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How to properly maintain your RV Roof. Is yours a rubber composite?

Updated on December 16, 2017
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and shares his experiences with valuable tips.

Does Your RV have a Rubber Roof?

If your RV is ten years old or even older, then it probably has a Rubber Roof.

Well, It's not actually a Rubber roof. In fact these roofs on an RV is made of a composite material just like what is and has been used on mobile homes for decades.

And, as I think about it, there are manufacturers of some Class-C motorhomes and some Tag-along Campers that still use this rubber-like roof material, even today.

And as an RV owner, there are things that you need to know about these unique designs of roof materials for campers.

An older RV motorhome with a Rubber Roof

A 1996 Pace Arrow Vision motorhome that has the old style Rubber Composite roof material.
A 1996 Pace Arrow Vision motorhome that has the old style Rubber Composite roof material. | Source

A "Rubber Roof" is designed to renew itself

If your Camper or Motorhome has this type of roof covering, then here are some things you need to remember when caring for it.

First off, this roof material is designed to flex with your camper as it bounces down the road.

And, by the way, most people do not know this, but, one of the design constraints in the roof material to meet this need, is that it will constantly flake a fine powder.

You know what I mean. I know that you have seen it.

Just look at your camper or any of the others in the campground and you will see that there are streaks of a white powder down the sides of some Motorhomes.

This flaking is intentional, and it is actually necessary for the roof material to breath properly and stay flexible.

RV Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner, great for your roof

Meguiar's M5716SP Marine/RV Vinyl & Rubber Cleaner & Protectant - 16 oz.
Meguiar's M5716SP Marine/RV Vinyl & Rubber Cleaner & Protectant - 16 oz.

If your Rv has a rubber composite roof then you know it gets very dirty within a couple of months. I prefer this brand when I am cleaning my RV, and I use this rubber roof cleaner.

 

Cleaning your Rubber Roof

In order to keep your Rubber Roof clean, manufacturers recommend that you use a mild detergent, some even recommend using a Car Wash, and a scrub brush.

Ideally, you should be on the roof, and scrubbing the roof with the long-handles brush and the detergent, while alternately rinsing the loose dirt and residue from the roof with a hose.

This process will remove the dirt, and leave you with a nice white roof that is ready to take the punishment of the weather for weeks, even months to come.

Do Not Seal your Roof-

I have not found an RV manufacturer who recommends using a true "sealant" on your Rubber Roof.

The danger with using a sealant is that your roof will longer be able to breath properly, and if it is repeatedly coated with a sealant, then eventually, you will end up with a roof material that is stiff and lined with cracks.

And, by the way, with collected dirt and grime under those layers of sealant.

NOTE: When you are scrubbing the roof, stay away from that soft sealant around the many items mounted on your RV roof.

Things like the Air Conditioner, the Air Vents, the Antennas, the Solar Panel, the Refrigerator vent, the Toilet vent, etc.

Each of these items are sealed with a soft silicone sealant that is there to prevent rain leaks into your RV.

So, do not touch or destroy this soft and fragile sealant.

Examine and maintain those roof seals regularly

Too many RV owners just do not go onto their roof often enough.

I would recommend that you climb up there at least monthly and closely examine the sealant around each and every item mounted on the RV.

The sealant must be plainly intact as well as not cracked.

If there is any damage to these seals, use a putty knife to remove the old sealant and then reseal the area with a fresh bead of Roof Sealant.

This Roof Sealant is usually a Silicone Gel designed for exterior use, but you can order it or purchase it at almost any RV Parts and Service company.

RV Slide-Out Gasket Lube

Protect All Slide-Out Dry Lube Protectant - 16 oz 40003
Protect All Slide-Out Dry Lube Protectant - 16 oz 40003

This gasket lube is a necessary item for your RV gasket health. I have used this product for years, and it has proved to be a great protectant for my slide gaskets.

 

Repairing a cut Rubber Roof, Quickly!

Sometimes, your inspection might show that there is a tear in your Rubber Roof. I won't go into how easily it is to hit things like low-hanging signs, tree limbs and such, in your travels and in campgrounds.

Regardless of the cause for the tear, the repair needs to be done properly and quickly.

