A general guideline is to reseal your RV’s exterior annually. Checking and replacing the caulking on your RV is an easy way to prevent water damage. We do a quick walk around every time we leave a camping or boondocking site. Once every 3-4 months, we take just a few minutes longer to also check for leaks.
How To Reseal Your RV’s Exterior
Today it’s all about resealing your RV exterior! Preventing water damage with regular inspections of your RV will save you tons of money and heartache. Even a small section of missing caulk can lead to catastrophic damage. So read on to learn: how to do an examination, what tools you need, how to remove the old caulk, and how to properly reseal it all.
When To Do A Seal Inspection
We try to inspect all the seals around our truck camper every 3-4 months. We’re living in it full time, so it’s easy to do a quick walk around. If you check your RV at the beginning and the end of each camping season, then you’re probably ahead of the game.
It’s important to examine your seals because over time, the sun’s UV light, rain and dusty winds all work to erode the factory seals.
How Often Do You Reseal Your RV’s Exterior?
It’s recommended to reseal your RV’s exterior every year. Have we done that? No. But hey, we’re doing it now, in our second year. We bought Cupcake, our Artic Fox 990, new in July 2020. So now it’s early August 2022 and we’re about a year behind. Better late than never!
Resealing on an annual basis, even if the seals don’t look particularly worn, could save you from water damage. That’s certainly worth the time it takes for this project.
How Long Does It Take To Reseal Your RV?
A thorough inspection can take 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your rig. We’re not talking about getting out a microscope. Just a quick walk around for an up-close view.
On our truck camper, it took me about 10 hours to inspect, scrape, clean, and reseal the entire exterior. I spread the work out over four days, because, well, there’s no need to get barbaric!
Since this was my first time, day 1 meant learning what worked best. The most important thing I learned is that clear sealant is much more forgiving than white sealant! So I highly recommend using clear.
Examine the RV’s Exterior
Like I mentioned, inspecting your RV’s exterior seals will take less than a half hour. It’s time well spent, especially if you catch and fix a problem area before you get water damage.
You want to check the seals every place that two pieces come together. So what I mean is check around the windows and along the edges where the trim pieces are. If there’s a vent or opening of any kind, then check all around it. Here’s a list to get you started.
- Sides of camper
- Around windows
- Around trim pieces
- In the corner joints of the walls
- Around storage spaces
- Around appliances, like refrigerator venting or hot water tank
Look for any seams that have cracks or gaps.
What Tools Do You Need?
It doesn’t take a lot of expensive tools to reseal your RV’s exterior. It just takes time and a lot of elbow grease. Be sure to use tool number 9 only at the end of your day or you may not get much accomplished!
- Plastic scraper
- Gloves, if you want them
- Clorox wipes, mineral spirits, isopropyl alcohol or acetone
- Painters tape
- Caulking gun
- Garbage bag
- Broom and dust pan
- Step ladder or extension ladder or a 6’3” husband
- Cold beer or margaritas or a big glass of iced tea (it needs to be sweet, though)
Cleaning And Prepping
We washed and waxed our camper the weekend before starting this project. That was a project in itself, but it gave us a good starting point for working on the seals.
You don’t technically have to wash your RV first, but it keeps you from getting as grimy when you’re working.
Gather all your supplies before you start. You really don’t want to be up on a step ladder adding caulk, only to realize you need a papertowel or something to wipe your hands on.
Removing Old Sealant
I’m a perfectionist, so this project was difficult for me. I wanted to scrape every tiny piece of old sealant, but it just doesn’t seem possible. So then I did the best I could and called it good.
If there are cracks or brittleness in your old sealant and you don’t remove it, then the new sealant may just crack right off too. Or it might not adhere properly and then you’ve done hours of work for nothing. So spend the necessary time to remove what you can.
When there are areas of smooth sealant, you don’t have to scrape it off. You can simply clean it and then re-seal over it. That’s what I read, plus I saw it on some YouTube videos, so I’m taking the word of RVers who’ve done this before.
I found it easiest to scrape one whole side of our camper at a time. Next, I went back and wiped it all down. I used Chlorox wipes, because that’s what we had. I’m sure someone is going to leave a comment telling me why I shouldn’t have used it. And you will definitely have a valid point. But, it’s what I had.
