Vinyl graphics are a staple of exterior decoration on motorhomes and other RVs, but as they age the tape stripes often become unsightly. Vinyl graphics respond to exposure to the elements differently than the fibreglass and painted surfaces they are attached to; UV rays break down the material and causes the edges to peel and the colour to fade comparatively quickly. Peeling or cracked tape stripes on older motorhomes are common, and many owners opt to replace them. This process is time-consuming, but can help to refresh the look of an older motorhome. It's also a necessary step before installing new graphics.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Heat gun
- Plastic scraper
- Ammonia-based window cleaner, professional adhesive remover, or denatured alcohol
Soften the edges of the tape stripe with the heat gun, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Slide the scraper underneath an edge or corner and carefully peel it away from the surface.
Continue heating the vinyl as it peels away to keep it pliable. Follow the softening decal with the heat gun as you proceed from one end to the other.
Spray window cleaner or adhesive remover on the site to dissolve the remaining adhesive.
Rub vigorously with the rag and repeat until all adhesive is gone.
Tips and warnings
- Some newer motorhomes have painted-on graphics rather than tape stripes. These cannot be removed. To distinguish between the two, run a finger over the edges; vinyl graphics will be slightly raised while painted graphics are flush with the surrounding colour.
- After many years in the sun, most decals will leave a ghostly afterimage behind, as the fibreglass surrounding the area has faded while what was hidden by the decal has not. Polishing and renewing the fibreglass gelcoat will remove some of the contrast, but the outline of the original decal may always be there.
- Be sure to consult the manufacturer's guidelines for the heat gun you are using, as these tools vary in output and settings. Too much heat can damage the fibreglass, so be sure to observe your heat gun's minimum distance recommendations.
- Metal scrapers can damage the fibreglass walls of your motorhome. Aggressive solvents will also discolour the surface. Check the adhesive remover you are using to be sure that it will not damage fibreglass.
- Sanding to remove remaining adhesive is not advised, as it will also damage the fibreglass.
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