Restoring RV Decals in 5 Easy Steps
One of the benefits of buying an older RV is you get much better value for your money. The downside to that is it doesn’t new look anymore. Most used RVs look shabby and usually have worn-out decals and graphics.
Over the years, exposure to sunlight and inclement weather results in the cracking and fading of decals, and they just don’t look nice as we would want them to.
Fortunately, there’re several hacks to fix your RV decal problems. And in this guide, I’ll share my top tips for RV decal restoration so you can transform your old RV into a nice and shiny-looking one.
1) Use RV Decal Cleaners
The first thing to try when attempting to revive your faded RV decals is using a decal cleaner. It’s a simple and inexpensive method to return the luster to the decals.
I’ve tried several decal cleaning products but have found success with the Rejuvenate Restorer Wipes. You should apply two coats for best results and let it dry thoroughly in between the coats.
Using the Rejuvenate Restorer is also easy, and once you get it on your rig, you’ll be pleased with the results- a shiny coating. Of course, the cleaner won’t bring your RV decals to the original new condition but will eliminate the shabbiness, swirls, and curls on the RV decal.
Rejuvenate Restorer Wipes, however, aren’t the only decal cleaners. I’m sure there’re plenty of other options, but avoid products with petroleum distillates. They can dissolve the decal adhesive, leading to bigger problems.
2) Consider Wet Sanding
Sanding RV decals sounds sketchy, but it can be a great way to provide an even finish and restore your RV’s decals to their original luster.
Wet sanding is more appropriate for a polishing operation and is great for creating a shiny surface. The process is less aggressive than regular sanding and doesn’t readily change the object’s shape.
However, understand wet sanding isn’t always the best option and will depend on the nature of your decals. To attempt wet sanding, for example, your RV decals shouldn’t be cracking or have deep scratches that reach the metal. However, wet sanding is a fantastic option if your decals have scuffing and minor scratches.
Here’s a step-by-step process of wet sanding your RV decals:
Assess the level of sanding
The first step is to assess the level of damage on the decals and determine how much sanding it requires and with what type of paper.
If your decals have significant damage, you need sandpaper with a lower grit number (1200-1500). If the damage is light scuffing, you can resolve it with sandpapers with a higher grit rating (2000-3000).
Remember that the lower the grit number on the sandpaper, the more abrasive it is. For example, sandpapers with less than a grit rating of 1200 shouldn’t be used for wet sanding, as they may generate scratches that are difficult to buff out.
Clean your RV Decal
After selecting the right sanding paper, the next step should be cleaning. As its name suggests, wet sanding usually requires a lubricant to keep the sandpaper from damaging or burning the surface.
Use mild detergent and water to wash the clean the surface.
Start the sanding process. But first, dip the sandpaper in warm water for a few minutes. Allow the sandpaper to soak for about five minutes before using it.
Next, wrap your sandpaper around a sanding pad. Don’t attempt to sand using your bare hands or fingers because the gaps in between may create uneven sanding, resulting in an inconsistent finish. You must also perform sanding in a circular motion.
While at it, don’t use too much pressure; otherwise, you’ll damage the decal. It takes some practice to determine the appropriate pressure to use, but generally, you should ease off if you see the decal start to peel or see oxidized pigment flowing.
Repeat this motion until your entire decal is covered.
Finally, wash your decal with clean water and let it dry. Hopefully, it should appear in a neat, uniform color. It should also feel smooth. If not, repeat the process.
3) Use Shoe Polish
If your RV has cracks, you could use shoe polish to touch up and fill the cracks. Fill the cracks with the polish and let it dry for one hour, then buff it out by hand or with a buffer.
Now, before naysayers jump in, realize shoe polish offers no protection, restoration, etc., of the decals. It’s also a temporary solution, and the effects are usually short-lived.
It’s important you choose a shoe polish the same color as the decal graphic. Also, be sure to tape off the other graphics so you don’t get color on them.
4) Remove the Decal
Sometimes, removing and replacing your decals will make more sense. The waxing, cleaning, and buffing may help, but these measures aren’t long-term fixes. In particular, the end is imminent if the RV decals start to curl on the edges.
Peeling the decals is a route many have taken. Yes, it’ll leave your RV looking bare and plain, but that’s an improvement over shabby, cracked, or faded decals beyond repair.
You need a heat gun or a hairdryer to peel off RV decals. The heat from the hairdryer softens the glue and makes it easier for the decal to peel off without any sticky paper residue remaining. Sometimes, you might need a putty knife to peel the heated edges away.
5) Replace decals
You could install new decals if you’ve peeled off the faded decals and don’t want your RV to remain bare.
Finding the exact replacement for your RV decals can be challenging, even from the manufacturer, especially if it’s an old or vintage RV model. Even then, the manufacturer is usually the best place to start looking when you need an RV decal replacement.
You could also try your luck with a good sign shop. Look for shops that do vinyl dies cuts to duplicate your RV decals with computerized machines. They simply photograph your decals and duplicate them on a larger pattern-cutting machine.
How to Protect My RV Decals
Inclement weather, especially exposure to the sun, is usually the big reason for faded decals. Therefore, your best prevention method is to reduce time outdoors in direct sunlight. Do this by investing in an RV port or cover when your RV is in storage.
Of course, your RV won’t always be in storage every time and will inevitably be exposed to inclement weather. Therefore, use a decal protector in addition to RV ports and covers. We are big fans of 303 Aerospace Protectant.
It does a great job of protecting your RV decals against harsh sunlight and dirt so that they last for a long time.
This video was inserted for its explanation of the subject matter. Thanks to: Miles and Smiles
This video was inserted for its explanation of the subject matter. Thanks to: RVstreet
Restoring RV decals can be a bit challenging but it is doable. Here are the steps you can follow to restore RV decals:
- Clean the decals thoroughly: Use a mild soap and water to clean the surface of the decals. Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasive materials as they can damage the decals.
- Remove any residue: If there is any residue left on the decals after cleaning, use rubbing alcohol or a adhesive remover to remove it. Be gentle and take care not to damage the decals.
- Apply heat: If the decals are peeling or curling at the edges, you can use a hairdryer or heat gun to apply heat to the edges. This will soften the adhesive and help the decals stick better.
- Apply a decal restorer: There are many products available on the market that can help restore faded or damaged decals. Choose one that is specifically designed for the type of decals on your RV.
- Apply a protective coat: Once the decal restorer has dried, apply a protective coat to help prevent further damage to the decals. A clear coat or wax can be used for this purpose.
Remember, restoring RV decals requires patience and attention to detail. Take your time and be gentle with the decals to avoid causing further damage.
Overall, having a nice-looking and smart RV can make you feel proud. Staying at the top of the RV decal maintenance game greatly helps with this.
The tips we’ve listed above are handy for eliminating the shabby look and keeping your RV free from swirls, cracks, marks, and fading on the decals.