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Silvertwinkie 05-05-2007 09:13 PM

My unit has never seen a power washer since it's been in my hands FWIW. Roger is right on about using one. Many pitfalls as far as I can see. If what we are guessing is the case, any moisture that gets into a disturbed area of the coating may start. The fact that yours is currently minimal may mean something, may mean could just be at the tip of the iceburg, or you may not see anything more. I hope the later for you, but either way, keep up posted. :)

cosmotini 05-05-2007 10:17 PM


Originally Posted by 85MH325
Dennis, using a pressure washer is a terrible idea for RVs in general. They can blow out sealing material around rivets, windows, joints, and anywhere else there is putty, vulkem, or other sealants. I don't know specifically whether the pressure can remove or craze the clearcoat, but it wouldn't surprise me. Recognize also that car washes specifically use some pretty strong chemicals for "brushless" washing that may not be good for the clearcoat.


Roger, When I said I do, I meant I avoid using one :blink: . So when I say I do, I mean I don't. :angel:

Tim A. 05-05-2007 11:44 PM

I have already mentioned in this thread that our 2002 Bambi does not have filiform corrosion. Okay, since it was new, I have used a powerwasher to keep it clean, so I think those looking for the source of the corrosion need to look elsewhere. Why a powerwasher? Well, it gets the darned thing clean! Of course one should not blast away close-up and without the spreader setting on the power washer. If a power washer, used with some degree of care, removes caulk and/or sealant, it is probably time to think about recaulking/resealing.

85MH325 05-06-2007 09:50 AM


Originally Posted by Tim A.
Why a powerwasher? Well, it gets the darned thing clean! Of course one should not blast away close-up and without the spreader setting on the power washer. If a power washer, used with some degree of care, removes caulk and/or sealant, it is probably time to think about recaulking/resealing.

Tim, while I understand your perspective, you need to recognize that your seams go over the entire shell of the trailer. Panel flex, and heat expansion and contraction are the main causes of vulkem failure and leaking seams. When you pressure wash, even delicately, the water stream flexes the panels. What's worse is that you may merely dislodge the vulkem from one side of the seam without knowing it. It'll look fine, but leak. And... if that leak is below the "belly line", and behind or under cabinets or furniture and only drips down the inside of the walls, your first indication of a leak may be a rotted floor in a couple of years.

I'd really caution you to reconsider your use of a power washer. A nylon bristle RV brush and mild formulated detergent rinsed with standard hose pressure do as good or better job of cleaning without risking your trailer's water-tightness.


Cracker 05-06-2007 11:02 AM

2 Attachment(s)
I just did a survey of my 2000 30' Excella after reading all of the preceding posts. I had not noticed any significant problems - but a very close and detailed inspection revealed four spots on the entire trailer shell - the two worst are shown below. None of the hardware demonstrated anything outside of what I would expect for cast aluminum (---light corrosion) and the wheels are actually in better shape than I would expect. The aluminum (mag) wheels on my '83 Subaru looked worst when they were only a couple of years old. This trailer started life on a salt water inlet on the coast of Maine. It lived there for a little over two years before I bought it, while the PO built a retirement home. Subsequently, it was parked at my camp, on the ground, in a heavily wooded area. It spent one winter on the coast of Florida while I rebuilt my condo, and since then it has resided on my driveway in Maine. The only things that I have done, or not done, that may be different is 1st - It has never been Walbernized, or otherwise had anything other than a wash job; 2nd - It rests on poly plastic cutting boards under every point of contact with the ground when stored - including tires, stabilizer jacks, and tongue jack; 3rd - It has been plugged in for a good percentage of it's stored life - although not always. All in all, I've been very pleased with the plastic coating - after hearing so many horror stories about the old (---pre mid 1999) coatings problems. I wonder if it's possible that some slight change was made subsequent to 2002 - either by Alcoa or Airstream - or is the 2002 year even significant relative thereto. It's just that no one other than myself has responded with a unit from mid 1999 to 2002.

Attachment 36949 Attachment 36950

Note that one photo is next to the antenna mount and the other photo is next to the window awning mount closest to the antenna (+/- 6 inches away.) Both are on the same aluminum panel. This brings up an interesting thought relative to stray electrical currents. The other two minor spots were at panel joints on the rear of the trailer and were single lines less than 1/4" in length.

tpi 05-06-2007 11:50 AM

I'm trying to spotlight any environmental factors which make this worse. So far with Cracker's post I'm not seeing anything solid. His trailer sitting in a salt/moist environment for years with minimum corrosion.

When reading on filiform corrosion, it was mentioned that adjusting various metals in the alloys can minimize corrosion. Could it be possible that there is too much production tolerance in the alloys? The reason I tend to doubt this is because most of the corrosion prone trailers exhibit corrosion not just in the skin, but the wheels and various taillight castings, etc. These parts would typically come from different plants using different processes.

