Gel coats take a beating. This is something that is not a surprise as your RV or trailer is sitting out in the sun and other elements all the time. After some time, you will see your nice bright gel coat fading. Restoring may take some work though.
If your gel coat is losing its look, then there is hope. The good news is that you can restore that coating to its former luster. The biggest problem you will have is removing the oxidation that has formed in the pores of the gel coat. Remove that and you are on your way to a brighter RV look.
To learn more about this topic, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about so you can get your RV or trailer looking its best again. A little elbow grease goes a long way.
Yes, and there may be different methods you can use to get this job done. One method requires a multi-coat application using a sealer and restorer but that regeneration task may only last you one year.
Some owners used two different products to get their gel coats looking like new again. He used Turtle Wax and Meguires Polishing, plus, an orbital polisher with quite a few pads to get the work done.
No matter how you do it though, you will have to put some elbow grease into your effort. Another owner used clay cloth and Nu Finish to spruce up his gel coat.
Part of the process may include removing the old wax. This can be done by using Dawn liquid detergent and a lot of rubbing. However, once you remove the protective coatings,m you should put new wax or sealer on as quickly as possible.
The gel coat may get damaged if you wait too long to do that step. What you have to be careful of is taking shortcuts. One owner used Zep but another owner said that is a shortcut as it will yellow with time.
The difficult part is removing the oxidation that has formed. This layer can be at different levels depending on how long your RV or trailer went between renewal and restoration.
The first step is to remove the oxidation. This can be done in two ways. The first way is hand buffing. This is effective but you should be in shape as it does take more time and a lot of effort.
The second method would be to use a power buffer. Much more efficient use of time and allows you to get the same results with less effort. Both methods can use the same oxidation removing products, so you do not have to buy any special items for the power method.
Another method would be wet sanding. The proper way to do this depends on who you talk to. You may be able to use the method that is best on boat hulls or you may have to use one technique that is designed for RVs.
Different owners use different methods as well as different levels of sandpaper grit. Both methods are good and you just pick the one that suits you and will do the best job for you.
Everyone will have their favorite method and don’t be surprised if they do not agree with each other. Just listen to the advice and pick the one that will work on your version of the gel coat and how serious the problem is.
One of the things you will notice when you start researching this task. You will find that many of the products and instructions will refer to marine use. The reason for that is that both boat hulls and RV exteriors are made from the same fiberglass.
You can go to many different marine discussion forum websites and get some great techniques to follow. The following wet sand instructions come from one such site. Just ignore the brand names as most brands will work:
“Use 400 wet with a little dish soap in the water. It will prevent the paper from clogging up. After that, wash down with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water. Dry it off. Then 600 wet then vinegar water wash, then 800 which should be plenty. Use 3M imperial paper, it is the best, doesn't load up real easy, and lasts a long time. You will need a lot. Change pieces often.
After the 800 grit, go to an aggressive rubbing compound, like 3M Imperial Compound, and apply with a variable speed orbital buffer. Spin it as fast as you can without building too much heat on the hull. Use a good thick wool bonnet on the buffer. Once you finish that, go to a finishing compound, like 3M Finesse it II. The same rules apply, but don't use the same bonnet.
After that is wax time. Collinite is the best, but a high-quality automotive wax like Mothers Carnauba Cleaner wax will do, just may not last as long and/or require more coats.” (** taken from https://forums.iboats.com/threads/the-proper-way-to-wet-sand-a-gel-coat-hull.291932/)
There are many top products on the market today that will make your job easier. Before we get to naming those brands, here are some things to look for before you buy:
1. Ease of use- this does not mean you do not put any effort into your work. It just means that some products are easier to apply than others. Whether you do this by hand or with a power polisher, you will spend some time and effort restoring your gel coat.
2. Aggressive cleaning- there will be different levels of restorers that use different types of ingredients. Some are more abrasive than others and still more are more aggressive.
The key here is to not get too aggressive of a restorer because it can damage your gel coat. Look for the ones that produce great results without being too aggressive in their cleaning.
