If there is one thing that an older bike restorer comes across, it's RUST! The curse of living on a wet planet with lots of oxygen. Rust will occur just about anywhere there is metal so I will break it down into the different areas of the bike where it occurs and how to handle it. Let me first say that the highest quality of restoration comes from the cleaning and rechroming of damaged parts.... BUT, most of us can not afford to have parts rechromed and thus this article provides an avenue for us less well off restorers.
THE FUEL TANK: By its design the fuel tank just asks for rust. If you live in an area with just about any moisture in the air and with fairly large temperature changes throughout the year, you will see rust. The air chamber above the fuel within the tank provides a supply of moisture that will condense when temperatures drop, adding unwanted rust producing water to your tank.
There are 3 things that you can do to a rusted tank and still ride the bike:
I tend to follow the second method and thus I will describe that here. Try this at your own risk to the tank and yourself, if you are a minor you need adult supervision!
Well, nobody said it would be easy! The commercial products work in the same manner but end with a coat of plastic.
Most older bikes have chromed shocks and they tend to rust. I would
remove them from the bike and dismantle them. Using 000 or 0000 steel
wool start to rub. This level of wool will not scratch the metal. If
some of the rust refuses to be removed with this grade of steel wool,
try 0 or perhaps higher but watch the pressure since higher numbers
can scratch. As a last resort try a brass brush wheel on a bench
grinder. Some pitting may remain if severely rusted.
WHEEL RIMS: Follow the same procedure as for the shocks. DO NOT CLEAN ALUMINUM WHEELS IN THIS MANNER! The spokes can be individually cleaned for best results.
HANDLE BARS AND FENDERS: Use only 000 and 0000 on these items since they can scratch easily. Fenders tend to pit if left out in the rain for years!
TURN SIGNALS AND TAILLIGHT HOUSING: These parts have the thinnest coating of chrome that can be found on a bike so go easy! The underside of the taillight is normally a bad customer. Bolts and nuts usually need help here.
INDIVIDUAL BOLTS AND NUTS: These can be very bad at times and can require the brass wheel to clean. You will be surprised on how they will improve the look of the bike once cleaned.
EXHAUST PIPES: Good luck! Although this is the area of thickest chrome, the heat really weakens the metal and rust will abound. These will almost surly require a wire brush wheel. Use 000 to polish up afterwards.
ENGINE: Although the engine block does not appear to rust it can have a very uneven finish! The news is that it is rusting but in a fashion that aluminum does, uneven white patches. A further problem is that Honda painted all of their older bike engines with silver aluminum paint. If you go rubbing too much you will go through the paint and hit shiny bare aluminum. Patches of bare aluminum and old paint looks bad! Either take 0000 steel wool and very carefully go over the engine removing the white aluminum oxide or go to bare aluminum and repaint!
OTHER ALUMINUM AREAS: (lower forks, wheel hubs) Treat this just like the engine block.
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