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Old 04-10-2021, 05:09 PM   #1
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1972 25' Tradewind
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Replacement panel not shining up like the rest after stripping clear coat

Hi! We’re first time airstream owners (1972 Tradewind) and just finished our first coat of stripping the clear coat off. We used Citristrip and it worked great on most areas. However, we have a panel that must have been replaced at some point from 1972 to now (it has Olympic rivets) and that one panel is so dull and looks horrible in contrast to how the other panels look just with one coat of citristrip. At first I assumed a different thickness of aluminum or something lacking what the original panels have, but in the small section of the same panel that was covered by the tail light it looks great. What could be causing this and is there any tips to get the entire panel looking like the rest? I’ve attached pictures to hopefully cover any gaps I missed explaining. Thank you!
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Old 04-11-2021, 03:40 PM   #2
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Guessing only. Airstream changed aluminum grades at.leasr 3 times over the years. If that rear panel was replaced later with a newer panel, it can be polished, but won't match the original for brilliance. It is interesting that the aluminum under the light fixture IS Shiney. I suggest you get a magnifying glass and look at the border where the finish changes. Seems odd to me but IF the exposed part is thicker, perhaps someone put varnish or.heaven only knows what over the exposed part. Maybe it was the one shiney panel when it was replaced and the owner dulled it down to match the 10 year old.wear.and tear on the rest of the trailer. (Strange and stupid repairs abound when you start getting into older vintage units. I LOVE seeing white water hose patching split copper pipes! Brings out my inner drill Sargeant.) You might also get a plastic putty knife and see if you can scrape off a bit of the coating by starting where it is shiney. If it is something that will.come off, it is just a matter of finding the right solvent.

Of course a worse discovery might await you. A previous owner may have gotten aggressive with polishing and sanded down too far... on the exposed parts... you will need a new panel, or one salvaged from a wreck of similar vintage.
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Old 04-11-2021, 03:47 PM   #3
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What is that little tag in the upper corner of the panel in picture #1?

Olympic rivets MAY MEAN that the original panel was overlaid rather than replaced. But it is.definitely not original.
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Old 04-11-2021, 11:06 PM   #4
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Thank you for all your feedback! So the ‘tag’ in picture #1 is actually the reflector that we had removed to strip the clear coat. All my pictures uploaded sideways and I’m not sure why.

A plastic scraper after another (thicker) coat of Citristrip will be our next plan of attack. Unfortunately, looks like we’re going to be held hostage by the weather as it’s not supposed to be warm/dry enough for a few weeks. But it’s definitely interesting to know it might just be covering an existing panel! We’ve already run into several “fixes” that have made no sense to us, so it could definitely be a possibility. I will keep you updated and thanks again!
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Old 04-12-2021, 03:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexmoir View Post
...just finished our first coat of stripping the clear coat off. We used Citristrip and it worked great on most areas. However, we have a panel that must have been replaced at some point from 1972 to now (it has Olympic rivets) and that one panel is so dull and looks horrible in contrast to how the other panels look just with one coat of citristrip.
So the difference in the replacement panel vs the non-replaced panels is most likely that the 'newer replaced panel' did not have clearcoat on it and it has oxidized more than the clearcoated panels. The older panels that you have stripped did still have some clearcoat remaining - which protected them from oxidizing.

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Originally Posted by alexmoir View Post
A plastic scraper after another (thicker) coat of Citristrip will be our next plan of attack.
Don't bother. The Citristrip will have no effect on a non-clearcoated panel because there is nothing to strip.

The replaced panel may also be a different alloy of aluminum, but that is more difficult to tell just from the photos. If you are going to be polishing your trailer, the two different panels may polish up the same if they are the same alloy. If not, they are probably two different alloys - no matter how much polishing you do they won't match perfectly. It's like 14kt vs 18kt gold (or rose/white gold) - they are different alloys, so they have different colors. Both are 'aluminum' (or gold) but the percentages of aluminum & 'other metals' are different.

The reason the area covered by the tail light still looks great is that it was protected from the elements by that bead of caulk so it did not oxidize the same as the exposed part of the panel. Water, road chemicals & 'junk' in the air are what make aluminum oxidize. Any 'protection' will help prevent oxidizing.

You will also see some trailers where the clearcoat has peeled (failed) over time. They will appear splotchy - the longer the clearcoat has been compromised, the more dull that portion of the panel will be. So there will be different levels of clearcoat failure giving the panel a 'peeling sunburned' look.

