The finish on my RV has lost all its luster and the decals are all damaged. What product can I use to get the luster back? Also, the manufacturer no longer has my particular RV decals. Any suggestions on how I might get a new set? —David, 2015 Thor Chateau
From what I can see on RV Trader and video reviews, your 2015 Thor Chateau has a combination of a darker beige fiberglass outer skin and swirls of decals on the side and front bunk. The fiberglass is most likely Filon/Kemlite, a product manufactured by Crane Composites. Sharpline is one of the most popular vinyl graphics suppliers in the industry. What will work best to get the luster back depends on the severity of the ultraviolet (UV) degradation caused by exposure to the sun.
There are two different types of decals available for manufacturers: cast vinyl and calendar vinyl. Cast vinyl is considered a premium with an expected lifespan of 7-9 years. Calendar vinyl will only last 3-6 years. My guess is your Chateau has the Calendar Vinyl as it is more of a price leader and those are cheaper, so eight years is a very good run on this product. Unfortunately, once these start to fade, crack, and peel there is nothing that can be done to restore them.
Recently I talked with a representative at Sharpline that recommended a product called RejeX. Their testing has shown it reduces fading and cracking RV decals substantially with some tests showing twice the life. However, it will not bring back bad decals. The best thing you can do for extending the life of decals is to keep them clean with mild detergent and get them out of direct sunlight as much as possible, which is not always easy to do.
What are my options for replacing fading RV decals?
Most manufacturers only keep decals around for a couple of years. Depending on the severity of the damage, there are a few options. If it is just curling on the edges, I have used an X-ACTO® knife and a straight edge and cut the decal down. I peeled off the bad edges and left a good decal edge. Then I overlapped the top and bottom edge with pin striping I got from a local auto parts store.
Another option is to remove the old decal with a 3M rubber eraser wheel and repaint the original graphic design. Mask off the area and use good-quality automotive paint. I have seen a few DIY projects that used cans of spray paint, but they did not look very smooth or finished. If it is just a few swirls in areas, it might be OK.
Even if your original RV decals are not available you can get vinyl that may be close to your manufacturer. Or you might find a sign shop or auto detailer that offers vinyl wraps for cars, trucks, and larger vehicles. Most of them can replicate something very close to what you have.
The fiberglass panel on the sidewall of your rig has an outer layer of clear material called gelcoat and can come in different thicknesses. The thicker the gelcoat, the more gloss you get. Sunlight and heat cause UV degradation, which eventually causes a cloudy or fading gelcoat and discoloration of the fiberglass. This issue can be reduced by applying a recommended wax with UV protection and even to some extent with UV protection products such as 303 Protectant, which is a liquid and easier to apply but does not last as long.
Fortunately, there is a gloss restoration procedure that you can use if the fiberglass has not gone too far into the degradation process.
If the fading is minimal, you can buff the gelcoat and fiberglass with a light automotive polishing compound and then apply the recommended wax. I like to start with Bar Keepers Friend, a mild abrasive compound. Using the liquid from, buff the surface in a test spot with either a cloth or a buffing wheel. This will verify if the surface can be restored or if the fiberglass pigment has turned too far to restore.
Here is what Crane Composites recommends:
RESTORING GLOSS Materials
- Meguiar’s #49 Heavy Duty Oxidation Remover
- Meguiar’s #50 Boat and RV Cleaner Wax Liquid or a mild detergent and water
- Meguiar’s #56 Boat and RV Pure Wax
- Mirka Polarshine 35
- Mirka Polarshine 8 or 10 polishing compound
- Microfiber rags
- 7 ½”X 1 ½” Velcro back
- Buffing/cutting and polishing pads
- Soft cotton cloth
- Mechanical buffer (optional)
1. Wash the Crane Composites RV panel with a mild detergent and water.
2. Dry the Crane Composites RV panel with a clean, soft cotton cloth.
3. Apply heavy-duty cleaner by following the directions on the container. (If a buffer is available, substitute the polishing compound for a heavy-duty oxidation remover and buff the polishing compound lightly.)
4. Wash the Crane Composites RV panel with water and dry the surface.
5. Apply car wax per directions.
You might also enjoy this from Dave
Why are RV’s decals fading and cracking so soon?
Dave responds to a reader’s question about why his RV’s decals are fading and cracking on his two-year-old RV. He explains there are two types of decals, one lasts longer than the other (bet you can’t guess why). And he has advice about keeping an RV’s decals in top shape. Click here to watch the short video.
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”
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