Can You Paint Aluminum RV Exterior

Last Updated on

When RVs are new, they look shiny and ready to conquer the roads. But after two or three years they start looking rusty, old, and about to breakdown.

This is because RVs are built for the roads and for off-grid living; they are not built to be frequently covered using an RV cover or to be parked in a nicely shaded parking area. 

Since RVs are built for the road/ for the RV life, RV owners usually travel with them for days, park them in areas where they get exposed to all types of weather elements allowing nature to take its toll. 

If your RV looks old and rusty and about to die, you do not need to upgrade to a new one. Of course, you can but it will be costly. What you need to do is to get it serviced and then to apply a fresh coat of paint on it.

It will look like a new RV because of the paint job and it will move like a new RV because of the servicing. 

Can you paint an aluminum RV exterior? Yes, you can! The key to painting an aluminum RV is to prepare your work surfaces. Clean the surface carefully, removing any old paint, grease, or dirt. Once cleaned ensure the surface is thoroughly dried and apply an aluminum oxide primer.  After you’ve done all of this your set to begin the painting process.  

In this article, I am going to share with you information about how to paint an aluminum RV exterior. I will give you all the tips you need to paint your RV in such a way that anybody who sees it will either think it is new or it has been painted by a professional.

So, Can You Paint An Aluminum RV Exterior?

Of course, you can! I know I kind of let the cat out of the bag in the previous paragraph but it is what it is. You can paint an aluminum RV exterior and I am going to show you exactly how in the sections that follow. 

RV owners are afraid of painting aluminum RV siding because they think their paint jobs will look bad or that they could end making costly and irreparable mistakes. However, there is no need to fear painting your RV. This is because there is nothing wrong with doing so and it is a relatively straightforward thing to do. 

How to Paint Aluminum RV Siding

The key to painting the aluminum body of your RV is to first buy a paint that is can stick on aluminum. After doing this, you are supposed to thoroughly wash your recreational vehicle to remove all dirt that could make your paint look funny.

After doing this, you are supposed to cover the RV’s lights and everything else you will not need covered in paint. It is easy to do so using a tape. Then you are supposed to rough up the old paint using sandpaper. The next thing you need to do is to apply an aluminum oxide primer and then to apply the paint you bought. 

The above is just the summary of the aluminum RV siding painting job. Below are all the steps you need to follow to make sure your paint job looks brilliant.

  1. Prepare Your RV. To avoid damaging screen doors, light fixtures, and awnings, you need to remove them or protect them from damage. You also need to withdraw any slide-outs to make your work easy. If your RV has an external kitchen, you need to clean it and lock it back into your RV’s body. Next, you need to close all doors and windows.
  2. Wash Your RV. To make sure your paint job looks professional and not amateurish, you need to give your RV a good wash. I cannot stress this enough. If you do not wash your RV properly and you paint it over, you will regret how it looks when it dries up. So thoroughly wash every external part of your RV. Use a pressure washer if you have one or take your RV to a car wash to make sure it gets super clean. 
  3. Wait for Your RV to Dry Up. After washing your RV, you are supposed to let it dry. So give your RV thirty minutes or one hour to make sure it is completely dry.
  4. Cover Everything Up. After watching your RV dry (no need to actually watch it dry), cover everything up using a tape. This may seem like an unnecessary step but it is very important. You are supposed to tape up everything that you do not need to cover with paint e.g. the windows of your RV, the braking lights and adjacent lights, and any rubber designs on it. The best tape to use is the painter’s tape.
  5. Rough up Your RV. This step is not necessary but it is a good step if you want great results. You are supposed to rough up your RV’s aluminum siding using soft grit sandpaper. Roughing up and RV is usually very hard work but it also usually provides brilliant results.
  6. Apply a Coat of Aluminum Oxide. When you rough up your RV’s aluminum siding, you make it easier for aluminum oxide primer to adhere to it. You can apply a coat of primer using a brush, a roller, or a sprayer. In my opinion, rollers are the best for priming aluminum/ metal surfaces. After applying a coat of aluminum oxide, wait for some time for the siding to dry completely.
  7. Apply a Coat of Aluminum-friendly Paint. After priming your RV using an aluminum oxide primer, it will be ready for painting. The best aluminum paint are acrylic latex or oil-based paints. Ask your RV dealer if you are not sure. And the best tool to apply paint with on aluminum siding is a sprayer. After painting your RV aluminum siding, give it time to dry. After it dries up, notice the areas that need more paint and apply a second coat. For the best results, apply the paint evenly.
  8. Wait for Your Aluminum Siding To Dry and Then Remove Taping. After painting your siding, you are supposed to give it plenty of time to dry before you remove the taping. 
  9. Watch Your RV Dry. Watching paint dry is important especially if you have kids or pets around. They could touch the wet paint and destroy everything you have done. So sit somewhere outside your RV and wait for everything to dry.
  10. Enjoy Your Brand-New Looking RV. If you follow all the steps above, your RV will look brand new when it completely dries up. When it does so, get it serviced and then go to Florida, California, Montana, Yellowstone, Acapulco, British Columbia, or anywhere else you’ve always wanted to visit or camp. 

The Best Paint for Aluminum RVs

The best paint for applying on an aluminum RV siding is any paint that is designed for applying on aluminum. 

Experienced RV owners usually apply car paint on their RVs. This is because such paints are designed for applying to aluminum-body cars. So they usually work well on RV aluminum siding.

People also apply house paint designed for house aluminum siding. 

So use automotive paint or aluminum-friendly house paint. However, before you buy anything consult with your RV manufacturer or your local dealer. Send them an email and tell them exactly what you want to do. They will tell you the recommended paints or recommend somewhere where you can go to get the help you need.

To Repaint or Replace Aluminum Siding

If your aluminum siding is damaged, painting it is of no use. You need to buy and replace the damaged part or parts before considering any repainting.

If you are RV just looks old and rusty and its siding or frame is not damaged in any way, you should just paint it. It is of no use to replace a part or parts of your RV’s aluminum siding or frame if nothing is damaged.

Most RV owners prefer repainting their RVs over replacing their aluminum siding. This is because replacing a part or parts of an aluminum RV is almost always much more expensive than painting an aluminum RV. 

Moreover, the chances of making a costly mistake such as damaging a window are high during replacement and very minimal during repainting.

In short, if your RV has not suffered any damage, simply repaint it. It is the best thing to do.

The Final Notes

As you can see in this post, repainting is straightforward and it is better than replacing if your RV siding has not been damaged. So if your RV just looks old and rusty, paint it as I have shown in the steps in this article, and a few hours after you are done it will be looking brand new.