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Old 08-16-2013, 09:32 PM   #21
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Hey Kevin, it's me again. I'm sorry, but I had a few questions for you:

1) Are you concerned that the stripper will do something to your window seals? Or, are you covering them with something so it won't?

2) What about your awning(s), how are you getting around/under them? Will you remove them? I imagine that would be a gigantic pain in the rear.

3) Since our skins (thinking 1990's) don't have Alclad on them, what type of shine is that? Can you tell yet? Is it kind of an out-of-focus look, or what?

Thank you.

Deb
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Old 08-18-2013, 04:07 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Air Cruiser View Post
1) Are you concerned that the stripper will do something to your window seals? Or, are you covering them with something so it won't?

2) What about your awning(s), how are you getting around/under them? Will you remove them? I imagine that would be a gigantic pain in the rear.

3) Since our skins (thinking 1990's) don't have Alclad on them, what type of shine is that? Can you tell yet? Is it kind of an out-of-focus look, or what?
Good questions.

1. You pour the stripper into a metal paint tray, and then brush it on. I'm using a 4" chip brush. It doesn't touch the window seals. Also, in 95-96 with the introduction of the wide body style, the windows are different with frameless glass. (if that's what it's called). From what I know, the stripper is instantly neutralized with water, so even if it washes onto the seals at that point, it's just water. I did splatter a drop on one of the clearance lights and learned that it melts the surface of the lense. I am planning on replacing them all with the $5 LED ones when I'm done, but it's good to know. I'm taping off the rear lenses that I'm not replacing.

2. I took off one awning so far. It took me about 10 min by myself. And now that I know better how to do it, the others will be quicker. But the longer ones I'll surely need assistance from my neighbor or my Brother-in-law. Not hard at all, and a welcome break from polishing. Originally, I thought I'd just work around all the emblems, awnings, etc. But you can only get so close with the buffer. So if I spend 100 hours polishing this thing, why not spend another 1-2 hours properly prepping it?

3. You'd think there would only be one type of mirror finish right? No, it's not cloudy at all. It's like a mirror. Admittedly, it's not the same bright shine of the Alclad blend, but it's not foggy or out of focus. I'm on stage 1 of 3 levels of polish right now. This is the first cut, and I'm not going for the final shine yet. I'm going to do the whole trailer this way, then start again with stage 2, and so on.

Before I started this, I tried over and over to find threads about polishing newer airstreams. Specifically 1995 and newer, when they made a significant design overhaul. It seems 95% of them are about polishing units that are 1980's and older. Several, several times I read that you can't even polish the new aluminum. That's false for sure. Also, I've learned that, by nature, Airstream only has so much control over the aluminum available to them. Manufacturing techniques change over the decades, prices change, ore quality changes, management/finance/owners change, etc. etc. So the actual metal used is different at some level year to year, or for that matter, lot to lot, or even truck load to load. What I'm trying to say is that every trailer is not only different, but has been maintained in widely various ways. Different climates, sun exposure, moss, algae. All those environmental difference have an impact on the trailer and how it's polished. Add to that the fact that there's more than a dozen methods to get it done, and you have a fairly dynamic stage for setting up some general guidelines.

Another hurdle that I experienced during my research was a lack of real world photographs during the process. Everyone likes to show the before and after, but I was really interested in the mistakes along the way. The troubleshooting weird problems and unexpected speedbumps. I think it's human nature to only show the good stuff, but I'm trying to give an honest portrayal of my experience, blemishes, screw-ups, glory and all.

I finally found this video on youtube that convinced me that it is possible to bring my trailer to a quality that I would be happy with:
how to polish aluminum airstream part 2 tonymetalart - YouTube

This is more of a promotional video, but I used it as a selling tool to my family to see if they would approve the project. (with the sound off).

Sorry for the elongated reply, but I will have probably put as much time into researching, planning, and thinking about this project than I will have actually doing it.

-Kevin

PS: as soon as the trailer is in the shade, I'm about to go out and have a nice 5-6 hour session with the polisher! Of course, pics to follow.
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Old 08-19-2013, 08:10 AM   #23
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Thanks, Kevin, for responding to all of my questions, and for the link to the video(s), very interesting.

About the window gaskets, I was really thinking of the one which goes between the window frame and the body of the trailer. I think I've read that we need to keep mineral spirits away from rubber, so I was thinking that the stripper might be the same; makes sense, tho, that the water would neutralize it.

