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Polished Aluminum Clearcoat Secret

Intro / synopsis: Anodizing is a great way to protect aluminum, but clear coating is simpler and more direct in many cases. Clearcoats range from single component, through coatings designed for periodic removal like brass lacquer, to 2-component clear coats such as are used on automotive paint. Read on ...

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Q. I have finished the bright work on a 1960 Austin Healey Bugeye rebuild. I would like to preserve the aluminum with its nice surface. Is there any way to keep it chrome-like that will last multiple years? Thanks.

Smitty in KS
- Kansas
August 9, 2022

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A. Hi Smitty. Anodizing is probably impractical under the circumstances, so you should pick a clear coat. Protectaclear from Everbrite [a supporting advertiser] from Everbrite is a thin single-component clearcoat that you could probably add to every couple of years. Brass lacquer is designed to be stripped and repeated every few years. Two-component automotive clearcoats will probably work well enough. And several clear coats have been suggested by name here over the years.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

⇩ Closely related postings, oldest first ⇩

Q. I am inquiring about polished aluminum, specifically the polished engine case pieces of 1970s motorcycles. I like to fix up these bikes as a hobby. My problem is identifying the clearcoat applied to these polished aluminum pieces. The clearcoat is so unobtrusive that a lot of enthusiasts do not realize it is there. In some cases the original Japanese factory applied clearcoat has turned to a yellowish color. Commercially available "Aluminum Clearcoat" products have proven unsatisfactory. What is the secret to coating polished aluminum with an extremely clear, long lasting protective application?

Many thanks,

Michael Waugh
- Decatur, Alabama

Q. I am trying to find the best way to keep the aluminum parts on my motorcycle their mirror finish a long time and make them EASY to clean. I have tried many different things and I'm now ready to do whatever it takes to make them look show quality but very easy to maintain. I have heard of people using UV resistant clear coats. Any recommendations?

Joe Mergl
polisher - New Jersey

A. Hello Joe; hello Michael.

Remember that there are countless grades of aluminum, and some are optimized for clearcoating while others aren't. If the part was originally clearcoated or clear anodized, it's probably a good alloy for brightness; but if you stripped paint off of it, it's probably an alloy that wasn't intended to retain brightness and doesn't do as well.

It isn't easy picking a clearcoat either. If one coating was manifestly superior to the others in broad ways over a broad spectrum of conditions, the other 999 would have been off the market in short order :-)

Bright dipping plus anodizing isn't for the do-it-yourselfer, but it is what was done on aluminum bumpers, and tens of millions of streetlight reflectors, and may be what was done on those bikes originally -- it is available from plating/anodizing shops. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. Por-15 Clear, amazing stuff.
You can buy it online too [adv: Por-15 2k Clearcoat on eBay or Amazon] ; it's pricey but worth it. Clear powder coating can be good too, but it can be too thick a coating sometimes.

R Malm
- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

A. The Por-15 Glisten has worked VERY well for my polished and brushed aluminum pieces. Is is very durable.
Understand, it is not 100% clear, so the metal takes on an ever-so-slight haze.

Adam Streubel
- Appleton, Wisconsin
March 28, 2008

Ed. update July 2023: 'Glisten' no longer exists. A search for it on refers you to their 2k matte [adv: Por-15 2k Clearcoat on eBay or Amazon] .
Glisten is sometimes seen on ebay [on eBay], but be careful: this is a 2-component coating and sellers sometimes offer only one part :-)

A. I've been researching this for a while. I've tried the Glisten --^, and yes it does add a haze. It's also prone to runs.

I've heard raves about Permalac [adv: Permalac on eBay] and Imron [adv: Imron clearcoat on eBay] . Eastwood has Diamond Clear.

VHT is said to have a good clear ([on eBay or Amazon] ), and then there's always Zoopseal .

I'm looking to clear coat some polished brass, and will likely go with the Permalac for that. We'll see how it goes.

