Originally Posted by perryfamily6
So is it preferable to take the vinyl off the skins if it already has been painted? Especially in a complete overhaul?
My skins are out, with vinyl still attached. If the vinyl starts peeling off the skins, should vinyl be removed?
Getting the vinyl off the skins to leave the aluminum nice is insanely difficult (but not impossible). It's the reason you see so many Airstreams for sale where the previous owner has "given up" and used a grinding wheel, leaving that awful 90's swirly-stainless look.
Nasty chemicals and time are pretty much the only way to do it. I opted to keep the vinyl on our skins (which were all completely removed), since it's adhered to the aluminum so well and is a great, durable coating. I learned a lot from using all kinds of different things to just get the skins clean. I think that a gel-type paint stripper
(something that sticks) is best for removing the vinyl from skins. It's better than anything else I tried, and I tried a LOT of things. Just don't use paint stripper unless you definitely want the vinyl off
the aluminum; it is extremely aggressive.
I am using rattle cans to paint everything. In my research, Krylon Fusion is the best for adhering to the vinyl and plastic in our Airstreams, but has fewer color choices. I am using Rustoleum 2x Painter's Touch because they have so many more color choices. The one end cap I kept (the fiberglass in the rear, which used to be the bathroom in my '72 Tradewind), I'm actually using Rustoleum Universal Advanced Formula Metallic. It's the best "charcoal" color I could find, and only looks slightly metallic on the textured fiberglass end cap.
I have been using Rustoleum's Universal Primer on the vinyl and plastic, and in some places I used Krylon Fusion as a primer (because I do think it adheres better than the Rustoleum Painter's Touch and maybe even better than the Rustoleum Universal Primer).
Another good "primer" is Dupli-Color Trim and Bumper (from the automotive store). It only comes in three colors (all dark), but it is made to flex a lot and seems to work well for an undercoat.
I have been finishing everything with a million (not really) coats of clear, but do some tests because the different finishes (gloss, matte, flat) can really
change the look of what's underneath. Also make sure you do a lot of very, very
light coats (like, you can't even see that you're putting paint on), or the paint below will bubble and peel. I was originally putting my clear coat on too thick and almost gave up because it was ruining everything I was doing.
The most important thing in making things work is to get the vinyl skins clean, clean, clean before you start. If someone has already painted the skins and didn't do a good job (if the paint is coming off, but you can't get it all off evenly), you may be out of luck, but if you can get back to that factory vinyl and do a final wash with TSP before painting (but be careful, 'cause that stuff is nasty), you should be golden.