How to Restore the Gel Coat on a RV's Fiberglass Bodyby Christopher Jackson
After many years outdoors, an RV's fiberglass outer skin will inevitably start to look a little bit faded. As it ages, fiberglass oxidizes and loses its gloss, regardless of waxing.
Fortunately, the fiberglass used in boat hulls doesn't differ much from that used on motorhomes, so fiberglass-restoration products designed for the nautical industry work just as well on land-based vehicles. Products like PoliGlow and NewGlass2 can bring the shine back to an older RV. The process is similar to varnishing a floor and the primary ingredient is elbow grease.
Clean the exterior of the RV with an aggressive cleanser, making sure that any blemishes are removed. PoliGlow, NewGlass2 and others offer branded cleansers for this purpose. Allow the vehicle to dry.
Working in sections, apply the "varnish" with a sponge pad. Wipe in one direction only; do not "brush" the material. Allow it to dry for 5-10 minutes. The first coat of the restorative material smoothes over the oxidization in the fiberglass. Use a ladder or extension pole to reach the upper section of the RV.
As soon as the area is dry, apply another coat and repeat. Streaks will fade as the restorative dries. After four or five coats, your RV's fiberglass will begin to shine again.
Maintain the shine with regular washings. Additional coats can be applied annually.
- Many of the required materials (cleanser, applicator pad, spray bottle) are included in "kits" from restorative manufacturers.
- Make sure that blemishes like sap, bird droppings and black streaks are removed before applying the restorative. The varnish-like material will seal them to the surface and make them very shiny--but nearly impossible to clean off!
- To ensure a smooth, clear finish, apply each coat in the same direction.
- If you're planning to add or remove decals from your vehicle, do so before restoring the fiberglass. These products help to mask color variations in the fiberglass that often result from removing stripes and decals.
- Both PoliGlow and NewGlass2 say that waxing isn't required once their products have been applied.
Things You'll Need
- Scrub brush
- Sponge pad or chamois
- Spray bottle
- Rubber gloves
- Ladder or extension pole
- Aggressive cleanser or automotive wax remover
- Fiberglass "varnish" from PoliGlow, NewGlass2 or similar manufacturer
- Be sure to wear rubber gloves and work clothes, as the fiberglass restorative material is sticky and not good for your skin!
Christopher "Emmy" Jackson has been an automotive writer since 1999. His self-syndicated auto column appears weekly in print and online, and his work has appeared in "Grassroots Motorsports," "AutoWeek" and "African-Americans on Wheels." He is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, with degrees in English and creative writing, and spends most of his free time reviewing new cars and working on new automotive projects.