RV Gel Coat Finish, Care and Maintenance
Thursday, March 1st, 2012 19:12:53
Pete’s RV Info Blog Editor’s Note: Our service department received this recent memo from Keystone RV Company on care and maintenance for RVs with a gel coat finish. It is an expanded and better-detailed version than what is found in the Keystone RV owner’s manual. With proper care, you can keep your RV’s beautiful gel coat finish standing out in the crowd. Along with the instructions below, we recommend using ProtectAll. ProtectAll is an all-in-one cleaner and wax spray appropriate for treating gel coat finishes.
Fiberglass is a common term for fiber-reinforced plastic, or FRP, which is a plastic material, strengthened using glass fiber cloth and used on many RVs for sidewalls and caps. To give the fiberglass a smooth and shiny surface, a clear or colored gel resin material is applied to the outer surface. Gel coat is available in many colors and is very durable, but it can become dull or faded as it weathers. Sunlight, heat, and moist air combine to oxidize the gel coat surface, fading it and making the surface cloudy. So how do you keep your fiberglass looking good? Simple, you clean and apply a top quality wax twice a year or every 3 months in cases where the vehicle is in constant exposure to the elements.
Normal maintenance of your gel coated fiberglass RV is similar to the care you would give your automobile. In general, automotive cleaners and waxes work well. Do not use caustic, highly alkaline (high pH) cleaners or those containing ammonia. These cleaning agents may darken white or off-white weathered gel coat surfaces. The staining that results is a chemical reaction within the weathered gel coat, and can be removed with a rubbing compound or by light sanding with 400 grit sandpaper followed by application of rubbing compound and waxing.
Periodic cleaning with a mild detergent product is necessary to remove normal accumulations of soil. This soil is the result of regular use of your RV as well as environmental pollutants, soot, smog, etc. General washing as needed prevents soil build-up, staining, etc.
As the gel coat begins to lose its gloss from constant exposure to the natural environment and pollutants, it will require some special attention to restore the original gloss and color. After washing with mild soaps and detergents, a good polishing with a self-cleaning automotive wax will restore most of the original gloss. A fall and spring wax job are generally all that is needed to maintain the original appearance. If the surface has been allowed to weather badly, and cleaning and wax polishing does not(restore the finish satisfactorily, then compounding will be necessary.
Polishing compound (fine abrasive) or rubbing compound (coarser abrasive) is recommended for use on fiberglass RVs to remove scratches, stains, or a severely weathered surface. Polishing or rubbing compound can be applied by hand or by mechanical means, such as an electrical or pneumatic buffer. After the scratched, stained or weathered surface has been removed, it should be waxed to enhance the gloss and color while providing a seal to retard staining or new soil accumulation.
Removing the Discoloration
Discoloration of the gel coated fiberglass surface may occur if regular washing and waxing have been neglected. Discolored areas are very shallow in depth and, in fact, are on the surface. They can be removed by gently wet-sanding only the affected areas with 600 grit “wet or dry” sandpaper to remove the blemishes. Always sand in one direction, using plenty of water. After sanding, dry the areas and ensure all the discoloration has been removed. If not, repeat the process. Once all discoloration has been removed the affected surface area will need to be buffed. Buffing, using an electrical or pneumatically operated buffer at low speed, will restore the luster to the sanded surface. Use a soft wool pad and apply a generous amount of rubbing compound using a circular motion. When the buffing has been completed, wash off the rubbing compound with clean water. Dry the surface. Wax your RV with a high-grade automotive wax.