slides over its skin, leaving no dents.  Be sure to leave a water hose to flow into the tank for a period of time to flush out the rust and crud as well as to kill  that acid .

Done dozens of  tanks over the years,  --  the acid leaves a clean grey surface that will begiin to rust again immediately as it dries unless it is coated or oiled.  Trevor being dead on about the top oil added to the fuel , as well as being kept full when parked . One ounce of  light motor oil to each gal. will do it and protect your exhaust valves too .  Marvel Mystery Oil does wonders as a top end lube as it has for 70  years !  A great gum & deposit solvent, it  keeps rings and stems clean and  lubricated and those hot exhaust valves live Far  longer using leaded fuel or not .  S.M. Biberman  11/1/00 

Further comment on Muriatic Acid:  I've used muriatic acid for rust removal as well and can attest to its powers.  However I'll offer some hard-won experience about it... if it is in a plastic bottle (as most I have seen is, these days) DON'T store it anywhere near tools or anything metal that you value.  I had a quart bottle in my shop, kept it with the solvents and cleaners for want of a better place, tightly capped... everything steel within a couple feet of it slowly developed a film of flaking rust.  I thought I had humidity problems, weatherstripped the doors, ran a dehumidifier, even replaced the roof (well, the roof needed replacing anyway...).  During a general clean-up session a few years ago I came across that bottle hiding on the back of the shelf and a little light bulb went on in my head... many kinds of gasses can diffuse through plastic, and in this case hydrogen chloride (the active ingredient in muriatic acid) was diffusing around my shop, corroding anything it came in contact with.  Luckily the victims were things like paint cans, concrete trowels and a cheap drill... not the tool set I inherited from my father... or worse yet, the Shadow... but I would've only had to be a tiny bit more casual about where I stored that stuff, and they could have been.

I sent that bottle off to the HazMat collector, and resolved only to keep the stuff around when I actually had a job that needed it.  I guess I'll store it under the porch with the clay flowerpots, or someplace like that.  The label on the bottle was well supplied with the usual safety boilerplate, but didn't caution that the material could be hazardous even in an apparently-sealed bottle.  Chalk that one up to experience, but I thought others might benefit from my story, admittedly longwinded though it is.    Ed Mellinger 11/02/00

Muriatic Acid: One caution here:  Do not store solvents and acids together.  It is an explosive combination.  Rick Harris  11/02/00

Muriatic Acid Precautions: I remember as a pup of about 20 getting a job in which we were using Muriatic acid for cleaning a concrete floor prior to sealing and painting it.   I  was to hang pegboard and all the pony clamps, stands, etc. were installed on these boards in the equipment room.  Upon completion of cleaning the floor in that room, I looked up and EVERY steel surface in the room was rusted.   Glenn Bewley  11/2/00
Polishing stainless is a little tricky and to keep the 'shape' of your new nuts does indeed need a little care.  I imagine the stainless polishing mop and soap you have will be ideal for her indoors's pots and pans and anything else with no critical sharp edges.  If you try polishing the new nuts on a mop you will indeed take the sharp edges off.

The best way to get the finish you are after is to screw the nuts onto an old spindle and to rub the flats of the nut on emery paper laid on a flat surface. Using the spindle as a handle will help keep the surface square to the emery - starting with a course grit and working down to a fine grit.

A second way is to wrap the emery around a suitable file and use the file in the normal fashion.

The reason I recommend either of these methods is to avoid the annoying habit that stainless has of 'picking up' in the teeth of a metal file and thus scoring the nice finish you are trying to achieve.  This can also be avoided by keeping the file teeth clean with a piece of brass ( brass won't take the sharp edge of your expensive file teeth !) and then loading the teeth of the file with some chalk. You can finish off in the same fashion with a piece of linen cloth stretched over a piece of wood and then metal polish splashed on the cloth.    I will be inspecting your work when I next meet you !!  Andrew Rackstraw  9/14/00

I always remove the strength or manufacturing marks from the stainless bolts I use in my restorations, and also polish if neccessary.  My advice would be to LIGHTLY file the flats and then polish them in line,  with the buffing wheel running parallel to the threaded portion of the nut.  This way you have more control over the wheels' touching the edges you are trying to keep sharp.  If you are very good with a file, you should need very little polishing.    Glenn Bewley  9/15/00
Stainless Steel bolt ends, put 'em in the drill press (not too tight) and bring them down lightly on fine emery cloth on a flat surface. With a little more heat you can achieve a color (colour, on Whitworth stuff) more like nickle plate.  john caraway  9/14/00