I'm pleased to hear that the shine isn't cloudy or out-of-focus. I forget now, but does yours have a blue beltline around, and if so, do you intend to replace it?

I will be eagerly awaiting updates on your progress, but at the same time, I know all too well that life gets in the way sometimes. Best of luck and I'll continue to follow your thread.

Deb
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Old 08-19-2013, 11:54 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Air Cruiser View Post
About the window gaskets, I was really thinking of the one which goes between the window frame and the body of the trailer. I think I've read that we need to keep mineral spirits away from rubber, so I was thinking that the stripper might be the same; makes sense, tho, that the water would neutralize it.

I'm pleased to hear that the shine isn't cloudy or out-of-focus. I forget now, but does yours have a blue beltline around, and if so, do you intend to replace it?
Deb,

So on my trailer, the glass doesn't have a metal frame attached to it. (pic below) There's a rubber seal between the glass and the frame that's riveted to the trailer. Between that frame and the trailer is Vulkem. (2nd pic below) That grey sealant that you find in every seam on the trailer. I'm not sure exactly which one that you're talking about, but it's a moot point because I'm going to replace the rubber window seals, and once it's polished, I'm going to re-seal all the seams on the trailer with Vulkem (TremPro).

This is a pre-purchase picture of my trailer. You can see the exposed rubber window seal is sun/time/algae damaged (and green). The portion that contacts the window and is protected by the window is fine. But I plan on replacing them all.


This is a picture from today of a typical section of failing Vulkem. I read at least 2-3 times that people suggesting to reseal the trailer AFTER polishing because the fresh Vulkem makes a mess.


I was planning on no pinstriping when we're done. But that could change. Again, I really like the looks of the trailer in the video, and it's just pure shiny aluminum. If we do opt for a stripe, I doubt I'll do the same configuration as the OEM one. Probably something that's plain dark blue if we do anything at all.

This is a recent "before" picture of the curb side of the trailer showing damage where the PO ripped off the center support of the awning. It also shows the failing pinstriping.



I like pictures. Thanks for the questions. Hopefully others can benefit from my wordy posts.

-Kevin
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Old 08-19-2013, 02:22 PM   #25
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Battle with a stripper.

So yesterday I tried out a new stripper; Citristrip. I didn't test it on any plastic lenses, or rubber, but it does smell better than the Klean-Strip. It's easier to apply. No globs and the pink color makes it easier to see. I don't think it performed any better otherwise. There's still some areas that are going to need a 2nd (or 3rd) treatment. Maybe it's the trailer, but some areas must have really absorbed the clear coat well because it's really permeated into the skin.

The products:



This is another area that I tested with the polisher to see if it what was left was clear coat or some kind of resin or ash or ??? that would just wipe off. So I quickly tested it with the buffer wheel and yes, it's clear coat.



So if the spots are small enough, you can just polish through them. The wheel will just "grind" them off. But if they're bigger than a quarter, you encounter several problems.
1. Generates a lot of heat. Buffing through them requires a lot of work concentrated into one little area. That generates a lot of heat and deforms the metal. I suppose it could do permanent damage, but I've seen a little of it so far, and the metal goes back flat once it cools down. I don't want to test it to see how much it takes to damage it.
2. Glazes the buffer. The residual clear coat immediately glazes the cotton wheel. About every 30 seconds you have to rake it.
3. Creates an uneven polish. The bare metal around the clear coat gets a nice finish, but the part under the clear coat blemish gets less treatment. It's not hard to blend it in, but so much more work/time.

In the end, I recommend applying as many applications as necessary to fully remove the clear coat before you start polishing.

I've used the rake so much already that I'm wearing it out. I didn't even realize it until I took a close look.



And I did remove the larger awning on the street side. (no picture) It was entirely easier with two people. Had it off in about 5 minutes.

-Kevin
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Old 01-03-2014, 01:43 PM   #26
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Great project! Any updates?
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Old 01-03-2014, 04:25 PM   #27
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I would use Parbond around the window frames not the Trempro stuff. Trempro is for big cracks and fillet joints. If you use Trempro in spots where it gets thin it will crack.

Perry
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Old 01-08-2014, 02:49 PM   #28
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Great project! Any updates?
Not really.

Unless I can figure out a way to polish the trailer in the rain and at night, I'm kind of stalled until the weather gets better. I might be able to squeeze some hours in on a weekend, but the hours seem scarce right now.