Anyway as one with minimum corrosion, here are the environmental factors I can think of:

1. Relatively dry environment (15 miles from ocean, 1200 ft. elevation) but with occasional rain during winter.
2. No power wash, washed every month with clear water, except when rain washes dirt off. Do not use detergents to wash.
3. Hard water used for washing.
4. No Walbernize. Use Meguiars Quick Detail. Keep roof clean.
5. Stored with power off.
6. Stored on asphalt, with only tires down and front jack on wood block.
7. Only two nights on immediate coast.
8. Trailer delivered to Fontana CA during early fall months in 2004.
9. Aprox 15,000 miles of travel. Mostly in dry environment.

Tim A. 05-06-2007 07:05 PM

In reply to 85MH325, I must say my powerwasher must be really weak-kneed compared to his. of course, I did mention using the spray spreader and some care and I do not blast away at the seams from a few inches away. As for panel flex, rest assured that the flex I see in my rearview mirrors while towing far, far exceeds anything that my weak little powerwasher can produce. I did run out to check the panel seams a few minutes ago and found the Vulkem (or whatever Airstream used) looks great and is still very flexible and elastic.

In any case, I really did not want to extoll the virtues of powerwashing even if it appeared I was doing so. What I did want to communicate was that 5 years of powerwashing has not produced the corrosion (filiform or otherwise) that Silvertwinkie began this thread with. As for what may have contributed to no corrosion is difficult to say. One thing might be that we have never used any detergent or soap on our Bambi. The powerwashing is only done at home with water that, happily, is extremely soft. While underway, we wash the trailer with plain water and a cloth of some sort. It is possible that the surfactants in detergents have contributed to moisture penetrating between the clearcoat and aluminum along the panel edges. Those edges are probably raw because the panel sheets are cut to size after the aluminum sheet is made and clearcoated.

TIMEMACHINE 05-06-2007 07:20 PM

Could be
Tim A may have a valid point. Detergents can create pathways for corrorisve activity in metal that has lost it's protective coating, something which has been suggested regarding the edges and the other perforations of the alcoa aluminum sheets during assembly.

If the unprotected area of the aluminum has an mineral residue or oil base on these edges after assembly, which is then "cleaned away" during washing, the result could be incursion of the areas by corrisive activity. Detergents may accelerate this process.

Any material engineers out there? Help out us novice truth seekers.


lewster 05-06-2007 07:36 PM

The tail light housings and door handles are castings from on outside shop. I have replaced BOTH taillight housings and my entry handle that's on the right side of the door frame is corroding badly. I visited the trailer today and just peeled the clearcoat from the handle along the corroded section. A little scraping with a blade started to remove the powdery corrosion too.

Looks like I'll have to strip this one, re-polish it and re-clear it, since I'de have to remove the interior front panels to get at the bolts that hold it on. Way easier to do it from the outside, than attempting a replacement.

Considering they are castings purchased from an outside vendor, Airstream has NO Q/C over these parts and I'de be willing to bet that they are not only made offshore, but that they contain a lot of garbage metal in the alloy mix as well. I have my second tail light bezel that was replaced, and I have a good mind to send it off to my gold refiner (remember, I'm also a custom goldsmith). They have a very expensive mass spectrometer that they use to determine the precious metal content in the preciuos metal scrap that I send to them. I'll have to see what they will charge for this service, but I would sure be interested in the results!:sad:

Silvertwinkie 05-06-2007 07:44 PM

I'd be interested my case though, it's all over the body and door trim pieces. The alum that they use for the skins should be good materials. I think as has been suggested that the manufac process is damaging the coating and Airstream isn't re-sealing the disturbed areas. Realisitically, why would they? They handed the coating off to Alcoa to get out of the clearing business due to EPA issues.....maybe that was only a half good idea since it would appear that the rivet lines and edges where they disturb the coating is no longer protected. Maybe Airstream needs to get back into the clearing business again and re-clear the RVs after final construction to seal off the disturbed areas....of course, that won't totally solve the 3rd party parts like cast tail lights, rims, door handles, etc, but those are typically easier to fix than the outer sheet metal.... :)

dmac 05-06-2007 10:15 PM

Perhaps Tim is onto something... could Walbernize be sealing-in moisture, encouraging filiform corrosion?

I posted previously about my expereience using ACF-50 on aircraft, with questionable results. On an Airstream the corrosion is often near door handles, taillights, rivits, etc... I assume the corrosion starts where the hole was cut/drilled/punched through the skin. Although we can spray ACF-50 on the spot, the spot is still covered with clearcoat so the ACF-50 may not reach it. Somehow we must get the ACF-50 underneath the clear for it to be effective. We may need to remove the offending door handle/light/rivit to gain access to the raw edge. Doing this seems might make things worse by disturbing the water seal. Also, I believe ACF-50 is temporary at best, sort of an upscale WD-40?

