Awnings are a great feature to have on your RV. There are several different types of RV awnings and they serve different purposes. There are window and door awnings that provide shade and keep rain away from your RV windows or entry door.  There are slide-out awnings that help protect the top of the slide-out from debris and water. And there are patio awnings. Patio awnings extend the living area of our outdoor world. Similar to the front porch of your home, the patio awning provides us with shade and cover from a light rain when we want to sit and enjoy the great outdoors. The awnings on your RV will provide years of reliable trouble free operation, if you take the time to do a little preventive maintenance and cleaning.

Perhaps the most important component of an awning is the fabric. Fabric used on RV awnings is one of two types, acrylic or vinyl. Acrylic fabric is a woven cloth that lets air circulate through the fabric. This air circulation allows the fabric to dry quickly when it gets wet. Acrylic fabrics are water repellent, but not waterproof. If you have experience tent camping you know that you shouldn’t touch the underside of the tent when it’s wet. Touching the wet fabric allows water to seep through the fabric. The same applies to an acrylic awning fabric. Vinyl awning fabric is mildew resistant, but not necessarily mildew proof. Mildew can form on the dirt and dust that collects on the vinyl fabric. It will be worse in high temperatures, humidity and if the fabric is stored when it is wet.

Some awnings have an aluminum or vinyl wrap-around weather guard that protects the awning fabric when it’s in the travel or stored position.  When you open the awning for the first time each year, or if it has been stored for a while, you will need to inspect the awning fabric for any signs of mildew or stains. Remember vinyl awnings will mildew. To prevent dirt from imbedding into the woven fabric of an acrylic awning fabric you should simply hose the fabric off on a routine basis. Avoid scrubbing acrylic awning fabric. Scrubbing can remove the water retardant finish. For stubborn stains blot the approved cleaner on the acrylic fabric with a sponge or soft cloth.

For more difficult stains or mildew on a vinyl awning fabric there are after market commercial cleaners made just for awning fabrics. One method that seems to work well is to spray the inside and outside of the awning fabric with the appropriate cleaner, then roll it up and let it sit for several minutes. This distributes the cleaner over the entire surface of the awning fabric and allows the cleaner time to work. Open the awning and thoroughly rinse both sides of the fabric. It may be necessary to scrub stubborn stains with a brush on a vinyl awning fabric before rinsing. You can clean the awning hardware with the same cleaner you use to wash the RV.

Note: Never use oil based or abrasive cleaners on awning fabrics. Clean and thoroughly rinse both sides of the awning fabric. Carefully follow all awning and cleaner manufacturer directions.

Inspecting the Awning

Inspect the awning fabric for any tears or excessive wear. Talk to your RV dealer about what materials to use to repair or patch the awning fabric.

  • Do not store the awning when the fabric is wet. Allow enough time for it to dry completely, on both sides, before storing the awning.
  • While the awning is out, inspect the awning hardware. The bottom awning brackets support most of the load from the awning. Check the lag screws in the awning brackets for secure mounting. Inspect the arm pivot holes for any enlarged holes or broken rivets in the handles.
  • Check for a warped roller tube. If the roller tube is warped it will be noticeable when you roll the awning out.
  • Inspect the awning end caps for secure mounting and broken rivets. Caution: Never attempt to remove the awning end caps. Spring tension can result in serious injury.
  • Make sure the awning rail is securely mounted to the side of the RV.

Note: Have any damaged or broken parts repaired before using the awning.

In addition to cleaning and inspecting your awning there are a few things to keep in mind when using the awning.

  • Always lower one end of the awning to allow for water runoff. The weight from water pooling on the awning fabric can cause extensive and costly damage.
  • Any wind gusts over 20 miles per hour can also cause extensive damage to the awning and to the RV. Never leave the awning out unattended. If everyone is leaving the campsite, store the awning in the travel position. When you go to bed, store the awning. Even when you are at the campsite, you should use awning tie downs to prevent any sudden damage caused by high wind gusts or a sudden storm.
  • You have the option to position the awning arms straight down and stake them to the ground, but you will get better support if they’re attached to the bottom awning brackets on the side of the RV. Remember, it is much easier to prevent damage to your awning than it is to repair it.

Awning Tip: Check with your RV insurance provider to make sure your RV awning is covered in the event of any damage. Some insurance companies require separate insurance coverage on the RV awnings.

Well that about does it. With the proper care and a little preventive maintenance you and your RV awnings will have it made in the shade.

Happy Camping,

Mark J. Polk

 

Leave a Reply

16 comments

  1. Bill

    I have vinyl awning and the vinyl appears to be peeling away from the fabric. This seems to only be happening at the top of the roll where it is constantly exposed to the sun.

    Will this weaken the fabric enough that it might rip if I try to unroll the awning.

    Have I missed some preventive care step that would have prevented this from happening.

    This is on a 2003 fifth wheel and I believe it is the original awning.

  2. Mel

    It may or may not rip when you unroll it. However I can tell you this, Most vinyl awnings are only good for 5 to 7 years. The vinyl awning on my slide out was only 5 years old and started the same way yours is doing. It finally ripped when I extended the slide when It was 6 years old, but had been exposed a greater deal of the time to the hot Yuma AZ sun. I replaced it with a commercial awning material called Sunbrella non vinyl. I was told many vinyl awnings are only good for 4 or 5 years before they start to go if they are used much and are in a hot climate like Yuma AZ..
    Mel

  3. Bill,

    You hit the nail on the head when you said the top of the roll was constantly exposed to the sun. And like Mel said, it doesn’t take long for this to happen when it is exposed to the elements, especially the sun.

