Guide to Painting RV Exterior Aluminum

You may have an RV that is a few years old, and you’ve seen the new ones that gleam in the sun on the campsite. It doesn’t take long when RV’s are baked in the sun for the paint to dry, fade and crack.

Before long, an RV owner will need to know how to paint an RV exterior for protection as much as looking nice.

While aluminum doesn’t rust, it can come worse off from harsh weather, so to preserve an RV’s integrity and value, there is the need for painting an aluminum camper.

rv exterior design

You can find many RVers quickly take their vehicle to the shop for a new coat of paint. However, you can use this guide to learn how easy it can be how to paint an aluminum travel trailer siding to make it look as good as new. (Read What To Do When RV AC Fan Not Working)

When you repaint an RV, there is more time spent in preparation, yet you can easily repaint an RV once you know the tools and the right paints to use.

By the end, so long as you have space and time, you can make your travel trailer the envy of the campsite.

Can You Paint Aluminum Siding On a Camper?

Yes, you can paint your camp trailer’s siding, even if it’s constructed of aluminum. It does take some time, although the results are worth it, and you can achieve a finish as good as any professional paint job.

The most important bit is using an oil or acrylic-based paint specifically formulated to paint aluminum RV siding. Another tip is to use a pressure washer to clean your RV first to remove any oil or grease and even soap residue before letting it dry for a few days.

To paint, you need the cleanest and driest surface possible. You should find a good auto paint or house paint specifically made for painting aluminum siding.

For painting, there are many colors and application methods. Some individuals use rollers, while others use a paint sprayer. (Learn How to Clean an RV Awning)

Cost for painting is a key reason many RV owners choose to do it themselves. For repairs, you’ll be paying for the entire section, which works out costly. You’ll need screws and other vehicle hardware to be certain the new section is properly fastened.

You can also face additional repair fees should you damage a light lens or window as you make your replacement. Painting means you only need a few quarts of paint and primer to give your RV a fresh look.

Will Paint Stay on Aluminum?

The aluminum smooth surface attracts dust and debris, which accumulates over time regardless of whether you store your RV indoors or outdoors.

If you expose aluminum to the elements, use a power washer to remove dirt and grime that will adhere to the surface. It is best to use a commercial degreaser to ensure your RV siding is as clean as possible and can take your primer and paint.

Clean aluminum by hand using a scrub brush and your degreaser spray bottle, and make sure you have adequate ventilation for the fumes to disperse.

The slick aluminum surface needs roughing slightly to accept the paint and primer. To do this, they advised you to use the following things on your aluminum surface:

  • Aluminum oxide sanding paper
  • Handheld sander
  • Blasting unit (for outdoor use only. It has a similar effect as aluminum oxide sanding paper but takes less effort).

You can find that the non-porous surface of aluminum won’t hold paint too well. It takes a primer first to paint the surface, such as a Sherwin Williams primer. Do this, and you have a longer-lasting paint job on your aluminum surface.

You can use an acid-etch primer that is easy to apply and can be rinsed off 10 minutes after application. Using these has the benefit of removing any grease and oils or any dirt you can’t remove with soap.

To finish the aluminum surface, you would apply a conversion coating that completes the acid-etching process. (Read How To Paint RV Exterior Fiberglass)

Sand your surface to remove any lumps you may have remaining from the etching primer.

You can be spoiled for choice with your auto body aluminum primer although if you opt for something from the Sherwin Williams range, these can be tinted toward your final color choice of paint coats.

All primers offer benefits instead of trying to smear paint on the smooth aluminum surface.

primer paint

Applying Your Primer and Paint

  1. Apply a professional aluminum primer in one or two thin coats.
  2. Wait until your metal siding has lots of time to dry thoroughly
  3. Apply your favorite paint color (avoid gloss as it shows dents and imperfections)
  4. Finish with a nice top coat sealer to keep the paint from chipping, though this step can be missed as it isn’t compulsory.

Aluminum spray paint is designed to stick to aluminum surfaces and suitable for indoor and outdoor use. Many aluminum spray cans come inclusive of primer, which reduces prep, painting, and drying time.

