While I'm as big a fan of buds blooming and birds singing, and certainly enjoy the smell of newly mown grass and backyard barbecues, that particular rite of spring experienced by brass-car owners which involves polishing cloths and elbow grease is strictly for the aforementioned birds.
Over the years, I've learned a few things about polishing brass including which polishes do a better job than others. -But when it comes to the kind of tarnish produced by the chemical reaction of brass to antifreeze, even the best of pastes and liquids will not be enough to avoid the need for a lot of hand-rubbing.
And I hate that.
The solution to the problem, which only just dawned on me this year, is surprisingly obvious and not especially expensive. -A cheapie, 6-inch, electric orbital-buffer and a bench grinder with a fluffy buffing wheel make a tedious job pretty easy.
The only brass bits that won't unbolt or unscrew from my '15 Touring are the steering gear case and the radiator. -Just about everything else can be dismounted and taken to the whirling buffing wheel. -I even took the lens doors off my oil lamps (and then replaced the hinge-pins with black-painted cotter-pins).
The big problem with working with a whirling buffing wheel is that it can snatch the brass piece out of your hand and dash it to the floor before you realize it happened. -Two ways to combat this are an iron grip on the brass piece and some strategically placed padding on the floor. -I used a folded quilt comforter—but don't tell my wife. -Be especially careful about any parts attached to glass, like side-view mirrors. -Grip them really tightly and buff lightly.
I did find out the hard way that the brass headlight rings shouldn't be buffed on the wheel. -My electric buffing wheel snatched the ring right out of my hands and slung it onto the electric motor's spinning shaft which bent it into a very lustrous figure-8. -Fortunately, the metal was malleable enough that I was able to bend and hammer it back into presentable shape. -The brass headlight rings should be polished the old-fashioned way, by hand, with a polishing cloth.
I used the cheapie, 6-inch electric orbital polisher ($17 at that well known purveyor of inexpensive, low to moderate quality tools), to polish the radiator and that little zinger did make short work of it. -And for me, the radiator was always the worst part of the job.
What used to take a full day of huffing and puffing and spraining aged muscles and joints has become a couple of hours of routine, therapeutic maintenance, thanks to a couple of inexpensive electrical gadgets—and the resulting screaming, screeching brightness of the brass would be enough to make a Marine drill instructor crack a smile.
OR- like me, just spray on some CLR to de-tarnish the brass, then hose off with the garden hose and spend the day driving the T instead of polishing!!
I've often thought if I could find a very small, slow speed angle grinder, I could come up with a polishing pad to attach to polish the brass. The ones I've got run too fast and sling the polish everywhere. You need a pad smaller than 4 inches that attaches with something sticky like maybe Velcro. Variable speed would be nice.
Please, what is "CLR" ??!?
https://www.grainger.com/product/4LEY3&AL!2966!3!56542746957!!!g!102362316597!?gclid=CjwKEAjwj6PKBRCAy9-07PeTtGgSJAC1P9xG JCh-QtinxE3rPRBX2K25IwgaKLMqY9qAw8pAQkAe-RoCkDbw_wcB&cm_mmc=PPC:+Google+PLA?camp aignid=175665117&s_kwcid=AL!2966!3!56542746957!!!g!102362316597!&ef_id=WNKGFAAAA IYQVk4a:20170620114448:s
The way to keep from hurting yourself and killing your parts, or vise versa, is to hold them against a board positioned in such a way that it keeps the buffing wheel from wrapping around the part and snatching it out of your hands.
Rich CLR is available in most hardware stores.
Yes, a hardware line, I just spray it on with a plastic pump bottle, doesn't effect if it gets on my paint as it's 2 pack on one T and enamel on another but would test first on any old original paint.
Your buffing wheel doesn't need to be attached to a bench. For some jobs a variable speed drill is handier. I use two HF wheels ($4 each), for coarse to start and fine to finish. The final step is Mother's polish to make the shine last longer.
Personally I enjoy polishing brass and the rewards therewith. I do it monthly, maybe twice on the radiators, doesn't take that long. Gives me something to do and keeps me outa the wife's hair. I'll stick with Blue Magic, I've tried half dozen other things, and it works. I will admit if Prism was available off the shelf, I'd use it too.
If you want to loose the detail on your brass lamps. the notes above is the way to do it. I can't believe how lazy some people are! No thanks, I'll continue to polish brass the way I've always done it....by hand!
A friend took his '15 radiator to a radiator shop to get a leak fixed. When he picked it up he found they had wire brushed it. They thought he would be pleased but somehow he wasn't. It will never be the same.
Please notice that Steve (picture above) is using a BUFFING wheel, not a wire brush.
As old car buffs go, Steve is the real deal !!!
(sorry fellers - I couldn't help it)
That powered buffer will remove the letters right off a brass item with enough polishing.
