How to Remove Oxidation from Fiberglass RV

Oxidation on fiberglass RVs is a common problem that occurs over time due to exposure to UV rays, pollution, dirt, and other environmental factors. It appears as dull, faded patches on the exterior surface of the RV. If left unchecked, oxidation can spread and cause permanent damage. Thankfully, there are several effective methods to remove oxidation and restore the fiberglass to its original shine. 

Simply put, thoroughly wash the RV, then use a buffing pad to apply the polishing compound and a buffer to work it across the oxidized surface in circular motions. Wipe away residue frequently and reapply the compound on stubborn areas. Finally, buff with a wool pad to a glossy finish and apply protective wax.

This article will discuss the types of fiberglass used on RVs, required tools, detailed removal methods, benefits of removing oxidation, how often it should be done, tips for maintenance, and unique FAQs. So, keep reading to get into the details.

How to Remove Oxidation from Fiberglass RV

Methods to Remove Oxidation from RV Fiberglass

Oxidation removal involves specialized tools and techniques but can be successfully accomplished even by non-professionals with some care. This section will explore the types of fiberglass used on RVs, the tools needed, and step-by-step methods for safe oxidation removal.

Types of Fiberglass

RVs mainly use two types of fiberglass – gel coat and painted fiberglass. Knowing the specific type is important for choosing the right cleaning method.

Gelcoat fiberglass has colored resin baked onto the surface while painted fiberglass is coated with paint over regular fiberglass. The methods to remove oxidation differ slightly based on the fiberglass type.

Required Tools

Having the proper tools for the job makes oxidation removal much easier. In this case, you’ll need –

  • Buffer/Polisher – Used with polishing compound to buff away dullness. A variable speed buffer allows better control.
  • Polishing Compound – Specially formulated abrasive paste to remove oxidation. Choose a compound suitable for fiberglass.
  • Soft Pads/Wool Bonnets – For applying the polishing compound. Avoid hard pads that can damage the surface.
  • Denatured Alcohol – To clean and prep the surface before and after polishing.
  • Protectant Wax – To restore shine and protect from future oxidation.
  • Microfiber cloths, buckets, and safety gear like goggles and gloves.

Removal Methods

With the right supplies, the process involves cleaning, abrading, and polishing the surface. The technique is important to avoid damage.

For gelcoat fiberglass

Step 1: Wash the RV thoroughly with a mild detergent and water to remove surface dirt. Rinse well.

Step 2: Mix a polishing compound as per directions and apply it to a soft buffing pad. Work in manageable sections.

Step 3: Using the buffer on a low setting, work the compound in circular motions to abrade and smooth the oxidized gel coat. Apply light to moderate pressure.

Step 4: Frequently wipe away residue with a microfiber towel. Check for smoothness. Re-apply compound if needed on stubborn areas.

Step 5: Once uniformly abraded, use a soft wool bonnet to buff the gelcoat to a glossy finish. Use denatured alcohol to prep the surface.

Step 6: Apply protectant wax to seal the surface.

For painted fiberglass

Follow the same steps but ensure the polish is suitable for painted surfaces. Use lighter pressure and focus on restoring gloss. Avoid buffering all the way down to raw fiberglass. Consult a professional if paint damage is severe.

Why Does Oxidation Occur on RV Fiberglass?

There are a few key reasons fiberglass is prone to oxidation –

Exposure to UV Rays 

The sun’s strong UV radiation degrades and oxidizes the gel coat surface over time. RVs parked outside year-round are especially prone.

Environmental Factors 

Pollution, dirt, dust, and contaminants in the air settle on the surface and cause gradual oxidation. Areas near highways or under trees are more impacted.

Normal Aging  

Gelcoat and paint naturally weaken and cloud as the RV ages. Oxidation accelerates this process.

Improper Care 

Using harsh cleaners or abrasives incorrectly can wear down the protective surface faster, increasing oxidation.

Regular removal keeps oxidation under control so it doesn’t advance to permanent damage. Plus washing and waxing also provide added protection.

Is It Mandatory to Remove Oxidation from the Fiberglass Regularly?

Allowing oxidation to build up over many years can lead to permanent damage, so regular removal is highly recommended as part of routine maintenance.

Yes, it is recommended to remove oxidation every 1-2 years as part of routine RV maintenance. Oxidation is inevitable over time but regular removal prevents permanent damage to the gelcoat or paint. Heavily oxidized fiberglass can crack, warp, allow water intrusion, and degrade interior insulation if left unaddressed. Investing a little time each year to remove oxidation will keep the RV’s exterior in good condition.

