The Sign Lady
1969 23' Safari
1974 Argosy 22
1964 24' Tradewind
, British Columbia
Join Date: May 2012
Info on How to apply Plasticoat and Clean Your Airstream
I found this online and thought I would share...
I ran across some old hand typewritten pages from the 70's entitled "How To Clean Your New Airstream". I cannot guarantee that this is the best or only way to do it "right", but it is here for you to take a look at.
Any suggestions or changes would be greatly appreciated from those of you that have found a better way. Hope it can be of value to someone....
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR AIRSTREAM
All aluminum will oxidize, the rate of oxidation depending chiefly on the atmospheric conditions where the trailer is kept. This oxidation appears either visibly, as a white powder in very small granules, or by feel, as a roughness on the surface. This bulletin is designed to explain the procedures for cleaning your Airstream trailer after oxidation has taken place.
Airstream has used and tested a great number of commercial cleaners and special preparations designed for cleaning aluminum and have reached the following conclusions:
Under no circumstances would we suggest or recommend that a customer attempt to use any acid etch cleaner that is available on the market as a trailer cleaner. This is very dangerous for an amateur to use and, unless carefully handled, can be harmful to both the user and the trailer.
There are several ready-made preparations designed for aluminum in the Aircraft Industry. These are Klad Polish, Never Dull and Met-All.
We have found Met-All to be the most successful when used with the following procedure:
1. First, wash your trailer well with a good detergent, in moderately hot water. This is to remove all dirt, mud and a much of the road asphalt as possible. If asphalt remains on the trailer after washing, use a small amount of kerosene or coal oil on a rag and wipe the spots individually, being careful not to scratch the aluminum.
2. Following this, using a fairly large, soft cloth, spread some Met-All on the rag and rub lengthwise of the trailer or parallel with the grain of the sheet. Do one complete sheet or section at a time.
3. Continue to rub the Met-All paste on the after it has picked up a black color, which indicates that the oxidation is being removed. Do not allow the rag to be caked or hard. Either use a clean rag or keep turning the rag as long as it is usable. When a cake of oxidized aluminum and paste develops it is possible, with continued rubbing, to scratch the metal surface.
4. After completing the instructions under Para. 3, take a completely clean rag and buff off by hand the excess material that was left on the sheet. (For extremely tough jobs, it may be necessary to do the complete job twice, except on the second time around it is not necessary to wash the trailer with detergent.)
5. We DO NOT recommend the use of a buffer except in the hands of a thoroughly experienced person (if not expertly used the buffer will leave a pattern on this aluminum surface.
PROCEDURE FOR APPLYING PLASTICOAT
The Plasticoat finish applied to the outer skin of every Airstream trailer has been specifically formulated by Airstream to provide maximum protection for the shiny aluminum surface while enhancing its rich luster. We have found no other finish which can do this job. The reason is the high coefficient of expansion for aluminum.
Any metal will expand or stretch when heated and contract and shrink when cooled. The scientific measure of this stretching and shrinking is the metal's coefficient of expansion. Aluminum has a high coefficient of expansion which means that there is a lot of surface movement as the trailer heats up in the summer sun and then cools in the evening. For this reason, aluminum is hard to coat successfully. Most coating materials become too brittle when they set-up and tend to crack due to aluminum's surface movement. Airstream's Plasticoat has the necessary flexibility and is the only material recommended for use when resurfacing an Airstream trailer. The correct procedures for applying Plasticoat are detailed below:
A: Plasticoating a new replacement panel.
1. All of the surfaces adjacent to the panel to be finished must be masked for protection. The masking should be done with paper carefully taped against all of the edge seams of the panel to be finished and extending back to at least 3" over the surfaces being protected. Never use newspaper or any paper with a printed surface as masking material. We recommend using clean brown Kraft wrapping paper for this purpose.
2. Wash the new panel thoroughly with lacquer thinner, Be sure to use clean lacquer thinner and a clean soft cloth for this wash. Cloth diapers or old cotton T-shirts are ideal for this purpose. It is also important to use caution when washing around the edges of the panel so as not to get an excessive amount of lacquer thinner on the masking paper. The thinner can soak through the paper and damage the finish underneath.
3. Wipe the cleaned surface with a tack rag to remove any dust or loose particles. Always wipe with the grain of the metal. NEVER ACROSS THE GRAIN. Tack rags may be purchased locally at any paint supply store.
4. Fill pressure pot spray canister with Plasticoat solution and add a small amount of FEE Fish Eye Eliminator. (Use only 1/4 of the manufacturer's recommended quantity of FEE)
5. Using 20-25 lbs. air pressure in the pot and 85-90 lbs. atomizing pressure at the spray nozzle, apply an even, medium wet flow coat over the entire panel. Use extreme care to avoid runs.
