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    Polishing Our Trailer


 

A Mirror Shine!
Our Hunter HU-3 Shadow trailer comes from the factory with a brushed aluminum finish. This is great for those wishing to paint the aluminum skin and also provides a somewhat streak and ripple free look as well as reducing maintenance. After a year however the aluminum is somewhat tarnished, spotty and gray looking. After doing some research, and doing a polishing test in 2003, we decided we would polish both doors and the galley in the spring 2004.

To create a mirror like finish you must basically smooth out the brushed finish. This takes a LOT of polishing.

Last updated: 6-Jul-2004

Teardrops - Shine at any campsite
 

Here is the original brushed aluminum finish of our teardrop just after we picked it up from the dealer in May 2003...

Original Finish

Here is the original finish mid summer 2003. Still pretty clean looking but also flat and greyish...

Original Finish after a few months

First pass on polishing the passengers side August 2003 using Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish. I purchased a cheap polisher which created swirl marks and gave up on that pretty quick, completing the job by hand... talk about time consuming! Results on the first try were good. The shine was sufficient enough to see your reflection, but I soon realized that it would take a LOT of elbow grease to get a complete shine...

Original Finish after a few months

The BIG Polishing Job, June 2004. With some serious help from my orbital sander I was finally getting somewhere! Note I used a bungie cord to hold the polishing cloth in place. Eventually I cut the cloths in four and use the regular compression clips on the sander to hold the cloths on. This provided maximum usage of each cloth. Beer seemed to help the task! Note also in this shot the black residue of the polish just above the door which is the area I was working on...

The big polishing job

Hey I can see myself! I did get a bit more shine than this eventually. Note that the surface is very smooth without any waves and dimples. I can thank Hunter Products for this since they use an adhesive to attach the aluminum panels to the plywood sidewalls...

Hey I can see myself!

Here you can see the level of reflection I achieved. Some areas are a tad spotty. At this point I had applied and polished a coat of Mothers Carnauba Car Wax to retain the shine. This was a bit difficult since the wax would lift any remaining polishing residue and create a bit of a haze on areas that had not been polished perfectly. Perhaps a cleaner would have helped prior to waxing...

What a reflection!

Here is the galley hatch after polishing. It was close to sundown so this shot doesn't show the reflection accurately. You can almost make out our PT Cruiser below the license plate. I must have been getting better and was quite please with the results on the galley and the consistency I was able to attain. I don't think the finish will blind any tailgaters...

Mirror like galley hatch

Some Tips!

  • Wash your tear well before hand! Any dirt or sand can scratch the surface so rinse while your washing and keep your cloth clean. I notice a lot of scratches afterwards when I am not careful

  • Use a mild polish paste like Mothers to prevent scratching. Some may be too abrassive

  • Use a good orbital polisher or low rpm sander to reduce the amount of elbow grease you'll need. Cheaper polishers will create horrible swirl marks!

  • Do not polish in direct sunlight as the polish will become dry and gets harder to work with. It may also scratch more easily

  • I found a moist cloth seemed to work better

  • Work on a small area at a time. Approximately 8-12 inches square seems to work well

  • Plan on 8-10 hours per side and about 4 hours for the galley to get a good mirror finish. This will probably have to be done a second time to get a close to perfect mirror finish

  • Buy LOTS of polishing cloths. I used about 20-30 per side and another 10-15 on the galley. I used soft terry cloths. Don't buy cheap thin ones.

  • Don't bother trying to wash and reuse your polishing cloths. They'll make a real mess of your washer/dryer

  • Wear a good fitting pair of gloves or you'll have black hands. Apparently getting the aluminum residue on your skin isn't healthy either

  • You can use a higher RPM sander (mine was 10,000 RPM) which is not normally recommended as you can burnish the aluminum. This probably is only the case when you are polishing a rougher surface... I'm not sure

  • Cut your polishing cloths into usable sizes for the actual polishing. In the end I cut cloths in 4 to fit my sander.

  • Plan on a good 8-10 hours to get a decent polish per side if your using some kind of orbital polisher and about 5 hours on the galley. I rank my polishing as about 75% perfect... Next year mon!

More coming as I check out the durability of the wax coat and polish the driver side door!