Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
 
Old 04-05-2004, 09:33 PM   #1
Rivet Master
 
Bob Thompson's Avatar
 
Corpus Christi , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 936
Images: 67
Chronology of Painting My Excella 25

For better or worse, I've decided to post the process of painting my '97 Excella 25. Perhaps others will have insight along the way that will help, and perhaps my mistakes will save someone else from making the same ones.

The clearcoat was failing big time and I considered clearcoating again, but opted to paint the trailer instead. The logic being I don't want to become an Airstream curator. I don't want to have to commit to waxing the outside every 4 months, and I want a finish that will last a lot longer than 5 years. Paint should last 10-20 years and only require waxing once per year if I protect it from UV damage by storing it under the RV carport, especially during the summers. My first inclination was to paint it with Imron. That was until I found out it was going to cost nearly $360 per gallon. Materials alone were going to cost nearly $1000. I got busy and researched the Internet and found paints for aluminum kind of fall into two categories, plane paint and building paint.

Plane paint loosely includes acrylic enamels, urethanes, acrylic lacquers, and epoxies. For buildings, there is anodizing, but the clear standout is a specialty product called Kynar 500 and its clones. Kynar 500 has a life expectancy of at least 20 years. Problem is, the application process is very technical and requires a controled environment. One of the licensed manufacturers of Kynar 500 is PPG, so I figured if Kynar could put their trust in PPG, so could I, so off to the PPG store. Although Kynar for the Airstream is out of the question, Ted the PPG man is working up a comprehensive package for coating the Airstream, which is based on lots of my manual labor to prep the trailer and then using someone with good paint gun skills to apply the paint. It appears lacquers are out because of their tendancy to chip easily. Ted is working up a plan based on acrylic enamels, which means the trailer must be shot indoors. In the meantime, I'm busy stripping paint and sanding aluminum.

Tomorrow, stripping the paint and the first screwups.
__________________

__________________
Bob Thompson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-06-2004, 04:31 AM   #2
Rivet Master
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 1,313
Images: 4
Bob, I believe this is a good solution for many Airstreams, especially dented or hail damaged trailers. When I see many Airstreams together at a park, most seem to have tired clearcoat, and would look better with an aluminum paint finish. It would be difficult to tell the difference, I suspect. Aircraft have painted aluminium skins, and they generally look excellent. You may have seen Andy's picture of one of his painted Airstreams at http://www.inlandrv.com/airstream-pics01/crunch101.htm
Please do keep us informed of progress. Nick.
__________________

__________________
Nick Crowhurst, Excella 25 1988, Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins Diesel. England in summer, USA in winter.
"The price of freedom is eternal maintenance."
nickcrowhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-06-2004, 10:16 AM   #3
Rivet Master
 
Bob Thompson's Avatar
 
Corpus Christi , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 936
Images: 67
After making the decision to paint I found Andy's site and his confidence in paint reinforced my own. The plan is to only paint the "field", and clearcoat the window frames, door frame, cast aluminum hatches, and cast light housings. Also, I don't have gravel guards, so have decided to spray-on truck bed liner material to protect the lower front. The spray on bed liner will extend from the battery box door frame around to the side for a distance of about 36" and will be as high as the top of the battery box. The spray-on will be painted over with the topcoat paint.

First though, I had a couple dents that had to come out. One was on the left rear about 18" above head height. This dent was about the size of a volleyball. Purists can cringe now, I used a toilet plunger and some soapy water to pull it out. The logic being, aluminum is easy to dent , but it is quite strong in tension and as I pull the plunger outward, tension will stop in at the original location. Application of the soapy water to get a good seal, careful seating of the plunger and a sharp pull outward and voila, dent gone! What remained as unevenness was barely detectable. It worked so well, I tried it again on a dent across an upper seam on the left front. It was tough getting a good seal, because it was across a seam, but after 2 or 3 attempts, it worked. Now I'm having fun so I go on to a small dent to the side of the WBCC numbers on the front.

This dent was about 3" in diameter. I tried several times, but it was just too small for the toilet plunger. Happy with the other results and not wanting to tempt fate, I left the 3" dent for some other solution.

