A Guide on How to Paint the Exterior of Your RV (Explained!)

A Guide on How to Paint the Exterior of Your RV

Key Takeaways
● Painting an RV is a great way to improve curb appeal and protect surfaces from weathering.
● Preparing the surface correctly is key to achieving good results. This includes washing, sanding, patching and priming surfaces as needed.
● Use high-quality paint specifically designed for use on RVs to ensure long-lasting results.

If you’re an RV owner, at some point, you may want to give your RV a fresh new look – and what better way to do that than by painting it yourself?

Several steps involve an RV exterior paint job, including prepping the surface, choosing the right paint, and applying it. With the right preparation and materials, painting the exterior of an RV can be a relatively straightforward process.

This guide will walk you through the steps involved in painting your RV exterior. So whether you’re looking to repaint your entire RV or touch up a few spots, read on for all the info you need.

Preparing For Your RV Paint Job

Preparing For Your RV Paint Job

Before you start your new paint job, here are a few steps you’ll need to take:

Clean the Surface

Start by hosing down the entire RV exterior, then use soap, warm water, and a soft-bristled brush to scrub away all dirt, grime, and mildew.

Afterwards, rinse the soap suds and use a commercial cleaner to remove oil, grease, and oxidation. Finally, wash again with soap and water before proceeding with the next step.

Once your RV exterior is completely clean, let it dry THOROUGHLY before moving on to the next step in the process. You should wait 48 hours before applying any paint for the best results.

Repair Damaged Areas

Next up, check for any areas that need REPAIRS due to dings, scratches, or other damage. If there are any visible cracks in your RV’s surface, fill them with a flexible caulk before you begin painting.

If the surface is severely cracked and peeling, you may need to use a patching compound to fill the cracks and level out the surface before painting. You can find patching compounds at your local hardware store specifically designed for RV repair.

Make sure to follow all instructions when applying the patching compound, and don’t disturb any existing paint. Additionally, if you notice any rust-related damage, use a rust converter to treat the area before you apply paint.

Tape Off Areas

Once you’ve repaired any damaged areas and allowed the surface to dry, it’s time to tape off any areas that you don’t want to be painted. This includes windows, door frames, trim, lights, etc.

You should use painter’s tape for such tasks as masking them off will help AVOID the paint from getting onto these areas. Ensure that the tape firmly adheres to all surfaces and edges for a neat and clean finish.

Once everything is taped off, you can begin prepping your RV for painting. Use a drop CLOTH under your work area to protect it from overspray or spills.

Sand The Surface

Once the surface is ready and all areas have been taped off, you can start sanding. This helps create an EVEN surface for your paint job, so it’s important not to skip this step.

Start using medium-grit sandpaper and work your way up through finer grits until you obtain the desired FINISH.

Make sure to take breaks and regularly check for areas that should remain unpainted – you don’t want to sand them accidentally.

Choosing the Right Materials to Paint an RV

Choosing the Right Materials to Paint an RV

Once the surface is ready for painting, you’ll need to choose the right materials. Check out the guide below for a few tips:

Which Paint Should You Use

When it comes to exterior paint, you’ll have several options. Acrylic latex paint is a GREAT choice for RV exteriors as it offers excellent coverage and durability, plus it’s easy to apply [1].

An oil-based paint is also an option, though they may require ADDITIONAL preparation steps before application.

If you want to change color dramatically, consider using a sprayable vinyl wrap instead of paint. It’s an AFFORDABLE alternative that provides a glossy, durable finish and comes in various colors.

Choosing The Right Brush or Sprayer

When applying the paint to the exterior surface, you can choose a paintbrush, roller, and paint gun sprayer.

If you’re going for an EVEN finish with minimal visible brush strokes, opt for a quality airless paint spray gun. This will give you the most professional finish but may require more experience than other methods.

A brush is also a good option if you use an angled sash brush that can reach into tight corners and crevices. Be sure to select the right size for your project – larger projects will require a wider brush, while smaller ones may be done with a thinner one.

It’s best to PRACTICE on scrap material or a small test section before beginning to paint the entire surface.

Pro Tip: Using a paint sprayer will save time and effort.

What Tools Do You Need

When it comes to tools, you’ll need an angle grinder to sand hard-to-reach spots, a small putty knife to fill in small holes, and a wire brush or steel wool to clean the surface. Spray guns, respirators, and protective gear such as overalls or coveralls are also recommended.

Finally, make sure you have a ladder or scaffolding to reach higher areas of your RV that may be difficult to access.

Pro Tip: Read the instructions on your paint can first to see if there are any special requirements for use.

Applying Primer to the Exterior of Your RV

Applying Primer to the Exterior of Your RV

The primer coat acts as a one-coat base and helps protect the surface while creating a SMOOTHER finish for paint application [2].

Start using a brush or roller to apply the primer in an EVEN layer on both small and large areas of your RV. If you’re using a spray primer, hold the can approximately 12 inches away from the surface and move in even strokes.

When applying the primer, take care not to use too much PRESSURE or allow it to run. Allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before beginning your paint job – any shorter, and you may end up with a subpar finish.

Pro Tip: Test a small area with primer to ensure it works with the paint you’ve chosen for your RV.

