How To Properly Wax Your Airstream Travel Trailer

Every now and then, we get some very specific questions in our private Facebook group, like How do you wax an airstream travel trailer? I’ve had the pleasure of helping a friend wax his Airstream travel trailer, so I thought I would pass along some tips.

When the time comes to wax your Airstream, it’s probably not your favorite day. However, it is an important part of ownership. Airstream trailers are some of the best-looking travel trailers around. Their unique look and exact building quality have helped cement their place as one of the most iconic trailers of all time.

One big part of properly caring for your Airstream is washing and waxing. You need to wash and wax your Airstream regularly to ensure it looks and functions great for years to come. 

In this article, we’re going to take a look at these awesome trailers, how to properly wash and wax your Airstream, and other key info to keep your Airstream looking its best. 

What Are Airstreams Made Out Of?

What Are Airstreams Made Out Of?

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Airstream trailers is their construction. Each Airstream trailer is built with an average of 1,200 square feet of coated aluminum and 3,000 rivets for the body’s construction. 

It’s time intensive with an average complete build time of 350 hours per unit as compared to 50 hours for your average travel trailer. This exterior material gives Airstream trailers a slick, aerodynamic look. But, it also requires care. 

For one, while it looks amazing, the aluminum exterior makes minor imperfections really stand out. Regular waxing helps to keep your Airstream looking sleek and clean. The wax coating helps to make washing away road grim easy and prevent scratching.

Perhaps more importantly, a coat of wax will protect your Airstream’s exterior from the elements. This ensures it not only looks good but lasts for years to come. 

Should You Wax Your Airstream Travel Trailer?

Can You Wax An Airstream Travel Trailer?

Yes, you absolutely can wax an Airstream travel trailer. In fact, not only can you do it, but Airstream actually recommends you wax your trailer at least twice a year.

This helps protect the aluminum and prevent wear and tear. If you travel frequently or store your trailer uncovered, you may want to wash and wax more frequently. 

Waxing any vehicle, even a small car, can be a long process involving lots of elbow grease. Whether you decide to do it yourself or pay someone to do it, it’s an important part of preventative maintenance.

What Type Of Wax Is Best For Airstreams?

The wax aisle at your local automotive store can be overwhelming with options. There will be products for certain color vehicles, wax plus cleaner, and products formulated for gel coats used on some fiberglass RVs and boats. The most important thing to look for is a clear coat-safe wax.

In the Airstream community, one product often comes up as a favorite. Walbernize RV Super Seal is trusted by Airstream owners which says a lot considering their passion for these iconic trailers.

Airstream Supply Company recommends Walbernize RV Super Seal for Airstreams with a clear coat finish and Walbernize One Step Cleaner And Glaze for Airstreams without a clear coat finish.

Waxing your Airstream can be a daunting task and when you add to it the expense of a decent amount of quality wax, polishing pads, and a polisher, it would be easy to look past doing it.

The importance of this maintenance can’t be stated enough, however. Airstreams are a huge investment that, unlike many RVs, can last for decades and hold their value. This biannual care, although exhausting at the time, is worth it.

How Do You Wax Your Airstream?

In order to avoid damaging the exterior, you should be sure to properly wash and wax your Airstream.

First, you’ll want to rinse the trailer off to clear away any grit that could damage the exterior. You don’t want to be rubbing abrasive road grim over the beautiful exterior of your rig.

Then, clean the trailer using a gentle, non-abrasive detergent; never use abrasive polishes or cleaning solvents. Use a soft rag or wash mitt, moving along the trailer with moderated pressure.

Dishsoap is sometimes talked about as being used as a car wash, however, it’s not recommended. Airstreams use an exterior coating that protects from UV rays, along with resisting discoloration and direct exposure to the aluminum.

Dishsoaps or strong chemical cleaners can break down this coating over time. Using clear coat-safe wash products is your best bet.

If your Airstream has rock guards on the front that can be removed, it’s a good idea to get behind them and clean any road grim away.

Pro Tip: Wash the roof first so the dirty rinse water doesn’t leave streaks and if you’re using a ladder be careful not to scratch the side of your Airstream!

Next, thoroughly rinse the trailer off, then dry it with a chamois or soft cloth.

