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Old 01-18-2014, 08:18 PM   #1
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Substandard wheels

I recently returned from a trip to Florida from Missouri which we traveled through rain, sleet, snow, ice and salted roads. Upon returning I gave the AI a good bath, when I got to the wheels I couldn't believe how they wouldn't clean up with soap and water like all of my other vehicles, the AI has less than 10,000 miles and the wheels look like they have 500,000 miles, it seems they are just a polished bare metal that when exposed to the elements become tarnished and pitted beyond repair (at least by me) in my estimation. I suppose one could spend hours trying to polish them but that is not going to happen. I am very disappointed that Airstream would install such a substandard product on a $146,000 rig. I spoke with Jim Parrett from Airstream, he said they started using the Alcoa wheels with the Dura Bright finish on the 2014 chassis, probably four months after mine was manufactured. He suggested that I could buy them through the dealer here in Springfield. So no help from Airstream I guess. I found a local source where I can get the wheels with the Dura Bright finish for around $1300.00 for the set. I'm just a little put out that such a high end unit would have such an inferior set of wheels. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Jeff
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Old 01-18-2014, 08:44 PM   #2
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If you think the metal is OK and it is just the clear coat that failed, you can have them re-polished for about $50 each. Aluminum Wheel Polishing and Refurbishing for Semis Tractor Trailers Motorcycles Passenger Cars Light Trucks

Or, contact a local chrome shop about polishing and then chrome or nickel plating.

Or either can polish them and you can clearcoat.
http://www.eastwood.com/diamond-clear-gloss-set.html
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Old 01-18-2014, 09:01 PM   #3
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Alcoa has awful customer support and their only service location is in Ohio. Even the Alcoa dealerships don't support the brand. Alcoa has only one customer service rep and said I would have to drive to Ohio for any support. You may want to consider a different brand of rim. I too have the same issue and have started looking for a different brand of rim. I only have 6K miles on my 2014 AI Ext.
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Old 01-19-2014, 12:09 AM   #4
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The non-DuraBrite Alcoa wheels are polished bare aluminum with no coating. The only way to clean them up is by re-polishing.
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Old 01-19-2014, 12:44 AM   #5
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Thanks for the comments! I was beginning to wonder if maybe I had a defective set of wheels since I hadn't seen any other comments regarding this issue (maybe I simply missed them). I have some local contacts that I can ask about the repolishing and possibly clear coating. However I am doubtful that the clearcoat will be a long term solution. I would be very interested in some sort of plating as Wayward has suggested, That sounds like a more permanent solution. Has anyone on here had any experience with this?
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:39 AM   #6
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I hadn't seen any other comments regarding this issue (maybe I simply missed them).

However I am doubtful that the clearcoat will be a long term solution.

Has anyone on here had any experience with this?
In the 60's/70's I worked in a beachside custom motorcycle shop in Florida when most Japanese and British bikes has polished cast aluminum wheel hubs, engine cases and other parts. The salt air was a constant enemy.

The British bikes were bare polished aluminum and looked gorgeous. The only real solution to keeping them nice was regular polishing with a product called Neverdull. It has a slight, fine polishing agent and leaves a slightly oily coating.

The Japanese bikes had clear coat on the polished aluminum. Some held up perfectly but others would start corrosion/peeling and there was not much to do except have the clear coat stripped and then polished with Neverdull, or chrome plated.

We never had problems with aluminum parts once they were properly chrome plated. Nickel plating works well too and is a little less shiny look than chrome.

Clearcoating will hold up - most cars now have "polished" wheels that are a combination of silver argent paint and clear coated polished sections. I am not expert but understand that clear coating bare aluminum is tricky and will hold up if done properly.
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Old 01-19-2014, 03:38 PM   #7
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Clearcoating will work but has some drawbacks. First it will dull the appearance somewhat. And you will not want flange balancing weights used as even the coated ones will wear thru the clearcoat and allow the aluminum to oxidized and will spread under the clearcoat like a cancer.

Chrome plating is a good solution.
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Old 01-20-2014, 04:55 AM   #8
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Once a year I get out the Mothers Powerball & Powercone and the wheels come out like brand new. Of course this won't work with clear coat. I used to have clear coated wheels on my F350 and winters destroyed the finish. I now have polished alloys like the AS and polish those in the spring as well. Not a big fan of chrome as it tends to pit if you don't keep them clean after a winter season.
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Old 01-20-2014, 03:29 PM   #9
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Also you might want to consider getting your wheels powder coated. Advanced RV seems to use black powder coating and I think it looks quite striking. And probably a lot better wearing than the shiny aluminium.
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Old 01-20-2014, 05:12 PM   #10
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Also you might want to consider getting your wheels powder coated.
Interesting. I have read that the preparation of the bare aluminum is critical to a durable clear coat on aluminum. It looks like powdercoat may be available in clear too.

"Clear powder coatings are used quit extensively by automotive wheel manufacturers, are durable and can be very cost-effective. "
Powder coating Vs. Liquid Polyurethane on Aluminum Wheels
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Old 01-20-2014, 06:50 PM   #11
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In the event you don't know, "DO NOT" use a product to clean your tire like "Bleach White", etc... that are mounted on bare aluminum wheels. I've known many people mess up a brand new set of wheels the first time out washing the car. In an effort to make the white letters standout, clean the tires, etc... they will use a tire cleaner that destroys the wheels then they have to spend hours polishing the wheels back.

By chance, you said you gave the AI a washing, what type of soap did you use? You just may have created your own problem.

Enjoy,
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Old 01-21-2014, 12:26 AM   #12
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In the event you don't know, "DO NOT" use a product to clean your tire like "Bleach White", etc... that are mounted on bare aluminum wheels. I've known many people mess up a brand new set of wheels the first time out washing the car. In an effort to make the white letters standout, clean the tires, etc... they will use a tire cleaner that destroys the wheels then they have to spend hours polishing the wheels back.

By chance, you said you gave the AI a washing, what type of soap did you use? You just may have created your own problem.

Enjoy,
Thanks for the tip. I only used Turtle wax brand car soap, hot water and a sponge. The wheels are not beyond repair, I believe they could be brought back to a good condition with a Mothers Powerball or Cone, it's just frustrating to have to do that after every trip. I guess I just expected a little more from Airstream. It seems that the front wheels are in much worse condition than the rears, I suspect because of the brake dust and the fact that they protrude outward. I'm thinking of replacing the fronts with the Dura Bright wheels, I figure the rears will be much easier to manage.
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