Benefits of Removing Oxidation from the Fiberglass

Restoring an oxidized exterior provides several advantages –

a) Removes dull, faded spots to bring back the deep, glossy finish the RV had when new.

b) Oxidation left alone can lead to cracks, delamination, and water leakage. Preventing such expensive repairs saves money in the long run.

c) A shiny, vibrant exterior has high visual appeal and makes a great impression. An oxidized RV looks dated and worn.

d) Heavy oxidation can hide cracks or damage. Removing it permits close inspection of the RV’s overall exterior health.

e) Oxidation tends to spread if not controlled so addressing it early keeps the entire surface protected.

f) A smooth, restored finish is easier to keep clean since dirt and debris won’t cling as much. Waxing provides added protection too.

How Often Should You Remove Oxidation?

Consistency is important when it comes to removing oxidation. Here are some guidelines on frequency –

Storage: RVs parked indoors or under covers need less frequent removal than those parked outdoors year-round.

Use Frequency: RVs used often and traveling to different regions will oxidize faster than rarely used units.

The extent of Oxidation: If oxidation is severe or spreading quickly, remove more frequently, up to every 6-12 months.

DIY vs Professional: Professionals can tackle heavier oxidation in difficult-to-reach spots. Consider pro-polishing every 2-3 years.

Waxing: Regular waxing 2-4 times per year provides added protection against oxidation.

Assess your individual situation but plan on oxidization removal at least once a year before storage or the prime travel season.

How to Prevent Fiberglass From Oxidation?

Consistency is key when it comes to maintenance. Here are some proven tips –

a) Wax at least twice a year using a high-quality polymer wax suitable for fiberglass. This provides a protective barrier.

b) Wash monthly or biweekly with a boat/RV wash that contains wax. Avoid dish soap or harsh cleaners.

c) Inspect closely for early signs of oxidation such as loss of gloss or whitish areas. Address immediately before it worsens.

d) If parked outside, use a cover when not in use to shield from sun and pollution.

e) Change wax pads/wool bonnets often when compounding to prevent paint swirls or holograms.

f) Avoid excessive pressure when buffering and maintain a controlled technique to prevent burning the gel coat.

g) When possible, store the RV indoors or under a covered shelter during seasons of non-use.

What to Do to Keep Your Fiberglass Overall Fine?

In addition to regular oxidation removal and maintenance tips, there are some other important practices that will help keep your RV’s fiberglass in optimal shape. Make it a habit to thoroughly inspect the exterior a few times per year looking for any hairline cracks, soft spots, or impact damage that should be addressed quickly. Wash the RV regularly with a high-quality boat/RV wash, not dish soap. Wax at least twice per year with a wax designed for fiberglass.

Check all sealants around windows, doors, seams, etc, and re-seal as needed to prevent water intrusion issues. Touch up any small fiberglass chips and nicks smoothly with gelcoat repair kits so they don’t spider into bigger cracks. Consider installing protective UV or stain-resistant films on the front and rear caps for added protection. Staying diligent with these inspections and repairs, along with the maintenance tips outlined earlier, will keep your fiberglass exterior in the best shape possible.

Common Related Questions

What is the easiest oxidation removal method?

For minor oxidation, hand application of rubbing compound followed by waxing may suffice. Use a foam applicator pad and minimal pressure. Test in an inconspicuous spot first.

Will auto-store compounds work on fiberglass?

Yes, many general auto polishes and rubbing compounds work well on minor fiberglass oxidation. Ensure they are safe for clearcoats. Avoid anything too abrasive.

Can I use a household buffer or orbital sander?

We don’t recommend it. The high speeds and uncontrolled motion can burn through the gel coat. Invest in a low-speed buffer designed for auto-polishing. It allows precise compounding motion.

How do I know if the oxidation is too severe for DIY removal?

If the dull areas persist after multiple buffing attempts, or you see cracking/peeling clearcoat, it’s best to call in a professional experienced with fiberglass repair. They have specialized tools and materials.

End Note

Regularly removing oxidation is essential to keeping your RV’s fiberglass finish looking its best. While it may seem like a daunting task, having the right tools and technique makes the process easier. Follow the methods outlined in this article to banish oxidation, restore shine, and maintain exterior protection on your prized fiberglass RV. Consistent care will keep it looking showroom-new for many more years of enjoyment.

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