Adam Streubel [returning]
- Appleton, Wisconsin
November 23, 2008

Ed. note: ZoopSeal no longer exists under that name; its inventor now calls the product ShineSeal [on eBay & Amazon]. Adam obviously has no axe to grind since he mentions 6 different products, but to the extent practical, please try to suggest TYPES of products: lacquers, epoxies, polyurethanes, single component, 2-K/2-Component, etc., rather than brand names or sources (huh? why?). This is a "no-registration" site, and honest appraisals by actual users are becoming overwhelmed by hawkers pretending to be satisfied customers of their own products and dissatisfied with competitive products :-)

A. I used a product called Everbrite [a supporting advertiser] on my polished aluminum valve covers, applies easily, no runs, & has held up very well. I have no affiliation w/them, just great results.

Fred Ryder
- Haines City, Florida
September 15, 2009


Q. We are using aluminum electrodes for electrical conductivity in instruments. Now we use it with buffing. We get the shine, but it does not remain constant and goes very bad soon. Kindly guide how to make aluminum electrodes mirror finish and long lasting.

Prashant kulkarni
Electronic Instuments - Nasik, Maharashtra, India

A. Aluminum is a very active metal which oxidizes instantly, Prashant. As you have found, the shine will quickly fade unless you successfully anodize it or clear coat it ... but those methods render it non-conductive and probably not useable as an electrode. A clear chromate conversion coating may be the only thing that will work, and I can't say how shiny it will stay or whether the reduction in conductivity will interfere with your use :-)

Plating it with another metal like nickel is probably the right answer.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Will chromate conversion coating stop black spots on powder coated sanded aluminum?

Q. I have a 6061 aluminum extrusion that we are sanding and applying a clear powder coat to, It looks as if sometimes the heat from the powder coat oven bakes something out of the extrusion and leaves black spots under the clear coat. Would Alodine help seal the part and stop this?

Jeff Hodgson
precision manufacturing - Champaign Illinois
June 13, 2014

A. Hi Jeff. It's hard to confidently say that chromate conversion coating will help the black spots specifically -- but it should be done anyway for better adhesion, corrosion prevention in the event of a scratch or pinhole, deterring filiform corrosion, etc. Powder coating should not go directly onto bare metal, but onto pretreated metal. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
June 2014

A. The Black spots are obviously contaminants.
I would think that they are possibly soot particles from incomplete combustion in your cure oven.
You can tune your burners to reduce or eliminate the problem from recurring.
You could "paint" your oven walls with odorless fish oil to decontaminate what is already swirling about.
Otherwise it could be just powder contamination from prior jobs in which case the "painting" option is still a winner.
Hope this helps.

William Doherty
Trainer - Salamander Bay, Australia
June 19, 2014

A. There is also a possibility that it is coming from the extrusion lubricant that has become imbedded in the metal.
I would run a test sample of wrought aluminum to see if it the oven or the aluminum.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida
June 20, 2014

Q. I have built a teardrop trailer and clad it with sheet aluminium. I wish to apply a clear coat to the surface and need advice. Thanks.

Ken Howes
- Windhoek Namibia
December 12, 2014

Q. I am Restoring a 1996 Cannondale R500 bicycles All Bare Aluminum. I polished it with Mother's Aluminum polish [on eBay or Amazon]. But I want to protect this almost Mirror Finish with Clear Coat on a flexible frame. Is it possible?

Kelly Chipper
- Islip, New York, USA
May 25, 2018

A. Hi Kelly. The amount of flexing on an aluminum bicycle frame should be no challenge for a properly adhered paint or clearcoat. But you might look for an aluminum pretreatment before the clearcoat if you're going to use a hard 2-K clearcoat; you can probably successfully do a lacquer or single component clearcoat directly on your polished surface as long as it's spotlessly clean. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
June 2018

Conversion coating aluminum with a mirror finish

Q. I have an aluminum component that has a specific surface with a mirror finish. I want to know if MIL-DTL-5541 [on DLA] can be applied on this surface or do I need instruct to mask to preserve the mirror finish.

