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Home > Resources & Guides > Vintage Trailer Restoration Tool Checklist

Replacing Aluminum Exterior


Although it sounds like a big task, replacing the aluminum exterior on your vintage trailer is not as complicated as it may seem. Whether youíre looking to replace your exterior due to dents, water damage or even just to switch it up, this task can be made easy with the right tools.

Electric drill/Rivet Removal Tool

When it comes to replacing the exterior, the first big step is removing whatís already there. To do that, itís important to have a good working drill or rivet removal tool to make removing the millions of screws holding your trailer together more efficient. These tools not only make the removal process easier for you, but they also ensure you donít damage the main frame of the trailer.

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Putty Knife

This versatile tool is not only great for its obvious use of applying putty, but itís also the perfect tool for removing the original metal sheets that cover your trailer. Because they are flat and sturdy, you can easily use these knives to peel off the original exterior as well as straighten out any bent corners. Furthermore, these putty knives can scrape off any excess putty or residue, providing a clean foundation for your new exterior.

Putty Tape

A big reason why most exteriors need to be replaced is because of water damage. Water damage happens mainly because the edges around doors and windows allow water to seep in when they are not sealed or when the previous sealing starts to dry up. Putty tape is a great way to ensure the edges of your windows and doors are safe from the dangers of water damage.

Since most interiors are built with a wooden frame, water damage can cause internal rotting that can lead to many headaches in the future. Putty tape lets you seal these craps and prevent this water damage without all the mess that other sealants such as silicone can cause.

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Metal Sheets

Now that youíve got the foundation set for your brand new exterior, itís time to go in with the actual new exterior. Metal sheets are great for replacing the exterior because they can easily be cut and bent to fit your problem area. Because most vintage trailers, such as Airstreams, Spartans and Curtis Wrights, are made with the same original exterior, you can use these sheets to cover certain problem areas without having to remove the entire exterior. However, if you do want to remove the entire exterior and start over, these sheets easily fit to your specific trailer.

Shop Aluminum Sheeting

Screws/Nuts/Fasteners

To ensure your metal sheets are properly secured onto each other and onto the trailer itself, itís important to get the right set of fasteners. When it comes to screws, slotted pan head sheet metal screws were used on the original Airstream to fasten the metal sheets together. Although it is mainly up to your preference, there are a variety of different screws that may or may not be better depending on your specific trailer.

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Polishing an Airstream


If youíre looking to restore the natural shine of your Airstream, polishing your trailer will get rid of the nasty look of oxidation and ensure it looks as good as the day you got it. However, achieving that perfect shine is no simple task. It requires a variety of materials and supplies to get the best results.

Peroxide-activated stripper for plasticoat removal

Before you start polishing your trailer, itís important to remove the plasticoat if you have one. Using a stripper makes it easy to dissolve the plasticoat without damaging your vehicle. The PPG Aerospace PR-5044 is especially great because of its effectiveness and safety. This stripper can be hosed off after the plasticoat is used without harming the plants or grass around it.

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Wool Pads

These compounding pads are perfect for those who see a lot of built-up oxidation on their vehicles. Paired with a course or medium-grade polish, such as the Airbrite No.2 or Nuvite Grade F7, these wool pads will make it easy to get rid of the unpleasant look of oxidation. With theyíre circular shape and diameter of 7.5Ē, theyíre the ideal size for oxidation removal.

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Aluminum Polish

When it comes to the actual polish, there are a variety of abrasiveness levels you can ultimately choose from. However, for typical polishing, we recommend going with a medium abrasive polish, such as the Airbrite No. 4 or Nuvite Grade C. The polish should be applied over the entire surface of the trailer to attain that natural shine youíve been looking for.

For different steps of the polishing process, specific polishes are needed:

  1. Oxidation Removal - Airbrite No.2 or Nuvite Grade F7 (coarse-medium grade)
  2. Normal Polishing - Airbrite No. 4 or Nuvite Grade C (medium abrasive)
  3. Mirror Finish - Airbrite No.6 or Nuvite S (ďno-cutĒ)

Rotary Polisher/Polisher Kit

Almost as important as the actual polish itself, a polisher is needed to apply the actual substance to your trailer. If youíre new to polishing, purchasing a polishing kit will give you all the tools you need to apply the polish evenly and correctly. This rotating machinery should be used to buffer back and forth over the entire surface of your Airstream.

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Cyclo Dual Head Orbital Polisher

This tool is essential for those who want to reach that optimal mirror finish. Paired with a ďno-cutĒ polish, you can use cotton terry bonnets over the foam pads on the Cyclo heads and repeat the polishing methods used for the normal polish. This will bring about the shiny exterior youíll want after you get rid of all that nasty oxidation.

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Sealant

One optional step to the polishing process is to cover your Airstream with a sealant. While the effectiveness of sealants is controversial, sealants extend the oxidation time. Sealants are important because they can elongate the reoxidation time by around six months. This sealant can be similar to the ones used on cars, such as car wax or polymer sealants.


