Removing RV paint/rock guard protective film

My guest writer (Steve) is geared up to write a Betsy maintenance story, so I told the birthday boy to fire away.  My birdwatching tale will just have to wait a few more days…here’s a project Steve recently completed:

If your RV didn’t come with a clear protective film on the front, or if the protective film on your RV is still in good shape, this article is not for you.  But if after a few years and a few miles of travel you are noticing pitting and discoloration that’s making you consider removing that film, you may want to read on and see how I “got ‘er done” – after lots of research and multiple attempts with several different products.

Removing scotch guard film from an RV

I got a good arm and shoulder workout on this day!

This protective film has been called “Scotchguard Protectant Film”, “3M Rock Guard” and “Diamond Shield”.  I don’t know if these are different names for the same product, or even which one was applied to our 2008 Winnebago (no indication on the invoice).  I hope some of the details below will help folks, no matter which protective film they are dealing with.

3M Rock Guard

Lucky for me, I was able to pull all of the large sections off in one piece

I’ve read about and seen this protectant film in various stages of deterioration, and I’ve heard horror stories about how it just chipped off in little pieces when folks tried to remove it.  The film on our coach wasn’t too bad after 6 years of use, and with some muscle power I was able to get it off in large pieces.  Another procedure would probably be needed if yours has completely disintegrated.  Best of luck to you if that’s the case!

3M Rock Guard removed

That’s all of it – now on to the real work!

As some of you may know, getting the adhesive removed after pulling the film off is the real project.  I tried paint thinner and then acetone to dissolve the nasty stuff, neither of which worked (and believe me it scared the heck out of me to rub acetone onto my nice paint job!).

The product that did it for me was Xylene, which evaporates more slowly than the others and seemed to soften the adhesive quickly.  I was able to get a quart of Xylene at my local Ace hardware store.

Removing adhesive on motorhome

This is the nastiest high-tech adhesive I’ve ever dealt with

Xylene

 

I found that doing this work in the shade worked best.  I thought the adhesive might get soft and come off easier in the sun or heat, but the Xylene evaporated too quickly to do its job in those conditions.

Using a cotton rag saturated with Xylene, I generously spread it on a small section of the adhesive, then after a few seconds I could scrape it off fairly easily with a PLASTIC “razor” blade without damaging the paint.  Although I used to paint cars many years ago, I had never heard of these plastic blades and soon discovered they were essential for this project and can also be purchased at Ace.

Plastic Mini Scraper

I couldn’t have done it without these…

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Liberally apply some Xylene to a small area, and wait a few seconds…

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…then just scrape it off with this plastic blade.  You’ll get used to how long to leave it on and how to scrape it soon enough, based on the weather and how much adhesive is present

After scraping off the adhesive, there were small trace amounts of it left behind that could be wiped off with a little more Xylene.  After completing each section, I flooded the area with water to dilute any chemical remnants that might possibly damage the paint.

Plan on spending several hours to completely remove the adhesive.  It probably took me 4-6 hours once I had figured out the right combination of chemicals and tools.  After that, I broke out my trusty orbital buffer and applied a nice coat of wax to make the front of the coach shine like new.

Meguiars Wax

I love Meguiar’s products, and either the liquid or paste wax can be used with my buffer

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OK, now that’s the reflection I’ve been looking for!

I learned that professionals will charge $300-$600 to do this for you, so I felt pretty good about doing it myself, even though it took a few tries to get it right.

Tools/products needed:

  • Muscle to remove film
  • Xylene
  • Plastic scraper blades
  • Rags and fresh water nearby
  • Buffer
  • Good liquid or paste wax
  • Patience!

Good luck, and let me know if you have any helpful suggestions to make this project easier for other folks!

~Steve