“Crunch” is one noise you don’t want to hear when moving an RV, especially if it’s fiberglass. You can do serious damage in the blink of an eye if you back your RV into something or if something falls onto it. If you experience this situation, learning how to repair RV fiberglass exterior damage is one skill you may need to acquire quickly.
So what does it take to repair your RV and get it back to looking as good as new? Let’s dive in.
Why Are RVs Made Out of Fiberglass?
Manufacturers use fiberglass when making RVs for a handful of reasons. While fiberglass isn’t indestructible, it’s incredibly durable for how lightweight it is. Unlike metal, fiberglass won’t dent as easily if hit by something. Fiberglass also stands up to the elements extremely well, which is the main reason it’s used for RVs. In addition, fiberglass offers some insulation compared to many other materials and helps control the climate.
Another reason RVs have fiberglass is that you can easily clean them. The slick surface makes it difficult for dirt and road grime to stick to the rig. If washed and maintained regularly, these rigs can look as good as new for years to come.
Some RVs are entirely made of fiberglass, but most RVs have at least the front and rear caps made out of it. Many times the side walls of the RV are made of a fiberglass-like material called filon of a fiberglass sheet. This this is much thinner than a solid fiberglass piece these sheets offer similar benefits.
Is Fiberglass Durable?
Fiberglass is one of the most durable materials manufacturers use to create RVs. Fiberglass can easily last 20 years or more if maintained properly. However, keeping water from penetrating any of the layers is essential.
If water can penetrate the fiberglass, delamination can occur. This happens when a layer of fiberglass begins to pull away from the backing material. If left unaddressed, the panel will continue to separate, and the damaged area will expand. As delamination occurs, the fiberglass becomes weak and loses its durability. Thus, regular maintenance is the key to keeping fiberglass as durable as possible.
Check the seals and address any potential issues as quickly as possible. The longer you put off maintenance, the more chances you could decrease the durability of your RV.
Pro Tip: Use our guide on How to Stop and Fix Delamination on Your RV to make the repair process painless.
Can RV Fiberglass Be Repaired?
While it is possible to repair many of the damages to fiberglass, it’s not always very easy. Fiberglass is a combination of glass fibers and a bonding polymer. To work with it you will need some practice, as jumping in without experience will not yield good results or be very strong.
If your repair is not structural in nature, you might be able to make the repair with a filling material like Bondo instead. These fillers are much easier to work with, and you can create smooth surfaces easily.
However, if you’re an experienced DIYer with the proper tools, you can repair minor cracks in your fiberglass. Though you should leave serious damage from backing into objects or something falling onto your rig to a professional body repair shop.
How Do You Fix Fiberglass Damage?
The process of repairing damaged fiberglass on your RV isn’t an easy one. It takes as much patience as it does skill. Don’t attempt to do this repair if you don’t have the knowledge, experience, or patience. Let’s look at the steps to fix fiberglass damage on your RV.
In general, fiberglass repairs are made by using a fiberglass mat or sheet that is covered with a resin to harden it. Frequently a filler is also used to make the surface smooth and paintable.
Identify Damage And Determine How To Repair
You need to identify the damaged areas and what caused them. If you find something structurally wrong with your RV, you will need to address that as well. Fiberglass sometimes is a structural component, and if you are not experienced in using it, it’s best that the repair is left to an expert.
If you are mainly filling a hole, sometimes this can easily be done with a filler like Bondo. You may still need to build a support structure behind it to hold it in place during the curing process, however.
Repairing fiberglass requires many steps and quite a few supplies here is what you will need to get the repair done with fiberglass.
- Fiberglass resin and hardener
- Fiberglass mat or cloth
- Respirator mask or air-purifying respirator
- Mixing cups and stir sticks
- Scissors or a utility knife
- Sandpaper (various grits)
- Plastic sheeting or drop cloth
- Plastic squeegee or putty knife
Put on Safety Gear
When working with fiberglass, it is important to know the hazards and take the following safety precautions. Wear personal protective gear (PPE) such as a respirator mask or air-purifying respirator, gloves, and protective eyewear to avoid inhaling fibers and coming into contact with skin-irritating chemicals. In addition to PPE make sure you have good ventilation in your workspace. The chemicals that vaporize during the process are very harmful to breathe.
Fix Other Damage Under the Surface First
Depending on your RV fiberglass exterior damage and the severity, you may need to repair damage on the outside and inside. Additionally, you could have damage to the insulation in the wall.
