Replace or repaint aluminum RV siding?

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mjfinn1964

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As I progress with rebuilding the interior of my 20-yr old fifth-wheel, I keep looking at the shell and struggle with the decision of whether to replace the entire outside, or to repaint it. It is made of the typical aluminum siding, and has a few dings here and there. Other than the roof which has several patches from tree branch damage, the siding is intact and undamaged but the paint is faded and the contrast stripes are ugly and partially worn off.
I have not painted/repainted aluminum siding before. What do you all think?  Would it be more cost/labor effective to just scrap the outside and put new on (I'd do the work myself), or to prep the surface and repaint? If you think replacing it is the answer, can I use the aluminum siding used on houses to replace it?
 
I wouldn't even consider replacing the siding unless you have major structural damage to the framing underneath.

I would consider a third alternative:  acrylic floor polish to restore the shine to the finish.  See here:  http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php/topic,52608.0.html .  I had done a lot of reading on the process and finally started to do it myself this weekend.  I have only done a little bit as a test, but so far the results are amazing on my 13 year old coach.  Most of my coach is fiberglass, but the entry door is aluminum.  I have done the aluminum door and it is beautiful.  The faded trim strips also came out well.

Just a thought.
 
If you have the equipment and expertiese paint it.  It will cost you a few quarts of paint, but with patience and care will look good for another 20 years.
 
Paint if you can!  If you decide to replace you will have to do whole sections to make it match.  There is special RV siding that is available at RV supply stores and should be used.  But make sure you won't have to paint that also, or plan to do the whole thing.  I would price the siding replacement costs and you might fall in love with painting it.  I don't think house siding would hug the trailer closely enough that wind would not get underneath and pop it off.
 
Agree with the others - re-paint if you have the means to do it yourself - or a buddy who can cut you a great deal. Otherwise, apply a oxidizing-removal cleaner product plus a lot of elbow grease and then polish with a high-shine wax such as Zep Red Max Pro (see jagnweiner's link). In most areas, paying a body shop to re-paint is likely to be more than the RV is worth.

Polishing corrugate aluminum with Bartenders Friend sounds really arduous, so I would opt for a marine or old car color-restorer polish to remove the oxidation and grime.
 
Thanks for the tips everyone! Since the issue with the siding is cosmetic and not structural, I will take the suggestions to try to revive the color first. -Elbow grease I have plenty of! Depending on how it turns out, I may still replace the strip that has the outdated and ugly contrast color on it. (I'm hoping the contrast color is a decal that can be removed....) I can hardly wait to see how it turns out!
 
If you want to see a good example of before/after, take a look at this thread:  http://www.rv.net/forum/index.cfm/fuseaction/thread/tid/24950880.cfm  The fourth post down shows half a side done, half not.
 
One other thing:  on the product of choice, the product people used to use was Red Max Pro #3.  RMP3 is apparently no longer marketed, so people use the zep products. Zep polish is made by the same factory that made RMP 3.  A lot of people use Zep Wet Look, but someone on another forum called the manufacturer and found out that Zep High Traffic is actually the same product as RMP 3. Apparently the only difference between High Traffic and Wet Look is that HT lasts a little longer.
 

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