Polishing Stainless
1) wear appropriate and clean Eye Protection at all times (plus an apron or dirty overalls!).
2) Keep labelled sets of buffing wheels for each type of materials - ie one set for alloy, one for stainless and one for regular steel... This saves particles of harder metals being forcibly embedded in the softer metals... I also use seperate polishing soaps, too...
3) Have a variety of grades, sizes and materials of mops and polishes... and don't discount Solvol Autosol either...
On nuts themselves, I'd say take care and hold the work firmly...perhaps use a regular hand-held electric drill and move it around the work held in a bench-vice...  The blotchy grade of stainless is, I think the better grade... the prettier colours are usually found in lesser grades...   Tigger  9/14/00
A word of advice here on
keeping the shine once you have it, that I think was passed on to me by Dave Hills who I think got it from Eddie Stevens.  Get yourself a surgical glove and cut it up into workable pieces. Before you slap a socket, or wrench, on yor newly polished nut, slip the latex from the glove over the nut, then push the socket on. You will not scratch the part you are tightening. This process also works extremely well on nuts that have been chromed.You will not break the chrome..I have also had some nuts powder-coated (which of course adds some thickness) but the procedure also works well for these too.  Carl Hungness  9/14/00
Stainless Bolts: Just do one flat at a time on some wet and dry. Preferably as Andy says three or four together on a threaded shaft, makes it easier to keep them upright, especially with the smaller hexes . You never buff nuts.  Trevor Southwell  9/14/00
Imperial sized stainless hexagon bar is readily obtained in the U.K. from Steve Taylor,  Mail Order Metals, in Nottingham- telephone 0115 974 8211 - fax 0115 974 5469 .  He is also always at the Kempton Park Autojumbles, where I recently topped up my own stock.  Derek Peters  9/14/00
Polishing stainless: I use a very firm felt wheel rather than a mop type and it gives a polish that can be directed more to the flats of  the nuts. Corners are rounded but far less than with a softer tool. It takes only seconds to get a mirror finnish because you can apply more pressure. They just get a little hot by the time you get to the 5th flat.  Mike Hebb  9/14/00
Cleaning Aluminum Parts:
Before I begin: WEAR EYE PROTECTION. WEAR SUITABLE PROTECTIVE CLOTHING AND/OR BREATHING APPARATUS AS NECESSARY. WORK ONLY IN WELL VENTILATED AREAS AND KEEP THE SOLVENTS AWAY FROM FLAME. You'll be glad you did. I accidently squirted xylene in one eye once during this effort and it burned like hell. Also avoid getting the acids, carb cleaner, and gasket remover on anything other than what you're cleaning and dispose of used solvents, etc. in an environmentally responsible way.

Normal wash: Good only for removing pure dirt and light oil. Use your favorite cleaner (I prefer Dawn dishwashing detergent over Simple Green or other "automotive" cleaners simply because a strong detergent gets the most of this type of crud off with the least effort.)

Pressure wash: Removes heavier dirt and oil but not any corrosion. Recommended only for whole engines. Avoid spraying at any exposed seals (like around the countershaft or tachometer pickoff, possibly the exhaust header seals, too). OK to hit normal gaskets.

Dishwasher: For individual pieces you get results similar to a pressure washing. Of course cleans the insides of pieces so be sure to blow air through passages to get out residual water. Do or don't tell your spouse about doing this depending on which path minimizes negative spousal reaction. (Mine was pretty skeptical - sniffed the dishes that were in with the parts to see if they smelled like oil.)

Sand blasting: Sand (silica or carborundum particle) blasting will seriously remove metal and leave an uncorroded, but pitted surface. Particles may become imbedded in aluminum if air velocity used is too great and/or the alloy is particularly soft. Use with incredible care if at all, especially on pieces with oil/water galleries. If you do, mask off all possible entrances carefully since any grit that gets in will be difficult to completely get out and any left in will likely destroy something in your engine.

Bead blasting: Small glass beads which shatter on impact clean off surface crud and leave the aluminum looking like it was tapped with a zillion microscopic ball peen hammers. Same warning on keeping grit out of passages.

Shell blasting: Ground up walnut (or other hard) nut shells are the gentlest of the three blasting methods. Removes crud and shallow corrosion and leaves the surface looking the most like it originally did. Note that the blasting methods are the only ones that will get corrosion off metal in the nooks and crannies.

Kerosene, paint thinner, gasolene, naptha (in decreasing order of flammability and increasing order of volatility, I think): Use to remove oil, oily dirt, and tar. Use a wire brush or toothbrush to assist in getting off thick gunk. Does nothing for corrosion. Build/rent/buy a parts washer to speed cleaning of dissasembled pieces.

"Gunk" or equivalent: Gunk combines a petroleum-based solvent and a detergent in one can. Does a pretty good job on heavy dirt and light oil, nothing for corrosion. I think using a heavy detergent wash to remove heavy dirt, then a separate treatment of solvent to get heavy oil/tar off, and finally a second detergent wash works better than trying to do it all in one pass.

"Carb cleaner": is xylene and/or MEK (methyl ethyl ketone), i.e. an active, very volatile solvent. Good for getting the "varnish" and "parafin" that form on the inside (and outside) of carburetors from old gasoline. Good as a general solvent, too.

WD-40: The solvent doesn't work as good on varnish as real carb cleaner, but of course WD-40 leaves the surface protected due to the oils in it. Use it immediately after you have de-crudded (like that verb?) and brushed/blasted to keep surface shiny.

Hydrochloric acid: (available as muriatic acid). Takes off corrosion (not oily gunk), bubbling as it does so, but leaves the surface dark grey. Use a stainless steel wire "tooth" brush ($1 at your local car parts place) to expedite activity. Don't use it unless you really like this color. Avoid the fumes.