    There is little you can do to prevent this, other than getting an awning with a wrap on it , or finding a way to keep the RV covered when not using it. Once the vinyl starts peeling from the fabric it will eventually tear and it will continue to deteriorate.

  4. HI Guys and Gals:
    Our present rig has no awnings when we bought it used in 2003.
    This motor-home has no slides or window awnings either.
    We do not h”hang out” outside of our rig
    It would be nice to have a small awning over the entrance door.
    Since we spend most of our time out-and-about we don’t miss this option.
    In a wind storm, or going to bed, we don’t have to put our awnings up.

    We thought we would miss this amenity, but we have not.

    Happy Camping,
    Fred b.

  5. K. McNeese

    I’ve had success spraying both sides of my vinyl awning with a mild bleach mixture a couple of times each year to remove mildew and spots. I let it sit 15 minutues or so then hit it with a soft brush on an extension pole, rinse, and the underside is bright white when it dries. I also use the bleach mixture on the fiberglass exterior of the camper in the same fashion with great results. Any concerns about applying bleach (a light mixture that doesn’t affect my clothes and believe me I get a lot on me spaying the underside of the awning)?

  6. Tim Tracy

    I have awning that has moved, but I have aproblem to moving it back. So it retracts sideways.

  7. Tim Tracy

    my awning has moved so when I retract it it winds up sideways

  8. Big Bubba

    Here’s a very inexpensive solution to the sun problem while stored: Go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and but some plastic rain gutter. Put it over your rolled up awning, upside down. It will cover the exposed part. Where I live the winds don’t blow hard enough that it comes off, but you could fasten it to the support arm with a bungee cord or even duct tape if that might be a problem. Just remember to remove the rain gutter before you take off on your next trip!
    Big Bubba, 98 Safari Sahara 3506

  9. charles cox

    my awning is also peeling along the top where the awning is rolled up. How would it work to apply a strip of 4″ eternbond rubber roof repair tape on top of the peeling area. Or putting a primor on then cover it up with 1-2 coats of rubber roof paint? I’m a big fan of McGyver.,

  10. walter

    I am having a problem with my electric Awning (Dometic One Step electric awning without wind sensor). I cannot roll up the awning with out stopping and waiting about 5 min to continue to roll Awning up.
    House batteries are in good condition. If awning is wet, it takes even longer if at all to roll up. I think my electric motor is about ready for the trash can.
    I contacted Dometic and they will sell me a new torque bar (mine is out dated) and motor, but will not send any illustration or direction as to how to replace motor or torque Bar. They claim too much liability if I get hurt (Safety and I understand their position).
    The engineering staff will not takes calls or give directions.
    With out going to a dealer is there anyone out there that can instruct as to how to change the torque bar as well as Electric motor?

    Walter
    02 Dutch Star DP

  11. JP

    Thanks for the awning tips -this was a great article!

    We have an 05 Forest Rive Wildwood travel trailer with a huge 22 ft. wide vinyl awning.

    The very first week we owned it, in spite of the warning given to us by the original owner, we made the mistake of leaving the awning up for a few days. A huge rainstorm came through that first week, filled up the awning. It broke and collapsed, rendering our nice awning into a big tangled pile of metal and vinyl.

    Thank God we had just bought RV insurance from Progressive, the first day we got the trailer, as the bill to get this fixed was over $1100. The Progressive guy was pretty cool about it, too, but did require an onsite visit to pay the claim, then handed me a check on the spot. I was still out $250 for the deductible, and the new awning does not match as well as the original, but I learned two lessons the hard way:

    1. NEVER leave your awning out during a heavy rainstorm or windstorm, even if it is strapped down.

    2. Always buy good RV insurance. I am happy with Progressive, but there are other companies out there that also offer good RV insurance. You never know when a calamity might strike your expensive RV.

    Again, thanks for the great article!

  12. Norb

    I had a 1996 Avion 5th Wheel with slideout but without awning. Worked fine. No leaks. Now the slideout awnings on 2002 Itasca are deteriorating. Is it ok to take them off and do without? Thanks.

    Norb
    2002 Itasca Sundancer

  13. Jay

    I have a box awning from Fiamma. Last year I was having trouble closing it so looked them up on net. Gave them a call and they have this thing built in that you can adjust to tighten up the awning so it can catch up to the other side when closing it if it becomes a problem. Customer service was great, he also said sticking some duct tape up by the roller tube can tighten up the slack in an awning to help it close better too. Hope this helps someone else reading. 🙂

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  16. Anonymous

    I owned a 1990 Automate 5th wheel. It had a wonderful awning that had a metal roll up protector for when the awning was rolled up. the protector was made from metal (I believe aluminum) that was in 3 or 4 sections. When the awning got rolled up the top metal pieces would wrap around the rolled up awning protecting it. The protector looked to be something that could be added to any awning. I’m trying to find out the name of the product and where I can get one. I have upgraded my 5th wheel and need to replace the awning and would like to put that protector on when I put the new material on.