How to Get Dents Out of an Airstream Bodyby Joshua Smyth
The bare metal finish and rounded lines of Airstream trailers have turned them into classics. There is a large community of Airstream dealers and enthusiasts who work to recondition their Airstreams. Dents are a very common problem, especially in older trailers that have been heavily used. They may have been dented by collisions with vehicles, by careless people, or by hailstorms. Severe dents and punctures in the aluminum skin usually require the removal and replacement of the panel with a duplicate fabricated in a metal shop. Smaller dents, though, can often be repaired in place.
Leave your Airstream out in the sun on a clear day. Many small dents -- such as those caused by a hailstorm -- will disappear as the sun heats the skin of the trailer, causing it to expand until the dent is pushed back out. This will heat up the inside of the trailer, so put away any food that might spoil. Covering the windows with dark cloth will help protect the interior.
Use a hair dryer. This works on the same principle as the sun method, in that it applies heat to the dented body panel to get it to pop back out. Hold the dryer two to four inches away from the skin of the Airstream and turn it on. Hold it there for two minutes, then check if the dent has popped. If it hasn't, repeat the heating until it does. This method is often combined with dry ice, which cools the skin and increases the force of the heat expansion; unfortunately, this technique is more suited to steel than to the aluminum of an Airstream.
Remove the dent with suction cups. A suction cup applied to the outside of the dent creates a vacuum effect that can pull the metal in the dent back into place without the necessity of reaching the back of the panel.
Bend the dent out using a body spoon. This is a metal tool with a rounded tip designed to push out dents without damaging the metal. To do this, you need to access the body panel from the back. You will need to go inside the Airstream and use a wrench to remove the pop rivets that hold the inner skin on. Once the dent has been popped out, replace the panels.
Items you will need
- Suction cups
- Hair dryer
- Body spoons
- dryers image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com