Aluminium Restoration

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 differenhymer-mororhome-restoce 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.

 

hymer-with-lee

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.

 

 

Bailey Senator

One of the most common jobs we carry out at Tourershine, is the unique issues that effect The full Bailey line-up from 2000-2010.  This includes the Ranger, Pageant, and most commonly the Senator.  Most other Caravan manufactures suffer from front and rear panels going dull.  This is mainly down to the fibreglasses used that are prone to UV degradation.  Bailey are slightly different, in they used a better quality ABS plastic on their front and rear panels.  These tend to hold the glossy finish far longer than the more commonly use GRP, that most other manufactures used.  However, Bailey have this specifiic problem with their side panels.  These have a tendency to go what can only be described as ‘cloudy’ and ‘dull’  This can effect different models in different ways.  For example, the Senator may look worse directly below the gold stripe along the sides, where are the Pageant and Ranger are a more consistent top to bottom dullness.  We do have our own theories with this issue, and one of them is to do with the decal glue, (the same glue issue is now effecting the new Alu-tech range)  but these are only theoretical, and as Bailey will often claim either it’s normal for all Caravans (untrue) or they haven’t heard of this issue before (again, untrue) or more likely you just won’t get a response to any enquiry to the manufacture.

Here we have a typical example of how we see most of our Bailey jobs.  Note the dullness, and lack of any reflection on the Caravan.  The lines you can see are often mistaken for the dreaded ‘black streaks’ that plague the industry as a whole.  These are actually where water has run down it’s natural points, and taken the oxidised faded paint with it, leaving lines that are actually shiny, hence what you can see on this picture, and possibly your own Caravan.   This example is a 2008 Senator, and although it’s sdull-senatortill an amazing Caravan, and a very popular model, this is let down by the exterior, making cleaning very difficult, and a general ‘tired’ appearance.  This often leads to owners changing their Caravans after being advised that this appearance is impossible to fix, or more commonly, we hear of stories where owners are given prices that are totally unrealistic, claiming the only fix is a re-spray.(untrue)   Another problem is many owners will try to fix this issue themselves, using a number of different products that claim they can restore the original glossy finish.  In simple terms, they don’t work.. so save your money. These products will do one of two things, either coat over the damage, and last only a few week or, most will only make the Caravan look worse, leaving a ‘patchy/smeary’ appearance.  Worst case, the owners, or possibly other inexperienced companies (including actual dealers) will make the job beyond repair.  This we see now and again and it’s when someone has had a go with a polisher, and the wrong products.  They end up removing the only Restorable tolerance that was on the surface, and going through the paint, exposing the aluminium underneath.  This is then irreversible, and will end up costing the owner £1000’s to fix.  (Around 20% of our yearly work, is rectifying another companies poor attempt)

 

Thankfully at Tourershine, we’ve been restoring these types of issues for over 8 years now, and pretty much perfected it.  There is only one product that works properly, and this is a product we developed years ago (this is our trade secret)  It’s not just the product that acheives the results we are known for.  It’s also a combination of polishing head consistency, speed of the machine, pressure applied, and several other factors that we use to achieve the finish you can see in the picture below.

The results kind of speak for themselves.  This picture is taken directly with my phone, and not altered in any way.  We’ve been taking pictures of finished jobs for years, and know the best angle to show off the obvious glossy finish.  We’d always tell anyone viewing our photos, to look for a good reflection in the Restored surfaces.

senator-series6

Now, once the jobs are to this standard, we always finish with a high quality wax to protect our work from any future fading.  The finished Caravans or Motorhomes will always be a far easier task for the owners to clean in the future.  This finish will last for as long as the owners maintain them.  This simple aftercare will be explained afterwards, showing the correct methods, equipment, and products to ensure this Caravan stays looking this way for years to come….

 

Our Tourershield Service.

Along with the Restoration work we carry out, we offer what we refer to as our ‘preventative’ service.  The Tourershield paint protection is the application of a product in the form of a PTFE finish.  This finish is different to a standard wax, because a wax will naturally break down and vanish within a few months.  The Tourershield product cures on the surface, to form and invisible barrier between the Caravan or Motorhome surface, and the suns UV damage.  This should then stop any need for our Restoration work in the future.  The other benefit is this will help with the general ‘cleaning’ of your pride and joy in the future by yourself.

The stunning Hymer in the photo was one of our customers, that preferred to use us, and not his supplying dealer.  This is pretty normal for us, and we tend to work for those owners that are a little more used to the attention to detail.  Not only will we apply the product correctly, but we will also inspect every square inch of the exterior of your new purchase.  Around 70% of the brand new Caravans or Motorhomes we work on, we will find a defect on some way.  This can most of the time be a minor easy fix, but now and again we will find an issue that needs the attention from the dealer asap.  This Hymer was sadly one of these examples.  One of the rear trims had a huge crack across the top, and in our opinion, nothing short of replacing the panel would be sufficient.  It’s very hard to see how an issue like this wasn’t picked up during the dealers inspection process, but sadly a very common practice.  Also bare in mind that should issues like this not get picked up straight away, the chances of a the dealer excepting responsibility will become less and less as time goes by.  This may leave you as an owner with a very expensive repair.  So regardless on who supplied your Caravan or Motorhome, we will always report any defects and advise you the best course of action.