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Old 03-24-2014, 09:23 AM   #1
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How to Repaint an older RV

Eight years ago my wife and I restored a 1992 Georgie Boy Cruise Master and repainted it. Our friends honestly thought we had bought a new motorhome. We are doing it again now on a 1994 Holiday Rambler Endeavor LE diesel which is a real quality rig.

Here's how you can repaint your rig to a "like new" style and condition.

Removing old vinyl striping can seem an impossible chore. Until you use a heat gun (carefully), or even go lightly with a propane torch. As the vinyl stripes warm they become flexible again as does the glue that affixes them. Once the vinyl is off, acetone on a rag will make short order of the glue remaining on the rig. Wet sandpaper the entire rig, remove all the lights, lenses, tape off all the windows, ladder, awning, etc.. The biggest key to a great job is PREPARATION. Get all the stripes and glue off, fill and Bondo any damaged area, take all the light lenses OFF, but paint the plastic shrouds, seams, covers, etc.. Wet sand every inch of paint that you will be repainting. Any bare metal areas will need a coat of primer that gets sanded as well. (You don't need to retain any factory lettering, model name, etc.. Just sand and paint over it. (Later you can visit doityourselflettering dot com and re-create any lettering you want to put back on, if any.)

Then get up your courage and get an inexpensive automotive paint gun that attaches to your air compressor. Visit your local automotive paint store for a gallon or so of white paint, plus the reducer and hardener. Mix a small batch of paint with the reducer and hardener, then immediately shoot it on like you would a rattle can (but using an air gun is so-o-o much nicer and easier). Keep moving around the rig laying down one light coat upon another, the more coats the better. Just keep the paint going on till you have 4-6 coats if you can. (Store a little jar of pure paint for future touch-ups.)

Now you have a shiny new white base on your RV. All the old plastic parts are now protected from the sun and all new looking and the same color as your rig. You have a big white canvas to now paint striping onto.

Now, don't chicken out and use vinyl striping again, it'll just crack and peel like the last stuff did. Google search for photos of your type of RV (i.e.., "motorhomes") and look through them for ideas of what you want your rig to look like. Take a photo of your all-white rig and print some paper copies to draw on.

When your design is ready, use BLUE painters' tape to lay out one section of your design at a time on your rig. Then, use masking tape to attach paper onto the blue tape and you're ready to paint those stripes using the same air gun and again using automotive paint, hardener and reducer for the stripes. Next day, remove the tape and repeat this process for each color section of your striping design. (Store a small jar of pure paint for future touch-ups.)

The result will be a permanent "full paint" RV that will shine and last for the rest of its life. It's a great project and you will be very proud of the result as long as you own your rig.
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:46 AM   #2
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WOW - great write-up. I'll reread it and begin the process of painting my front cap. I have removed the graphics and need to prep it.
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Old 03-24-2014, 10:07 AM   #3
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Wow, I've painted cars and I didn't realize it was that easy! Just curious where you were painting this? Unless you have an enclosed garage with proper venting or a lot of vacant land you might have some issues with your neighbors or the city. While at the paint store I would pick up a proper breathing respirator, some of those paints are pretty nasty. If you don't have the place or skills to tackle this, doing all the prep work should save a lot off a professional repaint.
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Old 03-24-2014, 10:21 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeflyer View Post
Eight years ago my wife and I restored a 1992 Georgie Boy Cruise Master and repainted it. Our friends honestly thought we had bought a new motorhome. We are doing it again now on a 1994 Holiday Rambler Endeavor LE diesel which is a real quality rig.

Here's how you can repaint your rig to a "like new" style and condition.

Removing old vinyl striping can seem an impossible chore. Until you use a heat gun (carefully), or even go lightly with a propane torch. As the vinyl stripes warm they become flexible again as does the glue that affixes them. Once the vinyl is off, acetone on a rag will make short order of the glue remaining on the rig. Wet sandpaper the entire rig, remove all the lights, lenses, tape off all the windows, ladder, awning, etc.. The biggest key to a great job is PREPARATION. Get all the stripes and glue off, fill and Bondo any damaged area, take all the light lenses OFF, but paint the plastic shrouds, seams, covers, etc.. Wet sand every inch of paint that you will be repainting. Any bare metal areas will need a coat of primer that gets sanded as well. (You don't need to retain any factory lettering, model name, etc.. Just sand and paint over it. (Later you can visit doityourselflettering dot com and re-create any lettering you want to put back on, if any.)

