The decals on the passenger side of my motorhome are all cracked, whereas the ones on the driver’s side look great. How can I restore the passenger side RV decals? A friend suggested 303 Aerospace Protectant. I don’t read where it restores, but only protects “as is.” —Ches, 2011 Four Winds Hurricane Class A motorhome
Unfortunately, there is nothing that will restore weather-cracked decals since the actual material has expanded and contracted and literally torn apart. And you are correct, 303 Protectant will not restore the cracked material but is a good UV deterrent. However, if you have a decal that is starting to get slightly cloudy or faded, I have seen where 303 will clear it up somewhat.
Why are the driver’s side RV decals good?
Exposure to the sun causes the material in the decals to dry up, start to fade, and eventually crack. This also happens to rubber materials such as the tires and seals, as well as sealants on the roof. The more exposure to the sun, the faster it dries and eventually fails.
I would assume that when your motorhome is in storage the driver’s side is facing the east and may have another unit beside it or a shade tree. As the sun rises and passes over the unit, the intense heat of the day is on the west or passenger side. Am I correct? Plus, depending on your geographic location, most mornings are fairly cool with the sun not so intense.
Here is a photo of a 2000 Winnebago Adventurer that spent most of its early years in California and all the decals look like an Art Deco project. The estimate to remove the decals and do a full body paint from Carrera Custom Painting was $12,000. That was five years ago, so I can only imagine what it is now.
RV decals 101
There are several companies that manufacture decals for the RV industry such as Sharpline and Valley Screen, which I have dealt with in the past. Also, there are several methods of manufacturing decals and they all have distinctive procedures and materials that will affect their longevity.
Calendered vinyl is extruded and commonly a thicker 4-mil vinyl. The raw materials are put into a mixer and blended with the color pigments and the end product is heated and rolled out by an extruding machine into large film sheets. This type of vinyl has a “memory” and is prone to shrinking over time and also cracking or having the edge curl. It is a cheaper product and has a life span of 3-5 years if not covered most of the time, although the warranty is typically only one year.
Cast vinyl is thinner, at typically 2 mil. The raw materials are similar to calendered vinyl. However, the liquid vinyl is applied to a casting paper first, which is sent through an oven that evaporates the solvent. It is considered a premium vinyl and is more expensive. Cast vinyl can last 6-9 years or even longer if it is cared for properly.
If your graphics have a pattern rather than a solid color they most likely also have a screen print or pigment added. That can make them fade faster when exposed to the elements. If they have a metal flake inherent to the color, that will turn even faster.
RV decal maintenance
Most decal companies do not recommend waxing the decal as it will sometimes enhance the deterioration. The silicones in wax are bad for the polyvinyl chloride in the material and start to deteriorate it. Sharpline, one of the premier graphic producers, recommends only washing with a pH-balanced soap that has no fine particles, as some dish soaps have. They do state that Dawn (Blue) is gentle enough to not scratch the surface of the decal.
If you are waxing the side of your rig, it’s okay to get a little wax on the edges. Just don’t scratch the larger section and have a high pH soap that will start to deteriorate the material. They have found that RejeX wax has no silicone and is safe to use. Otherwise, they have not tested products like 303 Protectant and ProtectAll All Surface Cleaner, both of which have UV protection. I have used both and found they seem to provide some protection.
Since your rig is more than 10 years old, I doubt Thor still has any of these decals in stock. If they are a solid color, you might be able to locate a sign company that can match the color and use new technology such as a plotter to cut out a matching pattern. Otherwise, I would suggest removing all the decals and purchasing a newer style from a dealer that has them in stock.
You could also remove the decals leaving a masked outline and paint over them or inside them.
You might also enjoy this from Dave
My RV’s decals are fading. What can I do?
I have a 1997 Allegro Star Class A motorhome. It’s old, but for a first-timer, it feels great.
What can be done to the graphics to fix them? These are starting to fade and shatter. Is there a trick to keep them looking good? I’m going to get some of the Meguiar’s for the unit. Thanks. —Ellie
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”
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Ask at the local high school art department if students would like a project. I see grout lines and stones. Paint big areas like rocks (different colors of course) and fill in the cracks like mortar. Look like a stone wall going down the road. One of a kind!
Dave said that!!!