How to Paint Aluminum RV Siding (+Tips to Paint Fiberglass)

RVs get old. When that happens the easiest and cheapest way to make them look new again is to paint them. Paint covers a multitude of sins. It also helps your RV look like its youthful self. Getting the right paint job is going to be the key.

How to Paint Aluminum RV Siding: The key to painting your RV’s aluminum siding is to make sure that the paint you use will adhere to aluminum. Then wash your RV and let dry. After that tape off anything you do not want covered in paint. Finally use an aluminum oxide primer before using a good acrylic latex paint.

To find out more tips on how to paint fiberglass and your aluminum siding just continue to read our article. It is filled with the painting information you need to know. Getting a few tips will ensure that your paint job doesn’t look like an amateur did it.

Fiberglass tip #1- make sure that the pain you use is made for fiberglass. You can’t just use any old paint on the store’s shelves.

Fiberglass Tip #2- painting fiberglass is a time consuming job. You will need several days to complete the chore and you need to let the primer dry thoroughly before applying the paint.

Replace or Repaint RV Siding

Most experienced RV users tend to side with painting over replacing your aluminum siding. They recommend this especially if you have the experience and the talent to paint. Also, they prefer painting over replacement if there are no rotting or damage frame parts that need repair or replacement.

One reason for their overwhelming favoritism towards painting is the cost involved. With repair work, you have to pay for a whole section, which can run pretty high in terms of dollars. Also, you would need to have screws and other hardware to make sure the new section is attached correctly.

Then, if you happen to damage a light fixture or window during replacement you are looking at possible more repair costs. Painting will only cost you a few quarts of paint and primer and you can get a good look on your RV without damaging other parts.

The only drawback to painting is that it will take a lot of time to let the RV, primer and paint to dry.

Fiberglass Tip #3- After washing your RV, use some fine grit sandpaper to rough up the current existing paint. This gives the new paint something to adhere to. Just do not rough up the fiberglass underneath the current paint.

Can You Paint Aluminum RV Siding

Yes, you can. It will take a little time but it can be done and come out looking like a professional did the paint job. The important factor is to make sure you get an oil or acrylic based paint that is designed to paint aluminum RV siding.

The other trick is to pressure wash your RV first and let it dry for a couple of days. You will want a very clean and dry surface to paint on. The type of paint that is preferred is a good car paint or a house paint that is made for aluminum siding.

Plus, you have several options on how to paint your RV. Some people us a roller, while others rent a spray painter designed to handle oil based paints.

Fiberglass tip #4- When you go to prime the fiberglass surface, use a urethane primer. You will want this primer to be waterproof and marine grade. This level of primer removes the need for sanding

How to Paint Aluminum RV Siding

There are several steps involved before you get to the actual painting stage. It is time consuming but if you want your RV to look good when you are finished, you need to follow each step:

  • RV prep- you will need to remove any awnings or light fixtures, screen doors and other items that may be in the way
  • Wash and dry- one way to get the RV ready for its new paint job is to use a pressure washer. These will get that deep down dirt and make your RV nice and clean. Let the RV dry thoroughly before proceeding to the next step
  • Taping- it is a boring job but it must be done. Once your RV is dry, you need to tape windows, doors and other items on the exterior of your RV. Masking or painter’s tape will handle this chore
  • Always prime first- use a good aluminum oxide primer to get the surface ready for your paint. This can be applied by sprayer, roller or a brush. Let the primer dry thoroughly before applying the coat of paint.
  • Painting- at this step you can use an oil or acrylic latex based paint. If you are not sure which one is best, talk to your local RV dealer or paint shop. They should be able to lead you in the right direction
  • Painting #2- apply the first coat and let dry. Then apply a second coat if needed. You want to inspect your paint job between coats to make sure the paint was applied evenly
  • After painting- once you are finished painting, you need to remove all of the tape you originally placed on your RV. Be careful not to remove any of the new paint as you do this. Then replace the awnings, etc,, and you should be good to hit the road again. You can put on your decals or stickers at this time as well

Fiberglass tip #5- the preferred painting tool for fiberglass is a paint sprayer. This cuts down on any paint runs that may spoil the look of your RV after you have finished. You can also get a more even coat of paint on your RV

Best Paint for RV Siding (Aluminum or Fiberglass)

This can be a difficult choice because you want your RV to look its best and look like a pro did the work. For aluminum, there are a variety of paints you can use. Some experienced RV users like using an automotive paint.

