How to Swirl an Aluminum Dash

Written by don kress
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How to Swirl an Aluminum Dash
Swirled aluminium dash inserts set the interior of your car apart. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Aluminium dash inserts are attractive accents in your vehicle, but they all look pretty much the same. The aluminium is either brushed or polished without an interesting design. But applying a swirl pattern is quick and easy, due to the malleability of aluminium. Spraying a simple clear top coat over the aluminium will smooth the surface and provide a high-gloss finish.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Screwdrivers
  • Drill chuck wire brush
  • Electric drill
  • Spray can clear top coat
  • 1000-grit wet/dry sandpaper
  • Automotive polishing compound
  • Clean rags

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  1. 1

    Remove the dashboard insert with a screwdriver. Some dash inserts are clipped into place, so you may need to pry the insert out with a flat screwdriver, rather than unscrewing it.

  2. 2

    Insert the round wire brush into the drill chuck, then plug the drill in if it is a corded drill.

  3. 3

    Hold the dash insert steady against a solid surface and run the drill at its medium speed, pressing the round wire brush against the aluminium. You will immediately see a round swirl pattern where the wire brush touched the dash insert.

  4. 4

    Pick the drill up from the surface, shift it horizontally along the dash insert a few inches, and then press it against the aluminium again. Continue doing this in as straight a line as you can for the entire length of the dash insert. When you reach the end, shift the drill down slightly, approximately half the diameter of the wire brush, and then work back across the dash insert. Work back and forth horizontally in this way until the entire dash insert shows the pattern.

  5. 5

    Spray the surface of the dash insert with two to three coats of clear top coat. Allow each coat to dry for approximately five minutes before applying the next coat. Allow the top coat to dry for 18 hours before continuing.

  6. 6

    Sand the dash insert's clear top coat with the 1000-grit wet/dry sandpaper and water. This will smooth out the bumps in the top coat, but be careful to avoid sanding through the top coat completely. Dry the sanded area with a clean, dry rag. If you cannot see any glossy spots, then you have sanded far enough.

  7. 7

    Apply automotive polishing compound to the clean rag, then vigorously wipe the dash insert until all of the sand scratches left by the 1000-grit sandpaper have been removed and the surface is perfectly smooth and glossy. Reinstall the dash insert into the vehicle.

Tips and warnings

  • Clear top coat is available at auto parts stores.
  • Do not use metal cleanser before spraying the dash with the top coat. If you do, the solvent will permeate into the pores of the aluminium, and may cause "fish eyes" or solvent "pop" in the top coat.

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