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Old 01-31-2008, 10:20 AM   #1
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Question My folks gave me their 85 Airstream

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My folks just gave me their 85 Airstream 29" Sovereign and it is in fairly good shape. I want to get it cleaned up and in ship shape this year.
I'm married with a daughter and we have graduated from tent camping to the big leagues real fast. We have lots of camping experience, but relatively little airstream experience.
I want to get my trailer a/c fixed, heater working and get the aluminum skin cleaned up and polished.
I have a repair guy for the a/c and heater where I live, but I want to possibly do the polishing of the shin myself(I think). I can't spend $3000 to make the skin shiny.
Does anyone have some recommendations to go about making the aluminum bright and shiny again?
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Old 01-31-2008, 10:26 AM   #2
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Welcome, Dan.

You certainly won't have to spend $3K to get shiny, but you will have to take a couple weeks this spring (and spend a couple hundred hours) to do it yourself. Everybody here will also remind you that this is a lifelong commitment (keeping it shiny) so you'll need to do a touch-up every year between waxing.

There are lots of great threads detailing the process and many people will send you to Home as well for materials and step by step guides. Good luck, we're thinking of polishing this summer as well.
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Old 01-31-2008, 10:35 AM   #3
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Dan, there are a bazillion threads about polishing and you will make yourself crazy reading them. Here's the short of it:

1. You can make it like a mirror, but it will consume you.
2. If you want to polish, you need to get all the clearcoat off--use something like Bix and go to a car wash with pressure sprayers to wash the resulting crud off the shell.
3. If you're a purist, you'll want to get all the corrosion spots and filiform snakes off. This requires a circular polisher, lots of grades of polish (NuVite), and the remainder of your free time this year. Then you'll need to get a cyclo aircraft polisher to take the swirls out.
4. If you just want to look 90% good, get a cyclo polisher, some sweatshirt material, and NuVite grade "C" and spend about a week getting a very nice but not mirror shine. Stand 30 feet away and admire your work. If you see another Airstreamer getting close and peering at the remaining filiform tracks, hit him/her with a spitwad or hand them some polish...

I did the #4 above to my Overlander 5 years ago and it improved its appearance tremendously and has lasted all this time. I've done part of #3 above to my Caravel, it's taken two years, I haven't finished, so it looks patchy. The only problem with step #4 is that you need a cyclo, which isn't cheap. And once you have a cyclo, you get the itch to get that mirror shine...

It is Dante's seventh level, for sure.

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Old 01-31-2008, 11:36 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeppelinium
4. If you just want to look 90% good, get a cyclo polisher, some sweatshirt material, and NuVite grade "C" and spend about a week getting a very nice but not mirror shine. Stand 30 feet away and admire your work. If you see another Airstreamer getting close and peering at the remaining filiform tracks, hit him/her with a spitwad or hand them some polish...

I did the #4 above to my Overlander 5 years ago and it improved its appearance tremendously and has lasted all this time. I've done part of #3 above to my Caravel, it's taken two years, I haven't finished, so it looks patchy. The only problem with step #4 is that you need a cyclo, which isn't cheap. And once you have a cyclo, you get the itch to get that mirror shine...


Zep
So how many people did you get to paint that picket fence, Tom Sawyer?
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Old 01-31-2008, 11:38 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
So how many people did you get to paint that picket fence, Tom Sawyer?
excuse the hijack here, but younger villians than Tom Sawyer know what a spitwad is... I hope.
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Old 01-31-2008, 12:06 PM   #6
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IMHO
Forget the polish until the child(ren) are out of the house or when she is a teenager and says, "Hey Dad! Wouldn't the Airsteam look great with a polish? Can we do it together?"
Don't waste precious time polishing when she is little, take the family camping instead!
Just a mom's opinion. Take it or leave it.

ps:to you nay-sayers about teenagers doing this kind of thing... as a teenager I loved to camp and do projects with my Dad! He was awesome!
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Old 01-31-2008, 12:14 PM   #7
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What a gift. I have a 1986 25 airstream. IMHO that is the best era out.

I started polishing mine last year. It is a time consuming project for a family guy. Good luck
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Old 01-31-2008, 12:35 PM   #8
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welcome

2nd try at posting...
First of all, Welcome!
I agree with Mrs RedShed, get to camping! In the event you can't stand the way your Airstream looks, you might try just stripping the clear coat. I got fed up with the badlooks of my front endcap so off came the clearcoat and WOW what a difference. I can dedicate enought time to wax twice a year, but polishing is out of the question. The below photo shows the difference. The upper panel is stripped and waxed, the lower still has clearcoat.
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Old 01-31-2008, 01:50 PM   #9
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wows 1 & 2

WOW! #1- GAVE you their Airstream? dude, you have been blessed with wonderful parents and a wonderful trailer..

WOW #2- what a difference stripping the clearcoat makes! while I've never fancied the labor-intensity of polishing, you may have convinced me to just get the clearcoat off for starters..

Is it reasonable to assume that nice lustre will remain that way, or does it require re-application of a clearcoat to stay lustrous?
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Old 01-31-2008, 02:01 PM   #10
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Smile Hi,

All it will require is elbow grease and good wax and a day to do it. Like everyone said go camping first. The shiny side it get dirdy a when you travel anyway. By being shiny does not make it go faster.
Regards from Russell in sunny and cool Tucson Az.
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Old 01-31-2008, 02:06 PM   #11
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Smile Hi All,

Hey did anyone here wired up a intell-power inverter in their Sov.? I have tree wires a black, red, and white icomming out of old hummer. Red is positive, what is white, What is black?
The AS shematic does nit tak about these wires. If you have an answere Write me at rdworian@comcast.net
Thanks
Russell
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Old 01-31-2008, 04:20 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by fotochop
Is it reasonable to assume that nice lustre will remain that way, or does it require re-application of a clearcoat to stay lustrous?
Once you've made the decision to strip the clearcoat, you're into a bare aluminum situation. It will start to oxidize almost immediately, though the speed at which this happens will vary from climate to climate. So, in the vast majority of cases, 4 scenarios; re-spray the clearcoat, paint, polish, or au naturale. Each has their upsides and downsides - just depends on what works best for you.
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Old 01-31-2008, 05:25 PM   #13
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The worst environment for corrosion is the NE--little spots of acid rain. I think it's even worse than being around the salty coasts, but that's also pretty bad.

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Old 01-31-2008, 08:00 PM   #14
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And oxidized Aluminum is what, class? Al2 O3. Which is also which mineral? Right, Corundum. And the hardness of Corundum is what? Right, 9. So the hardness of your sweet oxidized Airstream is 9, not quite a 10 which is the hard compressed carbon thingys. That's why you gotta clean between the successive grades of polish, all the oxidized stuff is real hard little scratchies.
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