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How To Remove RV Decals: A Complete Guide

This post was updated on March 27th, 2024

how to remove RV decals - RV with a water and mountain view

How To Remove RV Decals: A Complete Guide

Almost every RV comes with decorative decals and logos from the manufacturer. It’s just part of the deal! However, over time these decals can sometimes fade, crack, and start to bring down the overall appearance of your vehicle. Before you can add new ones or just get rid of them entirely, you need to clear the old ones away. Whatever the case may be, it’s good to know how to remove RV decals when you don’t want them anymore.

There are a couple of methods you can use to get rid of these old or unwanted decorations. They each come with some pros, cons, and risks, so make sure you weigh the options carefully before deciding.

Ways to remove RV decals

Method 1: Heat Gun

One of the most popular solutions for removing decals is the heat method. Decals are made from temperature-sensitive materials that shrink and peel when exposed to direct heat. This is part of the reason why they sometimes fade and scuff off when they’re exposed to too much sunlight.

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For this technique, you’ll need a handheld heat gun or something similar (like a hairdryer or a steamer). As long as you can direct the flow of the heated air, you’ll be in good shape. If it’s a hot day, you can also just park the RV in the direct sunlight for a few hours to loosen everything up. This isn’t as effective as using a heat gun, but it makes the process a little easier.

Hold the heat gun about 4-5 inches above the decal and slowly move it back and forth. The edges should begin to warp and peel up after a few minutes. Don’t turn up the heat too high or hold the gun too close to the RV because you could bubble the paint and ruin the lamination.

Once the decal begins to loosen up, grab one of the edges and gently begin to peel it up. Don’t go too fast because you could rip the piece. If it begins to tear or stick to the RV surface, apply more heat until it loosens up again. It’s tempting to try to go fast once you begin, but you’ll have a much cleaner result if you take your time.

Method 2: 3M Stripe Off Wheel

If your decals are more stubborn or you don’t want to risk heat damaging your RV, you can also try the 3M Stripe Off Wheel method. This is a common solution for the question of how to remove RV decals that don’t seem to peel away. If they are particularly old, they make have hardened and are firmly stuck to the surface.

The 3M wheels are designed to fit on handheld drills and they basically sand the decal away. However, the wheel is gentle enough that it shouldn’t damage the paint or lamination of your RV as long as you’re careful. The best drill to combine these with is usually a 3/8″ drill.

Before you use one of these, make sure that what you’re dealing with is a decal and not a painted graphic. These can’t be easily polished away by one of these wheels and you could end up damaging the surface if you try to use it on paint.

To start, place the wheel on the drill and secure it in place. The wheel can be used at a rate of 4,000 RPM and it’s not safe or effective to go over this limit. Activate the drill and carefully guide the wheel along the surface of the decal. It should peel away the remaining decoration with little effort.

You can buy a 3M Stripe Off Wheel on Amazon here.

Method 3: Manual Peeling

If you don’t want to use any kind of heat or friction to help you on your quest of how to remove RV decals, you can always try to manually peel them off. This is one of the least effective and most difficult methods, but it can be done if you don’t have better options available.

For this technique, you just need something you can use to peel up the edges of the decal. A razor, putty knife, credit card, or even your fingernails can work. Carefully pull up an edge or corner of the decal with one of these tools and try to peel as much of it off as you can.

Rips are common with this method and you may not be able to get everything off at once. Again, this is the least effective thing to do, but it can sometimes work.

What to do after removing RV decals

Getting rid of the decals is just the first step in the process. Once the outer layer is gone, there is usually a tacky residue left behind from the back of the sticker. If this is left untreated it will attract dirt and other debris that will stick to your RV.

So once you’ve solved the problem of how to remove RV decals, the next thing to do is clean the surface underneath. You can spray an adhesive remover on the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes, then use a flat-edged tool like a putty knife or razor to scrape the glue away.

Once everything is clean and no longer sticky, you may notice that there is still an outline of the decal on the RV exterior. This will be particularly noticeable if it’s an older RV that has had the decals in place for a long time. Oxidation usually leaves an imprint or outline of a long-term decal and you’ll probably want to get rid of that in order to enjoy a clean, fresh appearance.

Oxidation from decals can be removed by using products like Meguiar’s M4916 Marine/RV Heavy Duty Oxidation Remover. Applying a coat of this can help restore the original color and remove spots and stains that were left behind. The decal outline may take a while to fade completely, but tactics like this will help it blend in with the rest of the exterior.

Finally, even if you were very careful, it’s likely that your RV sustained a few scratches and scrapes that need to be smoothed over. Applying a final coat of wax can return it to its glossy and smooth state.

If you wanted to know how to remove RV decals so you could replace them with new glossy ones, you can usually find replacements at your RV manufacturer. Decals can add a nice decorative touch, but they’re not for everyone. Just rest assured that you can replace or remove decals because they aren’t permanent fixtures.

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.

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