So my last session polishing was while we were camping at the beach. Our lot is dry, so I was experimenting with minimal water usage. The only water I had was what we carried there in the trailer. This meant that rinsing the Citristrip was minimal. (foreshadowing statement)

I was using the EU2000i as the power supply and really taking my time. Usually I'm working as fast as possible. But the residual Citristrip was mixing with the polish, and some water was seeping out of the cracks. It was also pretty hot (+80F is hot for us Oregonians) so I was wearing a T-shirt with bare arms.

I did manage to get a little done, but there were too many worthy distractions with the family, beach, kites, bonfire, food, etc. But on Monday I noticed where the Citristrip had left burn marks on my forearms. It might be more environmentally friendly, but it will still burn your skin.



That was the first weekend in September, and the next weekend we headed out to Pendleton, OR for the Round-Up and National Airstream Rally. I only mention this because I didn't really get a picture of my work at the beach.

This is at a park midway to Pendleton in the Columbia Gorge:
(Notice the street side awnings are removed, as well as the water heater cover.)



Bonus points if you can tell what kind of wheels I have on my truck. I'll give you a hint: they're from another GM brand, but not Chev/GMC. It's kind of a long shot, so here's a closer one:
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:31 PM   #29
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Bonus points if you can tell what kind of wheels I have on my truck. I'll give you a hint: they're from another GM brand, but not Chev/GMC. It's kind of a long shot, so here's a closer one:
Those wheels are off of a Hummer H2. What do I win?


How's that for a first post?
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Old 03-04-2014, 02:06 PM   #30
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Those wheels are off of a Hummer H2. What do I win?


How's that for a first post?
Good first post, you're right on. 10 points.
-Kevin
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Old 03-09-2014, 09:12 PM   #31
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Thanks for sharing this. I am currently looking at a '96 Excella. The main problem is the previous owner has left it exposed to the sun for 2 years and the coating has oxidized from the roof down 2-3 on the sides.
But this may not really be a problem since there are people that actually strip off the coating to get back to only aluminum.
Please advise.
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Old 03-09-2014, 09:23 PM   #32
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Yes, you will need to strip the clear coat. What you are seeing is clear coat failure, sometimes referred to as "Airstream Pattern Baldness." it s not difficult to strip the clear coat. You will find numerous threads about it. The clean aluminum can then be lightly buffed to a more factory finish, or can be polished (a much more extensive project) and then can be sealed, waxed, or re-clear coated. We use white Diamond to clean and seal ours, similar to waxing a car. It looks beautiful!
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Old 03-27-2014, 10:25 PM   #33
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Skatiero, thanks again for the help earlier in the week. That trailer was a no go. But the good news is we found our dream Airstream yesterday. It is a 1996 34' Limited, in good shape and a price we couldn't pass up. The bad news is the clear coat needs to be stripped and then we have to decide what to do. It will be kept under cover indoors after that. Where should we start?
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Old 04-07-2017, 02:58 PM   #34
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4 years later...

So it's 4 years later and I've been using a 1/3rd polished trailer, and really I did 1/3 of the trailer 1/3 of the way.

I happened to find a guy that offered to finish the job for a price that I couldn't refuse. (I'm actually going to pay him more than he quoted).

This is after 1.5 days: Granted, this side had a head start with stripping the clear coat, and my poor efforts on the polish. Although he said he had to spend a lot of time getting my marks out.

-Kevin
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Old 04-22-2017, 07:34 PM   #35
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Try a wheel from jestco that's made of flannel. It's thinner than the one you are using it's also about 12 inches in dia and sewn pretty tight. It will cut much faster and not clog up as much as the cotton. It makes the process much easier.
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Old 07-03-2018, 10:18 AM   #36
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Read this thread with great interest, as others have said there are few posts on restoring finish on '90 models. I have a '96 28 footer that we love except for the failed clear coat and I am planning to tackle it once it cools down here in Georgia. I am curious if you still own the trailer and if so what your experience has been maintaining the finish once you completed it? Have heard others say the ongoing maintenance has prevented them for starting down this road.
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Old 07-06-2018, 03:01 PM   #37
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I am curious if you still own the trailer and if so what your experience has been maintaining the finish once you completed it?
Still own the trailer. I'm now storing it under cover, so except for dust, it looks the same.

It's aluminum. Bare metal will corrode/oxidize if left out in the elements. With preventative metal polish or wax, that can be minimized. At the worst, going over the skin with a polish wheel once a year is 1/20th the effort of getting to the polished look from the original grain and clear coat.

Took it again out to the Pendleton Round-up and she looks great.

-Kevin

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