Airstream owners are advised to polish their trailers at least twice a year using a product called Walbernize, an original formula developed in 1968 to clean and polish while quickly removing grime, tar, and “organic matter” (bugs, tree sap, etc.). The product is easy to use–simply apply it to the surface with a soft cloth, wait for it to dry to a haze, then wipe it off. But “Walbernizing” a 25-foot Airstream is no easy task. Half the work is done on a ladder, which requires quite a bit of stretching and maneuvering. And at around the 23rd foot, the trailer seems to stretch out longer and longer.
Airstream skins are made of aluminum, a soft metal that reacts with oxygen in the air to form aluminum oxide, or oxidation. But unlike steel, which oxidizes to form iron oxide, oxidized aluminum doesn’t rust. Rather, it darkens. Back in the 1960s, Airstream began applying a lacquer coating–called plasticoat–to the skins to stop oxidation. Unfortunately, all such coatings eventually fail and start to flake off as the metal expands and contracts with the heat of the day and ultraviolet rays take their toll. Walbernize is specifically formulated to extend the life of plasticoat finishes, which is why Airstream recommends using it to “glaze” the exterior at least twice a year.
Lest anyone think we’re ideal Airstream owners, we have a confession to make: This is the first time in the 4.5 years since we’ve owned Cloud 9 that we’ve Walbernized it. And, we have to admit, the result is truly amazing.
Admittedly, mid-July is not an ideal time to engage in such a task. But after returning from our trip to Glacier National Park, we felt we had to do something to counteract all the grime and bugs accumulated along the way. So we washed the rig last weekend and Walbernized it this weekend.
One of Jon’s colleagues asked if he had anything “fun” planned for the weekend. “No, just some routine Airstream maintenance,” he replied. Clearly, we need to make Walbernizing more of a routine.
If you zoom in on the photo, you’ll notice, at the top of the ladder, Walbernize is right next to Bloody Mary. This is as it should be for a weekend of routine maintenance, both for the Airstream and the Airstream owner.