removing old silicone from trim - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-21-2007, 05:49 PM   #1
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I bought a 75 Trillium recently, and am doing what I do best, making it look like new. I have been working on the body trim, and the previous owner or the owner before him had silicone gooped up on the top of the body trim( can't have that), I used a surgical scalpel ( great tool available on e-bay) to score the silicone from the body and the aluminum trim. I was struggling with the remaining silicone using coarse steel wool. " you gotta be smarter than what you're working on", so I took a wooden dowel I had laying around, cut it down the center about 1", then notched out the remainder of the cut. This gave me 3 cutting edges left on the dowel, I used this to run along the trim and against the body of the trailer and found it was very effective in removing the old silicone sealer without damaging the gel coat. When the edge of the dowel wore I just cut it back on a scroll saw a little and had a fresh edge.

Once I scored the silicone from the body and the trim with the scalpel, the trim popped loose, the original rivets were shot. I drilled each rivet with a 3/16 drill bit, and replaced the smaller rivets with the larger ones which worked out perfectly. After re riveting the aluminun molding, I ran the dowel across the top of the trim, and finished off the prep for the new silicone with alchohol & 000 steel wool. The trailer trim came out great and only took about 4 hours to do.
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Old 10-21-2007, 06:56 PM   #2
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Good job! I would advise using bronze wool (marine supply store) rather than steel wool because any small pieces that get loose in the gelcoat, silicone or wax will leave a rust stain that might be hard to remove. Actually, I would avoid using any metal that might scrape the gelcoat surface.

Be sure silicon used is the bathroom stuf with anti-mildew stuf in it or it will look bad later.

I don't recall the name, but Wally had a product, made by 3M I think, that removed silicone smears from stuf like gelcoat -- Said so right on the front of the container.
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Old 10-21-2007, 08:13 PM   #3
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Hi Roger! I just landed onto this forum recently, and while I have been reading for a while, you get my first post on the forum!

I'm not sure if this has been discussed previously on the forum, but I wanted to drop you a line because I just went through this exercise a few weeks ago with our "new" 1974 Trillium. I used a small paint scraper (rasor blade type) to delicately peel off the old silicone without scratching the gelcoat. I then used acetone to clean out the leftover bits using a brass toothbrush-like paint scraper, used a dremel with a metal polishing bit to bring back the original shine to the entire aluminium trim, and finished it off with a Never-Dull type metal polish. I am very happy with the result, and there was no damage to the gelcoat at all.

One comment: If you drilled through the whole fiberglass wall to install the new rivets, you should really make sure that you seal it off properly to prevent leaks. Silicone doesn't adhere well to fiberglass so you should pick an appropriate caulk, and keep it in check.

My understanding is that the original purpose of the trim was only decorative. There are small rectangular pieces of metal that hold each of the rivets from the inside, and those brackets were originally actually sealed off with a thick layer of fiberglass that covers the entire seam from the inside (to join the two half-eggs together before they put on the ensolite). Therefore, I believe you don't need to put silicone along that trim at all if you follow the original "design" and don't poke holes through the shell, as long as there are no leaks caused by previous damage or repairs. I didn't put any new caulk on mine, and it looks much nicer without, considering I'm not very good with caulk. I did discover one leak, but patched it up with fiberglass from the inside by carefully pulling off the ensolite with a scraper and then fixing the leak in the fiberglass seam.

There is one flaw with the metal brackets however: they tend to rust when water reaches them from the outside, and so would the original non-aluminium rivets. This is probably the only reason why some type of caulk would be useful from the outside. But this is just to point out that a caulk-free seam can be done if you feel like doing extra work.
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Old 10-21-2007, 10:43 PM   #4
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Home Hardware has a plastic corner tool for about $3 that works just great. Removes the silicone without touching the gelcoat. It was right beside the DAP Silicone-Be-Gone, which also works great.
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Old 10-22-2007, 09:57 PM   #5
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Lowes sells a tool just for the purpose of removing caulk. It's located in the paint department. Angled shape and it is about $3.00. It's pointed, kinda V-shaped, and will scoop caulk right out. Just some FYI.
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Old 10-23-2007, 02:17 PM   #6
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Personally, I had tried various plastic tools including those exact ones, but for old dried-on baked-on caulk of many years and sometimes many layers, they just don't cut it. In those cases I find that you need to press hard and occasionaly it can jerk out if you put too much pressure (if the plastic doesn't break) and could nick the gelcoat. Also, results with the caulking solvents will depend on the type of caulking you're dealing with. Your mileage may vary - but indeed you should probably still try those solutions first.
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Old 10-24-2007, 10:38 PM   #7
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Lowes also sells a 'caulk softener' that might be of some help?
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