You love everything about your RV, except, admittedly, the exterior color. It could be that this hue was once trendy and now has fallen out of favor. Perhaps the color has faded from the sun or general wear and tear and it now looks unappealing. You may have always hated the color, but you got a good deal on the RV, so you decided to grin and bear it.
Whatever your reasons, you don’t have to pretend to like your RV’s exterior color any longer. If the vehicle has an outer fiberglass shell, then you can paint over it! This is a big endeavor, of course, and one that will take time and patience. If you’re up for the job, here’s what you need to know.
The Recommended Types of Paints
First, let’s talk about paint. There are so many types out there suited for different projects. When it comes to painting fiberglass surfaces, though, you can’t use just any ol’ paint bucket you might have lying around in the garage.
Instead, you’ll want paint that’s specifically formulated for fiberglass surfaces. Using any other type of paint may lead to uneven drying and a globby, unappealing mess.
You can choose finishes, too. If you’d prefer a flat, almost matte finish, this is available. You can also find fiberglass paint with a regular gloss and high-gloss finish for an irresistible RV exterior.
You must read the ingredients list for any fiberglass paint you choose. It should not contain melamine or oil, but can have epoxy, polyester, polyurethane, and acrylic. These ingredients will prevent weather damage so your paintjob lasts longer.
In addition to your paint, you’ll also need primer. You’ll apply this first. Primer lets the paint glide on smoothly and dry perfectly. Look for primers made primarily of latex, epoxy, and urethane. You should get the same brand of primer and paint for best results.
How to Paint RV Exterior Fiberglass
Now that you’ve got your paint, let’s get into what you have to do to give your RV a makeover.
- RV wax
- Fine grit sandpaper
- A paintbrush (optional)
- A paint gun (optional)
- A soft cloth and a rag
- Painter’s tape
- Denatured alcohol
- A palm sander
- An automotive sponge
Step 1: Park your RV in a shady yet well-ventilated area, such as a garage or a driveway.
Step 2: With an automotive sponge and soap, wipe down the RV’s exterior. You want a smooth, unpolished surface in which to paint on, so be sure to scrub away any droppings, grime, dirt, and debris. Don’t forget to clean the roof!
Step 3: Using a palm sander (DeWalt’s sander is a just over $100 on Amazon) and wet sandpaper with a fine grit, polish the exterior. This is meant to be a relatively quick job that should take about an hour, maybe a little more. The more jagged and rough the fiberglass from, the easier it is for the primer and paint to stick and saturate.
That said, you’re not trying to make every square inch as perfect as possible. There’s no need to get obsessive and double-back over a certain area (unless you happened to miss it, of course). In fact, experts recommend you don’t spend too much time on a single spot.
Step 4: Now you’ll need denatured alcohol (here’s some on Amazon with almost five stars) and an old rag. The reason you use denatured alcohol over standard alcohol is because the former is better at scouring away leftover grease. Clean the exterior with this alcohol.
Step 5: With painter’s tape, cover the windows, windshield, and doorknobs to avoid getting these covered in paint.
Step 6: Now you must decide how you want to paint the exterior of your RV. You can do it by hand, but this can be time-consuming and difficult. You will have to be precise in each stroke for uniformity’s sake. You will also have to climb atop the roof and paint it in sections, letting half dry so you can stand on it and paint the other half.
Some people decide to use a paint gun, since this can cover a wider surface area than a paintbrush. You don’t necessarily have to invest in your own paint gun if that’s the route you choose, as you can often rent one from a home improvement store. If you do use one, make sure you wipe it down with acetone so there’s no leftover paint residue that comes out.
Step 7: Start with your primer, applying a thorough, even layer across the surface of the RV’s exterior. Paint from the front of the vehicle to the back.
Step 8: Let the primer dry. This may take a few hours, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 9: Now apply the paint, once again going from front to back. Make sure you prevent drips by moving in long, purposeful, fluid motions. This is doubly necessary if you’re using a paint gun.
Step 10: Once again, let the surface paint dry. You may have to wait 24 hours and sometimes longer. After the paint has completely dried, assess whether the RV needs a second coat. If so, repeat Step 9.
Step 11: If some spots look uneven, you can fix them. Grab your fine grit sandpaper and gently rub over the offending spot.
Step 12: To finish up, use your soft cloth and RV wax to polish the vehicle. Move in a circular motion as you do so. The wax may have to sit and cure, so be sure to read the instructions carefully before you get started.
Step 13: Take off all painter’s tape and admire your handiwork.
Does the color of your RV get you down? There’s no need to be bummed out about it when you can paint it over yourself. Whether you use a paintbrush or a paint gun, you can have the RV exterior color of your dreams. Have fun out there!