Airstream Refinishing FAQ
Below we have compiled some of the most commonly asked questions regarding refinishing and coating of aluminum travel trailers.
What is Refinishing?
The earlier Airstreams were built with bare aluminum that would oxidize or discolor. Many new Airstreamers were given a can of aluminum polish with their purchase, but they found out it took hours of painstaking labor to keep their new trailer shiny. This is where good old American ingenuity and determination to find "a better way", led the Ruth family into the refinishing business 34 years ago.
Now, with the renewed interest in the Airstreams through the vintage club, polishing Airstreams has become a "trendy" backyard family activity.
Starting in 1965, all Airstreams were clearcoated to protect the aluminum exterior from oxidation. This clearcoat should not be confused with the clearcoats used by the automotive industry. A product was developed for Airstream called "Plasticoat" which is a coating with additives to keep the substance pliable. After time and exposure to the elements, the clearcoat deteriorates and oxidation or discoloration of the surface begins.
In most instances, the units are not recoated soon enough and varying degrees of oxidation occur. Through the years we have developed processes to remove the discoloration while keeping as close to the original look of the metal as possible.
What is the best way to care for my clearcoated Airstream?
Ultraviolet rays shorten the life of the clearcoat, so storing your unit inside is the best way to protect the finish. Since this is not always an option, we suggest a protective coat of polish, one with a UV protectant if possible, a couple times a year. Bugs and bird droppings are great enemies of the clearcoat because of the acids they contain. Remove them as soon as possible to minimize the damage to the finish.
We do not recommend covering your Airstream, because we have seen instances where this has damaged the clearcoat.
How long does it take to refinish an Airstream?
Under average conditions, it takes 4 to 5 days to strip and recoat trailers and up to 2 weeks for motorhomes.
When a customer makes an appointment to have work done, that specific time is set aside for that customer. In this way, we are kept on schedule and the customer is ready to go when planned.
Can Airstreams be partially refinished?
Yes, this is possible and we do it quite often. There are many factors though that we use to determine whether it is cost effective to refinish just portions of the unit, and in most cases, we like to examine the units before making those decisions.