What’s the secret to keeping your RV looking great over time? Addressing—and preventing—oxidation. Learning how to remove oxidation from RV fiberglass can help you DIY your motorhome’s unsightly fiberglass oxidation problem. Plus, regular upkeep ensures your motorhome continues to look great over the years.
From DIY fixes to finding professional help, there’s a lot to know about managing oxidation when it comes to fiberglass surfaces. Read on to find out more about why fiberglass oxidation happens. Plus, learn how you can fix the damage that’s already there and how to avoid further trouble in the future.
Why Does Fiberglass Oxidation Happen?
It’s easy enough to recognize the symptoms of oxidation on your RV, but why does it happen?
Fiberglass oxidation on the exterior of your RV happens because of exposure to the elements. Maybe you keep your RV in a climate-controlled garage. But you can’t keep it out of the sun, wind, or oxygen-rich air while you’re on the road.
And though the fiberglass surface of your RV has a coat of protective gel over it, oxygen is the top threat to this defensive barrier. While the RV fiberglass might be fine underneath, the top coat of gel starts to take on an ugly, cloudy look.
Why Does an RV Gel Coat Lose Its Shine?
Just like cars, RVs can lose their shine over time. But the difference between RVs and cars is that a motorhome typically has a gel topcoat rather than a full paint and topcoat finish. Only higher-end motorcoaches use expensive, full-coverage paint.
So, on most motorhomes, there’s a very thin gel coat fused to the top of the fiberglass. Everyday bumps and scratches can impact the overall look of your RV. But the oxygen outside can cause the gel coat to lose its shine through oxidation.
The elements in the gel react with the oxygen in the environment. The result is cloudy and dull rather than shining and glossy.
How to Remove Oxidation from RV Fiberglass
Oxidation removal for your motorhome or camper requires model-specific knowledge. First, confirm that your RV has a fiberglass exterior with a gel topcoat. If your camper has aluminum siding or a complete paint job, your cleanup and rejuvenation process will be a bit different.
Once you confirm that you have a fiberglass RV with a thin gel coat, it’s time to address the damage. Then, you can take steps to prevent future issues with your RV’s looks—and defense against the elements.
Step 1: Remove Oxidation by Buffing
Hand buffing is the most effective way to remove any unsightly oxidation on the surface of your motorhome. You can zero in and use more effort on tougher spots. You can also try gentle oxidation remover products. However, you should read labels beforehand to know what you’re dealing with.
Of course, for more extensive oxidation damage, you may want to invest in a power buffer (or borrow one). An orbital sander, for example, can function as both a sander and a polisher.
Step 2: Address Any Severe Damage with Sanding
In extreme oxidation cases—such as with severely weathered campers—you may need more than elbow grease to address the problem. Abrasives can remove heavy oxidation from the fiberglass, but you’ll need to be cautious.
Wet sanding is the best way to avoid damaging your RV while getting the job done. But if you find that sanding only results in a rougher surface with more damage coming to light, it may be time for professional help.
For extreme damage, you may need to visit an RV repair facility for a new gel clear coat or a paint job to cover over the fiberglass gel coat.
Step 3: Choose the Right Restorative Product
You need the right product to help restore your RV’s gel coat, and you’ll have plenty of choices. For example, Meguiar’s makes unique formulas, including polishes and waxes, for RVs and other vehicles. You can also read through reviews on Amazon to find the best products that protect against UV rays and oxidation.
Choosing a high gloss formula can deliver the shine your RV has been missing, but the effects may not last long. Therefore, a blend that’s easy to apply (and reasonably affordable) is ideal. Marine wax typically offers the best bang for your buck, as well as a luster that can stand up to everything from sprays of ocean water to UV rays.
Step 4: Apply Product Carefully—and Regularly
Applying the product correctly will help preserve motorhomes and travel trailers for the longest period. Especially if your vehicle has decals, you’ll want to use polishing products carefully over the gel coat finish.
Use a soft cloth or microfiber towel to apply your chosen formula per the manufacturer’s directions. Using a powered polisher could help get the product faster. But take care (and apply elbow grease) to do the job right.
Start with the small areas and pay attention to detail for the best results.
Tips to Prevent Oxidation in the Future
To avoid oxidation in the future, try these three tips.
Tip 1: Wash and Wax Regularly
Washing an RV is a big job, but it’s necessary to protect your investment just like how a surge protector does. Take the time to wash your RV gently—whether by hand or with special RV brushes and extenders—and rinse carefully. Then, apply a marine-style wax or polishing compound to preserve the gel coat.
Tip 2: Use High-Quality Products to Care for Your Motorhome
Your motorhome is a significant investment, which means you need to take every step possible to protect it. That means purchasing high-quality products for washing and waxing it. Focus on marine-grade products, including RV restorer formulas, that help protect against oxidation.
Tip 3: Keep Your RV Covered
While it’s not always possible to park in shady areas while camping in your motorhome, storage is one way to combat oxidation. If possible, store your RV in a climate-controlled area. An RV-sized garage is ideal, but many storage facilities offer climate control to preserve motorhomes, fifth wheels, and campers as long as possible.
When storing your motorhome outdoors, always use a weatherproof cover that blocks the sun’s rays, too. And remember to keep washing and waxing regularly, even if you don’t take trips that often.