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Clear Coating a High Polished Aluminum Frame

Clear Coating a High Polished Aluminum Frame

When you see someone with a beautiful, polished aluminum frame, it might be tempting to slap a clear coat on there and call it good.

Although fine fillet brazing can deliver a positive result when placing a clear coating on a highly polished aluminum frame, it isn’t always the best idea. Master finishers take pride in having a pinhole-free, smooth fillet.

That visual element provides evidence of the precision work they produce. Although it looks fantastic raw, it’s better to paint the aluminum.

Although aluminum and its alloys have excellent corrosion resistance, the metal isn’t immune to the process. Only commercially pure or 1xxx products deliver the best results. Anything with iron, copper, zinc, or magnesium needs paint before the clear coating.

Clear Coating a High Polished Aluminum Frame

Raw bikes are a fun trend in the cycling world. By placing a clear coating on top of a highly polished aluminum frame, you can make the metal shine while creating a distinctive look for everyone to enjoy. The result is a shiny bicycle that glistens in the sun, but it could require more maintenance.

The first step in the transparent coating process is to brush and polish the raw frame. Once you start the process, the heat exposes stains, fingerprints, scratches, and other elements on the aluminum, even if the metal looks clean.

You’ll discover that the issue with aluminum when clear coating a raw frame is that it instantly oxidizes. It is usually better to work with an anodizer to create the look you want instead of sticking to the traditional process.

Some people love seeing the imperfections because it makes the aluminum frame feel like a work of art. Your bicycle is 100% unique, and no one can take that away from you.

If you don’t want that outcome, there is always the choice to let the metal oxidize naturally. When you leave it uncoated, you’ll eventually develop a lovely patina that you can polish by hand.

How to Work the Clear Coating Process

For the purpose of this guide, the instructions are based on the idea that you’re already working with an aluminum frame that contains a clear coat.

Over time, the clear coat starts to fade, scratch, or flake away. If your bike isn’t cared for correctly, it can happen within a few years.

Here are the steps to follow if you’re ready to get that raw bike looking better today.

  1. Remove the other components of the bicycle from the frame. You’ll want to take everything off so that you can work on the metal components.
  2. If you need to work on the bike’s rims, you might consider taking the tires off to avoid unintentional damage. You can skip these first two steps if your bicycle frame is already prepared.
  3. Strip the existing clear coat from the aluminum frame with a paint stripper. It works better to spray this product on with an aerosol-style application. If you must use a gel product, a paintbrush is the best way to go. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how long to leave it on, but you should start seeing bubbles. Wipe it off with a rag, and keep repeating until you reach the bare metal.
  4. Mask off any areas you don’t want the clear coat to affix to the frame. If you have any parts that aren’t bare metal, those spaces should get covered. Then wipe the entire structure down with mineral spirits and a clean, lint-free rag until all oils and residues are gone.
  5. Apply a light dusting of the primer to the bike frame. It needs about 60 seconds or so to dry, and then you can apply a heavier coat. It helps to hold the can about ten inches from the frame, moving it back and forth with smooth motions. Having the can in one area for too long will create runs.
  6. Once the primer is on, apply the paint to protect the bike frame. Steps 5 and 6 are optional if you want to create a clear coat over the bare metal. You’d need to follow this part of the guide if you’re concerned about potential erosion issues.
  7. Apply the first layer of the clear coat. It will need sufficient time to dry, which is usually at least overnight. You’ll need to repeat two or three times to get it strong enough to resist the debris and grime that comes out on the road.
  8. Once you’ve succeeded with the finish, you’ll want to wash the clear coat regularly with soap, water, and a gentle brush to ensure it stays clean.

What Steps Can I Take to Protect a Clear Coating?

If you have a successful clear coating on a raw aluminum frame, you’ll want to be proactive about caring for this investment. Since the surface layer protects the metal underneath, you’ll see patchy patina development, or even corrosion, when it starts degrading.

Here are the important steps to follow to ensure that you can protect that clear coat as much as possible.

