Exterior Skin

Q: Can dents be removed from an Airstream?
The basic method is to replace the panel by drilling out the old rivets. This is not cheap. With vintage trailers (25 or more years ) parts might not be available. Consider this when buying an old trailer. Some parts like Banana Wraps (lower rocker strips) can easily be bumped out. Larger shallow dents in between seams can be removed with an auto-body suction cup tool, all the online and catalog tool places carry them. If the dent is more a crease or sharp dent, then access to the back side of the panel is obtained by either removing the panel, or loosening up the edges to gain access. Then using an auto body spoon or such tooling, the dent is bumped out from the backside, then the panel is re-riveted back on using Olympic rivets.

Q: Are replacement end cap segments available??
The pre 1957 end caps can be made from flat aluminum wedge shaped sections, some of the 1969+ segments are still available in limited but expensive($$$) quantities from Airstream, but the years in-between aren’t available anywhere but from a donor trailer. No replacements can be made, the stretch forming can’t be done nowadays since the big forms are long gone. These deep drawn segments can’t have deeper dents removed since a dent is basically reverse stretching the formed aluminum.
To find a donor trailer, you might advertise on:

Q: What about hail dents?
Tough one. Dry ice does not work on aluminum, so many consider them unavoidable beauty marks. The aircraft repair industry has developed hail dent removers for aluminum skin, and hopefully larger Airstream dealers may pick up on it.

Q: The aluminum shields over the windows on my 1960 trailer are all dented up. What can I do?
Replacement drip caps are still made, and are available in all the sizes Airstream used from RV Dealers. They come in 1 inch increments and are measured from the outside of the flange. Existing caps are made from soft aluminum, and can be removed and easily straightened and then reinstalled using Olympic Rivets.

Q: How do I remove the old WBCCI numbers from the front and back of the trailer?
Use a hair dryer for newer stickers or a warm iron over a wet towel on a hot, sunny day for old dried out stickers to soften the adhesive, and they peel right off. A little Goo-Gone, Goof-Off or lacquer thinner will remove any remaining adhesive.

Q: How do I maintain the Clear Coat (Plasticoat) finish on my trailer?
Walbernize is a type of wax that has been used on Airstream Plasticoats since the first trailer was coated. Should be applied two times a year, more if you want. It was first used by Airstream when they were transporting trailers. They applied it to the front of the trailer so that when bugs and dirt got attached to the trailer in transit, they could easily clean the coach when it arrived at the dealer lot. Walbernize also helps keep the Plasticote clean of things that will damage it, and is available from Airstream dealers.

Q: A prior owner sealed all the seams and windows with clear Silicone Sealant and it won’t some off. How can you get it off?
Short of sanding it off, try an expensive material called SU100 Silicone Sealant and Adhesive Remover or Dicone NC9. You would have to use the dealer locator to find a local commercial source – not available in small quantities. It softens the sealant so it can be removed with a non-metallic scraper or Popsicle stick. Other than that, Acetone will work OK, but will attack any plastic it comes in contact with.

Q: Is there a way to restore the paint on the metal plate of the guy pulling the Airstream on a bicycle?
This works on other metal plates with too fine of detail to mask off and paint. Remove the plate by drilling out the rivets as necessary. Clean off all old paint with lacquer thinner. Don’t use steel wool or any thing abrasive as you need to retain as sharp of relief in the lettering and design as possible. Spray the entire placard with a very light coat of Royal Blue Krylon spraypaint or equivalent. As the paint begins to dry, it will reach a point where the paint on the high spots can be rubbed off with a blunt wooden dowel (1/8 inch or so). It may take some practice to find just the right degree of drying to rub the thin paint off without peeling up adjacent paint. If you mess up and need to start over, just reach for the lacquer thinner and a rag. After all has dried for a day or two, spray on a thin coat of clear “epoxy” enamel. Don’t try clear coating the Krylon with lacquer, or the solvents will just lift up and destroy the paint. Reinstall the plate with Olympic rivets.

Q: How do you take the cast nameplates off the skin for polishing the skin and re-chroming?
They were attached before the interior skin went on. They are held on with studs cast into the back and capture from the inside. The accepted procedure is to use a putty knife placed behind the nameplate to cut the studs. When reapplying them, drill holes with a drill-press in the piece that correspond to the old studs and reattach with stainless screws.

Q: Should I cover my Airstream with one of those RV covers to protect it from the elements?
: As opposed to painted trailers, an Airstream should never be covered. The action caused by the tarp moving against the skin will cause black marks very quickly. On plasticoated trailers, it causes the finish to become milky looking. Best bet is store your trailer under a carport type roof.

Q: The heater vent cap on top of our 1950’s Airstream has been damaged by a tree. What can I do?
The top roof vents used in the 1950’s looked more like smokestacks, and are still available at better home centers, hardware stores, and plumbing/heating supply houses. They have both the 4″ round capped ones, usually used on the heater vents, and the long oval one, usually used on the refer’s. Both have storm collars, made of aluminum and look much like the ones from the 1950’s, only now made in Mexico.

Q: What do you use to paint Argosy’s? What color did argosy use?
Automotive paint:
1975 to 1977:
Upper section(from the rubrail up) DuPont Centari 44534-A Light Beige
Lower section (from the rubrail down) DuPont Centari Metallic Brown
Upper section(from the rubrail up) DuPont Centari 44534-A Light Beige
Lower section (from the rubrail down) DuPont Centari 44767-AM Metallic Gold
(1978 was the only year the Argosy Lower section was Metallic Gold)

1979-1980 the entire coach was Alpine White