Completed RV Exterior Renovation

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This is a follow-up from my previous post where I mentioned the work in progress on removing the decals and restoring the shine to the fiberglass. Thanks to all the hard work, we’ve been staying for the past 3 weeks at a place that normally doesn’t allow RVs as old as ours to be here.

We’ve stayed at parks as nice as this one, and nicer, but not at such an affordable price. What we love the most is how there are rules here, and they are enforced and followed. The manager runs a tight ship, and it’s very much appreciated, especially considering where we came from before this.

As you can see, those decals are pretty faded and cracked.

As you can see, those decals are pretty faded and cracked.

So here’s the story: as I said in the previous post the body of the RV is in good shape, but the decals sitting on top of it weren’t.

The decals weren’t easy to get off. It took a whizzy wheel, a rotary sander, a wood chisel and lots of hand-sanding.

First we tried the whizzy wheel. It’s a plasticky-rubber wheel thing. You attach it like a drill bit and it’s supposed to “erase” decals from the vehicle surface. While it worked in a few places, it took a very long time to remove small areas of stickers. The decals are original, so they’re 15+ years old. Decals in general are not very sun-resistant. So they’ve been baking in the sun for a decade and a half. It makes them start to crack and peel, but at the same time the glue seemed even more adhered over time than that of newer decals. After working with this tool for awhile, we gave up because it was not producing the results.

Rear of the RV with decals partially removed.

Rear of the RV with decals partially removed.

The next attempt was much more successful. I found a you-tube of a guy using a wood chisel to remove his RV decals. It looked very effective, so I gave it a try. Ryan came out and watched and decided he liked it, too.

There’s a picture to the right with some of the decals removed. They are all gone from the right (passenger) side of the RV.

Although this process was much faster than the whizzy wheel, it still took quite a long time. We found that it works best with a very clean, soapy, wet surface. After washing, you rinse, then soap up the area so it’s nice and slick. Then you get the chisel under the corner of a decal and carefully strip it off in a smooth motion.

You have to be careful, because if you push to hard you could end up nicking or scratching the fiberglass. It’s also best to frequently wipe off the chisel and rinse debris from the decals off the surface.

When you remove the decals, you discover an additional problem. The stickers may have come off, but there’s still adhesive!

Decals are off, but the sticky adhesive is left behind. It doesn't come off very well with a chisel or whizzy wheel.

Decals are off, but the sticky adhesive is left behind. It doesn’t come off very well with a chisel or whizzy wheel.

The left side of this exterior vent is unsanded. What a difference!

The left side of this exterior vent is unsanded. What a difference!

There’s another problem, too. Our RV, which we thought was white, has become so oxidized over time that it’s really quite yellow. You don’t realize how bad it is until you take away the decals, which protected the surface underneath and kept it nice and white.

The top ~1/3 of the white is fiberglass exposed to the elements--it looks a little pink. In comparison, the lower portion was covered by decals and is a purer white.

The top ~1/3 of the white is fiberglass exposed to the elements–it looks a little pink. In comparison, the lower portion was covered by decals and is a purer white.

The solution was to wet sand the surface using a variable speed orbital sander.   This is another process where you have to be very careful. If you go too deep with the sander, you’ll remove the glossy finish and pigmentation underneath.

We did end up doing this, to a point. You can’t truly remove all the oxidation without taking off the finish on a vehicle this old with so much oxidation. And in case you’re wondering, we did try “oxidation removers/restorers” which are really just rubbing and/or polishing compounds. They really didn’t help much. They worked better as a final polisher right before the wax.

For the orbital sanding, Ryan used several grits of sandpaper from rough to very fine. It took several passes for him to be happy with the color and finish. This part was possibly the longest, because it was the most detailed. He worked long hours on this while going to school.

After he achieved the color uniformity he was looking for, the surface wasn’t as

All shiny!

All shiny!

glossy as he would have liked. Wax alone, or polishing compound plus wax, didn’t do the trick.

It turned out that he needed to do additional sanding–by hand, with a very fine grit.

After that was complete, he used more polishing compound, following by a wax.

I do want to say that it isn’t perfect. Ryan wishes he’d had more time to work on it, and I would agree with him that it might have turned out even better if he had more time. But it looks a million times better than it did before. This not only buys us time before we have to buy a newer RV, but gives us more freedom to stay in parks with age restrictions. While it’s obvious that we don’t have a newer RV, we still pass the aesthetic requirements–even for strict parks like the one we’re staying at now.

2 thoughts on “Completed RV Exterior Renovation

    • Thank you! Fleetwood has been around for a long time. They still make Bounders–but they’re obviously much more modern-looking.

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