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Can Airstreams Be Polished?

Published on December 12th, 2018 by Camper Report
This post was updated on February 28th, 2019

There is nothing better than a slick, new, polished Airstream. You wish that sleek shiny surface could stay that way forever. Here’s some info on how to attempt to accomplish that. 

Can Airstreams be polished? Because airstreams are made of aluminum on the outside and aluminum is extremely soft, they can be polished. The softer the aluminum covering, the greater the shine. 

If you are wanting to polish your Airstream, you may want to know how to do it and how much it would cost to do it. Along with that, how often should you polish your Airstream. All three of those questions are answered below.

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How do I Polish My Airstream?

The process of polishing a trailer can only be done with the right equipment. There aren’t many tools that you will need, but they are essential for this process to be as efficient as possible.

Here are the tools and equipment you will need: 

  • Aluminum Polish- You have to be careful what polish you choose. Whatever you choose has to be compatible with the percentage/purity of the aluminum used for your trailer. (For vintage trailers- Go here.)
  • Buffer Machine- You can apply the polish to the brush or you can apply the polish directly on the Airstream. 
  • Energy and Patience– Polishing an Airstream takes some time and energy. So long as you got a lot of that, you’ll be fine.

This is pretty much all that you will need. Once you have your equipment, stake out an area where you can work freely and get started!

Here’s a video of how it’s done to help you out:

How Often Should I Polish My Airstream?

After you’ve polished your Airstream once that’s not the last time it needs to be polished. You have to maintain that shine with a regular polishing schedule.

I’ve heard people say that it has to be 4-5 months, twice a year, to once a year. It doesn’t really matter how often, only that you are doing it. It all depends on how much traveling you are doing. How often you polish is determined by how much oxidation your trailer acquires. 

You’ll generally have to gauge it on your own. Also, the kind of polish you purchase is going to change how often you need to polish it. Some brands will last longer than others. This is due to ingredients and things like that. 

The companies that make the polish will advertise that you polish every six months, but they are stating probably the average. They don’t take into account that millennial couple that is traveling everywhere in their Airstream.

If you don’t travel in your trailer very much, you may not have to polish your Airstream for a while. 

How Much Does it Cost to Polish an Airstream?

There are two ways you can go about getting your Airstream polished. You can hire someone to do it, or you can do it yourself. If you do it yourself, you’ll have to purchase the equipment mentioned earlier. 

It is significantly cheaper to purchase the equipment rather than hire someone to do it. As a father, I’m not going to waste money asking someone to do something that will take money out of my pocket if I could just as easily do it myself. 

Besides, even if it takes a little longer, I’ll feel a lot better about buying the wax machine if I’ve put all that effort in to get such a shiny result. Plus, my wife would never agree to spending $100-$200 per square foot to get it done by a professional. 

If I were to do it on my own, it is 10X cheaper. The polish itself is generally around $5-$20, which is not too bad compared to the machine-  which is about $130-$200 bucks. I’m going to get a lot more for my money that way. 

 And, if you think about it, the machine will be used more than once and should last quite a while. I could buffer my trailer 3X times over and still it wouldn’t be the same price as if I were to hire someone. 

If you also think about it, once your kids start to get older, they can polish it and you can sit and watch…no effort necessary. (Just Kidding) 

How do You Clean an Airstream?

You clean your Airstream exactly as you would your car- just keep in mind that whatever chemical you use, it’s safe to use with clear coats.  The equipment is all the same, so you can just go for it. 

Don’t forget that you will likely need to do this process before you wax so as not to ruin your buffer machine or the polish process. You need to regularly clean your Airstream as you would a car- inside and out. It is a vehicle, after all. 

The equipment you will need for cleaning your RV are as follows:

  • Bucket
  • Hose
  • Trailer/car soap (Choose soap that will not damage your aluminum)
  • Rag and/or sponge to wash
  • Time
  • Patience

The video above shows you how to clean your RV, and it shows you places you may not have thought look at in the first place. 

Related Questions

How can I best take care of my Airstream? If you can’t take care of it, don’t buy it in the first place. If you can, try and keep all the equipment where it was when you first purchased it. Maintain it’s shine through polishing regularly, and be sure to maintain the inside furniture and fixtures. It’s all about making sure it stays looking as new as when you first got it. 

Why do old Airstreams have patchy coloring? Airstreams are made out of aluminum. Aluminum doesn’t rust, but it does oxidize. This changes the color slowly over time which is what causes some older Airstreams to look patchy. 

What is better, an antique Airstream, or a more Modern Airstream? If you are looking for an aluminum coating which is purer, go with the antique. And, if you like fixer uppers, they’re pretty fun to get and fix up all nice. However, if you just want a nice Airstream that is state of the art- go with a more modern one. 

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