This week I completed our annual wash, wax, and treat (filiform) chores on our 2007 23′ Airstream trailer prior to the beginning of our fall-winter-spring camping season in our wonderful coast, mountain and desert parks in San Diego County. Rich Luhr, in his newly published book, The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, says, “Most of the maintenance associated with the aluminum body and clear coat is simple cleaning.” This guidebook includes pertinent “Exterior Cleaning and Appearance” and “Filiform corrosion” sections.
My blog’s web site stats show that my post “Filiform corrosion” gets the most interest and views, which is understandable because many people would like to know how to protect their Airstream trailer. Modern Airstream trailers*, such as ours, have an exterior body of clear coated aluminum sheets that can corrode beginning at the cut edges and rivet holes. Using tools and techniques, such as some of those seen or listed below, I have stopped most filiform and protected our Airstream for the past eight years. Can you spot the filiform in the image below?
Yes, it is on right side. Air, water and salts can corrode exposed aluminum and travel as filiform threads under the clear coat finish. (Other white areas shown below are from protective sealant residue.) This filiform has not progressed since 2008 when we started treating with Boeshield T-9* (seen and listed below).
Important general note: This article is my report on how I went about washing, waxing and treating my trailer. It is not intended to tell readers how to wash, wax, and treat their own trailers.
Important safety note: Even though I am seen (in a photo below) standing on the first ladder step from the top, be advised that there are a warnings on the ladder such as: “CAUTION: DO NOT STAND ABOVE 2ND STEP FROM TOP… YOU CAN LOSE YOUR BALANCE” and “DO NOT OVER-REACH.”
Sun protection for my skin: wide brim hat (except for photo shoot), long sleeve white shirt, long pants, sunglasses, shoes (rubber soles for safety) and sunscreen (Think sport SPF 50+, recommended by EWG).
50-foot garden water hose, 6-foot step ladder, 5-gallon pail, Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash (label states, it “removes loose dirt and contaminants without stripping wax protection… Dish washing detergents strip wax protection”), extendable car wash brush, vinegar & water (to remove hard water spots), Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Sealant, Long Lasting Protection #20, (label states, “A unique blend of polymers, resins, silicones and imported waxes… safe for clear coats.”), extendable wax applicator (I used my crutch), cloth-covered waxing sponge, two hand buffing mitts, detergent & water (to clean waxing tools), Boeshield T-9 (label states, “… a combination of solvents, lubricants, and waxes designed for penetration, moisture displacement, lubrication, and protection.”), soda, and a cooler.
My strategy: Wash one day and wax the next day to not overwork my 68-year-old muscles and joints.
My procedure: I pulled out about 50 feet of water hose and hosed off dirt from the trailer top and sides while standing on the ladder. I then put 4 fl. oz. of Meguiar’s Car Wash and 4 gallons of warm water into a pail. I raised the TV antenna and scrubbed the trailer top, including the solar panels and AC shroud, using an extendable car wash brush while standing on the ladder (This also gave me an opportunity to inspect the integrity of the topside seals.)
The rest of the trailer was washed from the ground and I removed yellow insect stains with my thumbnail. The trailer was then rinsed off and hard water spots were removed with a chamois moistened in a pail holding 2 1/2 gallons of water and 4 fl. oz. of vinegar.
The next day I sprayed Boeshield T-9 to appropriate areas of filiform (It dries quickly.) I topped off my 16 fl. oz. squeeze bottle of Meguiar’s Professional Sealant from my reserve 64 fl. oz. jug (About 12 fl. oz. covers our trailer.) The sealant was applied to the trailer top and AC shroud (I believe it extends the life of the shroud) with an extended wax applicator, while standing on a ladder. I used a sponge wax applicator to apply the sealant to the metal awning cover and the rest of the trailer. The dried white residue was easily removed from the top with an extendable wax-buffing tool and from the sides by using a buffing mitt on each hand. Wax applicators and buffing tools were then washed with a laundry detergent, rinsed, and hung to dry.
The benefits: From my experience, this sealant will last at least a year and the trailer will only need an occasional rinsing or light washing, especially after camping at the beach (to remove salt deposits), and the trailer will be protected.
So now I’m a happy camper and ready to be ridin’ with…
*This is a link to a YouTube video.
Maggie Haynes says
I purchased my 16′ 2015 Bambi in Feb 2015. First time to own a travel trailer and truly need to learn a lot. Loving it. Put about 3,000 miles on various trips. Your info is most helpful. I wasn’t clear on what products to use. I’ve washed it a couple of times using the cleanser specifically for aluminum purchased from the dealership. I live in Jacksonville, Fl and store the AS outside. In your opinion due I need to use a sealant on the Bambi at this early stage? Thanks for sharing.
Bill D. says
Thanks, Maggie, for your comment!
Regarding your question about the use of a “sealant”: The Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze sealant that I mentioned is basically a good quality wax… and yes, I would recommend a good washing and waxing (using a good quality wax) of the Airstream trailer at least once a year to keep it protected and looking good.
Regarding Boeshield T-9: The first year, I sprayed it along the belt line and other areas with many rivets or exposed cut edges of aluminum. Now I only spray it on any new filiform when I see it.
Bob B. says
When I did the research on T-9,
I was led to believe that the product was a lubricant not a sealer or preservative for aluminum.