6. Allow the flow coat to set up at least five minutes before applying finish coat.
7. Using the same gun settings and Plasticoat mixture, apply a final coat. This coat should have a shiny wet appearance as it is applied, but once again guard against runs. Remove masking paper as soon as final coat has been applied.
B. Spot Refinishing
It is possible to spot repair scratched or peeled areas on the Plasticoat surface as long as there has been no damage to the metal underneath. If there has been physical damage to the aluminum surface, the entire panel must be replaced. When making spot repairs, the entire panel in which the damage occurs should always refinished. The recommended procedures for stripping and refinishing panels are detailed below.
Any Plasticoat finish which has been applied for six months or less can be successfully removed using lacquer thinner only. These panels can then be refinished according to the procedures outlined above for refinishing new panels.
For panels on which the original coating has been in place longer than 6 months, it will be necessary to use the following procedures for refinishing.
1. Mask off the damaged Panel. See Step 1 above.
2. Using a paint brush, apply a coat of Formula "A" Klean Strip or Shields 87 paint remover to the entire surface of the panel to be repaired. CAUTION: Always wear safety glasses and rubber gloves to protect the eyes and hands when working with paint remover.
3. When the old coating has been visibly loosened or lifted (approximately 5 minutes) the paint remover solution should be thoroughly cleaned off using a lacquer thinner using soft clean rags. ALWAYS wash in the direction of the grain of the metal.
4. Repeat this washing procedure one more time, using clean rags and fresh thinner.
5. Spray the cleaned surface with Plasticoat by following steps 3 through 7 under "Plasticoating a New Panel:".
C. Refinishing an Entire Trailer.
If the entire trailer is to be refinished, it should be done according to the following procedure. Steps 1 - 4 below must be completed before there can be any pause in the procedure such as for lunch or breaks, so plan your time accordingly.
1. Initial Preparation.
a. Remove air conditioner shroud.
b. Remove all plastic lenses, mask over light bases.
c. Mask name plates, decorative trim, etc.
d. Turn off LP gas supply, disconnect and remove bottles
e. Mask plastic vent covers.
f. Remove license plate.
g. Mask water fill door.
h. Mask 110 volt outlet.
i. Mask storage and service compartment and main door locks.
j. Open the service doors and completely mask off water heater and refrigerator service areas. Close and latch service doors.
k. Remove awnings, rockguards, hub caps.
2. Prepare a solution of Formula "A" paint remover diluted 20% by volume with lacquer thinner or Shields 87 full strength in a pressure sprayer.
3. Using 25-30 lbs. pot pressure and 50-60 lbs. gun air pressure, spray the paint remover mixture and water rinse the entire trailer surface in the following sequence.
a. Starting at the center line of the lower front panel under the front window, working curbside and back around the trailer, spray 1/2 the front panel, segment 14 in the front end shell, the entire lower side sheet, segment 4 in the rear end shell, and 1/2 the lower rear center panel.
b. Immediately return to the front of the trailer and with a pressure water gun, thoroughly rinse the areas sprayed in step "a" above. While backing around the trailer, pressure spray the area being rinsed in narrow vertical strokes using caution to prevent excess water from splashing back onto the area not yet rinsed. This is important because cold water splashed on the loosened Plasticoat tend to harden it and make it difficult to rinse off.
c. Move in sequence to the same area on the roadside, up to the curbside window sheet area, then to the curbside then roadside top of the trailer repeating the procedures outlined in steps "a" and "b" above. When rinsing with water it is important to continually wash back over the areas already rinsed with clean water in order to remove residue which may wash down.
4. After the trailer has been stripped, the entire surface must be washed off using clean lacquer thinner and clean soft cloths. Change the washing surface of the cloth and/or the cloth itself frequently to prevent any build up of grit or contaminating material. Using clean lacquer thinner and cloths, repeat. Always wash with the grain of the metal. If any patches of Plasticoat remain on the metal surface after this wash, they should be removed by using stripper applied with a paint brush, then wash with lacquer thinner.
5. Using an air hose, remove all moisture from segment seams, around window frames, etc.
6. Using Plasticoat containing 1/4 the manufacturer's recommended volume of FEE Fish Eye Eliminator, spray the entire surface with a light, medium wet tack coat. Use 20-25 lbs. of pressure in the pressure pot with 85-90 lbs. of gun air pressure. The recommended procedure is to start at the top above the main door. Working forward and down, coat the front curbside quarter. Open the main door but do not coat it this time. Move around and coat the front roadside quarter. Move around, coating the rear end shell then forward, coating along the curbside of the trailer to the open main door. Coat the main door.
7. Using a solution of lacquer retarder with a few drops of FEE Fish Eye Eliminator added in a separate spray gun, first spray a fine retarder mist on the area directly over the main door. Coat this area with Plasticoat.
8. After applying the initial tack coat, use this same procedure to apply a second thicker finish coat. This coat should have a shiny wet appearance after application.