Tunnel polishing 101

Tunnel polishing 101

by Trish Drinkle

Trish Drinkle polishing the aluminum tunnel on a sled.
Author Trish Drinkle bringing a dragon back to life. Trish Drinkle photo

All that glitters is not gold, at least for snowmobilers. Bringing a snowmobile’s aluminum tunnel back to life can be hard work, but it's well worth the effort. Some snowmobiles have a powder-coated tunnel that really requires no upkeep or maintenance. But if you own a machine that has a raw aluminum tunnel, these tips are for you.

Gather all your supplies including soft rags, microfibre cloths, SOS pads or fine grit sandpaper, aluminum polish, an electric drill or orbital polisher, an old toothbrush and a huge supply of elbow grease.

Orbital polisher, rags and sand paper.
Here's some of the equipment needed to polish your aluminum tunnel. Trish Drinkle photo

Clean the machine, removing all dirt and grime from the surface. Remove the seat if it impairs access to areas which need polishing. Remove gunk, grime and scratches with an SOS pad, or wet sand it with a fine-grit sandpaper. Clean any residue off, then dry with a microfibre cloth.

Apply polishing compound. There are many favorites out there, including Swabbies SledBrite, Wicked Metal Polish, and Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish. Using a soft cloth such as microfibre, apply the compound until it begins to turn black.

Using a little extra horsepower will cut the manual labor part of the job tremendously. If you are using a polishing ball or cone with a drill, make sure it is an electric drill rather than a battery-powered one. The amount of time needed to fully polish the aluminum can quickly exhaust the battery—or worse, the drill itself. There are commercial-type polishers on the market that work even better, although a cone gives access to hard-to-reach areas. Take your time and use sufficient product to bring that shine out.

After you have polished all areas accessible to your power tools, it is time for the elbow grease part of the job. With a clean microfibre cloth, get into every nook and cranny to remove the remaining blackened polish compound. A trick from the pros includes the use of flour to remove excess residue and finish the job off to gleaming success. A soft wool buffing pad is a wonderful option for adding that little bit of extra sparkle to your efforts. 

If you are preparing a machine for resale, taking the time to shine up the tunnel can mean extra dollars in your pocket. A polished tunnel can also help shed snow, reducing the weight packed on to your machine when you’re riding in deep snow.

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