Fernando Ortiz
- Plano, Texas
May 13, 2020

A. Hi Fernando. I am not personally familiar with clear chromating of aluminum being used to try to maintain its shine (which is not to say it won't work to some degree).

But it seems to me that the main issue is that a mirror finish is not going to last long without some type of preservative anyway because aluminum oxidizes instantly and fades quickly unless you are describing a component for high vacuum application or enclosed in an inert atmosphere. Must the surface remain electrically conductive? Because the usual way to preserve a mirror finish, done on countless millions of reflectors, is a thin layer of anodizing -- but that's non-conductive. You can see that we have added your question to a thread which covers others methods like clear coats, etc. Good luck.

... but please do me the favor of describing what the component in question is, and where it is used, because as soon as the questions become abstract, and the replies therefore have to involve a half dozen ifs-ands-&-buts, it makes for more work than most readers want so they don't reply, and tends to end the discussion :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 2020

Q. Ted,
Thank you for responding. The parts in question are wave guides used in an antenna. There are two different components with two raised mating surfaces both having a mirror finish. Both components are mated and the mirrored surfaces produce a seal for the internal channel. The two surfaces need to remain electrically conductive.

Fernando Ortiz
- Plano, Texas
May 13, 2020

A. Hi. Thanks for the clarity of your reply. Although chromating is usually quickly dismissed as having "no dimensional effect", when it comes to a requirement for a sealing surface, I'm not familiar enough with the possible effect on surface finish to hazard a guess as to whether chromate conversion coating can effect a waveguide seal. Further, it does interfere to some extent with conductivity. MIL-DTL-5541 [on DLA] describes that conductivity effect in detail. Hopefully now that the issue is very clear, a reader who is familiar with such an application will respond.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
May 2020

Q. We required to final clear coat our aluminium die casting components. Right now we are using steel shot blasting process after die casting the components.

Viney Singal
- New Delhi & India
August 12, 2020

A. Hi Viney. I'm not sure exactly what your question is :-)

Are you looking for a shop to clear coat the parts for you, or a suggestion of what clear coat to use? Or are you unhappy with the result of your steel shot blasting process and want a better process? Are you achieving a bright polished look by blasting but afraid that the chromate conversion will spoil it?

More words please, but meanwhile I would be concerned that blasting with steel shot increases the likelihood of rust developing on your aluminum.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
August 2020

Q. I am a professional sculptor and currently working on a large outdoor cast aluminum sculpture from a 356 aluminum alloy welded together. The customer wants the sculpture to be brushed and coated with at least a 3-year warranty on the finish. My thought was to clean the surface with Alodine 1201 [on eBay or Amazon] then spray with a 2-part ever clear polyurethane product. Not sure if this will meet the warranty specifications or not. I have never used Alodine but have used the polyurethane over patinated pieces with success. I am not sure if Alodine will affect the burnished finish. The final coat must be close to clear and durable for all seasons.

Thomas Wargin
Sculptor - Menomonee Falls Wisconsin USA
October 23, 2020

A. Hi Thomas. Alodine is a Henkel trade name for a series of chromate conversion coatings for aluminum. It is not actually for "cleaning the surface", but for pretreating it after cleaning.

Although chromate conversion coating is the ideal pretreatment for aluminum in terms of corrosion resistance and insuring good adhesion of subsequent coatings, Alodine 1201 is a colored chromate and will impart a yellowish/goldish tone; it will no longer look like bare or polished aluminum. There are clear Alodines [on eBay or Amazon] which would be better.

I think your choices would be to find a shop who can do a clear chromate for you and see whether that's clear enough, or to skip the chromate conversion coating.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 2020

Ed. note: For additional situations, options, and opinions please see also:
• Thread 21693, "Sealing Aluminum to prevent oxidation"

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