Hand Painting a Campervan

Hand Painting a Campervan

Hand painting a campervan is easier than you think and will save you a lot of money and protect your campervan from corrosion. 

Read through this post to find out how I painted my van for about £150.

Hand Painting a Campervan
The photo above was taken on Christmas Day 2017 in a campsite in Javea, Spain. The interior of our van was mostly complete, but the outside was untouched and desperately in need of a good thick layer of protective paint. It was quite cold and daylight hours were limited, but I managed to get the job finished in about two weeks.

We were the only campervan owners in the campsite and the other residents were motorhome owners on long-term lets. So all eyes were on us as we rolled up in our hippy van and, later, as we sanded and painted it. I think there was a lot of trepidation as it was probably expected that I'd make a mess of it.

Even I wasn't confident! The pressure was on....

Hand Painting a Campervan
I did a bit of preparation work before we moved to the campsite.

Here, I'm cleaning out the sliding door roller gap.

Hand Painting a Campervan
This area was very corroded and crumbly so I patched it up with a small tub of fibreglass filler.

Hand Painting a Campervan
You don't have long to use fibreglass filler so mix a small amount at a time.

The warmer the weather, the faster it will harden.

Hand Painting a Campervan
Just as I was finishing off the patching up, a police car rolled up right behind me. We were parked on a grassy ear near the sea and, obviously, we weren't welcome. The police threatened me with a one thousand euro fine if we didn't leave within the hour. It was very lucky I didn't decide to take off the grills and set about painting it there! So, off we went to the campsite.

Hand Painting a Campervan
All the grills, door handles and registration plates were then removed. The photo above shows some silver paintwork at the back. This hatch is where my registration plate was attached. I didn't remove the bumpers and I found it easy enough to paint with them on.


Hand Painting a Campervan
I can't remember how I removed the door handles but I seem to remember watching YouTube videos to find out.


Hand Painting a Campervan
I spray painted all of the grills with silver paint. The paint has chipped a bit in the last eighteen months, especially at the front, but it's mostly remained intact.


Hand Painting a Campervan
Then came the big task of sanding the whole van, filling in dints and holes, and sanding again. Preparation is key.....a sanding also provides a key for the paint to stick.


Hand Painting a Campervan

Hand Painting a Campervan
I didn't do any taping up but, instead, did very careful 'cutting-in' painting with a brush around all of the windows. Just make sure you have a wet brush and stroke from left to right very slowly, going over again to fill in any missed bits.


Hand Painting a Campervan
I used a Restoleum-type paint. I can't remember the name now....it was a Spanish brand. It doesn't need a primer. Having read several times on the internet that you should apply lots of thinned down layers, I started out with very thin paint. However, it was a waste of time and very difficult as it dripped a lot. A got some good advice from the paint shop and applied the paint neat. This way, you only need to apply two or three coats.


Make sure you start early in the day to ensure you have time to paint everything one time before it starts to go dark. A few times, I was painting past dark and I got ill because of it.

One coat a day should be your aim. Don't leave it any longer between coats or you will need to leave the paint to harden completely and sand again between coats.

Warm weather is better, but not too warm, and definitely not too much wind!

Hand Painting a Campervan
I tried a couple of other types of roller before I used these, which are flocked non-shedding mini-rollers. They were more expensive but they're worth the extra cost. Rustoleum is so tacky that you have to use non-shedding rollers. You don't need any other size other than the standard mini size.


Hand Painting a Campervan
Do NOT use ordinary min-rollers (as seen above) to paint your campervan with Rustoleum!


You will be forever picking out little lumps of fluff and your paint will dry before you have had time to spread it out evenly.

Invest in the best and don't use the rollers twice. Just use a new one each day. Normally, I like to save materials and re-use things as much as possible, but you do not want to be using a turps-wet roller on uncured paint as it will dissolve it. You also don't want to use yesterday's roller still full of yesterday's paint as it will be partly dried and will leave a texture in your paintwork.

Hand Painting a Campervan
I painted three coats around the windows.


Hand Painting a Campervan
Do one area at a time. Take into account the air temperature, wind speed, amount of direct sun, etc.


Paint the areas not in the shade rather than in direct sun, although it is possible to paint in direct sun.....you just need to be a lot faster and more careful.

Hand Painting a Campervan
I removed the crumbling rubber trim on the gutter and used turps to clean off the sticky residue. I've not put a new one on. I think it's less likely to go rusty without one and it was only there to protect the paintwork.


Hand Painting a Campervan


Hand Painting a Campervan

Hand Painting a Campervan

Hand Painting a Campervan
Lightly sand between coats if you can feel, with your bare hands, any roughness or unevenness. I didn't do any flattening down or electrical sanding. Everything was done by hand. I didn't get a mirror finish but I am happy with the finish I got.

Click the link below to see someone who did the 'flattening' work...

VIDEO OF HAND PAINTING OF CAMPERVAN WITH MIRROR FINISH

Hand Painting a Campervan
Keep animals and children tied up at all times!

I didn't put a final clear coat on top of the silver paint, as seems to be the norm. My view is that if rust starts to come through in a year or two, you don't want to have to sand off all the clear coat...you just want to touch up the paint. Sure, enough, a year and a half on and the seams are oozing some rustiness. I was really thorough with the seams but they really are a weak spot. However, it will be very easy to apply some rust eater and some more silver paint. The paint has, in general, remained intact with no cracking, crazing, bubbling or peeling. I think that's pretty amazing considering we were in the middle of Spain during the heatwave last year.

When I drove out of the campsite in my newly named 'Silver Slug', I drove around the narrow lanes of the site to be able to drive-by the motorhome owners we had befriended. A few had their hands on their hips, shaking their heads in disbelief. Phew! I pulled it off...



Off we went to the next seaside town. We found a decent place to park where we could cook outside. It's jolly good we found that place because our portable gas stove exploded as we were cooking...outside! It was lucky for us but unlucky for our newly painted van, which got splattered with molted black plastic all over one side and the roof!

Hey, I knew at the start this hand painting a campervan business was only going to be a short-term fix. I just didn't realise just how short-term it would be!

Most of the damage was, in fact, quickly rectifiable and Silver Slug only suffered a few scars. The sliding door took most of the blast and you can just see some unevenness in the finish. She's due a re-touch now and all I'll have to do is apply some rust eater and brush on a bit of paint. This is a lifetime commitment but that's ok. I am in control of my campervan's paintwork and not at the mercy of expensive paint shops.



I hope my account of hand painting my campervan is of some use to you.

Remember...


1. Preparation is key....wash, fill, sand.

2. You don't need a primer if you use Rustoleum on old paintwork.

3. Use Rustoleum or similar NEAT not dilluted.

4. Do not use brushes or rollers that have turps or white spirit on them.

5. Use non-shedding 'flocked' rollers.

6. Start early in the day & aim to paint the whole campervan in a day.

7. Don't leave it too long between coats or you'll need to sand.

8. Use a combination of roller and brush.

9. Keep working the paint until it starts to dry.

10. Don't be afraid...you can do it!


Good luck if you choose to hand paint your campervan.



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