Flakes in the aluminum spray paint achieve a longer-lasting surface than if you used an oil-based automotive paint.

How Long Does Exterior Paint Last On Aluminum Siding?

Many people use brushes or rollers; however, it isn’t possible to get the results you want by doing so. The same goes for some automotive paints that have been sprayed, yet it comes down to the paint sticking to the surface.

Paint has to stick in one of two ways, either a chemical bond, which much newer epoxy and hardened urethane paints have, or a mechanical bond, which you get through sanding.

When using a brush, your paint has brush strokes in the finish. The only way for a nice, flat finish is to spray the paint onto the body of your RV.

Exterior acrylic latex paint is the better choice for painting aluminum siding. In addition, stay away from any glossy finish as it attracts attention to dents or other imperfections. A satin or flat finish paint in a color that closely resembles your RV or darker color is best to aim for.

When you do the job properly, you can expect your new paint job to be effective for 5 to 10 years, although this depends on weather and if you have a sealer to stop the paint from fading as fast.

Can You Paint the Exterior of a Camper?

After years of use, the exterior of your aluminum camper will start to show the effects of its age and usage. Maintaining the exterior of your camper will not only assist in retaining a good resale value but also show the pride of ownership you had when you first purchased it.

One of the least expensive ways of maintaining the exterior of your camper is to give it a new coat of paint from time to time. (Find the Best Anti Rattle Hitch Device)

Items you need

  • Painter’s tape
  • Old newspaper
  • Paint roller, brush, or paint sprayer

Prepare your aluminum camper exterior.

  1. Remove awnings, light fixtures, and screen doors.
  2. If you have decorative stickers or decals on your camper, you’ll need to remove these. One of the best ways is to use linseed oil to remove residual adhesive.
  3. Clean the RVs surface using the pressure washer as this will remove any grime and dirt from the RVs aluminum.
  4. Let your camper dry thoroughly before proceeding.
  5. Tape newspaper to cover your windows, vents, and other areas of your camper body you don’t want to paint. Use Painter’s tape to tape over the door and window frames.
  6. The first is to apply a coat of aluminum oxide primer paint to your camper. You can find the primer in most hardware or camping stores.
  7. Apply your primer using a roller or brush or even your sprayer. You need to let the primer dry for four to six hours; however, it depends on the weather.
  8. Apply one or two coats of acrylic latex paint once your primer has dried. You can find such paint in many home improvement stores, and like the primer, you can apply it using rollers, brushes, or paint sprayer.
  9. Once the first coat is dry, inspect your camper to ensure the paint has dried evenly. It is here you can decide on a second coat on your camper or not. You will need to make certain it has a uniform appearance across the siding of your camper.
  10. If you look like you need a second coat, then apply this and let it dry. Once this has dried, you can either add your seal coat or remove the paper and tape from the windows, frames, and air vents.

Here are the detailed areas you need to make sure you follow. Luckily, these are the boring parts and are not too many.

  • RV Prep: Even before you start priming, you need to remove awnings or external fixtures on your trailer that could get in the way.
  • Wash and dry: For some, this can be among the most challenging based upon where you live. Such a task is best for warm weather. To make sure you have all the dirt off, it is advisable to use a pressure washer to get stuff off easier than washing it by hand.
  • Taping: Out of all the prep jobs, this can be the slowest yet most important. Once your RV is dry, you need to tape windows, doors, and other areas before it is painted. You don’t want to find spray paint across your windows or vents as this makes lots more work.
  • Always prime first: Priming is the key to a perfect finish. Be sure to use a high-quality aluminum oxide primer, so your aluminum body is ready for paint.
  • Painting: Use a good reliable oil or acrylic latex paint.

As you can see, painting aluminum trailer siding isn’t too challenging. Although you want a good finish from your spray gun, you’ll find it easier to get a decent finish than your car, as you are not using gloss paint or starting with bare metal. (Read Recertified Propane Tanks)

Guide to Painting RV Exterior Aluminum (2)

Leave a Comment