Saturday, February 25, 2012

How To Polish Your Bike's Bolts - Seriously.

While I wait on the suspension to come back for the Gixer, I thought it might be a good time to start cleaning up a few of the bits and pieces that hold her together.

Fairing bolts always make a bike look tatty when they corrode, or go dull, so I thought I'd give them the treatment. This is one of the front mudguard bolts. Doesn't look too bad in the photo, but could be improved.

All you need is an electric drill, emery cloth (for the roughest of bolts), 400/600 grit wet & dry, a scotch pad and good old Autosol. (Be careful with the drill - I don't want to hear about rags being ripped up in the chuck, or losing fingers whilst holding a bit of emery cloth against a spinning bolt.)

How To Polish Bolt Heads Up Like New.

Fit the bolt into the chuck of the drill. No need to go too tight - we don't want to damage the threads. If the bolt is pretty clean and not too corroded, a scotchbrite pad will be enough at this stage to clean up the head. Spin the drill while holding pressure on the head of the bolt with the scotch pad. Be careful because it will get warm after a while.

If badly pitted, bring it back to a smooth finish using emery cloth first, then followed with fine wet & dry. The finer you go, the better the results, but I only went to 400 grit. It leaves the tiniest of lines, but you can't see those unless you're using a magnifying glass.

Once you're happy, get a rag and apply a small dab of Autosol - again use the drill to polish the head.

They should start to look a little like the one on the right.

The polished mudguard bolts in front, and a dull fairing bolt behind.

It's possible to apply the technique to any bolt, but you'll never get the hexagon section perfect with this method. Still, a vast improvement on what they were!

From one side of the bike. 3 x fairing bolts, 3 x mudguard bolts, 2 x caliper bolts and 2 x wheel spindle pinch bolts. Not too shabby.

Don't Forget, You Can Polish ANY Bolt!
To prove this works on any old bolt, here's a rusty 8x1.25 I had sitting on the bench. The raised letters and numbers still clearly visible.

Rough emery cloth will take most stuff off. You'll probably need to hold the emery cloth as well as support the drill, but you'll soon get the hang of it.

It's working, just needs a little more. Once the head is smooth all over, start with the 400 grit.

A light going over with the finer grade just leaves fine lines.

A quick dab of polish and we've got a great shine!

If I was fussy, I could continue with the wet & dry until all imperfections were gone, but you'll never see those when they're fitted to the bike.

Remember, these surfaces will go dull, and steel will rust eventually. Keep an eye on them and give them another going over every now and again. In the UK, where salt is applied to the roads every winter, it's hard to keep fasteners clean even with regular washing. But even plated bolts suffer there. 

This is a cheap fix that probably anyone can do with a little time. Not only does it improve the bike's looks, it'll add value if you're trying to sell it.