Airstream Dermatology

It’s well known that the clear coat used on Airstream exteriors weakens and starts peeling after UV exposure. Some say it starts in five or six years, others seem to do a little better. We had a little peeling when we bought the Safari five years ago but it has gotten steadily worse. It is just cosmetic but as we consider options, I know that potential buyers won’t be too impressed. Here’s what it looked like from the front.

The clear coat and Airstream name was looking pretty ratty.

I decided to strip the clearcoat and polish the aluminum on the top front where the situation was the worst. Steve at Vintage Trailer Supply recommends an environmentally-safe stripper and I’ll use that down the road, but I had an expensive gallon of brain-frying Strypeeze so I used that. At least it was outdoors and with purple nitrile gloves, I painted it on the panel. It looked like this.

The Strypeeze wrinkled up the clearcoat, which then could be wiped off.

After several applications of stripper, I hit it with some lacquer thinner and got most of the remnants off. The peeled areas are oxidized and so the whole panel needs to be polished. That’s next week’s task once the heavy rains scheduled here soon subside.

The non-oxidized areas look pretty good giving me hope for good polishing results.

I have the feeling that this is going to turn into a major project, but at least it doesn’t all have to be done this summer. The softer aluminum used in later Airstreams doesn’t shine up like the older ones, but it should look fine. We will see.

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