Removing Your Old RV Decals

A heat gun is necessary for removing old decals.

Nate Berkus said, "Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love."  I think the same can be said for a person's camper.  An RV becomes a reflection about how we like to spend our time in the outdoors and our own personal style as well.  From minimalistic to totally glammed up, I see campers of every variety at the campground.  The first thing that you see of anyone's home or RV is the exterior, and Peggy Sue is getting a facelift starting with the removal of her old decals.

RV decals will weather over time.  Dried and cracking decals make a camper look tired and dated.  If you are thinking about painting your camper, your first step should be stripping off your old decals.  This will give you clean surface to paint.  Then you can tell the story of who you are with the colors and new decals you choose.

Peggy Sue's old decals were not doing her any favors!

I am replacing my old decals with ones similar to the original.  I've purchased Jayco decals with the bird logo that will go on the front and back of my box.  I know this ordinary and not very creative, but the interior of my pop up completely expresses me as a person.  If you are uncertain about your decals, start with the basics.  You can always add additional decals or details.

New decals can be purchased through your RV dealership.  Ebay is another resource.  I went the eBay route.  The Jayco style decals I purchased are from wwhitney9 on eBay.  He offers a wide assortment of RV decals.

If you own a Cricut or similar machine (or know someone who does), have something custom made just for you.  There is nothing that says you have to go with your brand of camper's decals.  Being creative and unique is what makes this process so much fun!

I used a Wagner Heat Gun to remove my decals.  Begin by adjusting your heat settings to between 350 and 400 degrees.  You want a medium heat setting.  Even though this heat gun has a selection of end caps, I found the best result by using the heat gun with no end attachments.  There is a digital heat setting function.  The controls allow you to turn the fan up and down.  When you are done, press the power button and it switches into a cool function.  I love how easy and well the heat gun works.

The Wagner Heat Gun comes in a plastic carrying case with all of the attachments and a scraper.

When you press the power to turn the heat gun off, the display tells you it has switche to the cool mode.

Start by going over the old decal with the heat gun to loosen it from the side of your camper.  Use a sweeping motion going back and forth in small sections.  As you start to see the decal bubble, lift and peel away from your camper.  You can do this with your nails or a putty knife.  Just be sure not to use a sharp object that would puncture the metal on your camper.

I had long quadruple stripes down my camper.  (insert sad face here!)  Therefore, this took a lot of time to get it off.  The actual logos were the first and easiest to remove.  I worked in hour increments over a weekend to get most of this done.  Depending on the number of decals and size of them, be prepared to do this over an extended period of time.  Pace yourself and just do it!

I don't recommend using any attachments for this.

The only problem I had was the bronze stripes.  They would not come off!  This had nothing to do with the heat gun.  I felt like it had more to do with the type of vinyl decals and just the overall age.  It was like they were melted to my camper in a way that refused to budge.  I'm using a tan color to paint the box of our camper.  I plan to use a buffing instrument to buff the edges smooth where the decals are flakey.  This will give me a smooth surface to paint.

This is the buffing tool my husband used on the roof.  It is a round wire attachment that fits onto a drill.  This is what I recommend!

Its now or never now the the old decals are gone.

Once you have removed your decals, I recommend going over the places where the adhesive and decals were with acetone to get off any addition goo or patches that would show through the paint.  Finally, give everything a good wash and allow to dry.

Now you are ready to paint!

Certainly, you could paint your camper without taking off your decals, but I wouldn't recommend it.  You are going to get a much better look by starting fresh.  This has been a project that I put off more than a year.  It was a project that I dreaded.  Full disclosure here.  This was not a fun project.  The desire for the finished end result is much greater than the fun factor.  So, I dug in my heels and just did it.

You may be thinking that is a great idea but what am I going to use a heat gun for besides this one project.  A heat gun can be used for lots of things.  Its a handy and necessary tool for applying the thick countertop vinyl that I used in my initial camper remodel.

I'd love to see your finished projects if you have tackled this yourself.  Feel free to drop me a line and share a picture that shows how you express yourself through your camper!

Until next time...

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  1. Small question. I have an old ‘89 Class A RV. Stripes and decals very old and cracked. RV is fiberglass. I had planned to buy a heat gun but a Facebook group recommended using steam (?!) One person recommended using a blow dryer. I guess the concern was the heat gun would be too hot. I think from something in your post your RV was metal? Do you think a heat gun would be OK on fiberglass? Especially if I dial it down so it’s not on a high setting

    1. My camper was metal. I'm not sure about the fiber glass and a heat gun. But, You could certainly try steam with a clothes steamer or blow dryer first to see what results you would have. I would love to hear more about your results!


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