Then get up your courage and get an inexpensive automotive paint gun that attaches to your air compressor. Visit your local automotive paint store for a gallon or so of white paint, plus the reducer and hardener. Mix a small batch of paint with the reducer and hardener, then immediately shoot it on like you would a rattle can (but using an air gun is so-o-o much nicer and easier). Keep moving around the rig laying down one light coat upon another, the more coats the better. Just keep the paint going on till you have 4-6 coats if you can. (Store a little jar of pure paint for future touch-ups.)

Now you have a shiny new white base on your RV. All the old plastic parts are now protected from the sun and all new looking and the same color as your rig. You have a big white canvas to now paint striping onto.

Now, don't chicken out and use vinyl striping again, it'll just crack and peel like the last stuff did. Google search for photos of your type of RV (i.e.., "motorhomes") and look through them for ideas of what you want your rig to look like. Take a photo of your all-white rig and print some paper copies to draw on.

When your design is ready, use BLUE painters' tape to lay out one section of your design at a time on your rig. Then, use masking tape to attach paper onto the blue tape and you're ready to paint those stripes using the same air gun and again using automotive paint, hardener and reducer for the stripes. Next day, remove the tape and repeat this process for each color section of your striping design. (Store a small jar of pure paint for future touch-ups.)

The result will be a permanent "full paint" RV that will shine and last for the rest of its life. It's a great project and you will be very proud of the result as long as you own your rig.
Thanks ... nice write-up !!

I do suggest 3M Auto Masking Tape instead of Blue Tape. The 3M Auto Tape is green and has better resistance to the solvents/reducer in auto paint. Ain't cheap but no bleed.

3M® 3431 - Automotive Performance Masking Tape | O'Reilly Auto Parts
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Old 03-24-2014, 10:39 AM   #5
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Ha ha...yeah, the info applicable would cover a book and here we have it in a few short paragraphs.

I've been painting since the 70's and it's not quite that simple. Single stage paints (no clear coat) likely means you're using acrylic enamel, which is fine, but you can spend $30 on paint or $250 on paint and there is a difference. When you mask off and shoot you'll have a paint edge - so using thin basecoat type paint and then overall clearcoat is the only way to produce the glossy results you see on the new full-body paint RVs. Again, you can spend $60 on clear or $500 - there is a difference.

A cheap spray gun can make getting the paint on wet without running is more difficult that with a quality gun. And then there's HVLP or Siphon-feed guns to choose from, each with their own air pressure and volume requirements. A touch-up gun is a mini-version and very handy for doing stripes and trim areas. The average home/RV owner does not have the quality equipment for such a job, and can run many hundreds of dollars. A proper place to paint is probably not in the cards either. You can't just spray auto paint in your driveway.

You also need the proper masking tape or you'll have a huge mess. And a tape and paper dispensing machine is a virtual must-have for a job this big.

I just can't imagine the average RV owner being able to lay down automotive enamel and get anything even remotely close to professional results. To convey that's it's a simple do it yourself afternoon project is simply unrealistic. Sounds good, but....NO!


Welcome to iRV2 though, interesting first post.
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Old 03-24-2014, 12:12 PM   #6
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x2 on CJBrowns comments, and I might ad that if the RV is of any size plan on at least 1 week to properly wet sand the whole unit. Wet sanding/prepping the whole surface are is key to allowing the new paint to bond to the old surface.
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Old 03-24-2014, 03:13 PM   #7
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Hi jeflyer and

I actually love it when someone does something like repainting their own coach that most folks wouldn't think of trying. You did it once and were satisfied and are now going at it again. Good on you!

I also understand the other comments in that you have left out a few details like the type of paint you are using. There are plenty of techno-heads on this forum (like me) and we appreciate details, details, details. And pictures!

Certainly there are folks out there who have repainted their coach with latex house paint and a roller and thought it was great. Others have paid $10,000+ for a professional job and were disappointed. To each their own.

We would definitely appreciate a few more details of your plans and then pictures of the process as it goes along.

