One of the most challenging steps in restoring a motorcycle is dealing with rust. Most often, rust occurs on the metal frame where it may be difficult to access. Removing the engine or other components may be the only way to repair rust, but with the right tools even the most weathered bike can be made to look new.
Getting to the Rust
The first challenge of rust removal is gaining access to the rust itself. In the case of a rusty old motorcycle, this can mean disassembling the bike down to its frame. Keep track of all the parts you remove by making a diagram or bagging and labelling the parts. Also note the order in which they come off, so you can reverse this for reassembly. If your rust is small and localised, diss-assembly might not be necessary, but otherwise the process of rust removal will be much the same.
The first step in rust removal should be to clean the affected surfaces with an automotive soap and water. Rinse the part of the motorcycle near the rust and let them dry thoroughly. Next, use a coarse tool such as a wire brush or an abrasive pad to start removing rust. These tools can be used with water, which will help break down other dirt on the rusty surface and keep dust from rising into the air as you work. Abrasive pad attachments can also be used on a power drill or screwdriver for faster removal of rust.
Once the majority of rust is removed with the use of a coarse tool, move down to a finer tool such as steel wool or fine-grit sandpaper. This will remove any rust in small spaces such as scratches in the metal itself and also remove scratches made by your coarse tool. It may be necessary to work in several steps, moving to finer tools until the motorcycle is free of rust and has a consistent, smooth surface.
For motorcycle frames or other components with glossy surfaces, such as polished stainless steel, skip the most abrasive tool and begin with a mildly abrasive pad of medium-grit sandpaper. The process will move more slowly, but you'll retain more of the surface's original shine. Also, in cases where some rust cannot be removed, such as spaces you can't reach with your tool or where rust is deep, use an oxide conversion liquid. This chemical treatment will neutralise rust and prepare the surface for being primed and repainted.
Painting and Polishing
Once all of the rust on your motorcycle is either removed or treated with an oxide converter, the surfaces are ready to be re-finished. This can be a perfect time to try out a new paint scheme or simply to try reproducing the original factory appearance. Prime all components before painting and work in layers, allowing each to dry fully before applying the next layer. For glossy surfaces that don't require paint, a variety of polishing compounds and cleaners are available.