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CLEANING AND POLISHING TECHNIQUES
FOR VINCENT MOTORCYCLES
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
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
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
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
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
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..)
and Care: (at bottom of fowwing website)
http://www.roadsters.com/wheels Bruce Metcalf
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
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
The best product I have found for
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
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
leave Methylene Chloride, Trichloroethylene and other unfamiliar chemical
treatments to Professionals..........thevincent.com
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.
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
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
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
For 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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)
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