How to Paint an RV Exterior? Know The Steps Well (Best Tips)

how to paint an rv exterior

Are you a proud RVer but you’re not keen on looking at the vehicle? If so, you can paint your motorhome, camper, or travel trailer with a new design. But if you’re a beginner, you might be wondering how to paint an RV exterior.

Painting an RV isn’t as tough as you think. You need to gather the necessary tools and materials for the job, such as a palm sander, painter’s tape, and paint buckets. Also, make sure that you follow the correct painting methods to avoid costly mistakes.

6 Steps to Paint Your RV Exterior

What You’ll Need


The first step to any successful RV paint job is to gather essential items. Make a checklist of the following equipment so you won’t make multiple trips to your local automotive and hardware stores.

1. Cleaning Items

As a general rule of thumb, don’t paint any surface if it’s dirty, especially your RV. Therefore, the first step to painting RV exterior is to clean it.

If you don’t clean your RV first before painting it, the painted surface will be at a high risk of forming bubbles.

Use cleaning items like an automotive sponge, microfiber mitts, and denatured alcohol.

2. Palm sander or fine-grit sandpaper

You can use these to smooth your RV exterior so the paint will stick to it more easily.

3. Painter’s Tape

Don’t use conventional masking tape to cover the parts that you don’t want to be painted. Removing masking tape will leave a residue. On the other hand, painter’s tape doesn’t leave marks upon removal, creating a clean look.

Painter’s tape also has a distinct adhesive that promotes efficiency for different paint jobs. It’s easy to place, peel off, and reapply when needed. Plus, painter’s tape is quite affordable.

4. Primer

A coat of primer is ideal for most motorhome painting projects. It provides a consistent base for the topcoats of paint.

You can choose between oil-based and water-based primers for the upcoming operation. An oil-based primer is great for surfaces that usually come into contact with objects, such as your RV’s exterior.

On the other hand, water-based primers are great for removing stains and protecting surfaces.

Aside from these options, you may also opt for paint-and-primer products. However, these choices tend to be more expensive than their oil- and water-based counterparts.

5. Paintbrush or paint sprayer

If you’re on a tight budget, you can opt to use a standard paintbrush in painting outside of camper. However, take note that it’s going to take more time and effort to complete the project.

If you have the extra cash, you can purchase a vehicle paint-spraying system. It can be an investment, but you’ll finish painting an RV exterior faster than intended. Plus, you’ll most likely get an even coating with this tool.

6. Paint

Choosing RV exterior paint designs and options can be difficult if you don’t have a clear idea of what color you want.

Make sure that the color you pick coincides with a theme. Don’t pick tones that clash, which would otherwise make your RV look gaudy.

Additionally, you can use online tools to help you select the correct color scheme. Aim for complementary colors to transform your vehicle’s paint job into a head-turner.

7. RV Wax

Step-by-Step Instructions


Once you have the items needed for painting a camper exterior, it’s time to start the project. Take note that it’s difficult to redo a paint job. Don’t rush the process and take care with each step.

Step 1: Remove the Current Graphics


The first step is to remove the current graphics on your RV. Use your palm sander or fine-grit sandpaper to remove paint and decals on the vehicle’s surface.

If you use sandpaper, it can take an entire day to finish this step. On the other hand, using a palm sander should only take about an hour.

Then, use denatured alcohol to remove grease and oil left behind by the paint and the decal’s adhesive. Don’t use standard alcohol as the solution can ruin some RV surface materials, particularly fiberglass.

Step 2: Clean the RV


After removing the graphics, clean the RV’s surface with a soapy warm water mixture. Use a sponge or a pair of cleaning mitts for this step.

Additionally, you may also buy or rent a pressure cleaner. But make sure to use a suitable amount of water pressure or you’ll risk denting the vehicle. You can also use a stepladder at this stage to help you clean the motorhome or trailer’s roof.

Step 3: Apply Painter’s Tape


After the RV has dried completely, apply painter’s tape to the areas that you don’t want to be painted. Make sure to press down on the tape sufficiently to form a proper seal. You can use your hands for this step. Otherwise, a flexible putty knife should also work wonders.

If you’re going to apply painter’s tape to a corner, run a piece of the tape to the section of the RV’s surface that meets that area. Cut the tape a little over the corner afterward. Then, apply another piece of tape to the adjacent area and run it to meet the first piece.

Step 4: Apply Primer


Use a bonding primer to ensure that the first coat of paint adheres to the RV’s surface. Without the primer, the paint will form unsightly bubbles. Additionally, the paint will be prone to cracks and easy removal from natural elements, such as rain and strong winds.

Treat the primer as if you’re applying a fresh coat of paint. You can use your paintbrush or paint sprayer for this step. If you’re going to use a paintbrush, it’s best to use another brush for the next coats to avoid color contamination.

Wait for the primer to dry before applying the first coat.

Step 5: Apply the Coats of Paint


Use one long fluid motion when painting a camper to avoid uneven streaks. The action should also reduce the risks of drips.

If you’re applying multiple coats of paint, make sure the prior coat dries first before applying the next. In turn, the finish should be reasonably even. In some cases, you might need to wait about a day for each coat to dry completely.

Step 6: Finish Up

After finishing the last coat of paint, you can finish the project by applying a coat of wax to seal the new graphics. It’s best to start at the roof and then work your way down. That way, you won’t get backed into a corner if you start from the bottom.

You can also use a long-handled soft brush to help you apply wax to hard-to-reach areas. This tool can be quite useful if you have a large RV, such as a 5th-wheel camper.


So what did you think of this guide on how to paint an RV exterior? Did you enjoy what you read?

Remember to take your time in applying the steps when painting your camper vehicle. Don’t rush the process or you’re going to be more prone than normal to commit to costly mistakes.

Also, make sure that you get the necessary equipment before you start the project. That way, you won’t have to make multiple trips to local supply stores.

Finally, don’t forget to share your experiences about painting your RVs in the comment section. You can also share this article to help other RVers paint their vehicles properly.

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