I welcome others thoughts on how to slow the spread of the corrosion!

With 20,000 Airstream Forum members, and countless other readers, Airstream SHOULD be getting very nervous about this thread's 151 posts by now.

Silvertwinkie 05-07-2007 06:30 AM


Originally Posted by dmac
With 20,000 Airstream Forum members, and countless other readers, Airstream SHOULD be getting very nervous about this thread's 151 posts by now.

I doubt they are nervous about much. I'd just like them to really stand behind the product. This is a total disgrace what is happening to these units add to the fact that no one at Airstream has responded to my questions after 2 support interactions, makes it even that much more unfortuane and disappointing, but not shocking really. I mean what is their incentive to fix my unit and worse yet, outside of the cast tail lights and rims, you gonna go the route of DMac and have skin overlay done and still have it come back? Hard to believe that the engineering folks have not yet come up with something that would make the finishes last more than 1 year. Some units are showing issues from what I've read here that are less than one calander year old, that's a MAJOR issue!

Given that you were out there years ago, Dmac, and I out there nearly 2 years ago with some similar things, makes it even that much worse. To me that either means that no one thought, hey there is something really wrong here, we should look into this and get the problem solved, or worse yet, the attitude of who cares.

Either way though folks, if you read this, have the issue, please post, and if you can post some pics for all to see what is happening with our very expensive Airstreams at what I consider, a very young age with this premature skin finish failure, that woud be even better!

One thing I can say Dmac, is that this thread (unless forum mgmt feels otherwise) isn't going to go away either. I'll make sure it lasts as long as I am a member (and is regularly in the main list of active threads too), so that folks who have the issue or might consider spending the war bucks on an Airstream might be better informed of this issue. I may even build a special website to place all the pictures on it in a central location at some point making it easy for all to see. Of course, if someone has done or will do what Airstream and Aloca engineering have failed to do, please post your fixes here too. :)

mwinter 05-07-2007 10:36 AM

Hi Everyone,

I just started reading this thread on corrosion in Airstreams. There are a lot of post, so I didn't read all of them, but we know that filliform corrossion is caused by a combination of humidity and air pollution, right? I found this article interesting. Maybe someone posted the link already, maybe not:

Tom's RV Message Board

5cats 05-07-2007 04:25 PM

Well twink et al, I found a few more tiny spots -- just beginning. All at a cut panel edge. I've applied the ACF-50, let sit for several days, then finished off with the Boeshield.

Reviewing my first report, I noticed it was just six months from the trailer's date of manufacture. This trailer's seen very little rain, being in San Diego and this winter with virtually no precip. Dry dry dry.

I saw the trailer when it first arrived at the dealership, before washing. By the looks of it I'd be mighty surprised if any precipication was encountered on it's way out from the factory, either.

Up to this weekend I'd only used Meguire's high tech wax, once. I just got some Walbernize out this weekend to see how it performs (not bad!).


redeagle313 05-08-2007 06:52 AM

Tweak the title of the thread?

Originally Posted by 5cats
How do we get more input from the folks on this forum?

-jd, looking for a leader...

I hadn't read this thread until last night...the title of the thread *Corrosion* made me assume it was a discussion for older Airstreams. Typically, we read the posts from the *New Posts* page...not by topic. So neither my husband nor I had opened it. He was occupied with a project last night but I am SURE he will want to read it...and check our AS (ASAP)!

We store our AS indoors about 15 miles from our house. There is a sprinkler system in the I assume the owners need to heat the building slightly in the winter to keep the lines from freezing.


Silvertwinkie 05-08-2007 06:57 AM

Not a bad suggestion...I'll talk with one of the mods today about a possible title change for the thread.

Silvertwinkie 05-08-2007 11:00 AM

Changes made....thanks Jack! :)

markdoane 05-08-2007 11:30 AM


Originally Posted by redeagle313
. There is a sprinkler system in the I assume the owners need to heat the building slightly in the winter to keep the lines from freezing.


Before next winter gets here you should confirm this. Some sprinkler systems are dry and filled with air.

Silvertwinkie 05-09-2007 07:32 AM

Ok, I heard back from Alcoa. Not any particular answer that I was looking for, but at least they responded. Problem is, the Airstream dealers are worse off in knowing about this than the factory, and the factory has zero long terms solutions...... Here is what Aloca said:

.... thanks for your comments. We've passed them on to the
manufacturing team to inform them of this situation.

Your best bet for specific answers on your product will continue to be
your Airstream dealer.



TIMEMACHINE 05-10-2007 01:02 AM

Materials Specialists at Airstream
1 Attachment(s)
I don't have the strength to view the whole thread, but anyone posted this article yet? I am sorry if it is a repeat, otherwise I think that Mr. Jessup is the man at Airstream who has the responsibility to help solve this materials issue. The article sure is hyping his fine skills.


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