Towing & Parking


One of the best parts about having your own vintage trailer is that you get to move it around and park it with ease. When youíre going about traveling and moving around, you want to always make sure your vehicle is completely secured during movement. Here are some things that will ensure you have a safe trip:

Coupler

When towing your trailer, a coupler is essential to ensuring your trailer is secured onto the towing truck. This tool will attach to the end of your trailer tongue and connect to the tow vehicleís hitch ball. Before making your purchase, itís important to make sure it is compatible with your specific trailer.

Trailer Towing Couplers

Hitch Ball

This particular component of the trailer is the actual place where your tow vehicle and trailer will attach. The hitch ball provides a physical attachment point for the connection to be made. Available in a variety of sizes, these can be interchanged depending on changes to your towing vehicle.

Hitch Pin

This tool is essentially used to prevent excess noise and movement from your hitch. Itís used to secure the hitch ball with the trailer hitch tightly to create a sturdy connection.

Wiring Harness

Having a wiring harness is important to towing because it provides the power for the signals and lights for your trailer as it is being towed. Required by law, this wiring harness is not an option. Legality aside, these are important to have to ensure your trailer is clearly seen on the road and to prevent any collisions or accidents.

Backup Cameras

When it comes to parking a vintage trailer or any vehicle for that matter, getting a good look at whatís behind you can be difficult. Especially with a vehicle as big as your trailer, thereís no real sure-fire way to see whatís behind you without having a personal lookout. Back up cameras are a great way to ensure youíre parking safely and efficiently.

Level

These are especially important to ensure your towing experience is a safe one. Sometimes, thereís an uneven distribution of weight between your axles. A level will ensure you can control the distribution of the weight between the towing vehicle and the trailer.


Electrical & Wiring


Itís important to remember that your trailer is almost like your second home. Just like your own home, the trailer should have a nice set of electrical wiring systems to ensure you get the light and electricity you need to feel at home during your trip. Here are some electrical necessities youíll probably need:

AMP Converter

This is a huge necessity when it comes to powering your trailer battery. These will convert 120 VAC power to 12 VDC power to work all your lights and appliances. It will efficiently charge and maintaining your RVís battery so you donít have to worry about running out of power in the middle of the night.

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Inside Outlets

Outlets are useful for charging personal items, such as phones, laptops and tablets. Since most appliances also need to have a universal outlet, having accessible outlets throughout your trailer will ensure you can conveniently get to a power source when you need it.

Shop Interior Outlets

Indoor Fan

When it comes to being cooped up in a trailer, you want to be able to cool off from those hot, sunny days. Indoor fans are a great way to ensure youíre staying cool without wasting electricity with the AC constantly blowing. These fans will help ventilate air throughout your trailer and prevent that stuffy feeling.

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Lights


Lights are essential to any dwelling place for obvious reasons. However, when it comes to lights, thereís a variety of kinds that may be better for different aspects of your trailer.

LED Light Bulbs

Having LED light bulbs in your trailer will ensure you have a long-lasting and efficient bulb that you donít have to constantly switch out. These are essential to lighting a portion of your trailer.

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Gas Lights

These are great for when you want to save battery life when youíre planning on going for a ďdry campingĒ (not hooking up to a power source) experience. Propane lights extend your battery life and are used in many trailers.

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Interior Dome Lights

Dome lights are great because theyíre compact and stick to the ceiling with a convenient on and off switch. These are ideal for lighting any small areas because they donít take up too much space while still providing light.

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Exterior Painting


Every once in a while, you may be looking to change up your trailer look with a fresh new coat of paint and some new colors. However, painting the exterior of your trailer can be a tough job because of the sheer size of the vehicle. However, painting a trailer is not too different from any normal paint job.

Primer

With any painting job, having a nice, clean foundation to work with will ensure a better and longer lasting paint job. Primers are important because they give you an even surface to put your first coat of paint onto.

Tape/Paper covers

Especially if youíre looking to use more than one color, tape and paper colors are not something you want to leave out. Using a cover of some sort to protect parts of the trailer that you donít want painted, such as windows and doors, will ensure clean-cut lines and an overall better look. If youíre looking to create a pattern of some sort, you donít want to leave it to your unsteady hand to get those straight lines.

Paint

For the actual paint of the trailer, there are obviously endless choices to choose from when it comes to brands, colors and finishes. However, the type of paint really depends on what youíre looking for in your finished look. One thing you donít want to do is go for a low-quality paint that will wear off after a short period of time.

Paint Spray Gun/Paint Brush

If youíre not looking to go traditional with a paintbrush and some paint, spray painting is also a very common option when it comes to giving your trailer a new look. Paint spray guns are easy to use and arguably faster than traditional painting. However, you want to make sure you are staying a consistent distance away from the trailer to prevent any dark or light spots on your paint job.

Top Coat

To prevent damage to the hard work you put into your paint job, you want to finish the trailer off with a top coat. Not only will it protect the coating of the paint from chipping, but it can also protect from harmful UV rays that cause discoloration over a short period of time.

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