You can also use mineral spirits, isopropyl alcohol or acetone to clean off the old sealant.
Where there were big globs of caulk that squished out from behind trim pieces and then turned gross and dusty, I simply scraped it off. It felt rewarding and I tried to get long strips off in one swipe. Rewarding like peeling an apple and you get the skin off in one super long piece. I know you know what I’m talking about.
Scrape at a flat to 45 degree angle, so that you don’t gouge in the caulk. I didn’t want to remove all of it behind the window or trim piece, just the gunky part on the outside.
What Kind Of Sealant Do You Use For RVs?
There are a lot of different brands to seal your RV’s exterior. Boardman RV, who we bought our truck camper from, suggested that we use Dicor. They say it’s a good product and since they are all about RVs, I’m going to trust their advice.
You definitely want to get RV-grade sealant from an RV supply shop or even from Amazon. Hardware stores won’t have what you need. Believe me, I called around after realizing I wanted to switch from white sealant to clear. I called a lot of places with no luck.
Steve picked up Dicor Tap Sealant for the sides of the camper, around the doors, windows, side vents and everything else that is on the side of the RV. It does work really well. He just got white. And I’m really good at caulking house trim, but turns out I’m not so great on the side of a camper.
I ended up getting Sika sealant at the local RV shop, since it’s the only brand they had in clear. So far it seems to be sticking okay. I read that you can have problems getting a good seal when switching between brands. But hopefully I won’t have any problems.
- Dicor Self Leveling for roof
- Dicor Tap Sealant for sides
- Sikasil GP – General Purpose Acetoxy Cure Silicone
Applying New Sealant
After scraping off the old sealant, then I wiped it all down. Scrubbed it really. Then I started applying new sealant.
You can tape it off with painters tape, so that you have a good clean line. I didn’t do that, probably because I was over-confidant. Did I mention that I’m really good at interior caulking? Such a shame that the skill doesn’t really carry over too much.
There are electric caulking guns that apply an even bead of sealant. I don’t have one, so I used an old manual one that we had in storage. It works well and I do have a fairly steady hand. Well, until my hands start shaking, that is. Then I get some globs here and there. Did I also mention that clear sealant is more forgiving than white?
I applied a bead of caulk and then went back to smooth it out with my finger. Some people like to have a bowl of soapy water to dip their finger in first. It helps you get a smooth finish. I’ve never been one to use it, but you do what works best for you.
You can also use a plastic caulking tool to get a clean line of sealant. Again, use what you’re most comfortable with. There’s not really a wrong way to do this. Seal it, keep the water out, you’re good!
If you applied painters tape, you’ll want to remove it as soon as you’ve finished re-sealing. Otherwise it gets hard to pull up. Then let the sealant cure for 24 hours.
A couple who is parked next to us at the RV park came over to check on my progress. They’re full timers for the past six years. And she’s the one who does the scraping and resealing on their RV’s exterior. Her project is a little bigger though, since they’re in a 5th wheel. I’m guessing Cupcake is about a quarter of the length of their rig!
Anyway, I asked her to check my work since she has more experience and she gave me a thumbs up! So that felt great since I’ve been a bit nervous with this project. Getting it wrong could mean I subject us to water damage. And that’s about the scariest RV thing to me.
So after finishing the project, Steve and I did a final walk around. We checked the seals around every window, door, trim and vent to verify that I didn’t miss anything.
Steve has a rating system that he uses on our YouTube channel (go check it out, if you haven’t yet). Anyway, he rates projects from 1 to 5 screwdrivers. I’d give this scraping and sealing project 4 screwdrivers, not because it’s hard, but because it’s dirty and you have to work at crazy angles.
So scrape, clean and reseal your RV’s exterior in about five steps!
- Inspect for cracked and peeling sealant.
- Wash your RV (maybe this should be number 1?).
- Scrape off the old caulk and sealant.
- Clean well.
- Apply new sealant.
Okay, and then the last step is to enjoy a cold beer or soda or even the cocktail, “Screwdriver” just for fun. Put your feet up and pat yourself on the back, because you just saved a lot of money by doing this project yourself. And now you’re protected against water damage for another year!