Painting over cracks - Cadet - Fiberglass RV
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Old 04-11-2021, 08:59 AM   #1
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Question Painting over cracks - Cadet

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A large portion of my camper is crackled like this. I am totally inexperienced in body work, and I will be rolling paint on it myself.
Will these cracks sand out, or do I have to apply something? Almost the entire camper is like this.
I can't afford a body shop repair. What's the best DIY fix on a budget?
The camper is not perfect, and I don't expect it to look perfect when I'm done, I just would like it to be more smooth than it currently is.
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Old 04-11-2021, 10:42 AM   #2
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From your pics, that looks like paint cracking/chipping, not gelcoat. Either way, start by sanding (or if it actually is paint, you can chemical strip it). If sanding or stripping eradicates all of the cracks, then proceed with priming and painting. However, if after sanding/stripping there are still remaining cracks, this is probably cracked gelcoat. I would use a dremel to grind remaining cracks, then fill with fairing compound or gelcoat and sand again, then prime/paint.
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Old 04-11-2021, 10:44 AM   #3
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Gelcoat

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Originally Posted by John in Michigan View Post
From your pics, that looks like paint cracking/chipping, not gelcoat. Either way, start by sanding (or if it actually is paint, you can chemical strip it). If sanding or stripping eradicates all of the cracks, then proceed with priming and painting. However, if after sanding/stripping there are still remaining cracks, this is probably cracked gelcoat. I would use a dremel to grind remaining cracks, then fill with fairing compound or gelcoat and sand again, then prime/paint.
It's gelcoat.
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Old 04-11-2021, 11:40 AM   #4
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First, I would use a strong bleach/water solution to kill all living stuff in it. Painting over mold is not good. Mold may continue to grow under the paint.
Because you don’t care how bad it looks, go to Walmart and look for spray rubber in a can. It comes in different colors. (It is not undercoating) or you can get white FlexSeal spray or paste. Now if you are going to use a roller to apply the paint, be sure to lightly sand the whole camper so the paint will stick. When you are done, you will have an ugly but serviceable camper.
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Old 04-11-2021, 11:49 AM   #5
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Doreen, the short answer to your question whether the crack will sand out: yes. Certainly the body exterior is gelcoated. If there is no paint over the gelcoat, then WOW you have thousands of gelcoat cracks. And yes you can sand them all out. Gelcoat cracks tend to go all the way down to the fiberglass substrate, so you may need to sand the gelcoat completely off in some areas. If you need to do this, then I would suggest then recoating with new gelcoat or fairing compound, before painting, but you could just paint.
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Old 04-12-2021, 11:03 AM   #6
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Doreen, before you undertake this realize that it will be a great deal of work and you will only get out of it what you put into it. Preparation is 99% of a successful paint job!
It isn't only the damage you can see that needs to be addressed but also the subsurface damage you can't see and this will only be obvious once you begin sanding. You may or may not be surprised!
Wash your unit well with an automotive soap and water, Scrub where necessary to remove grease and other road debris, you don't want to grind this stuff into the surface when you sand.
You don't need a stripper. You don't need bleach, mold can't digest fiberglass but it can digest dirt and debris on a fiberglass surface so wash it well.
Sand the entire unit. Unless you have structural damage, sanding should (sufficiently) eliminate surface cracking. Any cracks in the fiberglass will need to be cleaned out and fixed. Sanding removes loose surface materials to provide the surface coating (paint etc.) a secure surface to stick too. Sanding the shine from a smooth surface also promotes adhesion.
The courser the grit of the sandpaper the faster it will sand the surface however course sandpaper leaves many fine scratches which must be sanded out or filled later in the process.
Use a glazing putty to fill the imperfections after sanding. Allow to dry and sand level with the surrounding surface.
A light coat of primer will show any imperfections missed/needing additional putty. A heavier coat of high solids primer will help to eliminate these imperfections.
I prefer spray application but a roller can also be used. During application, try to avoid dry edges as they can show up after the paint has dried. Start at one edge/side and work toward the opposite one. You can (and should) apply additional coats of paint, as per manufacturer's specifications. Fine sanding between coats make the surface smoother and thus shine better. Fine sanding (waterpaper) after the final coat can produce a surface comparable to spraying.
When I do this I remove the windows. This not only yields a better finished product but also allows me the opportunity to reseal the windows, a little preventative maintenance so to speak but this is additional work and may not be something you want to undertake in addition to a paint job.
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Old 04-13-2021, 08:42 AM   #7
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Thanks

Thanks for the advice.
I am sanding the camper today, and I ordered 4 quarts of Rustoleum marine primer. I really don't know how much it takes for a 13' camper.
Hopefully, it will look much better than it does now.
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Old 04-13-2021, 10:37 AM   #8
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That's great Doreen! Good luck and keep us updated on your progress!
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Old 04-24-2021, 11:04 AM   #9
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Remove the windows and external fixtures. Sand out all the loose and pealing paint and chalked gelcoat. Use two part "interlux" watertight epoxy filler. Very very thin coats in very small mixed batches with a flexible plastic application tool. Apply so thin only the cracks and low spots take filler. Sand after first application and do a second skinnig of filler. Sand again and inspect. Sometimes for perfection a third coat is nessacery. Now use a two part epoxy primer international 540 or epoxy sanding primer. You are now ready for the color paints - alway use two part catalyzed paints - marine or ppg auto paints.

It's a lot of work, but you will not get good results without completing each step fully. One bad step and you cannot cover it up in later steps. Take your time and do it right. In the end you will take pride in the accomplishment. A poor ugly job will stare you in the face forever.
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Old 04-24-2021, 11:15 AM   #10
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I have just restored a captain with almost the same amount of cracking and it is mostly gelll coat but it did require a large amount of sanding and glazing with spot putty over virtualy the entire shell . The roof was so bad that I sanded the best I could and sprayed the roof with paintable bed liner as with the captains fairly flat roof it is not highly visible and it turned out pretty well and by using the interlux bright side paint with the roll and tip method I was further able to hide the cracks.
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