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Old 07-02-2003, 08:46 AM   #1
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Question exterior finish durability vs. model year

Clearcoat finish durability
I'm looking for a 1995-2002 Airstream 34' trailer,
what model years had finish problems?
I've heard that some had more difficulty than
others, is there a particular year to avoid or
buy as a function of the factory finish that year?
Current 1885 Excella 31' owner.
KStone
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Old 07-02-2003, 09:15 AM   #2
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Starting sometime during the model year late '99 or '00 Airstream switched over to pretreated aluminum panels from Alcoa. There is some unclarity as to whether the change came mid stream in '99 so my best advice is to stick with anything manufactured from the '00 model year and on.

The reasoning was that A/S had problems with the clear coat formula in the later 90's and those trailers had a high number of early clearcoat failures. Unable to remidy the problem in house they switched to the prefinished panels.

Jack
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Old 07-02-2003, 09:30 AM   #3
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New clear coat

I have a 2003 with the new Alcoa clear coat. So far, it has been fine except for a spot the size of a quarter on one of the front corner segments. In that location, the clear coat had a sort of bubble come up and break. I could feel the rag catch on the edges the next time I waxed the trailer. The edges of the spot now seem to have good adhesion and it didn't grow when I waxed the traile this spring.

The dealer wants me to stop so he can take photos to send to Airstream to get authorization to replace the segment. I have mixed feelings about letting them do the replacement. Seems top me that tearing into the body and the possibility of a subsequent leak is far worse than living with the little spot.

I think I will either put a decal there or just polish up the area and wax it heavily with paste wax.
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Old 07-02-2003, 09:31 AM   #4
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Just a thought...

Could it be that the '00 and newer seem better because they haven't been exposed to the elements long enough to fail yet?

I'm not trying to be pessimistic, it's just the clearcoat has been problematic in one way or another since they stared using it in the '60s. That's why so many folks go through great pains to remove it & polish the aluminum of vintage units.

Shari
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Old 07-02-2003, 10:13 AM   #5
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Good point Shari,

I bet they were saying the same stuff about my thermopane windows back in the mid 70's!

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Old 07-02-2003, 11:00 AM   #6
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Kirby,

I have a '90 Excella 25 with minor clearcoat loss (about a sq foot) on top back not seen from street level. I plan to spray can that part with clearcoat in the near future.

I think I remember that in the '93 or '94 models there was some 'more than expected' loss of clearcoat. When did they start painting the top white?

I agree 3 years is not long enough for quality issues to show up. Kinda like a new car for the first 30K miles.

Remember '96 was the start of the widebody..

Steve
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Old 07-02-2003, 11:03 AM   #7
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1995 was the last year of the narrow (8') body.

1996 was the first year of the wide (8.5') body The trailers were fairly heavy and the dry tongue weight a bit light.

1997-99 the weights came down putting the tongue weight of the side bath adequate for the dry weight, but according to the specs, the front kitchen tongue was light for the total weight. I find that hard to believe, but that's what the specs say. FK tongues are usually heavier. 1999 was the last year of the front kitchen and first year of the slide.

2000 the weights became what they are now.

2001 was the last year of the Excella and Limited models.

2002 Excellas became Classics. Not sure, but believe the limited stuff was still available as a package.

As far as when Airstream went to precoated aluminum from Alcoa, I'm not sure. There was an owner at the Region 4 Rally complaining to the Airstream rep about his IIRC 1999 being the last of the old Airstream applied clearcoat peeling. I wasn't paying enough attention, but I believe it was a mid-year change.

I agree with Jack on recommending '00 and later.
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Old 07-02-2003, 11:23 AM   #8
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Re: Just a thought...

Quote:
Originally posted by InsideOut
Could it be that the '00 and newer seem better because they haven't been exposed to the elements long enough to fail yet?

