Spring Cleaning Your Rig

As we look forward to a new driving season, here are some carriage maintenance tips. Let’s start at the front with the harness.

I’m not going to get into leather care. I think there are others who can do a better job on this subject. I would like to address the metal bits. If brass, they have to be cleaned and polished regularly. Even stainless ones need some work if they are to look really good. I have found two products that have worked very well for me. I’m sure there are many others on the market as well.

The first is BRASSO. Anyone who had any contact with the military before they went to black buckles and insignia will know of this one. It will polish up the most green and dirty brass and make it shine brilliantly. It does take some work, though. Available at hardware stores.

Another that works very well is SIMICHROME. It is a German product that is available at motorcycle shops. I have used a lot of it on my bikes and have been very satisfied. Bike shops are interesting to visit. You may meet your doctor or lawyer there!

Both of the above are applied with a rag (old t-shirts work well) so some effort and patience are needed, but the results are worth it.

For those with less time or patience, or who are just plain lazy, the process can be motorized. A Dremel tool with a felt mop can be used to good effect. You will need some polishing compound for the mop. The ones to get are Tripoli and White Rouge. Start with the Tripoli and then go to the White Rouge, if you want it even brighter. You may well be satisfied with the Tripoli. If you are a real fanatic, there is also the even finer Jeweler’s Rouge for the ultimate shine, but I don’t think this is practical or desirable on working harness. However, a few notes on safety.

Firstly, a Dremel tool turns at an incredible rpm. The little tools are obviously turning at the same speed. They can fly apart, especially if mishandled. The possibility of serious eye injury is real. The solution is to wear goggles or a face shield. I have used these tools for years with no trouble, but why take a chance?

Once you have used one of these, you will find they are handy for all sorts of things. There are an almost unbelievable variety of attachments available. Dremel tools can be purchased at hardware stores and the like. The buffing compounds mentioned above are more of a problem. Try automotive specialist stores that cater to the DIY set such as hot rodders, the tuner car people, or auto body supply places. Don’t be afraid to go in. They’re cool! You’ll meet some interesting people! If you can’t locate some, check out www.eastwoodco.com. This is a good company with good products. I have found them to be good people to deal with.

Another safety problem is the dust, filled with abrasive, that comes off the mop. Granted, you won’t be doing much and the mops are small, but why expose yourself at all? Simply wear a face mask that can be purchased at any hardware store. Read the label to get the right one, as there are many types. You want one that protects from fine dust. In the old days in motorcycle factories where they had chrome plating facilities, the buffers, who usually didn’t wear proper safety equipment, would often come down with an affliction called “plater’s cough” which in time could be fatal. When they died, it was said they “fell off the wire.”