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Paint Your Wagon: Renewing Your RV Investment

| Updated Mar 4, 2014

Our 1995 camper was looking a bit dingy. A few chips in the paint had been repaired more than once. A little rust was barely visible around the kitchen window but the frame likely hiding more rust. And the decal stripes were looking sad. As the third owner, we bought it when the odometer read 82,000. It now reads 156,000 miles and is in good condition mechanically according to our mechanic. “Dodge 3500 Ram vehicles ought to last 250,000 or more miles.

Tire Cover (Medium)Our first beautification project was the spare tire cover. We found that a hair dryer would soften the old Home and Park vinyl decals. We used a plastic scraper to remove the lettering. Roger had drawn a Red Rover logo with a Poodle head that would look OK on the tire cover. A sign shop quoted $37 to make a new vinyl decal in blue to match the bottom of our Roadtrek. It proved a bit tricky to peel the decal off its backing and apply it to the cover. We rubbed it down with a plastic putty knife.

Poli GlowToward further sprucing up Red Rover, we investigated various auto wax products. Every time we applied wax of any brand it looked shinier for a few months. The white gel-coated firberglass roof looked dull no matter what we did. After research, we discovered PoliGlow, a two-part fiberglass boat and RV treatment consisting of a cleaner and a surface treatment that made the top look new. PoliGlow (available from Amazon) is not a wax, and our application gleamed like new for a year and a half.

We posted our intention to try to have the body painted professionally. A local body shop we have used to restore BMWs beautifully refused to consider painting it since most of their revenue is from collision work – mostly replacing auto body parts and painting. “We lose our shirts on RVs,” said the shop owner. We appealed on bended knee, so he agreed to ask his employees if they would tackle painting our RV between collision jobs. They agreed and we were quoted $6 k for the job. Various Roadtrek owners opined that we could get somebody in Michigan to paint it for $279. One owner in Canada who had his repainted said $6k was about the right price. One wag said he would do the job with a roller for $100! (Old joke: a hobo called on a homeowner to do work in exchange for a meal. The owner said OK, and directed the hobo to paint the porch behind the house for a meal. About an hour later the hobo returned and said, “I agreed to paint the Porsche for a meal, but that’s not a Porsche parked out there. The car I painted was a Jaguar.”)

Rust lurks behind Kitchen window (Medium)
Rust lurks behind the kitchen window frame

Since our RV was fill-in work, we never expected a quick turnaround.   The prep work took awhile. Removing the windows revealed varying amounts of rust that must be dealt with before priming and repainting.   The passenger side lower fiberglass was removed for painting.

Rust on Drivers Side Compartment (Medium)
A tricky spot for rust repair


The driver's side big compartment was not easily removed because of plumbing.  And there was one awkward rust spot where lower fiberglass attaches. It was tricky to fix. The door to the big storage compartment on the driver side was removed and the hinge replaced.




Peeling Roof Stripes (Medium)
Peeling roof decals

The labor intensive part of the job was removing the peeling decal stripes. The best removal tool was a special 3M grinding wheel, which worked great on the metal body.  But removing the stripes on the fiberglass roof proved to be stubborn.  In the end the PoliGlow cleaner was a good stripe remover. Normal chemical cleaners did not work. The complete job took several months.

Red Rover in Paint Booth (Medium)
A naked Red Rover in Paint Booth

Our shop used the Glasurit paint system, described as, “The best there is.” The Glasurit system is a European BASF development, a waterborne system from primer to clear coat that provides deep color, durability, and ease of application. We chose a basic white for the main body and a Honda metallic dark blue for the bottom ground effects. We priced the complete set of Roadtrek decals and at $1000 they seemed too costly—Plus the originals for our 1995 were no longer available. We would have had to settle for the 2001 decal set. The body shop owner said they could paint the stripes on and they would be more durable than any decal. We saw a stripe design on a utility truck that looked OK, and so the stripes of blue and yellow were added (no we are not Michigan fans). A sign shop made the Roadtrek 190 Popular decals to match the originals.

Red Rover - New Paint after 1 year (Medium)
Red Rover – One year after New Paint

We have been asked it we would do it again, and the answer is yes. An investment of $6,000 or even $8,000 seems modest in relation to the pleasure we receive while traveling frequently in our well-designed Roadtrek. Fair warning: If you ask your collision shop to paint your RV, they may turn you down flat OR quote you a low-ball price with a roller. There are RV paint and refurbish specialists who advertise in Family Motorcoaching. Perhaps they have Class B painting experience.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2014-03-04

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

4 Responses to “Paint Your Wagon: Renewing Your RV Investment”

March 05, 2014at8:51 am, Laura Robinson said:

Looks FAB! Nice to get a good salon treatment!

March 04, 2014at10:36 am, Janet Arnold said:

pretty…real nice…looks new

March 04, 2014at10:17 am, Thom L. said:

Nice job on your van-refurbishment.
One thing my wife and i did relatively early, within three years of van’s _birth_, was to have a pro shop Rhino Line all the metal of front/rear bumpers and all the wheel wells and rocker panels. Not only did this certainly add years to the van’s life…it is now a real head turner! (The lift kit and aftermarket wheels added a pop also 🙂
(This is a link to a recent shot of our van: )

Happy Trails

October 11, 2014at11:08 am, Susan Garrett said:

Very cool looking rig. nice to see something a little unique.

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