Todays blog will concentrate on the restoration of the more commonly constructed Aluminium build’s. As a business, we will see around half of our Motorhome jobs being Aluminium build’s, and the other half being GRP. When it come’s to Caravans, it’s slightly different. The Caravan industry have always used Aluminium far more commonly, up until around 2014, where many Caravan manufacturers are choosing to move over to GRP now.
Aluminium has different characteristics when they fade and start to show their age. GRP as we’ve talked about in previous blogs, will have a consistent dull/matt appearance, when it ages. Aluminium is slightly different. Yes, it still goes dull, but often owners won’t notice quite how bad a panel is until we point this out. As most Caravans and Motorhomes will have at least one panel that’s fibreglass mixed into a body, be that the front or rear panel, the owner will normally only see how bad these fibreglass panels are. They then have a tendency to compare this dull fibreglass against their Aluminium side panels. This will often give the impression that the Aluminium panels are not anywhere near as bad. This is because most Aluminium will still have a shine, but with a cloudy finish that’s always obvious to us, but not always to an owner.
This picture of a Hymer Motorhome will show you exactly what i’m referring to. Look carefully at the picture and note the top section of the side panel. What you can see is the difference between Restored and un-Restored. That ‘cloudy’ appearance you can see along the top is what I’m referring to, and what we need to remove. This is called ‘Oxidation’ and it’s where the sun has damaged the surface over a long period of time. Often a quick easy way to check this, is to run your hand across the panel, and you might find that your hand turns white. (try it) Also, you might notice when you wash your Caravan or Motorhome, that the water on the floor looks ‘Milky’ and this is the Oxidation coming off. A lot of owners will recall years ago, when Red cars went Pink and cloudy, and we were always grabbing the T-Cut out the garden shed and trying to improve the paint finish. Well, this is pretty much the same principal, but grabbing the T-Cut is probably the worst idea on a Caravan or Motorhome, because it will ruin a surface like this. The same goes for other products like Mer, or Autoglym, or any other product lurking at the back of the garage. These products in themselves are ok to use in the correct situations, but to fix this certain issue, you will quickly find that it only makes the panels look far worse. As before in previous blogs, there is only one way to fix this problem, and that’s with a machine polisher, and more importantly, the correct compound.
Above we have Lee Restoring the sides of this Hymer using a machine polisher and our specialised compounds. The machine polisher is the only way to achieve a consistent high end glossy finish. However, this process take’s years to perfect on these surfaces and even now, we are still tweaking our methods to make things work for us. Every surface has a different technique, and every surface uses slightly different methods to achieve the glass like finish we are known for. The machine polisher is a brutal tool and in the wrong hands can destroy a job. We have to take care around the trims, hatches and handles, masking as much as we can with a ‘detailing masking tape’ This tape is different to normal masking tape. It’s far stronger, and more importantly, it does’t damage the surfaces we mask, like some cheaper masking tapes will do.
Even the decals need a wealth of previous knowledge to know how far we can go before they go through the surface. We need to know which decals we can restore and which won’t. We will normally know from the decal if it can be enhanced, because like the Aluminium, the decals can also fade and go chalky. Thankfully the Hymer ones came up like new and saved the customer potentially hundreds of pounds, should he of wanted all the decals replaced. (not a cheap job and almost impossible to find genuine decals on anything over 3 years old)
One of the main reasons Caravans and Motorhomes age like this is simply because many owners might keep their pride and joy lovely and clean, but rarely does anyone actually protect their work with a wax or sealant. A coat of wax twice a year, or a paint sealant from new, or even the regular use of a cover will almost certainly put a stop to any fading. This is why all our work is finished with a protection and far more importantly, why we spend a considerable amount of time explaining to our customers how to continue this simple protection to keep our work in perfect condition.