I've posted this product here before. Purchased from a janitor supply is Brite Boy metal polish which works the easiest of any polish I've tried. It doesn't produce that really great shine that we like to see but it's the quickest and easiest. I simply give it another polish with the Mothers billet or Prism which are two of the best. IMHO.
Green brass is the way to go! Wear that past century proudly!
I'd love to have some brass to polish!
Polishing brass is therapeutic for us OCD types. Sadly, It occupies time that could be better spent debating the superiority of different band lining materials, which oil to use, and whether there's really anything mysterious about Marvel Mystery Oil.
Blue Magic works real well by hand....
Have to be careful with a wheel or buffer. Causes a lot of heat and warps things. Especially lights and radiators. Don't ask how I know.
Good one Rich! I agree...therapeutic too!
Having lost a joint off my right hand to a buffing machine , all I can say is to be careful with power buffers. Some of the buffing compounds are toxic and buffing creates a lot of dust. As stated heat builds up fast and warps material. Also buffers can build up a pretty good jolt of static charge. When I lost my finger I got the nurse to give it to me. I stopped by the drug store for pain meds and the girl at the counter asked if I lost my finger. I told her no I had it in my pocket and did she want to see it. She all most died and said no real fast. Still have finger in jar.
I'm hearing a lot of disturbing responses to my post with regard to potential damage from an electric buffer, particularly the one about losing a finger. -Just to be clear, I'm using a fluffy wheel that is soft enough that it doesn't hurt my fingers when they come in contact with it. -It just tickles. - My motor isn't especially fast. -According to the data-plate, it spins at 1,725 RPM.
Apparently, not all fluffy wheel buffers are created equal. -My wheel is so soft and fluffy, it needs centrifugal force to keep its round shape. -When the motor is switched off and the spinning stops, the wheel flops over on itself, as you can see in the photo.
The orbital buffer I use is equally harmless. -When I use it, I'm constantly hitting my forearm, knuckles etc. with the fast-moving fleece bonnet and like the fluffy wheel, it just tickles.
With regard to CLR, the manufacturer recommends against using it on brass. -Other places on the internet say it's okay to use CLR on brass as long as the brass isn't scratched.
It's not generally the wheel that will hurt you. It's things like the headlight ring you mentioned when the next time it gets tangled around your fingers as it launches at the speed of sound and subsequently rips them off.
Much of the damage/injury can be traced to poor technique. For example, a brass headlight rim should first be polished with the buff on the curved front part with the buff rotating OFF the back edge. It is inviting disaster to buff onto an edge, as the buff will surely pick it up and throw it anywhere.
That said, I will continue to hand polish lamps, horns etc, leaving the buff for use on the windscreen stays, hubcaps etc.
Allan from down under.
For Wayne Sheldon:
This brass hasn't seen polish in, maybe, 17 years. It is SO liberating, and many folks do like the look of it. Your mileage may vary. Bill
I lost my finger with a real soft cotton wheel as shown. It had a 3/4 horse baldor motor. I was polishing an antique hand mirror retainer , it caught in the wheel and captured my finger and stopped the motor. I had to cut the retainer off to free my hand. I worked on jewlery and silver flatware and have many hours on those wheels. Just be careful with power buffers.
Harper has the right idea. Leave the polished brass for discos and fern bars !
Brasso and a six pack... The only way to clean brass...........
I agree with Larry. I would never buff brass,It is too abrasive. I rub on PRISM paste,remove it with a cotton towel and finish it with a Micro-fiber cloth. I also like to have a six pack of cool ones and OLD COUNTRY and BLUE-GRASS Music playing in the back ground while I am working.
Peter,you have the most beautiful brass I have ever seen but I have never been able to keep my brass looking like your with the salt air in Florida. As much as I hate using the buffing wheel I have to do it at least once a year as no amount of hand polishing will work. Once I buff on the wheel I can keep it up by polishing every few weeks by hand but when I am away for the summer the brass tarnishes so badly that I have to use the buffer. Sure wish there was a better way.
Dave, I've been trying to do sit-ups while polishing brass, but I don't have a six-pack yet. Very difficult.
Val, Have you used PRISM? It puts a protective coat on the brass. Once you get it clean it will stay good. I have been in rain storms on car tours. There is a product by (www.flitz.com) called INSTANT TARNISH REMOVER. It is good to remove spots and stains.
One word - ZUD
Machine polishing brass should not be a regular task. There are times when there is a stain that won't come out but otherwise hand polishing would be better in the long run. Listening to a baseball game helps but the Giants are really not doing well this year.
Bill, I really like and appreciate the "polish" on your car!!
I get a kick out of it myself when some people looking at my car have asked me if that is Gold? I just tell them that it should be. LOL
Peter, I have had the same experiences in the rain.
Rich B... Your not polishing hard enough... I've got a 12 pack up front!!