Keep it out of the sun.• UV rays from sunshine eventually cause the clear coat on an aluminum frame to start fading or deteriorating.
• You’ll need to hide the bicycle from the sun whenever it isn’t being ridden.
• It helps to find a shady area in a park, have a hook in your garage, or have an indoor spot at work.
Remove the corrosive elements.• Your frame gets exposed to numerous corrosive aspects throughout the day.
• Bird droppings are one of the worst things to have on your bicycle.
• Without a quick cleaning, the clear coat gets damaged rapidly.
• Hot water and soap work well for it and items like road salt or tree sap.
Wash your frame regularly.• Although a pressure washer is a quick fix, it won’t always get the job done.
• It helps to wash your bike by hand to ensure the dirt and debris can’t linger to destroy the clear coat.
• You don’t want to use aggressive scrubbing to finish the job.
• A gentle brush and a little elbow grease are often enough.
Get some detailing clay.Detailing clay removes embedded dirt that weasels its way into the frame’s clear coat.
• This step also removes any lingering contaminants that could be troublesome while preparing the outer surface for a new wax coating.
Don’t be afraid of some wax.• Your fresh clear coat needs a real wax and some buffing to help everything look fresh and clean.
• This effort shields the product for up to an entire season before needing some touchups.

The best way to protect a clear coating on an aluminum frame is to avoid having it peel, fade, or crack. When you follow the steps outlined above, the surface’s life gets extended while your bike continues to look fantastic!

What Are the Pros and Cons of Clear Coating an Aluminum Frame?

Before taking steps to clear coat a highly polished aluminum frame, it helps to evaluate the pros and cons of this investment.

A clear coat is a resin or paint with zero pigments. That means it imparts no color to the bicycle, putting a clear protectant over the metal to keep it looking fresh.

You can spot frames that receive regular care over those that don’t, even when both have a clear coat. An affordable product, such as Meguiar’s A1216 Cleaner Wax, can help you achieve fantastic results with minimal effort.

◼️ List of the Pros and Cons of Clear Coating

What Are the Pros of Clear Coating?What Are the Cons of Clear Coating?
• Clear coat paint not only makes your aluminum frame look shiny and glamorous, but it adds a reflective quality to the surface.
• It delivers extra protection against the sun’s UV rays that can cause the metal to develop its patina prematurely.
• The product can help reduce the appearance of shallow defects and surface spotting that can happen when acidic elements come into contact with the bare metal.
• It is an affordable way to safeguard your investment. Even premium high-gloss aerosol products in this category are priced at less than $30 per can.
• Using only one layer instead of applying paint before the clear coat reduces the need for solvents, which can be an environmental hazard. The clear coat finish is more resistant to oxidation.
• If you miss a spot while applying a DIY clear coat, you’ll see part of the frame develop a patina while the rest of it does not.
• The transparent coating is more sensitive to scratches, which means polishing compounds are not helpful when cleaning your bicycle.
• The clear coat becomes dull as time passes, reducing the natural luster that the aluminum offers for the bicycle. Since the fading can happen slowly, some people might not even notice that it is happening.
• Regular maintenance is necessary to keep the finish looking good. That means you’ll be washing or detailing your bike more often to keep up the look.
• If you don’t have any waxes to use, you’ll need to invest in that product to help keep the bike looking great.

A Final Thought on Clear Coating a High Polished Aluminum Frame

It is possible to clear coat a high polished aluminum frame. Although you’ll need to proceed carefully with light layers, you can build the surface up enough to give it that glossy, raw metal look you’ve come to love.

For me, I wouldn’t use a clear coat on a polished aluminum frame. Once you get that slick surface on top of the metal, it’s almost impossible for the transparent coating to adhere appropriately.

That means you’re stuck trying to scratch up the surface that you just polished! It all seems like a colossal waste of time. I prefer the anodized look for bare-metal aluminum.

If you decide that applying a clear coat is what you want to do, this guide provides the steps needed to have a successful experience. It takes some time and patience to complete this effort, so you’ll want to give yourself a weekend or two to make sure the work is finished correctly.

When you’re unsure of your skills in this area, it is better to take your aluminum frame to a trusted professional.


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