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Old 11-14-2015, 06:41 PM   #1
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Washing / Polishing With the Grain

So I arrived at our winter home and it's time to wash and wax. As I look at my face in the shiny panels of my AS I see that the side panels are almost as reflective as mirrors, and the end panels not nearly so. In fact, the end panels are actually a different silver color, frosty rather than simply shiny.

I am wondering if the reason for this difference is that the end panels are 'stretched' and the side panels not.

So if washing and polishing it's said I should always do so 'with the grain'.

Since all panels, end and side are covered with a plastic finish why does it matter which way I wash/polish.

Tell me please if you know. I need to make some sense of this.....
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Old 11-14-2015, 10:03 PM   #2
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I don't get that "go with the grain" polish thing either, especially with clearcoat finish and will be interesting to hear what others say - maybe there is something to it.

I had an older gent (even older than me??!!) approach me last winter at Land Yacht Harbor Airstream Park in Melbourne Fla when i was polishing my trailer to tell me I was doing it all wrong!

He claimed to have had an AS detailing business within the park for years, and knew how it should be done!

I decided to be polite and heeded his advice - at least as long as he stayed to supervise my work, but I often wondered if he knew something I didn't!

Hope he isn't reading this!

Brian.
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Old 11-14-2015, 10:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbrittan View Post
So if washing and polishing it's said I should always do so 'with the grain'.
Sheet metal doesn't have a "grain." Neither does clearcoat. Going with the grain only applies to wood.

There's a reason that polishers for automobile detailing have eccentric (off-center) orbiting movement; in a uniform surface, long straight streaks in any direction show up very easily, so overlapping circular motions are best.

If you're doing it by hand, I suppose you could follow Pat Morita's advice in "Karate Kid" "wax on" clockwise with the right hand, "wax off" counterclockwise with the left hand.
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Old 11-14-2015, 11:53 PM   #4
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Sheet Metal Grain

Sorry, but I have to disagree here. Sheet metal, especially alloyed sheet metal, does have grain. The following photo is of a stainless steel panel.



I wish the following wasn't so wordy, but here goes:

Metals are comprised of microscopic domains. In iron, each domain is a mini magnet. When, by various means, the magnetic domains are made to align, you end up with a permanent magnet. I mention this as the domain explanation of permanent magnetism is fairly widely known so you may have heard of it.

Sheet metal is formed from hot ingots by pulling the ingots thru a series of rollers. The distortion of the ingot is primarily in one axis (lengthwise), so the domains become elongated, creating a visible pattern, "grain". Surface treatment of the sheet is done with the grain unless a mirrored surface is required, so the finished product can have a pronounced visible pattern, like the stainless steel in the photo.

Unlike pigmented automotive finishes, clear coat allows the metal's grain to be seen. The Airstream clear coat, whether the old or the new fluorocarbon type, is easily scratched. Scratches that align with the grain are much harder to see than scratches that run across the grain. Unfortunately we don't clean our Airstreams in clean rooms, so cleaning with the grain produces a better appearance for the same level of effort.

Wax works great at filling scratches so a good wax job does wonders for appearance as well as protection.

Different alloys are used in Airstreams. The end caps are made from a different, softer alloy than the sides, and there is a slight color difference. The roof panel is also a softer alloy, but is painted.
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Old 11-15-2015, 11:37 AM   #5
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Good info. But how do you know the grain direction? I can't see it
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Old 11-15-2015, 11:54 AM   #6
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Fabulous info! Thanks for the education, Burnside Bob.

On my vehicles I use a random orbital (this goes round and round ) to apply polish and wax. I too will be curious what folks will say about cleaning, polishing, and waxing Airstreams because it is not clear to me either as to the best known way to accomplish this.
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Old 11-16-2015, 07:37 AM   #7
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I just wash and wax in a circular motion-
wax on-
wax off-
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Old 11-16-2015, 10:17 AM   #8
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Metal grain

I agree that at least on the older models it is hard to determine the lay of the grain. My question is that if this is important: does Airstream pay attention to the direction of the grain during construction and lay it out in the same direction on each trailer each time???
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Old 11-16-2015, 11:14 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbrittan View Post
So I arrived at our winter home and it's time to wash and wax. As I look at my face in the shiny panels of my AS I see that the side panels are almost as reflective as mirrors, and the end panels not nearly so. In fact, the end panels are actually a different silver color, frosty rather than simply shiny.

I am wondering if the reason for this difference is that the end panels are 'stretched' and the side panels not.

So if washing and polishing it's said I should always do so 'with the grain'.

Since all panels, end and side are covered with a plastic finish why does it matter which way I wash/polish.

Tell me please if you know. I need to make some sense of this.....


Wash and wax your trailer in your normal manner how ever that is and then camp the heck out of it. It's not for show, it's for GO!!!!!!
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Old 11-16-2015, 12:07 PM   #10
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Grain Direction on Airstreams

Quote:
Originally Posted by GMarugg View Post
I agree that at least on the older models it is hard to determine the lay of the grain. My question is that if this is important: does Airstream pay attention to the direction of the grain during construction and lay it out in the same direction on each trailer each time???
Yes, Airstream pays attention. The grain runs lengthwise on the panels as installed on the trailer. The small pieces in the end shells are sheared and pieced so that the grain runs front to back of the trailer.

The grain is visible on all panels on my 2009. On my 1973 the grain was harder to see because the clear coat of the day was a satin finish, so not truly clear. I did try to photograph the grain on the 2009, but my camera couldn't capture it. It is easiest to see in a reflection, like in the photo of the stainless steel panel in my original post.

I wouldn't worry about it too much. When washing off grit and grime, you do have the potential to scratch the clear coat, so as much as possible go with the grain when washing.
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:49 PM   #11
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If you wash or wax with the grain you are less likely to see any small scratches in the clear coat.
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Old 11-17-2015, 05:47 AM   #12
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Clear Coat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Burnside Bob View Post
Yes, Airstream pays attention. The grain runs lengthwise on the panels as installed on the trailer. The small pieces in the end shells are sheared and pieced so that the grain runs front to back of the trailer.

The grain is visible on all panels on my 2009. On my 1973 the grain was harder to see because the clear coat of the day was a satin finish, so not truly clear. I did try to photograph the grain on the 2009, but my camera couldn't capture it. It is easiest to see in a reflection, like in the photo of the stainless steel panel in my original post.

I wouldn't worry about it too much. When washing off grit and grime, you do have the potential to scratch the clear coat, so as much as possible go with the grain when washing.
I learn something all the time. I was thinking that only the newer units had clear coat but if they were doing it in 73, I would guess that my 82 Excella has or use to have a clear coat also.
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Old 11-17-2015, 06:35 AM   #13
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Thanks to all for your advice and comments.

So I learned a couple of important things from this discussion.

First, the aluminum alloy used in the end panels differs from the side panels. I guess this makes sense from AS's perspective as they have to stretch the end panels. I would expect then that the end panels are of differing strength than the side panels and this may or may not matter from our perspective....

and since all the panels are coated with a clear coat including the end panels which have a frosty (my description) appearance as compared to the side panels, washing/waxing with the grain will reduce the risk of 'swirls' however, there seems to be no other apparent reason why washing/waxing against the grain might result in in anything other than possible appearance issues.

Are we agreed on this?
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