Airstream Polishing Project

On this page we follow the polishing a vintage Airstream trailer. The trailer is a 19′ Globetrotter, built in 1964, and owned by Arlen and Shirley Manning of Napa, CA. The trailer had never been polished but the aluminum was generally in good condition because the trailer spent most of its life in a barn. There was a little of the original lacquer clear coat left but it was easily removed with a citrus-based paint remover.

The Mannings spent several months polishing the trailer. They experimented a great deal, using all the grades of Nuvite and both the Cyclo polisher and the compounding polisher. Their findings and recommendations can be found in the Nuvite Application Guide section of this web site. They are largely responsible for the information that appears there.

Visit the Manning’s web site at for lots of detailed information and tips on polishing Airstreams.

Project Start

The Manning’s trailer at the start of the project.

We decided to experiment with the area below the window. It had a sort of foggy shine.

Here Arlen is polishing with Nuvite C, the medium-fine grade. We tried starting with Nuvite S, the fine grade, but it didn’t get rid of the fogginess.

After the surface turns lightly black, it is important to keep polishing until the polish is all gone and the surface is dry and almost “squeaky”. If too much polish is used, the polish acts as a lubricant and prevents the cutting/polishing action from being effective.

After wiping off the excess polish, the surface is buffed with a clean buffing cloth. (We now do the final buffing by hand with microfiber towels.)

After buffing the Nuvite C we repeated the polish – wipe – buff with Nuvite S for a finish polish. The finish is bright and clear but not quite a mirror finish. Starting with Nuvite F-7, the medium-coarse grade, or spending more time working the surface with the medium-fine grade would have gotten an even more brilliant shine.

Pretty good for a first effort. We hope to follow the Mannings as they work their way around the trailer.

One Month Later

A month later Arlen and Shirley have had time to refine their polishing techniques and get a bit more done. Here is a before and after set of photo’s. Note Shirley’s reflection in the trailer.

Here is the “after” photo. A perfect mirror finish.

The major discovery that Shirley would like to pass on is not to use the G-6 (coarse) Nuvite if you have any Alclad left. (Alclad is the soft surface layer of aluminum that is applied at the mill for improved corrosion resistance). It scratches the aluminum badly and the scratches are hard to remove.

She recommends using F-7 medium coarse on aluminum that is in good condition and saving the G-6 for the areas that are badly corroded.

Arlen has polished the area on the left of the picture with the Cyclo and G6 only. The right of the picture (Taillight area) is unpolished. Both areas were about the same before he started. You can see he was able to make the pits and filiform corrosion disappear. The pits are still there but they are now clean. They still need to polish with the S grade finish polish to get the mirror shine but it really shows what can be done.

This photo shows the same area after all the filiform corrosion has been removed and it has been polished with the S grade.

Project Complete

Here is a photo of the finished trailer. It took a lot of hard work over an entire summer using both the compounding polisher and the Cyclo polisher but the result is a flawless polish.