Finally, it’s time to wax. If possible, you should also wax in the shade, as intense sun on wax can cause it to dry improperly and even damage the exterior of your trailer. 

Newer Airstreams as mentioned previously, use coated aluminum for the exterior. Older Airstreams, like the vintage ones you see, are often made of untreated aluminum. The process for these trailers is more likely to involve polishers.

Untreated aluminum is more easily oxidized and, for restoration processes, is polished rather than waxed. Polishing is a more abrasive restorative technique, whereas the waxing process referred to here involves applying a protective barrier from the elements.

Because there’s so much metal to polish on an Airstream, an electric polisher will likely come to mind. This is a topic of debate amongst Airstream owners whether to wax by hand or use polishers.

If you do choose to use a polisher you must be careful to have a multi-speed model. Airstreams with coated aluminum can be damaged with excessive heat from polishers. Slow and steady wins the polishing race.

The general consensus is good old elbow grease and rubbing back and forth lengthwise with the grain of the trailer exterior.

Break the trailer up into sections that are manageable to work. You don’t the wax to dry and become difficult to polish off before you make your way to it. Airstreams are naturally broken up into individual panels and this is an easy way to work through it.

Switching between clean polishing cloths or pads is important to produce the best finish. Remember, this is a much larger surface than a car, so have extra pads available.

How Often Should You Wax Your Airstream?

Airstream recommends waxing your trailer at least twice per year. This will ensure the aluminum stays protected all year long. If you wax your Airstream less often, the exterior may start to look dull and dingy, and it will be more prone to long-term wear and tear. 

In certain situations, you may want to wax more frequently. For example, if you travel heavily, store your Airstream outside uncovered, or live in a harsh climate, you may want to consider waxing more frequently.

Exactly how often will depend on your situation, but 3, 4, or even more times per year may be necessary. If any RV owner would enjoy waxing an entire RV it would likely be an Airstream owner.

How Long Do Airstreams Last?

How Long Do Airstreams Last?

Because of the super high build quality of Airstream trailers, they can last an exceptionally long time. The build quality helps ensure the trailer holds up to wear and tear, and that it never rusts or leaks. 

If properly cared for, an Airstream travel trailer can easily last 40 years or more. In fact, there are Airstreams on the road right now that have been in use since the 1960s. Even more surprising, over 70% of all the Airstreams ever made are still on the road today!

So, if you take good care of your Airstream, you can expect it to last an exceptionally long time. You might even be able to hand it down to the next generation! 

Mike and Susan, who own and, interviewed a 40-year industry veteran about Airstreams.

Can You Replace Airstream Panels?

Can You Replace Airstream Panels?

In rare cases, Airstream panels can become damaged through things like traffic accidents or falling trees or branches. If this happens, you might wonder, can you replace Airstream panels?

Indeed, while it’s not common, Airstream panels can be replaced. But, keep in mind it’s expensive, and you’ll need to do some searching to find a shop that does it. 

One option to replace an Airstream panel is to go directly through a local AIrstream dealer or the Airstream Factory Service Center in Jackson Center, Ohio. You can also find many private shops that specialize in Airstream services and repairs. 

Final Thoughts About Waxing Your Airstream

If you own an Airstream trailer, washing and waxing your Airstream regularly is essential. This will not only keep it looking great but also ensure it lasts for decades to come. 

You should wax your Airstream at least twice per year, more often if you live in a harsh climate. It’s not a fun job but it’s an important one. Even if you decide to pay a pro to wax your Airstream, the investment is worth it.

With proper care, your Airstream trailer can easily last 40 years or more. That means that you might even be able to pass your Airstream on to the next generation!

Related Reading:

6 Airstream Alternatives To Save Money

Do Airstreams Have Side-Outs?

Is It Worth Restoring A Vintage Camper?

Are Fiberglass Campers Better Than Aluminum?

About the Author:

Ryan Milejczak (mill-LAY-check) is a full-time freelancer writer and Florida native with a passion for RVs.

Currently, he’s saving up to do his own camper van conversion, which he plans to take across the US and Mexico.

When he’s not writing, Ryan loves cooking, hiking, practicing his Spanish, and taking care of his plants (currently at 23 plants and counting!)