A guide to painting aluminium RV exterior (5+ steps)

In this article, I will tell you about the different options you have to paint your RV exterior walls in the best possible way. I warn you that this is a DIY guide!

How to paint RV aluminium exterior 

Painting an aluminium RV exterior could not be any easier! If your caravan is already a few years old, it is probably starting to lose colour, slightly yellowish, or perhaps it has scratches in some areas. 

You know that the way to make it look new or at least better is to restore it at least by giving it a coat of paint, but you may have doubts about how to do it. Here is a summary of the steps you need to follow:

  1. Prepare your RV by removing any stickers and wash it.
  2. Disassemble or cover the parts that you don’t want to be painted.
  3. Sand with a sponge or fine sandpaper.
  4. Paint with a universal primer or apply a coat of Aluminum Oxide.
  5. Wait for it to dry, sand, clean and repaint with primer if you think it is necessary.
  6. Paint the RV with aluminium friendly paint.

A guide for painting aluminium RV exterior (Step-by-step)

We will follow a series of steps so that the RV is well painted and looks like new. I’m going to talk to you about several options you have, from the most professional to the simplest.

Step Zero: Who is going to do it?

The first thing is to decide and weigh if you have time and dare to paint your caravan or if you are going to take it to a professional to paint it.

If you have time, do it yourself since you will only need to invest a few dollars and four or five afternoons, and if it looks terrible, you can always contact a professional and pay him to finish the job. 

In this zero-step, I will tell you about the tools and other materials you will need in case you do it yourself.

  • Sponge sandpaper, fine sandpaper P240 approx. And P500 approx. 
  • Solvent, water and soap.
  • Dry rags.
  • Good masking tape. 
  • 2-component polyurethane paint, 1 component also works.
  • Roller.
  • Other tools and materials that you could use to remove the stickers.
  • Heat gun. Maybe a hairdryer will work for you.
  • Dremel, drill or similar.
  • Wire brush disc.
  • Steel brush.

You will also need:

Time: Since it will take you several days, it can easily take you four or five days using only the morning or afternoon.

A suitable place: You will not paint it anywhere; you need a place where you know that nobody will touch or dust will not be raised. Ideally indoors, but if you do it outdoors, make sure it will be good weather and little or no wind.

Step One: Remove the stickers.

To remove the stickers, depending on what type of vinyl the sticker is made of, how long they have been on, and other factors, you will have to make an excellent effort to remove them.

The easiest to remove stickers are removed using a heat gun and gradually pulling them away. This is how the professionals do it, but you can try a dryer if you do not have a heat gun. Also, if you use a cutter blade to lift the sticker, it will be easier for you.

For the stickers that are more embedded, you will need a Dremel-type tool or a drill with a wire brush disc or a special disc to remove stickers and remove them in this way; if you do not have this type of tool, you can use a steel brush and failing that, you can probably remove them using medium sandpaper.

It is important to know that you need to arm yourself with patience, the stickers of the caravans go really bad.

Second step: Remove or cover the parts that are not going to be painted.

Depending on the level of professionalism, the desire you have, and/or your budget, depending on whether you do it or have it done, the idea is to remove the windows, guides and all the parts that you can remove, otherwise, the entire caravan will be painted.

If professionals do it for you, this is a lot of work and is much more expensive for the number of hours they have to use.

If you do it yourself, it will be a lot of work, also if the caravan is old, there will surely be rusty screws that can be difficult to remove or parts that are about to break. You will also need more tools than if it is just painting.

In this step, you can also decide whether to clean the joints to avoid water leaks. In case you see that they are in poor condition, you can choose to remove the sealant and add it again later.

Third step: Prepare the walls of the RV.

The first thing is to thoroughly clean and decreases the entire area you want to paint so that there is no trace of dirt or grease that may in the future spoil the work that it takes to paint and restore your caravan.

You can use soapy water and a sponge, but having a pressure washer will make the job easier. Many people use solvent to clean the RV, it works very well, the problem is that it is more aggressive for the environment.

The second thing is to sand the entire caravan with a sponge or paper sandpaper, use a fine sandpaper P240 of approximate thickness, when you finish, it is also convenient to pass a super fine sandpaper P500, in this way the surface will be more uniform and the paint will remain better distributed. 

The idea here is not to remove all the paint but to remove the shine if or to remove at least the outermost area of ​​the paint, you do not need to get under the paint.

Step Four: Primer Coat

Once the RV is well clean and dry, it is time to apply a primer coat so that it grips the paint well and so that the fibre covers microcracks that are created over time.

When the primer has dried, you can repeat the sanding process, then run a little water to remove any remaining dust and prime again. One or two times should be sufficient but I have read of people who have given up to three coats to leave the perfect surface before painting. You value this depending on the state of your caravan.

Always follow the drying times indicated by the manufacturer on the bottle.

Fifth step: Paint the RV.

To paint your RV you need a special paint that is used in the automotive or boats, it is called 2-component polyurethane paint, which consists of paint and a catalyst to make it dry faster, although some people also use 1 component and ensure that it gives them the best result.

2-component polyurethane paints are recommended to use a spray gun as they dry faster, although you can also use a roller. For 1-component  polyurethane paints, a roller is used since they take longer to dry and the stops to wet the roller are not so noticeable.

Summary of the steps to paint the exterior of your RV

  1. Remove stickers.
  2. Disassemble or cover what does not need to be painted.
  3. Wash and degrease the caravan.
  4. Sand with a sponge or fine sandpaper.
  5. Paint with a universal primer.
  6. Wait for it to dry, sand, clean and repaint with primer if you think it is necessary.
  7. Paint the caravan.

This is a small summary of the basic steps you have to take, as you can see, step 6 is optional and you will only repeat the sanding, cleaning and priming process if necessary and as many times as you see fit.

Please let us know if you have any questions. 

FAQabout  Painting RV Exterior from Aluminium

Are the RVs spray or roller painted?

Rvs can be both spayed or roller painter, if you know how to use the spray gun, go ahead since the paint is the best, but it is more frequent if you do it at home with a roller.

Is any roller suitable for painting an RV?

Not any roller is suitable for painting an RV. It has to be a lacquer or velour roller of about 20 or 25 cm in length, although it can also be used smaller.

Is it mandatory to paint the RV white?

No, it is not mandatory to paint the RV white. Paint your RV whatever colour you want!


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