Step-by-Step Guide to Painting the Exterior of Your RV

Step-by-Step Guide to Painting the Exterior of Your RV

Now that you’ve prepped the surface and applied primer, it’s time to start painting. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Stir The Paint

Before applying your paint, stir it THOROUGHLY using a stick. This helps mix any particles that may have settled at the bottom of the can and ensures an even finish. Make sure to wear protective gear when stirring to avoid inhaling any fumes.

Apply The Paint

Using a brush or roller, start painting in small areas and working your way up to larger ones. Hold the brush at an angle of approximately 45 degrees when applying paint to get into hard-to-reach spots.

Always keep your strokes EVEN and prevent any drips or runs – you may want to practice on a piece of cardboard first.

Pro Tip: If you’re using a roller, apply paint in the same direction as your primer.

Allow To Dry

Once you’ve finished painting, leave it to dry for at least 24 hours before adding any additional coats. This ensures that the paint has had enough time to PENETRATE the surface and create a strong bond.

Apply Second Coat If Needed

If necessary, you can apply a second coat of paint. Make sure to follow the same procedure as before and check for any drips or runs that may have occurred during the first coat.

Wax Your RV’s Exterior

Finally, wax your RV’s exterior to add an extra layer of shine and protection. Applying wax helps seal the paint and protects it from dirt, rain, and UV light damage [3].

Make sure to use a high-quality car wax specifically designed for RVs and follow the instructions on the label. Allow it to dry completely before adding any decals or stickers.

And there you have it! With the right preparation and materials, painting the exterior of your RV can be a straightforward process – make sure to take your time and enjoy the results when you’re done.

Painting Tips and Techniques for a Professional Finish

Painting Tips and Techniques for a Professional Finish

Here are a few tips and techniques to keep in mind when painting your RV’s exterior:

Use Masking Tape For Clean Lines

If you want to paint CLEAN lines between colors or surfaces, use masking tape to protect areas that should remain unpainted.

Make sure to press down FIRMLY after applying for best results – if paint seepage is under the tape, it can ruin your finishes.

Feather In Edges

When painting around objects or surfaces, use a feathering technique to create SMOOTH, seamless transitions. Start near the object and brush outwards in even strokes to avoid any drips or runs.

Use High-Quality Paint

Use high-quality paint and primer to give your RV an even finish for the best results. This will help MINIMIZE any imperfections and create a professional-looking result. When applying the primer, use LONG strokes that overlap slightly at the edges for even coverage.

Painting Across The Width

To ensure you get an even layer of paint when using a roller, lay down one strip of paint across the width of the surface before beginning your second pass in the opposite direction.

Ensure each stroke OVERLAPS slightly with its neighbors to prevent any streaks or brush marks from showing through later.

Use A Small Brush or Angled Roller

Use a small brush or angled roller to apply the paint to hard-to-reach areas and tight corners. This will help you quickly get into the nooks and crannies, resulting in a SMOOTH finish.

Make sure to keep your strokes even and CONSISTENT, and use enough pressure to distribute the paint across the surface evenly.

Tips for Maintaining Newly Painted Exterior of Your RV

Tips for Maintaining Newly Painted Exterior of Your RV

First, wash your RV regularly with soap and water, but AVOID using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials. This will help keep dirt and debris from sticking to the paint and prevent damage. You should also use a car wax or SEALANT every few months to keep the paint shiny and new.

If your RV is exposed to heavy sunlight regularly, it may be a good idea to apply a UV PROTECTANT. This will help prevent the paint from fading and keep it looking vibrant for longer.

Lastly, when parking in areas with a lot of foliage, make sure to CHECK for any tree sap or bird droppings that may have accumulated on the surface and clean them off immediately; otherwise, they can cause staining or discoloration.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Should I Wait Between Coats of Paint?

It’s best to wait at least 24 hours between coats of paint on the exterior of your RV. This is to allow the paint to dry and cure fully before adding a second coat.

Can I Paint Over The Decals On My RV?

No, it’s not recommended to paint over the decals on your RV. You should remove any decals before painting to achieve a smooth, even finish. The best way to remove them is with a heat gun and a scraper.

Is It Okay To Use Exterior House Paint on My RV’s Exterior?

No, it’s best to use high-quality automotive paint and primer specifically designed for RV surfaces. This type of paint is designed to withstand the weather and wear and tear from travel.

It will also provide better protection against UV rays, dirt, and other elements that can damage your RV’s exterior.

What Is The Best Way To Remove Old Paint From My RV?

The best way to remove old paint is to use a chemical paint stripper. It’s important to follow the instructions carefully and wear protective gear such as gloves, glasses, and a mask.

After removing the old paint, you should use a sander or wire brush to smooth out any rough edges before repainting.



With a bit of time and effort, painting the exterior of your RV can be a rewarding experience that leaves you with a great sense of accomplishment.

It’s also an excellent way to add curb appeal and protect your investment from weathering. Not to mention, it’s one of the most effective ways to improve the look of your RV.

If you take the necessary precautions and use high-quality materials, the result will be well worth it, so don’t be afraid to embrace the challenge and try it.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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