3. Effectiveness- results are the final judge in this task and if the product you use does not provide the right results, then go with a different brand the next time.
4. Price- is always a consideration as the most expensive does not always produce the best results. Don’t go too cheap though as cheaper is not always better.
Some of the better brands include:
1. 3M Perfect-It Gelcoat Compound
- Single-step restorer
- High-quality and lasting shine
- Works well on fiberglass and gel coats
2. Meguiar’s Marine Restoration System
- Wax provides adequate protection
- More gentle on gel coat surfaces
- Remove moderate oxidation
3. Star Brite Premium Restorer Wax
- Single-step restorer
- Easy to apply and use
- Use with colored fiberglass hulls
4. Poli Glow kit boat RV fiberglass restoration
- A complete set of cleaner, gel coat fortification, and microfiber applicator
- The fortified gel coat is shiny, strong, and lasting
- This restoration kit is easy and simple to use
5. Fiberglass Supply Depot Inc. White Gelcoat
- Highly viscous and easy to apply and spread
- Compatible with color additives for polyester resin or gel coat
- Comes with most of the necessary additives; catalyst, hardener, wax
(brand information comes from- https://www.boatingbasicsonline.com/gelcoat-restorers-for-boats/ )
As we reported earlier, there are two methods you can use for this task.
1. Hand buffing-- step one is to apply the product you have purchased to a non-abrasive clean cloth.
Step two is to buff the area you need to get rid of the oxidation. Make sure the product you use is still when you apply it.
Step three has you polishing until all resistance is gone
Step four just has you wiping off any excess product
2. Power buffer- the products you use for this method are the same as above. Except you should use the proper pad and not a piece of cloth. Also, take your time so you do not miss any spots. It is easy to go fast with a power buffer and that means it is easier to miss a spot.
The power buffer is probably the best way to protect your hands and arms as they will not get as tired or sore. The key is to watch the pressure you put, how abrasive the product is and that you make sure you cover every spot on your RV the same.
You will want an even finish when you are done
The previous instructions only covered the removal of the oxidation. Once that is done, you still have two more steps to take to get your gel coat rejuvenated.
The next step after removing the oxidation will be to polish the gel coat. You will want a polishing compound that has some abrasives in it. Those abrasives need to be at a very fine level so you do not damage your gel coat as you work.
After you are done polishing, then you have to do the third step which is to apply the sealer. A good liquid or paste polymer sealant wax will handle this chore for you.
The sealant will make sure that dust, grime, road salt, and the sun’s rays stay away from your gel coat. When you are done, you should have the look you want. To keep that look, you should apply more wax once or twice a year.
It has been said before and we are sure you already know the answer but the internet is the best, easiest, and fastest way to find a gel coat repair service or products that are near you.
Since RV owners are spread around the country, there will be some businesses or products not far from your location. Using the internet will be the best way to find those shops that either do the work for you or will sell you the products and tools you need to do it yourself.
Another way to find these products or services is to become a member of the RV discussion forums for the brand of RV or trailer you own. The members there have all gone through this problem and should be able to give you some tips on who is the most reliable or best business to go to.
Some businesses may already advertise on these forums cutting down your search time. Or you can simply contact your dealer or a trusted mechanic to recommend someone to do the job. The dealer may do it but they may be far more expensive than an outside shop.
If you are on the road and do not have access to any of those options, talk to your campground owner. They may know of a good local company that will help you out. They should know any retail outlets that sell the products other than Camping World.
They may also know current RV owners at the campground who just got that work done and you can see the results firsthand before you employ that shop.
As for the actual products that you will need if you do it yourself, then try Amazon first. If that is not an efficient option, there are always the big box stores that carry products for RV owners. Some marine outlets should have those products as well.
Getting your tired, worn-out gel coat looking good again is not going to be that hard. At least in finding someone to do it for you or finding the products you need. The hard work comes in removing the oxidation and then applying the different coats to protect the restored look.
If you are still in shape and healthy, doing it yourself will get you plenty of fresh air and exercise so you remain in good shape.