One way to really change the look of your engine compartment is to polish the aluminum intake plenum and valve
cover. I polished several other parts but I can barely see them. See list.
1. Intake Plenum:
Highly visible, very impressive.
Be prepared to spend 40 hours getting this perfect.
Before and After Polishing
2. Radiator filler neck: On passenger side of
Mostly visible, not so impressive
3. Front Fuel rail:
Partially visible, not so impressive
You can only see front half of front rail
4. Thermostat Housing:
Almost Hidden, Very Impressive but only to your mechanic!
5. Front Valve Cover:
Highly visible, very impressive.
Go here to see step by step Pictures of how I polished the Valve Cover, Warning graphic intense!
Step by step Polishing Valve Cover
6. Turbo Heat Shields:
Very Visible, doesn't want to polish evenly
Great sites That I used to learn about polishing
Go to these sites first!
Minimum Tools Required:
- El Cheapo bench grinder from Menards: $40
- Electric Grinder from Harbor Freight: $49
- Cone shaped sandpaper and Felt tips from Eastwood: $50
- Several polishing wheels from Sears: $20
- Rouge Assortment kit from Sears: $20
- Tons of sandpaper See below for grits: $30
Strongly suggested additional Tools:
- Dremmel tool for nooks and crannies $50
- El Cheapo Grinder stand from Menards: $30
Additional tools to make life easier:
- El Cheapo version of Mouse Sander from Menards: $30
- 3" sanding disks from True Value: $10
- Nice air compressor from Sears 40 gal: $350
- El Cheapo air grinder from Lowes: $20
- Greasless abrasives from Eastwood $50
The pride I get when I tell everyone I polished it myself: Priceless!
Harbor Freight Tools has about the lowest prices for tools you can find.
They may not be the best tools but they work.
The Electric Die Grinder $49 looks like a great tool if you do not have an air compressor.
The 8" Bench Grinder/Buffer $99 looks like a great upgrade over a standard grinder, I wish I would have bought this one.
I followed the above webpage's guidelines with a few modifications, see my steps below:
Note 1: I modify these guidelines occasionally when I find a better or faster way
Note 2: I polished my intake manifold with out greasless abrasives because I did not know about them at that time.
Basically they turn your buffing wheel into a sanding wheel. ANYTHING that saves time is a great idea so
I would suggest trying them, but they are not needed. They speed up some steps but you still need to sand by
hand to get a perfect shine.
- Figure out how much you are going to polish: You can only see half of the intake manifold so this saves
some work. I polished the runners, the sides of the manifold and the upper portion of the rear of the manifold.
I did not polish between the lettering on the top because it is a lot of work and it never looks quite right.
I think the unpolished section just make the polished sections look more impressive.
- 2. Decide if you really want to do this, then buy all of the tools listed above.
If you don't already have most of these tools it might be cheaper to get your plenum polished at one of these places:
Jeffrey Young's Polishing site
Dave Best's Polishing site
3SX's Polished Parts
- Use the die grinder with 120 rolls to remove and casting lines and cut off the rough cast surface
of every surface you intended to polish.
If you have greaseles abrasives you can use a felt cone with 60 grit greaseless abrasives to do the same.
- Use 220 grit by hand to rough it out, I only used this in places I could not reach well with die grinder.
Spend some time between the intake runners.
- Use a Mouse sander, or random orbit sander, or just a block of wood and some elbow grease, to flatten out
any large relatively flat surfaces. There are not many large flat surfaces so you may skip this step if you
don't already have a sander.
- Use 320 grit by hand to smooth it out. I ran the sand paper long ways on the runners.
If you have Greasless abrasives you can use almost any of the finer grits I think I used 220 grit on a buffing pad
- Use 320 grit by hand between the runners, this is what will put blisters on your fingertips but makes the
intake look so good afterwards.
Greaseless abrasives don't help much here you can try a small dremmel tool but you will probably need to use
sandpaper to get between the runners.
- Use 400 grit wet sandpaper by hand short way across the runner.
Sand until you can no longer see the sand marks in the
Even if you are using greaseless abrasives I strongly suggest doing this step.
This will take out the little waves seen in a lot of polished parts, doing a good job here will really make
your parts stand out. The plenum should have a nice satin finish now.
Any blemishes that you can still see will NOT be polished away, so take your time
- Note: I no longer suggest using 600 grit sandpaper
400 grit is as fine as you need to get. finer paper jusyt take longer to use.
The only reason you might want to use 600 grit is that it will show any imperfections, (but so will tripoli
compund on buffing wheel).
- Use dremmel tool to polish between the runners with Red Tripoli, normally suggested for rough polishing
aluminum. It is VERY tempting to polish big surfaces first but when you polish the nooks and crannies you
will scuff up the big surfaces and have to re-polish them.
- Finally use a Bench grinder with a buffing pad to polish the rest of the intake with Red Tripoli.
I also used a hand grinder with polishing disk for some of it because it is difficult to reach some of the
intake with a bench grinder. Please bolt your grinder to a bench or stand so you don't loose a finger
- I just recently started using White rouge as a finaly polishing step.
It is hard to see a difference the day you polish your parts, but polished parts seem to keep thier shine
longer when polished with white rouge. My theory is there is less microscopic scratches for corrosion to start in.
- Apply a coat of Mothers Aluminum polish to finish it off. I heard that Fritz (SP?) was even better but
nobody carried it locally.
- Since I did not polish between the letters, I just took 400 grit and a block and sanded the letters carefully
in a straight line.
These parts were my first polishing experience, I have at least 40 hours in my intake manifold but it looks great!
I have been refining my technique but it still takes a long time to get the mirror finish I crave.Br>