Next post, paint stripping.
__________________
Bob Thompson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-06-2004, 01:48 PM   #4
Rivet Master
 
Bob Thompson's Avatar
 
Corpus Christi , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 936
Images: 67
Paint Stripping 101. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part so when it came to stripping clearcoat I decided to jump right in. After reading the dire warnings in other posts on the subject, I went to Walmart and purchased a gallon of "Dads Easy Spray" paint stripper. Its your standard methylene chloride based stripper. It comes with its own spray application bottle! I partially filled the bottle and started in. Putting paint stripper in a spray bottle has to be the stupidest ideas anyone has ever had. According to others, methylene chloride can be absorbed thru the skin, and breathing its vapors is particularly bad and dangerous. How did spraying it as a fine mist seem like a good idea. It was impossible to control the application! So, I switched to applying it with a big paint brush. The stuff is very runny, but as I applied it, the clearcoat started curdling right away, and I saw that as progress and got after it. Doing about a panel at a time then using the pressure washer to blast it off, I started making headway. I was working outside on a cloudy day with lots of breeze.

I should have paid more attention to what the stripper was doing to my clearance lights, stickers, badges, or anything else plastic or painted. I first noticed one of the clearance light lenses frosted over, damaged by the stripper. So I removed all the lenses. Then I noticed the paint lifting off the Excella badges. Damn! So then I pulled all the badges. I'll have to redo the paint on two, but the rest are ok. Then I noticed all the clearance light bases were being damaged. Ok, so now I must replace all the clearance lights. They were a bit UV damaged anyway so onward. You can't make an omelet without cracking a few eggs. To make a long story short, I had to remove everything that wasn't riveted down, and I even removed some things that were. I even had to remove the license plate holder. That watery stripper was almost impossible to control, but it did cut thru the old clearcoat. Any plastic items not removed will probably need to be replaced!

I never did find a good way to keep the stripper off the rear bumper. I even masked it with plastic bags then coating them with water. There remain a few telltail signs I wasn't careful enough.

I also did some damage with the power washer. The belt molding has a vinyl insert covered with tape with a chrome facing. The power washer blasted off the chrome facing leaving just the tape backing. The vinyl insert had to be removed and then the taped removed from the face. The backing adhesive had to be replaced, so to get it off, I coiled the vinyl insert in the bottom of a bucket, poured mineral spirits over it until it was just covered, then set the bucket aside to soak for 3 days. After three days, I was able to remove the adhesive with mild rubbing by hand, then the face tape was fairly easy to peel off. I've decided to put a blue pinstriping tape over vinyl insert when I reinstall it after the trailer is painted.

I can't say much good about Airstream's application of the clearcoat. They sprayed it on everything but the windows. It must have been lacquer based, because they sprayed it on some enameled surfaces causing them to take on an alligator back appearance. They sprayed it on the brake light lenses. They sprayed it on plastic, like the water fill cap and waterproof power outlets. They sprayed it on so thick, it dripped and ran in several places. I still haven't figured out how to get it off the brake light lenses. It's easy to dislike clearcoat.

Two days of hard work and the clearcoat was off the trailer. I thought I was going to wear that power washer out.

Lesson: remove or mask everything you don't want damaged by that nasty stripper. Everything, otherwise you will probably have to replace it.
__________________
Bob Thompson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-06-2004, 04:40 PM   #5
3 Rivet Member
 
dinoburb's Avatar
 
1982 34' Limited
Tidewater , Virginia
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 186
Hi Bob,

I think painting is an excellent idea. I'm a retired Navy pilot and Aircraft Maintenance Officer so I have some experience with painting aluminum. My only recommendation is to pursue the aircraft paint as that paint is designed for vibration, flexing, and temperature swings that your trailer might be exposed to. Prime correctly!! What type of paint to use is up to you; enjoy your search and the new look of your trailer.

Take care,
__________________
Old trucks and old trailers . . . a comfortable combination!
AIR 1446
W5CDR
A-6E All Weather Attack Driver, BUFF
USN Aircraft Maintenance Officer, Ret.
'91 Suburban R-2500 w/BBC
'78 Honda GL-1000
'72 Triumph T-100R Daytona
dinoburb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-06-2004, 11:41 PM   #6
Rivet Master
 
Bob Thompson's Avatar
 
Corpus Christi , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 936
Images: 67
With the paint stripping done, I set about sanding the surface. I hand sanded for nearly 7 days. If I lacked precision with the paint stripping, I found it again in sanding. Ted the PPG man recommended sanding it with 180 grit open coat sanding paper, being careful to keep seams and joints clean and edges straight. Sanding with 180 is on track with Andy's recommendation of sanding with 150 grit. The dry hand sanding was a lot of work, but the surface took on a pleasing swirl scratch pattern, proof the surface was thoroughly sanded. One of the neighbors even thought the swirl pattern was going to be the final appearance.

As I reached the 70% done point, I realized I was behind schedule. I had only 4 days to go until the trailer had to go to the painters, and I still had to seal lap joints and mask the trailer. I was getting behind! And then it started to rain.....desperate to keep moving I found a sheet of 220 grit wet and dry sandpaper, and gave a piece a try. What a difference! The wet sanding went 3 to 4 times faster than the dry sanding. If I'd been doing it from the first, it would have only taken 3-4 days. Sanding in the rain had the side effect of keeping the surface wet until you could rinse it off.

The interesting thing about wet sanding, you wet sand an area and a black residue results. Rinsing it with a hose stream washes the residue away. When you sand the same spot a second time, there is almost no residue. The black must be the oxidized aluminum. When you dry sand, and rinse the water beads up like it is setting on wax. When you wet sand and rinse the water sheets out flat! No beads! Perhaps the paint stripper has a wax in it which keeps it from evaporating too rapidly. When you pressure wash away the old clearcoat, the wax remains causing the water to bead up. I suspect this very wax becomes a problem for paint and primer adhesion. I wiped some dry sanded areas with paper towels soaked with lacquer thinner but it wouldn't cut the wax. Only wet sanding seems to remove the wax.

Ted the PPG man is convinced aluminum has an oil in it and as soon as you sand it, it starts to self heal by this oil migrating to the surface. His theory is "you must sand then apply the primer within 2 hours otherwise the oil will cause adhesion problems". I don't buy his reasoning, but if some of the wax is taken away by the sanding, then you should get a better bond with the primer. Perhaps the oxidized aluminum is actually the culprit for adhesion problems. Perhaps a metallurgist on the board has some insight on the subject. Which ever, we'll quick sand again just before painting.

Before painting, I must seal any leaking lap joints between panels. I've come up with some aluminum gutter lap sealants and I'll report on that next. The plan is to seal the panel laps before painting, then caulk over the joint after the paint is completed.
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	Sanded-1.jpg
Views:	1409
Size:	72.3 KB
ID:	5764  
__________________
Bob Thompson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2004, 11:21 AM   #7
Rivet Master
Airstream Dealer
 
Inland RV Center, In's Avatar
 
Corona , California
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 16,499
Images: 1
Paintin an Airstream

Reading the above, makes me wonder how many hours some owners are spending, that are unnecessary when painting.

If someone choses to side step painting methods, then all bets are off.

The following is how we have done it for years, with nothing but outstanding long term (20 years) results.

1. "REMOVE" all the exterior plastic parts.
2. Strip the coach with Aircraft stripper.
3. Some additional applications of stripper may be necessary in stubborn areas.
4. "SAND" with "AIR TOOLS."
5. Use 120 to 150 grit sandpaper.
6. Clean the shell with lacquer thinner, thoroughly.
7. Remount the exterior lights, etc, and seal them as well.
8. Mask all the area's that you wish to protect.
9. Seal the seams or whatever with Vulkem and/or Par Band sealers.
10. Use "top" quality materials. Expect tp pay $1000.00 or more for materials for a 31 foot trailer.
11. Spray two double wet coats of "flexible" epoxy primer.
12. Let the primer "out gas" at least 24 hours. Longer, if the ambient temperature is very cold.
13. Spray three double wet coats of metallic silver.
14. Within 2 to 3 hours of the silver, spray three double wet coats of clear polyurethane.
15. Remove all the masking paper etc.
16. Your done. Get the beer out.

I understand that there will be those that differ with the above. That's your privilege. This system has worked AND stood the test of time for us for many many years. If you wish to side step some of the above, that again is your choice.

We have chosen to share this with those of genuine interest. We will not further make any addition comments, or get into any discussion with anyone who may chose to be argumentative, or who may wish to challenge the process. Nor, will we answer any other questions, no matter how well intended, simply because of liability.

As a testimonial of our paint work, ask anyone who has suffered hail damage to their trailer, after we painted it. The dents are there, but no cracks, chips, or peeling. Nuf said.

Andy

__________________
Inland RV Center, In is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2004, 11:56 AM   #8
Rivet Master
 
Happycampers's Avatar
 
1979 30' Argosy
Havelock , where we park it
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 1,652
Andy, The only thing I would do different would be to get the beer out first. That way when you finish, it will at least look good to you.
__________________
Marvin & Annie
Niki (fur baby)
1979 Argosy 30 (Costalotta)
WBCCI 10103
"Happiness is a warm Puppy" Charles Schulz
Happycampers is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2004, 12:27 PM   #9
Rivet Master
Airstream Dealer
 
Inland RV Center, In's Avatar
 
Corona , California
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 16,499
Images: 1
Drinking beer while spray painting is OK, provide that you exercise that dreaded painters rule.

How many steps you climb on a ladder is inversely proportional to the number of beers.

As an example, one beer equals 8 steps. 4 beers equal 4 steps, 8 beers, one step, nine beers, take a nap and start all over.

Andy
__________________
Inland RV Center, In is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2004, 01:05 PM   #10
Rivet Master
 
Bob Thompson's Avatar
 
Corpus Christi , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 936
Images: 67
I want to thank Andy for his imput. Thank you! I will read, study and learn! I trust my mistakes and your recommendations will guide others along a more appropriate path. I know that you have spent years developing your system and your experience is worth real money, so your sharing for free is a valued gift. Again, thank you.

Much of the research I've done is based on painting planes, and the basis for almost every success in painting aluminum is to use a compatible system start to finish. By compatible system, I mean preparation, masking, primeing, and topcoating. One of the websites I have visited often for study is:

http://www.jraexecair.com/2epainting.html

It is JRA Executive Services - Aircraft Painting. Although they don't name their priming products, their topcoats are usually U.S. Paints "Alumigrip" or Sherwin Williams "JetGlow".

Correction: Last night on the JRA website, I read about a paint that is shot in 3 wet coats, and allowed to cure. The topcoat is protected by a UV resistant clearcoat that is part of the paint and which rises to the surface as the topcoat cures out giving the surface a "wet look". Here is the quote: The finished application contains a microscopic coating of resins that rise to the top of the color pigments. This clear coat provides the "shiny" appearance and prevents oxidation and acid rain damage. When washing the aircraft, do not use harsh detergents that may penetrate and wear away this surface coat. Improper cleaning agents will also compromise the UV protection provided in the paint.

Ted the PPG man has had some experience with aluminum including failures requiring corrective action. Today I should find out the finishing system he is going to recommend.
__________________
Bob Thompson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2004, 01:52 PM   #11
Rivet Master
 
Astrodokk's Avatar
 
1992 30' Airstream 30
Santa Rosa , Northern California wine country
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 618
Images: 4
I bought my MH already painted, and it looked good when i did, but it must have been only recently done. The first time I washed it with a power washer, the paint stripped off on the right side. It held everywhere else, but my mechanic told me the PO didn't prep the aluminum correctly. Here's a pic:
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	Paint peel.JPG
Views:	1276
Size:	32.6 KB
ID:	5763  
__________________
1992 Airstream 300LE, rear queen, Banks Power!
Astrodokk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2004, 03:49 PM   #12
Rivet Master
Airstream Dealer
 
Inland RV Center, In's Avatar
 
Corona , California
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 16,499
Images: 1
Astrodokk.

You have, unfortunately a poor paint job.

It would appear that many of the no no's were used to prep your coach.

An acid bath should "NEVER" be used. Secondly it appears that chromate primer was used. Another no no.

Sanding into the metal, "IS" the answer.

You will more than likely have to strip the entire coach, and start all over.

We would rate the paint job on your coach as very poor, since the process was wrong, and at least some of the materials are wrong.

I will post a photo of a door from a motorhome, that we painted, that got damaged.

Note the wrinkles and bends, but the paint is still intact, with no failures.

Maybe I should offer a paint kit to those that want the correct materials, and process.

Andy
__________________
Inland RV Center, In is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2004, 04:05 PM   #13
Rivet Master
Airstream Dealer
 
Inland RV Center, In's Avatar
 
Corona , California
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 16,499
Images: 1
Damaged painted door

View of Airstream motorhome door that was painted using our process and materials.

No cracks, no chips, no flaking, no peelng.

Nuf said.

Andy
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	Mvc-002s.jpg
Views:	1421
Size:	36.9 KB
ID:	5766  
__________________
Inland RV Center, In is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-07-2004, 05:17 PM   #14
Rivet Master
 
Astrodokk's Avatar
 
1992 30' Airstream 30
Santa Rosa , Northern California wine country
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 618
Images: 4
Yeah, looks nice, but I've always wanted the shiny aluminum. I have thought of stripping, and either polishing or maybe just repainting. I've been waiting for almost a year now to see if any other area flakes, but it hasn't. If nothing else happens, I'll try to patvch this up with the guys who did my left front repair last month. That paint looks good enough. I wonder what technique they used
__________________

__________________
1992 Airstream 300LE, rear queen, Banks Power!
Astrodokk is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
25 ft, 'old width' Excella weight? Fogducker 1994 - 1996 Excella 10 03-09-2009 05:16 AM
wanted 1986 to 1999 25' or 27' Excella Ron Davis 1993 Excella 1000 3 10-18-2004 08:15 PM


Virginia Campgrounds

Reviews provided by




Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:44 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

Airstream is a registered trademark of Airstream Inc. All rights reserved. Airstream trademark used under license to Social Knowledge LLC.