Polishing Stainless Steel Trim

Polishing Stainless Steel Trim

The Tedious Process of Polishing Stainless Steel Trim

Because I need to polish the division bars to complete my vent window restoration, I’m taking the chance to polish the rest of the stainless trim as well.  Polishing stainless steel trim is a tedious process involving steel wool, sand paper, solvents, buffing compounds, a bench grinder or buffer, and various buffing pads.  It’s a straight-forward process, basically you just need to use finer and finer abrasives and softer and softer materials to bring stainless to a mirror shine, but it’s time-consuming.

Since new pieces are available, I’m not doing any repairs to my trim beyond sanding down minor scratches incurred from my ham-fisted removal technique.  There are four pieces of trim that either have dents or deep scratches in them, one of which I absolutely destroyed trying to get it off, and because the repair process adds extra time and complexity (and significant cost if someone else does it), I’ll just be buying those few pieces separately.  But the majority of the trim is in good shape, so I’ll be polishing it up and saving some precious, precious money.

So far all I’ve done is the initial steel wool cleaning of the good pieces.  And I have to say, I’m very impressed with how well the stuff cleaned up.  In fact, if this were just a driver car, I would be strongly tempted to stop here and would be totally comfortable putting the trim on the car just as it is.  And that’s the great thing about stainless.  It’s really forgiving, it can be effectively cleaned with steel wool (000 or 0000 is best if you don’t want to have to spend hours taking out polishing scratches), it’s solid (as opposed to an anodized or electroplated coating like chrome), and it doesn’t rust or pit, so it can always be cleaned back up.  The only problem is that it dents easily because it’s thin.  Oh, and it’s nearly impossible to remove without distorting pieces.

Now that I’ve got the pieces clean and somewhat shiny, I’ll do a quick pass with some fine grades of sandpaper to smooth out any scratches and then I’ll go to work with the buffing compounds and see what I get.  I’ve been generally following the AutoRestoMod process detailed in the video below.  Although I found the compounds and pads from Caswell Plating to be a better deal than some of the Eastwood stuff when I shopped for supplies, you can’t go wrong using Eastwood’s products as far as I’m concerned.  Their supplies are top notch.