“Just slap some paint on it.”
Sounds easy, right?
*Bangs head on wall.*
Sure, painting takes just a couple of hours – or faster if you’re trying to beat a rainstorm. But the prep work for painting a 30-year-old travel trailer?
No joke. We scraped, scrubbed, and conducted science experiments to discover the correct chemical remover for all the different adhesives and caulks on the trailer for six weeks. Lucky for you, I now have a list:
liquid nails = DAP Caulk-Be-Gone
decals = heat gun and plastic scraper
latex caulk = Goo Gone Caulk Remover
rust = scotch brite pads on a die grinder
general metal cleaning = acetone (don’t use on aluminum siding – it just takes the paint off)
Be prepared for lots of ripped fingernails, cuts, and skin coated with mineral spirits. Funny side note: I started adding Collagen Peptides to my coffee everyday and noticed that my cuts heal really fast now. If you are taking on a trailer remodel you might want to try the peptides. Oh, and get a tetanus shot.
Buy the shop towels listed above in bulk. And nitrile gloves. You’ll use a lot. And be sure that the scraper is plastic – metal will damage the aluminum siding. If you don’t have an air compressor – get one. You’re going to need it for sanding, scrubbing, and painting.
Steps to paint the exterior of an aluminum-sided RV:
1.) Remove all the doors, windows, trim, and side rails.
2.) Scrape off all the chunks of butyl tape and wipe clean with mineral spirits and shop towels.
3.) Remove any decals and other kinds of caulk.
4.) Sponge-bathe the entire outside of the trailer with shop towels.
5.) Sand the edges of any holes you intend to fill and any rough spots. Clean those spots.
6.) Fill holes with Bondo.
7.) Sand Bondo spots. Clean those spots.
8.) Tape off any part of the trailer you don’t want painted, including the window holes. Don’t forget the tires.
9.) Spray auto primer on Bondo spots and any bare metal spots.
11.) Spray light coats of the paint over the body of the trailer. We sprayed 2 coats.
12.) Spray a light coat of clear coat according to the manufacturer directions.
13.) Remove any tape or plastic from trailer and wait to dry. We waited 5 days before re-taping for stripes to make sure the new tape didn’t remove the new body paint.
14.) Repeat steps 10-13 if you want a different color accent.
I must admit that it turned out better than I expected. It’s not perfect – there are rough spots where we could not remove certain adhesives. I would wager that our previous owners were not handy. Murmurs of “idiots” were frequent during the cleaning process.
Grant opted for a white body accented by red and black stripes that will match his 1993 F-150 tow vehicle once it’s painted.
We also changed the aluminum windows from brown back to aluminum with paint. It took 3 cans for all of our windows. I’m really impressed with the Rustoleum High Performance Enamel paint. It goes on very smooth, levels out beautifully, and is very hard once dry. I can’t even scratch the paint with my fingernail now that it’s been hardening over a week.
Unfortunately, the day after Grant installed the bathroom window, I fell through the sink (don’t ask) and shattered the bottom pane of glass. Good news? I learned that duct tape is great for removing glass from skin.
Next week? Interior floors!