Bill D. says
Thanks for your comment, Bob.
Here are two references:
The maker, PMS Products Inc, says in “Our Story,” ” T-9’s unique formulation of solvents and waxes was engineered to penetrate metal crevices deeply, displace moisture, dissolve minor corrosion, and leave a clean, waxy coating with long-lasting durability,” and in “Why Boeshield T-9?“, “One step to long-term protection. Apply T-9 to any metal surface and let it dry. One simple step gives you a thin, penetrating film of durable, waterproof protection and lubrication that endures, month after month, or mile after mile.”
This Experimental Aircraft Info article states the following about Boeshield T-9, “Superior aircraft corrosion protection developed by the Boeing Company. Unlike other Corrosion Inhibitors & Lubricants, Boeshield T-9 was developed by ‘The Boeing Companies Material Technology Laboratories’ in order to meet the stringent applications required in the Aerospace Industry. Boeshield T-9 is effective because of its excellent Water Displacement, Penetration & Protective Film Development… Boeshield T-9 was developed by The Boeing Co. for long-term protection of aircraft. Their research proved that none of the Teflon, silicone, or synthetic sprays held up for long when exposed to a corrosive environment.”
insightout, a.k.a., Dr. C. says
A carefully excerpted blog passage below;
be advised…a warning….. “CAUTION: DO NOT STAND ABOVE 2ND…….FROM TOP… YOU CAN LOSE YOUR BALANCE” and “DO NOT OVER-REACH.”
Inquiring readers would like to know;
• Is this an endorsement, cloaked within the essay, for the current vice-president (VPOTUS), and an acknowledgement of his stepladder relationship with the POTUS ?
• Are you receiving royalties from Meguiar’s, Boeing, and Airstream Life, all known deep pocket $$ contributors, for product placement ?
• Is your baseball cap, “I’m ridin’ with Biden” available for sale ?
Nothing less than full disclosure, as readers have no link to the VP’s driving record, which may, or may not, be the subject of controversy, i.e., has he ever towed an Airstream, gone 75mph in a 65mph zone, failed to use his turn signal (or worse, turned right on red) ?
Good blog, Bill; Lynn, Mrs. Wilson, & I feel cleansed after our morning read.
Bill D. says
My dear Dr. C,
Thank you for your astute observations regarding my blog essay.
I am happy that it had a cleansing effect and opened your eyes to my not so cloaked endorsement of someone to whom I take my hat off to and, since it went to my head, I don’t want to keep this under my hat any longer, so with hat in hand, I most sincerely hope that the VP indeed throws his hat into the ring!
Being careful not to over-reach the scope of this blog site, I will attempt to make full disclosure and answer your questions:
1. Yes, I’m sure there is a stepladder, or at least a stepping-stone, VP-P relationship.
2. I receive no royalties or payments whatsoever for anything I post on this altruistic blog.
3. My baseball cap, “I’m Riding With Biden,” is still currently available at cafepress.com/draftbiden2016.
There are a variety of Joe Biden baseball caps available online, but I particularly like this one because, after reading his book, “Promises To Keep: On Life and Politics,” no matter what he decides, I’m Ridin’ with Biden!*
Best regards to you, Lynn, and Mrs. Wilson. BTW, You might like to get Mrs. Wilson their Dog T-Shirt and, according to DraftBiden2016, “Show your neighbors that everyone and their dog is Ridin’ with Biden!”
*This is a link to a YouTube video.
John Neilson - member 5588 says
I have been reviewing various posts on Filiform Corrosion problems with New Airstreams without much clarity on the removal of such. My Victorinox (2010) shows much the same pictures as above (around rivets, clearance lights and seams). Nuvite Chemical Compounds Corporation made a presentation at last year’s AS rally in southern Oregon which featured their cutting and polishing grades to remove the filiform, but they recommend that no application of clear coat or wax be applied after polishing. I would think that this approach would see the reforming of filiform within the year. I have been using Walbernize in the past for my annual maintenance, but it has not stopped the forming of filiform corrosion. The above post suggests that Boeshield T-9 will slow or stop the spread of fililorm but how do you remove the initial condition? Would you recommend the application of Walbernize after the Boeshield T-9 application?
Bill D. says
Thanks, John, for your reply. I have never tried to remove filiform corrosion from the aluminum panels, but have removed some from my taillight bezel housing as seen here. See the AirForums’ thread, Corrosion problems with new Airstreams, for documentation of others who have removed their filiform corrosion.
After applying Boeshield T-9 (and allowing it to dry), I would recommend the application of any good quality wax. Over the past eight years, I have been very pleased with Meguiar’s Professional Polymer Sealant #20.
Great post! We won’t be able to get to exterior polish and cleaning on our Airstream, Alice, until spring but this post was so insightful and helpful, I am bookmarking it so we can reference it again. Thank you!
Bill D. says
Thanks, Megan, for your very nice comments. I just spent the evening enjoying your wonderful blog, Rumble Strip Ramblings, which I added to my Blogroll.
Last year, Tim and Megan bought a 1984 31′ Airstream Excella that they named “Alice” and have been recording their marathon renovation saga on their blog, along with their family’s adventures while taking time to play and share in life what is really important. They have three young children (Michael, Patrick, and Elise) that Meg lovingly calls “budding geeks”.