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Every knowledgeable aircraft owner knows that polishing should be a part of your regular airplane maintenance routine. However, did you know the effectiveness of the polish could be impacted by the weather conditions? It’s true—factors such as temperature, humidity, sunlight, and wind can all affect how well your polish will look once the job is complete.
If you’ve ever polished a plane on your own, you know how much of a huge time commitment it can be. So, if you’re going to put that much effort into a project, make sure you’re doing it at a time when you will end up with the best results. Here are some weather guidelines to follow the next time you need to polish your plane:
Check the back of your polish’s label to see if it mentions a specific temperature. Some polishes will advise that aircraft owners only use the product when the outside temperature is between 70 to 85 degrees. But, keep in mind “outside temperature” could mean the weather outside or the temperature of the hangar where your plane is stored, so technically, you could get away with polishing your plane in the dead of winter if it’s in a temperature controlled hangar.
Why does the temperature matter? When you use a buffer to polish your aircraft, the buffer generates heat, which makes the polish more effective. But, when it’s icy cold outside, the buffer may not be able to the same amount of heat as it moves across the surface of your plane. Although it’s possible to polish your plane when temperatures are low, you’ll get a better result in warmer climates.
Before you begin polishing, check the humidity levels in your hangar. It’s recommended that you always polish your plane when humidity levels are low if you want to achieve the best results. If you choose to polish your plane while humidity levels are high, it may take you a bit longer to get the look that you desire, since high humidity can often make your plane’s surface look cloudy, even after you have finished polishing it. You may have to put in a little extra effort to make the surfaces shine. Because of this, it’s best to avoid polishing your plane when it’s raining outside, because that will probably still affect the humidity levels within your hangar.
However, if you choose to polish your plane while humidity levels are low, there is one downside: environments with hot temperatures and low humidity levels have high evaporation rates. Even though it’s only recommended that you apply a thin layer of the polish on the plane, it may dry out quicker than it would in moderate humidity levels. Because of this, you may notice you need to use more product to get the polished look you desire if you are working in low humidity and high temperatures.
If you have no other choice but to polish in extremely low humidity, work with one small section at a time. If you work in smaller sections, there’s less of a chance the product will dry up while you are working.
If you’re polishing your plane inside a hangar, you may find the artificial light makes it difficult for you to see corrosion, cloudiness, or water spots. So, why not take it outside if it’s a beautiful day out? Polishing your plane in the bright sunshine could make it easier to spot problem areas on the surface, however it’s still not recommended. Direct sunlight quickly heats up the surface of your aircraft to high temperatures, and this is not an ideal condition for polishing. Remember, it’s best to polish in warm, not boiling hot temperatures.
Some aircraft owners may argue that the label on their polish product states it’s ok to use in direct sunlight, but make sure you understand how ambiguous “direct sunlight” can be. Direct sunlight in Florida during the summer is very different from direct sunlight in Minnesota in the fall. The polish manufacturer is probably referring to the latter situation, so use your best judgment if you want to polish your plane outdoors. A good rule to follow is if the surface of your plane is too hot to touch, or becomes too hot to touch while you are in the middle of polishing, call it quits.
If you are deciding whether you should polish your plane outside, sunlight is not the only environmental element you need to take into consideration. It’s important to take a look at the wind conditions as well to ensure it won’t be incredibly windy during the time you will be polishing.
Why does it matter how windy it is? While you’re working on cleaning your plane, the wind will be blowing tiny particles of dust and dirt all over it, so you’ll have to work twice as hard just to clean the surfaces and prepare it for polish. Wind can also make it more difficult to work with airplane polishes because like low humidity, it can increase the evaporation rate.
Do you plan on applying a sealant after you have finished polishing the plane? Although a bit of wind may help the sealant dry faster, it could also cause problems. If the wind blows particles onto the surface of your plane, applying a layer of sealant will trap those particles into place.
Basically, it’s ideal to polish your plane indoors in warm temperatures with lower levels of humidity, however not every aircraft owner will have the luxury of being in these conditions when it’s time for a polish. If your plane is desperately in need of a polish, you don’t have put it off just because of the weather conditions. Remember, not polishing your plane when it’s needed can cause serious damage and safety issues. However, you should be ready to adjust your technique to fit the circumstances you’re in so you can still enjoy the beautiful sheen of a freshly polished plane.