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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Surface Pitting on an Avion

I have a 1986 Avion travel trailer with an anodized aluminum exterior that is getting white-crusted dots that progress to pitting in the middle, pretty deeply in some places. I have researched a number of sources for suggestions (including Fleetwood, who used to manufacture the Avion), but none have panned out. Do you have any ideas? Apparently the anodized aluminum is not supposed to be polished with anything abrasive or acid-washed. For periodic maintenance, I was using aircraft surface treatment as recommended by the manual, but this is doing nothing for the crusting/pitting. Please help -- this is destroying the finish. I am a full-timer who lives in the Avion and I love it very much. Courtney C., (Costa Mesa, CA)

This is a tough one Courtney; especially without actually seeing the damage in person. A document we found on an architectural website might yield some good advice, but it does go a little against conventional wisdom for most aluminum sided travel trailers. At least from the manufacturer's perspective. 

The article recommends an "abrasive cleaning pad" be used on the exterior of aluminum-cladded building sections to remove pitting. These are the pads used for cleaning tile and are generally a white "non woven" pad similar to those found on the back of a household sponge. The key is the color of the pad; white! If the pad cannot be found at your local grocery store, they are usually available at one of the big box stores or at an industrial hardware supply store. Be sure the pad is white. These pads are sold in other colors and they vary in abrasion depending upon the color and possibly the manufacturer. For consumer use, the product is usually called simply, a tile scrubber.

As to the root cause, I'm wondering if you frequent the seashore or park the coach near a pool? Salt in the air and pool chemical vapors are very hard on aluminum surfaces regardless if they are painted or anodized.

Though contradictory to the owners manual, I'm thinking a mild abrasive pad soaked in vinegar will effectively remove those dots if they are salt or chlorine related. That architectural article suggested a small test application first. Try a small area on the roof or the underbelly where it won't be seen as readily. If it successfully removes the raised dots, try another small section. Remember, this is to be done in small sections so as to control the application. Once completed, the area should be given an overall "acid" bath with the vinegar and then washed with a soap and water solution and then finally rinsed with clear water and dried. Afterwards the aviation polish can be reapplied or I would suggest Protect All, which is much easier to apply. The worst-case scenario is the necessity to replace the infected panels with new ones.  


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