Originally Posted by drycamplvr
I have a big dent (from a tree limp falling on my Airstream ) at the top rear and I always wanted fixed but feel nervous about who to trust to do it right.
I am in AZ right now close to Sierra vista on the Canello hills.
I will be heading back to Idaho in a week or so where I live.
I also got some damage at front where the clear is peeling on a few panels.
Can they be repainted and look and last as original?
Is that something that any pro painter can do with the plastic clear the factory sells?
I was told by the factory they farm this out and the new panels now come with the clear already on.
Could that be a good match for a 2000 model if installing new panels?
The cost quoted by some seems to be astronomical!
Dear Mario, the curved panels on the ends of the Airstream are formed from aluminum with the clearcoat already on it. Vintage Airstreams with either 13 or 7 curved panels are simply flat aluminum bent into a curve. Our newer 5 panel ones have compound curves - the panel is stretched in two directions to form a curve. Stretch plastic wrap over an orange to get the idea of how the mold works. What any competent repairer will do is order new matching panels from the factory and install them over the existing ones, or if the underlying panels are really distorted, will remove them and put in new ones. Unless the inside skins are removed to do the repair, they will use "Olympic Rivets" instead of buck rivets. Olympics are like heavy duty pop rivets, and the tops have to be "shaved" after they are installed so that they look more like the originals. Once you know what an Olympic looks like you'll be able to identify it IF you look hard enough.
One of the reasons that panel replacement is so expensive is that the original rivets are drilled and installed freehand. A new panel comes without holes, and installing it involves fitting each hole. (That's why using a salvaged panel can be problems - the inside can have double holes or elongaged holes due to poor matchups - and you get leaks and/or weak seams.)
Cost of repair - each curved panel can cost about $1400 - $1500 to replace at the factory or at most good RV places. Maybe that will make your estimate seem more reasonable - or even more outrageous.
I know you're in the West - and I'm sure users will chime in with good experiences at some Airstream dealers, so stay in touch. Also posting pictures is an excellent idea. You may not be aware that if you have a dent WITHOUT a deep crease, puncture or scrape mark, it can often be popped out leaving minimal evidence of it's existance. Aluminum is much softer than automobile steel, so you don't want to get the hammer and start whacking away. Many people have successfully used vacuum pullers (including the duty toilet plunger) but even here, go easy. You don't want to replace a dent with a bump. There are a number of people who have rolled out the dings from the inside using (a) an under-inflated basketball (b) a soft rubber ball, (c) bare hands (d) a specially designed roller with curved edges that won't leave a line (e) whatever else pops into their minds.
Use your SEARCH and look for threads on dent repairs, you might be able to do some of it yourself.
Clearcoating peeling sections - I've heard great things about P & S Trailers in Ohio. It's out of your way, but they have a good reputation and can do just the affected segments. It ain't cheap!
Good luck and happy trails. Paula