Shari
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Old 04-12-2021, 03:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexmoir View Post
All my pictures uploaded sideways and I’m not sure why.
I think this happens when the photos are from an iPhone. To prevent this in future posts, just edit or resize them slightly & they will post correctly.

Shari
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Old 04-12-2021, 03:59 PM   #7
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It looks like the interior skins have been removed. How does the panel look on the inside? You might want to try a pass of an aggressive polish like Nuvite F. Also, if the skins are off, this would be the time to replace the Olympic rivets with Buck rivets.
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Old 04-12-2021, 04:00 PM   #8
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where can i buy the "CLEARCOAT"?
also who is the OEM ?
what is brand name/model name for the clearcoat?

i have some section that need to be re applied with just the top coat

cheers
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Old 04-12-2021, 04:08 PM   #9
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where can i buy the "CLEARCOAT"?
also who is the OEM ?
what is brand name/model name for the clearcoat?
I'm using the generic term 'clearcoat', which varies from year to year, especially when talking vintage trailers, as in this thread.

Some years it was a spray-applied finish to a completed trailer, others it was applied to the panels by the sheet metal manufacturer and in more recent years it is more of a 'plasti-coat' layer than a paint-like finish. There were also different chemical make-ups or formulas over the years with varying levels of durability.

The newer plasti-coat is actually bonded to the panels before the panels are made into Airstreams. If this is breached, moisture & stuff in the air/from the road get behind this layer and can start 'filiform corrosion' which looks like white crusty bits or worms. This is not something that can be retrofit or patch onto an existing panel.

I know there are some discussions of newer ($$$) ceramic-coat products available as well.

Shari
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Old 04-13-2021, 09:28 AM   #10
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Don't bother. The Citristrip will have no effect on a non-clearcoated panel because there is nothing to strip.
Thank you, Shari! I've done a lot of research but am very much still learning. I've seen a lot of people mention Walbernize (the type made for aluminum without a clear coat) and it's product page says it can remove oxidization. Would that be worth trying before polishing? Or is the best bet just going through the polish phases. My biggest goal is to get as even of a finish as I can.
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Old 04-13-2021, 09:40 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by azflycaster View Post
It looks like the interior skins have been removed. How does the panel look on the inside? You might want to try a pass of an aggressive polish like Nuvite F. Also, if the skins are off, this would be the time to replace the Olympic rivets with Buck rivets.
The interior skins are removed, the panel looks nearly identical to the rest. But it does seem to have a slightly different ‘cast’ than the rest. If that makes sense? Not sure if this confirms it is a different alloy or if it’s just newer panel. I cropped in on a wider picture, so it’s not the highest quality, but maybe helps explain the slight color difference.

We are definitely planning on replacing the rivets as I had read that they have a tendency to leak/not age as well. Just waiting on a back ordered pneumatic gun for the buck rivets. Thank you!
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Old 04-13-2021, 12:10 PM   #12
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Thank you, Shari! I've done a lot of research but am very much still learning. I've seen a lot of people mention Walbernize (the type made for aluminum without a clear coat) and it's product page says it can remove oxidization. Would that be worth trying before polishing? Or is the best bet just going through the polish phases. My biggest goal is to get as even of a finish as I can.
You're welcome Alex ~

No, I don't think the Walbernize product is intended to remove the kind of serious oxidation that you are showing - it's more for protecting it from oxidation occurring much like a wax. You are going to have to go through the removal process which is polishing with different grades of bars/polishes to get through the oxidation. Your best result is going to be to remove the clearcoat on the panels that have it, then decide on the method of compounding/polishing you are going to embrace. We've done two trailers - one compounding (removing the oxidation) with the various Nuvite products & one compounding with tripoli/rouge bars. Then both final polishing with Cyclo-polishing with Nuvite 'C' & 'S' afterwards. They both came out great - it's just a personal preference on which method for compounding you decide to go with. It's messy & a lot of work either way - but the results are worth it.

Here are a couple of links to polishing sections on our trailers. As I mentioned several times over the years, there are as many techniques for polishing an Airstream as there are polished trailers. There really isn't a "right way" it's whatever works for you. The one key that most people can agree on though is using a Cyclo-polisher for the final passes. It removes the swirl marks of compounding.
Good luck in whatever you decide to do!

Shari
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