If you feel that you are not a handy person and ar not comfortable with this kind of work, then I suggest that you contact one of the many RV and Camper Service and Repair Centers and get them to give you a quote on performing the repair for you.

On the other hand, if you are comfortable with this kind of repair, then you need to get the job done as soon as possible.

You see, if you have a cut in the Rubber Roof, you should inspect your interior walls and ceiling to make sure that you haven't had a leak for a very long time.

A long term leak could already have caused rot in your walls and cabinets or other woodwork, so you need to react and repair these cuts/leaks immediately.

How to repair a roof Leak

Without going into details, repairing a minor cut in your roof would entail;

  1. Cutting the opening enough to allow you to peel back a couple of inches of the Rubber so you can inspect the support structure underneath for softness or rot.
  2. If there is Rot, then it should be cut out and replaced with solid materials and shaped to fit properly.
  3. Often you will need to mix up some epoxy (car body epoxy works well) and shape it into the area of the removed rotten material.
  4. Once this area is repaired and the epoxy has dried, coat the area with a waterproof liquid adhesive and then re-position the Rubber Roof material over the opening.
  5. Then place some wax paper over the cut area. The wax paper will not stick to any residual glue on the surface.
  6. Place a shaped weight over the wax paper and allow the whole site to sit and "cure for a couple of days,
  7. Once set, remove the weights and wax paper and seal the cut with a thick seal of regular RV Roof Sealant.

Sound easy doesn't it?

Well, I can only say that I have had to perform this kind of repair to a cut roof and taken days to complete it, and I have also done it in only a couple of hours.

If you decide to perform this repair yourself, then, Good Luck!

It is not really hard to do, but the level of work needed is driven by the level of water damage under the Rubber Roof and on the inside of the RV.

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A Rubber RV Roof is a solid design

Having an RV with a Rubber Roof is OK.

The design is solid, and the process has been around for decades, so there are no real surprises lurking out there for owners of Rv's with such roofs on them

The real trick is that you need to get up there, on your Rv roof regularly and inspect it for damage or bad sealant around all of the items mounted on the roof.

How to Clean your RV Rubber roof

Cleaning an RV Roof

© 2013 Don Bobbitt

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    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      mperrottet- When I was purchasing one of my RVs several years ago, one of the Engineers for Holiday Rambler was at the dealers site, and I had a long conversation with him, specifically on the "Rubber Roof" and how to care for it.

      He was very specific that owners should not "SEAL" the surface of this roof material. It had to breath, flex and flake off the top surface as time went on. If a roof was cleaned regularly with the recommended cleaners, it should last at least twenty years or more, before it required any serious maintenance.

      Since then, I tell people that want to use other vendors materials, that they should call the manufacturers service department and ask them specifically about any questionable materials they might want to use.

      Good Luck with your new Camper,

      DON

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      We're just about to put some UV protectant on our roof - do you recommend that? We have a 2007 Rockwood trailer, and so far our roof has held up really well. Great article - voted up and useful.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Nancy Owens- Thanks for the comment.

      I hope other campers read this and understand how to take care of their camper roof if it is made of this composite rubber material.

      Thanks again,

      DON

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      my girl sara- thanks for the comment.

      DON

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
      Author

      Don Bobbitt 4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      billybuc, old son! So good to hear from you again. I appreciate your Read and your Comment.

      And, my friend, I can only say; Get out there and do it!

      Camping and traveling around the country is such a fantastic learning experience that, even though I have been grounded for over six months now, I can't wait to get back out there again and see new places, people and scenery.

      Thanks again for your support,

      DON

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 4 years ago from USA

      What a well put together hub! Interesting, too. I have seen the streaks and noticed flakiness, but never knew it was from a rubber roof! Makes sense, though, that mobile roofs need to have flexibility built in. Voted up and shared.

    • my_girl_sara profile image

      Cynthia Lyerly 4 years ago from Georgia

      I used to work for a friend who sells a neoprene product that you can put on top of your motorhome. It's guaranteed not to leak and is energy efficient. They use it on commercial roofs. www.lexiscoatings.com

      Nice hub!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This doesn't apply to me right now, Don, but one day I would like to have a small motorhome and do some traveling. Thanks for the tips.

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