If that’s the case, expanding foam insulation can do the job. Just avoid trying to seal everything up too quickly. Make sure to give it plenty of time to dry.
Clean and Sand Around the Affected Area
Now that you’ve fixed any secondary damage, it’s time to fix the fiberglass. Start by wiping the entire area as clean as possible. Remove dirt, grime, and any bugs or other foreign substances from the surface.
Once you have cleaned the surface, sand it down to create a level plane. This will help remove any loose pieces of fiberglass from the exterior and create an ideal surface for your compounds.
Apply New Fiberglass
Once the surface is clean and level, you can start applying the fiberglass sheets. First Cut the fiberglass mat or cloth to the appropriate size for the repair. Make sure to wear gloves and a mask when handling the fiberglass.
Next, mix the resin by following the manufacturer’s instructions to mix the fiberglass resin and hardener in the correct proportion. Use a plastic squeegee or putty knife to apply the mixed resin to the repair area. Then, lay the cut fiberglass mat or cloth on top of the wet resin.
Fill in the damaged area and reshape it to its original form. Since most of the fiberglass surfaces on an RV are relatively flat, you don’t need an artist to accomplish this step. Apply more mixed resin on top of the fiberglass, making sure to saturate it completely. Use a roller or brush to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles.
Allow the repair to cure for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. This may take several hours or overnight, depending on the product used.
Sand, Clean, and Paint
Once the epoxy or resin has had time to cure, it’s time to sand it. You want to work slowly and carefully when sanding down the surface. You want to be especially careful when working with corners or any minor curves in the surface. If you work too quickly, you could damage the surface and have to start the process over.
Finish it off with at least 220-grit sandpaper. Ensure you have a surface level, then apply any paint to blend in the damaged area. If you need an exact color, you can contact your manufacturer. You could get the color code from them or order some from them.
To polish RV fiberglass, let the paint dry thoroughly. Next, apply a coating of polish to the surface. A marine/RV fiberglass restoration system can help you get that bright shine and watch as any remaining signs of damage disappear.
If you did the job correctly and skillfully, you’ll have no obvious signs of any previous damage. However, cut yourself some slack if you can still tell. You’re not a professional, and this is a tough project.
You may feel overly critical of the damage as you know exactly where to look. Ask someone who hasn’t seen the damage before and see if they can find it.
- BOAT FIBERGLASS REPAIR KIT: 1 Meguiar's Marine/RV Fiberglass...
- OXIDATION REMOVER: Heavy duty cleaner safely removes moderate...
- BOAT POLISH: Rich polishing oils create a brilliant, high-gloss...
Pro Tip: Not sure if a fiberglass camper is right for you? Check out these 5 Reasons Why People Love Fiberglass RV Campers.
How Do You Restore the Shine on a Fiberglass RV?
If you want to restore the shine on a fiberglass RV, it will take some time and a lot of work. You may need to remove the oxidation on the surface of the fiberglass. The only way to do this is to use some elbow grease and polishing compound.
You’ll need to work the polish into the surface, then let it dry and create a hazy look over the area. Once this occurs, wipe the surface clean, and it should reveal a shiny surface. Ensure you use a quality marine or RV-grade wax to keep your fiberglass shining as long as possible.
–> Pro Tip: We have a whole article about restoring the shine of your oxidized RV fiberglass.
What Is the Best Polish to Use on an RV?
One of the best polishes to use on an RV is Meguiar’s M4516 Marine/RV Polish and Gloss enhancer. Using this polish regularly on your RV’s fiberglass surfaces will help keep it looking great for years. You’ll get a long-lasting shine and protection on the exterior of your RV.
- RV/MARINE POLISH: Contains rich polishing oils to feed and...
- OPTIMAL GLOSS: Produces optimal gloss on gel coat and fiberglass...
- POLISHING STEP: An excellent polishing treatment to apply after...
Is Repairing Fiberglass on Your RV on Your Own Worth It?
Repairing fiberglass exterior damage on your RV can be a challenging and risky task. And the procedure we laid out are general steps and may vary depending on the specific repair and product used.
However, you must know which repairs you can handle and which you need to leave to a professional. You’ll likely want to leave severe fiberglass damage to a professional.
If it’s minor cracks in the surface of your rig, you can likely handle it. Take your time, and don’t rush any step in the process. You just might surprise yourself with the results.
Have you ever had to repair fiberglass on your RV? Tell us your tips in the comments!
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