"Etching formula mag wheel cleaner": Available in a spray bottle and labelled "B" on the ABCDE specifier for automotive cleaning products, it contains phosphoric and hydrofluoric acids and bubbles when applied. Use a stainless steel wire "tooth" brush to expedite activity. Avoid the fumes. Leaves a dull light grey finish which can be lightened up by wiping with a paper towel/cloth immediately after brushing with the wire brush.

Gasket remover: Water-based liquid that softens fiber gaskets so they can be scraped off without damaging the machined surfaces. I mention it here because I found two uses for it: 1) it softens up the carbon and crud on the inside of the cylinder head, the ports, and the valve heads, which eased scraping those parts clean considerably. 2) It seems to soften/dissolve clear-coat (and other paint as well - be careful where you paint/spray this stuff!)

Wire brushes: You can get ones that fit in your drill and brush either circumferentially or radially (oh hell, go look at them) and in different wire thicknesses. I recommend the softest wire for aluminum. Also get the wire "tooth" brush (and more than one) I mentioned above. Look in the welding section of your hardware store if you don't see them in the tools section. You can also mount a wire wheel on your grinder for small parts. Frankly, wire brushing (and blasting) are the only things I've found that clean off corrosion and leave the surface bright. It's a lot of work and can't get in the nooks and crannies but gives the best results. Clean surface with solvent first to keep brush from simply smearing the crud around.

Scotch-Brite pads: Available in about 6 by 9 inch sheets for a buck, they work well on clean, smooth aluminum to brighten it up, don't do squat for rough-finished aluminum.

Aluminum jelly: I tried this stuff years ago so don't remember exactly what it is (more acid-based stuff, I guess) and was disappointed in the results. But then perhaps that was when I still hoped for some magic method that didn't involve elbow grease.

Don't use steel wool on aluminum. Tiny bits of it will break off and stick in the aluminum. These then rust and you are left with "rusty aluminum".

Polishing Aluminum: Simichrome works very well. There are a number of other commericially availabe aluminum polishing products.

Additional non-aluminum specific cleaners:

3M metal-stripper-wheel. This is a round plastic sponge, impregnated with abrasive grit, which you chuck into your electric drill. These remove tar, paint, rust from steel frames, tanks, panels. Probably a bit too abrasive for use on alloy, though. With one of these wheels, you can remove all the paint from,say, a gas tank without using any evil chemicals. It also removes surface rust, leaving you with bare metal covered with a network of fine scratches, ideal for paint adhesion. You then swab off your part with "metalprep", wash it off with water, dry it thoroughly, and paint away! That new paint will stick like glue!

Get yourself a can of "Carburetor & small Parts Cleaner". This milky-white stuff will take the hide off an elephant. It'll take carbon off the tops of pistons. It'll clean your carbs good. Just don't put any non-metallic parts in it. You just dump your castings, jets, etc into the can ( get the kind that comes with a dip basket ), and fish them out a half-hour or so later. Bright-squeaky-clean.

Another good carb cleaner is Berryman Chemtool. This stuff is about as poisonous and flammable as gasoline, but at least it's a good cleaner. Berryman's comes in a spray can, and its great fun to spray it on a grease- and-varnish encrusted carburetor; the stuff just liquifies and flows away. I personally use Chemtool to clean carbs I don't want to take apart or off.

Chuck Stringer

Being the sort who hates paying more than $50 for a motorcycle I've run into a lot of corroded aluminium and have had good luck with scotchbrite(tm) pads (plastic wool) followed by Nevr Dull. Nevr Dull doesn't have much problem cleaning up the scratch marks left by really fine scotchbrite. This works pretty well on both smooth and sand-cast surfaces, though it doesn't get the all the crap out of the sandcast surface, which in my book is Ok because it doesn't make it look like you've got nothing better to do with your life than sitting around polishing your crankcase (hmm, sounds like a euphemism...). For bad corrosion (or shitty castings - like old ducatis) I've had to bead blast followed by 320 grit followed by 400 grit followed by 600 grit followed by Nevr Dull, but it's usually just easier to buy another motorcycle. The progressive stages of sandpaper can also be used with some success to take the sand cast marks out. As for the jugs, good luck. A brass brush will take out what crap it can reach, but you probably can't find one long enough. It shouldn't leave any visible scratch marks on a rough cast surface if that's what you've got. Bead blasting will cure it for sure.
Latte' Jed (

In general,  rough cast cases clean up pretty well with some aluminum cleaner or carb cleaner solvents available at auto parts stores. Tide works ok, a brass bristle brush works really well. You *don't* want to polish the cases with buffing wheel, etc. Polished side covers, like most of the older British and Italian bikes had, are fine, but polishing the engine cases themselves will cause the engine to retain heat.
If you do complete disassembly and have stubborn corrosion/need for resurfacing, a bead blaster with walnut shell grit works wonders. Finding someone to do this, however, is often a bit of a trick.
Mark Holbrook   (posted 9/15/00)
Return to: