First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who made suggestions about our firebird. We have carefully considered your input. Photos follow that show our progress to date after a month’s off-and-on work.
Our progress was impeded by a windstorm March 17 that brought wind gusts to 60 mph. We did not have the windows latched on the airstream, and the wind broke out the rear window. We live on a wooded lot, and we had a major pick-up project of broken tree limbs.
Here is what we started with:
And how the Phoenix looks today:
Here’s the exterior cleaning test, for review:
From this test I noticed that the Orange GoJo hand cleaner seemed effective if allowed to dwell on the surface. Here is the same window after four hand cleaner applications, all with extended contact time, one with overnight (12 hour) contact time, and two with baking soda added. All scrubbed with a toothbrush.
This was promising, if labor intensive. The window cleaned up without stripping the clear coat. Unfortunately this procedure did not translate to the other windows—the staining did not come off and the clear coat was spotty or missing under the stain. I had to use gasoline, the least aggressive of the clear-coat-dissolving chemicals in my test, to finish up.
Windows and awning rail before.
Windows after successive scrubbings with the three products shown in photo.
Windows after gasoline cleaning.
This still left the glops of melted roofing material to deal with. I noticed that these were softer when the sun warmed the trailer’s skin, and found that the cheapest ice scraper at Walmart, a $0.75 item, was effective at scraping them off, although a heavy residue remained. Unfortunately, I did not realize at first that using force to scrape off the glops dented the aluminum skin. When I used a heat gun to soften the remaining residue, these small dents became much more noticeable.
My current procedure is to heat the glops with the heat gun and then scrape them off gently. The downside to this is that the partially melted glop smears over the surface, making the area requiring hand scraping much larger. But it works.
Roofing Tar glops removed, but surface not cleaned
Surface cleaned using heat (heat gun) and scraping (blunt metal wood chisel) followed by cleaning (‘Crud Cutter’ and gasoline).
This photo shows my process on cleaning the glops. At left, furthest up shell, glops are not removed, in middle, glops removed but residue not scraped or chemically cleaned, and, above lettering, scraped and cleaned. The remaining stains seem to be in the clear coat. We hope a light cut with ‘swirl remover’ like Mequiar’s ‘Swirl Remover 2.0’ will remove/reduce these.
We do not intend to do a complete clear coat strip and recoat. If we have to recoat it looks like PPG, the manufacturer of the clear coat, makes effective clear coat strippers. These are listed on their website under their aircraft product line. Also, FYI, Methyl Ethyl Ketone and Laquer Thinner both appear to be weak solvents for the PPG product—not strong enough to use as strippers, but potentially useful for spot clean up.
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Duncans has been working like a fiend on the trailer’s interior. Here’s the magic she has performed on the bathroom.
Refrigerator Compartment Before—How can a closed compartment get so sooty?
Refrigerator Compartment After
Better Than New (Filled with Cold Refreshment)
We still have a long ways to go. On the interior, the soot is extremely hard to remove. It penetrates every bit of every surface. Since the cabinets and floor have a wood grain finish, it is virtually impossible to get it out of the recesses. We have made big progress, but are still working on the traces and hidden places.
I still have to remove the gloppy tar from the trailer roof and ends. Once completed, we can repaint the top of the trailer and use a light cut compound on the clear coat cut followed by polish. If you have used a cutting compound on your later airstream with the PPG coating
, please let me know what you used and how satisfied you were with the results. On the advice of a local body shop, I was going to go with Meguiar’s ‘Swirl Remover 2.0’, which is rated as a light cut product.
Finally, once the exterior is as good as we are going to get it, we can start installing new lights, fans, vents, and the AC.
Summer, here we come!!