How to Polish Aluminum Motorcycle Fork Tubes

by Chris Gilliland
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motorcycle row2 image by Clarence Alford from

Shiny fork tubes always add to a motorcycle's appearance, but the cost and weight of having aluminum fork tubes chromed can be prohibitive to most. Since most motorcycle fork tubes are made from aluminum, they can be polished to a near chrome-like shine using only a few easily obtained items. However, while polishing your fork tubes yourself can save you a great deal of money, the project takes patience and determination.

Step 1

Place the motorcycle on a stand or lift. Remove the brake calipers and front wheel from the forks. Using a socket wrench, loosen the pinch bolts on the upper and lower triple clamps. Slide the forks out from the bottom of the triple clamp. Set the forks on a clean work area.

Step 2

Prepare the forks by removing the painted or anodized finish from the fork tubes. Spray the fork tubes with an aircraft-grade paint stripper to remove paint. Scrub any remaining paint off with steel wool. Remove anodized finishes with an oven cleaning agent followed by sanding with 220-grit sandpaper. Remove surface rust from the fork tubes using a 600-grit sandpaper.

Step 3

Smooth the fork tube's surface, using coarse 150-grit sandpaper. Dip the sandpaper in a mixture of water and a mild soap and sand the fork tube, using a consistent back and forth motion. Smooth out any irregularities until the tube surface is uniform.

Step 4

Refine the fork tube's surface by using a 300-grit sandpaper. Sand the fork tube in the opposite direction used in the previous step to remove the sanding marks left by the coarser sandpaper. Repeat this step, alternating sanding directions and using increasingly finer sandpaper until all sanding marks have been removed.

Step 5

Using a cloth buffing wheel and an electric drill, apply rouge or a similar metal polish to the fork tubes. Use light pressure on the buffing wheel to work the metal polish into the fork tubes. Continue until the fork tubes begin to shine. Replace the buffing wheel with a clean wheel and buff the fork tubes again to remove any remaining polish.

Step 6

Repeat on the remaining fork tube. Reinstall the forks and reinstall the brake calipers and front wheel onto the motorcycle.

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