I'm not trying to be pessimistic, it's just the clearcoat has been problematic in one way or another since they stared using it in the '60s. That's why so many folks go through great pains to remove it & polish the aluminum of vintage units.

Shari
The issue of the 90's units was the clearcoat was coming off at rate that was beyond the point of normal wear and tear. So you are right that the '00 and above haven't got the track record yet.

No matter what the vintage, the clearcoat or the prefinished material on the current units will eventually break down. I think the laws of UV and other outside polutants make this a forgone conclusion. I don't consider the normal aging problematic any more that paint fading on my car over the years.

The issue is premature deterioriation of the finish which was problematic in the later 90 series units. The best thing you can do, especially if you have the newer satin finished aluminum is to keep your trailer waxed or Walbernized. Polishing isn't an option on the newer units.

How long the finish will last on my Safari assuming that there is no defect in the material, will be tied directly to the amount of UV exposure, where I travel to, how I store it, and how well I protect the finish. My current solution is to Walbernize once a year. My trailer lives outside for six months and spends 6 months during the winter in inside storage. I'm not in an acid rain area, and I'm not close to the ocean. I would hope that it will look as nice in 2011 as it did 2001.

Jack
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Old 07-02-2003, 05:43 PM   #9
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Pahaska, John....guess it is just coincidental but my 2002 has a blemish about the size of a quarter also....it is located about an inch from the M in Airstream .... is not on the corner however.

I am not certain how they got mine from OH to Phoenix, but I thought perhaps it was towed and some rock/debris hit it. However the rock guards are perfect.
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Old 07-02-2003, 05:50 PM   #10
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On our west to east run I saw a number of new looking trailers being towed by picups with door signage. I have seen the guys who do this for a living and many have a rock guard that mounts on their truck to be sure they do not damage the unit in transit.

Not to say that is not how it happened, but I have to assume precautions are taken. We have a unit member that is having the same types of blemishes sho up around the Airstream emblem on the side of the trailer. I know Airstream looked at it in sarasota, but I do not know what they paln to do about it.
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Old 07-02-2003, 05:53 PM   #11
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Blemish

Kistler,

I can't find any indication that it was damage from something striking it. The area is large enough that an object striking there and dislodging that much finish would surely have left a dent or a mark of some kind. The surface in the blemish is unmarred bare aluminum. Best I can determine, it was a bubble where the finish simply didn't bond to the aluminum. The irregular round shape looks like there may have been a drop of something on the aluminum when it was coated.

I have pretty well determined that I will live with it. Maybe I can find a neat decal to cover it.
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Old 07-02-2003, 08:50 PM   #12
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My guess is that some of these blemishes might be bird poop that was left on the trailer too long. I've seen it eat through clearcoat on cars in a round pattern.
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Old 07-02-2003, 10:22 PM   #13
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Maybe

Quote:
Originally posted by RoadKingMoe
My guess is that some of these blemishes might be bird poop that was left on the trailer too long. I've seen it eat through clearcoat on cars in a round pattern.
I considered that also, but it would have to have happened before I bought the trailer. I haven't gone more than 3 or 4 days at a time without either using or checking the trailer since I have owned it. Where the blemish is located, bird poop couldn't possibly be overlooked. The blemish didn't show up for about 6 months after I bought the trailer and I had never seen any bird poop on it during that period.
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Old 08-07-2003, 07:59 PM   #14
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1995 was the last year of the narrow (8') body.

1996 was the first year of the wide (8.5') body The trailers were fairly heavy and the dry tongue weight a bit light.

Anyone know when/if the laws were changed to allow vehicles over 8' wide to be towed without special permits?
The last time I checked, the only thing allowed to be over 8' was commercial buses.
Of course, everything is subject to change.
Also, it seems not only Airstream has had problems with clearcoat in the 90's. I can't begin to count the number of cars and trucks running around with the clearcoat peeling off. It makes me long for the days of single-stage paint jobs. They weren't quite as shiny, but a lot less peeling problems.
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