Another suggestion is for you to use a house paint that is made for aluminum siding, if automotive paint is not available. A third choice would be Rustoleum brand because after about a week the colors on your RV will match up nice.

Painting fiberglass can be another difficult chore as the material can be a bit picky as to the style of paint used on its surface. Gel coat is one option but it can be a bit difficult to apply.

Other choices include epoxy or marine paints. Both work well and they know how to handle humid conditions. One paint to avoid when painting fiberglass is house paint or latex based paints.

These paints can peel off very quickly and leave your RV looking quite ragged. Of course, different RV users will have different results. To get the best paint for your RV, check with your local RV dealer or paint store. They have years of experience to guide you.

Fiberglass tip #6- When you go to paint your RV, make sure there is no wind. The last thing you want to do is spray paint your neighbor’s car

How to Paint RV Fiberglass Siding

Fiberglass RV siding has many attributes. It does not dent, it holds its looks longer and one piece can cover the complete side of your RV. But those attributes do not stop it from aging and losing its looks. It may take longer than aluminum RV siding, but it will happen.

Here are some steps to follow when painting your fiberglass RV siding:

  • Check your fiberglass siding- there are several different types of RV fiberglass siding used on today’s motor homes. You will need to check which variety you have. Each different style demands different paint and preparations. Two major varieties are epoxy and polyester based fiberglass.
  • Finding the paint and primer- it is recommended that you pick a primer and paint that matches your RV’s fiberglass. It is advised that you use the same products that come from the company that made your RV. Mixing paints from different companies may not produce the results you expected
  • Painting equipment- a sprayer will do or you can use those normal household items like cloths, trays rollers and so on. Use goggles, face mask and gloves especially if you are using a sprayer
  • Preparation- this always needs to be done. First, make sure to thoroughly wash the fiberglass surface and let it dry. Second, tape off or remove all parts you do not want to paint. Buff out stubborn dirt
  • Priming- don’t over use the primer to the point that it starts to drip. Cover the whole section of fiberglass you are painting. If you are painting the whole vehicle, then prime it all before starting with the paint
  • Let the primer dry- check the label on the can and see how long you have to wait before the primer is dry. You can wait longer than the recommended time but not shorter.
  • Painting- Once the primer is dry, you can apply your first coat of paint. Let it dry thoroughly and check it to see if the paint went on evenly,. If not, then add a second coat. You may want to add two or three coats of paint anyways, as this will deepen the color and make your RV look even better. Just make sure you let each coat dry completely before adding the next one.
  • Sealing the paint- this is the last step in painting fiberglass. You should add several layers of clear coat to make sure the paint is totally sealed. This can be a gel coat application but you would need to wait 24 hours for it to dry before adding the next layer. Each layer you add will require the same 24 hour drying time
  • Adding wax- this is done after you have finished all the above painting steps. Follow the can’s waxing instructions and you should get a nice protective layer of wax over your gel coat and paint. You should only need to do one coat of wax to protect your DIY paint project
  • Clean up- after every step is completed and all the primer, paint, gel coat and wax have properly dry, it is time to clean up. Remove all tape and be careful; not to let it stick to your new paint job. When this is done, you can reattach all items you removed when you started your project

Fiberglass tip #7- If your paint did not come out even, you can lightly sand the bad spots with some fine grit sandpaper. Just be careful not to damage the fiberglass underneath the paint.

Protecting Your New Paint Job

You put a lot of hard work into getting your RV looking young again. It is a wise move to take several after painting steps to protect your hard work. Here are 3 tips you can follow:

  • Avoid sunny parking spots- try to keep your RV out of the sun whenever you can. The sun’s UV rays can damage your paint job and wasting your efforts
  • Watch your chemical use- this usually happens when you go to wash your RV’s exterior. Fiberglass and paint can be very fragile when it comes to chemicals. Make sure you use the ones designed to work with both fiberglass and your paint selection
  • Use an RV cover- this will protect your RV paint’s from bird droppings, sap and other destructive elements.

Some Final Comments

Painting your RV is one way to cover its used, beat up surface. Like a house, painting your RV is not difficult. But it is time consuming. You may need several days or a week to do it right.

When you are finished, you can feel proud of yourself for doing a difficult task and having your RV look not only like new, but like a professional did it all. One key to painting your RV siding is to take your time and be careful.

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