Thanks for sharing and best of luck!
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:10 AM   #8
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I appreciate the concerns raised about repainting your own rig. As the photos below show, don't let anyone convince you that you can't do it, because you certainly can! There will be a learning curve (consult with a friendly auto painter), the comments posted on this thread attest to that. But one can walk through it just fine and have a fabulous looking rig for well under $1k. Many if not most of the "details" will be worked out at the paint store where the staff will assist with selection, quality, tapes, sandpapers, primer, etc.. Your preparation transitions into 90% of the resulting quality. Blue tape works fine if the edge is rubbed down hard and can give a razor edge, just like the old masking tape with a hand-held paper roller (Home Depot) that I used for most of it. A medium quality acrylic lacquer paint applied "wet" retains a very nice shine for years here in the Arizona sun. The main thing is to just do it. As an example, here are photos of my first and only RV paint project so far, the 1992 Georgie Boy. My family helped wing it with the striping design. Next, I'm looking forward to repainting my "new" 1994 HR Endeavor. For its design I'll work off a photo from the Internet which will not be difficult to copy, but will transform the current old grey scheme into a more current look with greater appeal. (Now get some wet 400 sandpaper and a garden hose and start sanding!)
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:54 AM   #9
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Next is an example of planning the new paint scheme for your rig. The first photo below is how my rig looks now. The second is a tiny photo I found on the Internet. Note a couple of things about the selected design. First, it is a newer style. Secondly, copying it to my rig will actually be quite easy. Notice that the current rig as well as the one in the photo has a single color around the base. So, I'll remove all the striping, repaint the roof and main section white. Next, I'll tape out the areas that will be gold and paint them in one shoot. Then, the black and brown stripes will be easy peasy. Although this design is quite modern, this striping will not be difficult to copy and the scheme will bring this rig into the 21st Century.
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:55 AM   #10
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Looks nice Jeflyer.

Arizona is definitely a great place to pull it off.
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Old 03-25-2014, 11:12 AM   #11
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After painting airplanes I know about dust, cheap spray nozzles, (not guns) as you can buy any gun, bottle and nozzle seperately and the cough that comes from breathing Epoy Polymide. Prepping is 80% of the job and I would'nt do it without the proper heat to bake the paint and using 2 part epoxy. There is a learning curve to Epoxy, like if the catalyst has bubbles, you can heat it to 225 in the oven, wht the surface temp needs to be and how to rmove drips and runs. You are painting a 50-500K machine and I don't see any use in DIY paint jobs unless you have experience. One other thing, we use Epoxy Polymide because it is meant to flex on Fiberglas or you can use Gelcoat, not enamel which is hard paint.
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Old 03-25-2014, 11:28 AM   #12
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Great project ahead of you not to mention the first one looks great. Good Luck and keep us up to date on the progress.
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Old 03-25-2014, 12:57 PM   #13
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After painting airplanes I know about dust, cheap spray nozzles, (not guns) as you can buy any gun, bottle and nozzle seperately and the cough that comes from breathing Epoy Polymide. Prepping is 80% of the job and I would'nt do it without the proper heat to bake the paint and using 2 part epoxy. There is a learning curve to Epoxy, like if the catalyst has bubbles, you can heat it to 225 in the oven, wht the surface temp needs to be and how to rmove drips and runs. You are painting a 50-500K machine and I don't see any use in DIY paint jobs unless you have experience. One other thing, we use Epoxy Polymide because it is meant to flex on Fiberglas or you can use Gelcoat, not enamel which is hard paint.

^^This.

I have heard some recent commentary on gelcoat as well. There are a LOT of whining owners of high-end coaches with crazing finish - especially the dark colors.

I have some experience in the marine enviro and have never heard of painting a fiberglass hull - only epoxy or gelcoat.

I was thinking of clear-coating my sun-facing sidewall, but I think I would do it with clear gelcoat and apply new cast vinyl trim. We do a lot of bus-wrap type jobs and I can get graphics and lettering printed out and laser cut for way less than factory graphics.

One of the trim stripes I painted with acrylic enamel a year ago is starting to craze (crack) - it's dark blue.
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Old 03-26-2014, 06:51 AM   #14
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^^This.

I have heard some recent commentary on gelcoat as well. There are a LOT of whining owners of high-end coaches with crazing finish - especially the dark colors.

I have some experience in the marine enviro and have never heard of painting a fiberglass hull - only epoxy or gelcoat.


One of the trim stripes I painted with acrylic enamel a year ago is starting to craze (crack) - it's dark blue.
Iv'e got experience in boating as well - like 40 years- and we have been painting boats all those years. We never used gel coat paints on old boats. If you think the amount of work required to get a quality paint finish is massive, you don't want to know how much work a complete gelcoat recoating job would be. Gelcoat is a cast in place finish.

When gel is sprayed into a mold as the first layer of the lay-up, the exterior surface is pretty close to being ready to polish. Unfortunately, that's a one-time deal. Any additional gel that's applied after production will need to be applied (spray preferred) then wet sanded and finally compounded and polished. Add in the time required to remove and/or mask hardware and deck fittings, fix minor nicks and gouges, prep sand, etc, etc, and you're talking about a major job as well.

Paint is a lot more forgiving than gelcoat, and if properly applied will dry to a shine. With gelcoat, once you've applied the gel you've still got the second half -- or maybe even 2/3 -- work to finish. I also have painted my 72 E Jag and it took a third place in a field of 150 similar cars.

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