- Wed, Apr 2, 2008
Spring Greetings from Nappanee….
At last, warm weather and some sunshine have returned to our corner of the Hoosier state. There's just nothing like those first few days of spring, when the temps break into the 60's and 70's for the first time. It's nothing short of invigorating for those of us who have been cooped up in our homes for the winter.
Long ago I got in the habit in the spring of giving my cars a good thorough cleaning and waxing. I guess it is the "car guy" in me that shudders at the image of a really nasty car, caked in road salt and dirt. I just have to give it a good thorough cleaning, and a coat of my favorite wax, or I don't enjoy driving it. It's not a bad idea for your RV, too.
Regardless whether your unit is a "full paint" coach or not, there are steps to be taken on a regular basis to keep it clean and shining, and looking like new for years to come. Essentially, the paint we use (and have for decades) on Newmar units is an automotive type; it is basically the same as the paint that's on your car or truck. As such, the cleaning and maintenance of your units finish is much the same. To insure long life and bright shine, it should be washed and waxed on a regular basis.
That sounds simple enough, but it can be a little more complex than that. As a "car guy", I grew up washing my cars as my "car guy" brothers before me had. Get a bucket, some liquid dish washing soap, a sponge, and go to it. There were some simple rules, like wash from the top down, don't wash in direct sunlight, and don't use my mother's best towels to dry it; spend the money for a nice chamois. Once a month I would take some time on a Saturday afternoon to put a coat of "Turtle Wax" on it, and that was it. Life was good, and my '72 Pontiac Grand Prix shined like a new dime.
Little did I know that even though it sparkled, I really wasn't doing much to extend the life of the paint. Also, the factory Mediterranean Blue Metallic paint on my Gran Prix was the old style single coat paint. A lot has changed since then. Yes, the finish on your unit is an automotive style, but now it is a "multi-stage" paint… meaning it is applied in different stages, or layers. Instead of the old days where you mixed up one can of paint, chemically reduced it, and sprayed it on, now you do it in separate, distinct layers. The result is a finish that is brilliant in shine, has some genuine "depth" to its appearance, and is considerably more durable.
The current paint job starts life with a smooth, clean surface, sealed, prepped, and ready for the first coat of paint. The "color" coat is sprayed to give the surface its actual color. On application, this coat actually has a dull appearance to it. It is a smooth, even coating of the surface in a given color. What gives the shine and depth that makes so many of today's paint jobs so beautiful is the clear coat that is applied over it. This clear coat not only brings out the sparkle and brilliance of the color that was applied, it also provides a durable protective coating over that color for extended life.
Just as the paint type and application process has changed over the years, so too has the care and maintenance. One walk through the automotive section of your nearest Wal-Mart or auto parts store will show you that there appears to be a zillion choices when it comes to detergents, waxes, cleaners, polishes, rubbing compounds, and so on. It is no longer acceptable to use the dish washing detergent to wash your unit, and though Turtle Wax still leaves that "hard shell finish", it may not be the best choice for your given situation.
Starting with the basics of washing, detergents come in all kinds of formulations. Look for a detergent that is gentle to the surface, and does not strip wax. There are a number of detergents on the market that offer "sheeting" action to allow for quicker drying, or no drying because the water rinses off in sheets. While this is convenient, it can leave a "build-up" of material over the paint that eventually dulls it, or makes waxing a little more effort. The best choice for washing the exterior of your unit is a mild automotive washing detergent formulated not to strip wax off. It's enough work to wax an RV without removing some every time you wash it again. Rinse the entire surface thoroughly to remove large dirt and debris, as well as to remove dust, which can act as an abrasive and scratch the surface of the paint while washing if not removed. Use a soft, clean sponge, cloth, or brush (with extremely soft bristles), and wash the surface gently. Where possible, wash your unit in the shade (it's a little tougher than pulling the Gran Prix behind the house into the shade, but it is important), and be sure to completely rinse all of the soap off. Soap residue leaves stains, streaks, and can damage or dull the paint over time if left on.
The best rule of thumb for waxing is to do it when the unit no longer beads water. That is going to be very relative to both your climate, and the type of wax you use. For some, it may be monthly; for others, less often. Regardless of your schedule, though, make sure you use the right wax for the job at hand. If the paint isn't faded, and has a nice shine, a good paste or liquid wax formulated for "clear coat" finishes is ideal. Turtle Wax, McGuires, and so on, are all quality waxes that will give a durable shine. If the paint is faded or oxidized, a "polish" or "cleaner" may be more in order for the situation. Like a wax, "polishes" and "cleaners" give a durable shine, but they also employ a very mild abrasive to help remove the oxidization from the paint. You can feel it if you rub some between your fingers; the abrasive is mild, but it can be felt. Polishes also help remove "swirl" marks that appear after lots of washings. Again, it is critical to make sure the product used is formulated for "clear coat" finishes. Avoid "Rubbing Compounds" like the plague; it is essentially the equivalent to taking a hand full of sand and rubbing it into the paint. It is designed to cut into the paint, and should be used ONLY by professionals. By the way, most paint manufacturers recommend waiting at least 90 days before applying the fist coat of wax to allow the paint to properly cure.
While we are talking about washing here, it is also a good time to discuss cleaning your wheels. There are a lot of great wheel cleaning products out there that offer you the ease of spraying them on, waiting a few minutes for them to act, then rinsing them off. While that is certainly the ultimate in convenience, it can be catastrophic to the finish of an alloy wheel or stainless wheel cover. Most wheel manufacturers recommend cleaning the wheels with a soft cloth or sponge and using the same mild detergent used to wash the painted surfaces on the unit.
Well, that's about it from here for now. Thanks for tuning in again, and enjoy that spring weather! I know I am going to! See you next month!