Buffing out your RV finish


By Fred Burns

One of the bigger projects in maintaining your RV is keeping the outer shell clean and shiny. This involves frequent application of a good wax. It also means using a buffing compound and buffer after a few years when the finish starts to fade or get chalky. Is your RV at the point where it needs rejuvenating?

There are a number of good buffing compounds available, but applying them with a buffing wheel does create some potential problems — which I realized when I buffed out my 34-foot fifth wheel. I used a 7-inch wool buffing pad on a variable speed buffing wheel. Doing that made the job bearable without destroying arms and shoulders. But there are some potential problems that need to be dealt with:• If you apply too much pressure to the buffer or too much speed you will burn the fiberglass clear coat, which leaves a permanent yellow stain on the white surface.• If you run the buffer over anything metal it picks up black from the metal and transfers it to the fiberglass finish, which takes extra work to remove.

• If you use the buffer on any plastic parts like slide-out fascia corners, outlet covers, microwave outside vent cover, etc., the buffer can damage the plastic and leave a heavy compound deposit on it that is hard to remove.

• The buffer, at higher speeds, will damage the rubber seals on your slide-outs and leave that same heavy buffing compound deposit that is hard to remove.

• Dark-colored vinyl graphics will transfer color to the buffing pad, which then transfers it to the white fiberglass walls. You’ll then have to switch pads or clean the original before proceeding.

With all the above reasons, it’s best to rub out plastic parts, graphics, and the areas next to sensitive parts by hand — not with the buffer.

Another safety tip: Do not use the buffer around any loose pieces or exposed cabling, as the high-speed wheel can rip the pieces off or snap the wiring in a split second if it gets caught in the fast-turning wheel.

As you work, the buffing wheel will likely damage some of the caulking around the seams, as the high speed and pressure tends to heat up the caulk, shrink it, and cause it to pull away from the edge that it is protecting. So plan to remove and replace any caulking that comes loose.

Be extra careful when using a buffer on a ladder because as the pressure from the buffer on the surface changes or when catching on an edge or protruding part, it can lead to a sudden jerk that can easily throw you off the ladder. It might be easier to buff the top foot or two of the side walls by lying on the roof and working the buffer from above.

WHEN IT COMES TO ROAD TAR, buffing compound doesn’t do a good job of making it go away. You can buff them out, true, but this requires applying a lot of pressure which then runs the risk of burning the surface. If you pick at a small tar speck with your fingernail to break it up, then the buffer removes it easily. If you have a lot of road tar, use a good tar remover before buffing.

Work one small area at a time and buff the compound out before it dries. And the last strokes over the area should be with light pressure to enhance the shine.

In the end, all the effort will be worth it as your RV, which was starting to get a slightly faded look, will come out looking like new.

photo: Fred Burns