Awnings are the unsung heroes of RVs. They aren’t just decorative and helpful in providing shade on sunny days but awnings also serve several vital functions, including protecting your RV or motorhome from sun damage, keeping your RV cooler, and keeping you dry on rainy days.
Types of RV Awnings
There are several types of awnings found on RVs.
The most common type is the RV patio awning that is installed on the side of the travel trailer or motorhome. With the push of a button, or a few simple maneuvers on a manual awning, your campsite sitting area is covered. The RV patio awning shades you from the sun and protects you from the rain when you are enjoying your patio area. It can protect as well, by helping to keep the sun off your RV and keep the interior a little cooler on sunny days.
You can purchase screen rooms that attach to the patio awning to assist in keeping bugs off you and your stuff.
Smaller awnings can be purchased as RV accessories to cover slide-outs. The Slide Topper awnings are installed to protect the roof of the slide outs from the sun, weather, dirt and sticks/debris from trees above the camper. A stick left on a slide can cause extensive damage to the roof material on the slide when it is retracted. These are generally attached to both the slide and the side of the RV and operate automatically as the slide is extended or retracted.
You can purchase small self-supporting awnings, similar to the patio awning, to install over doors and windows. They can protect you from weather as you enter or leave the RV when installed over the door. They can provide shade and cooler interiors when installed over windows. These units are commonly found at an affordable price and are an easy installation for most. If you are not comfortable installing the units on your travel trailer or motorhome, contact your local RV dealer for an installation quote.
How to Maintain Your Retractable RV Awnings
RV Awnings are easy to maintain and with proper care, your awning will last for years.
Here are a few tips:
- NEVER roll it up wet. This is a recipe for mold and mildew. Always allow the awning to dry thoroughly before storing it away.
- Inspect the awning as it is being stowed. Ensure you remove anything stuck to the fabric before it gets rolled up in it.
- Clean your awning regularly with soap and water, or a special awning cleaner.
- Inspect the awning for rips, tears, or holes regularly.
- Apply a waterproofing sealant to the awning every few months.
- Don’t leave the awning up in bad weather. Wind can rip an awning off or damage the awnings arms, brackets and anchors. This can cause damage to the RV itself.
- Be sure to retract the awning when you’re not using it. We always pull our awning up before we leave the campground to explore the surrounding area.
By following these simple tips, you can keep your RV awning in good condition for years to come.
How to Clean an RV Awning
Cleaning an RV awning is important to prevent further damage and extend its lifespan. You can clean your awning with a hose, mild soap, and a brush. For more stubborn stains, you may need to use a pressure washer or special RV cleaner. Be sure any cleaners are listed for use on RV awnings and for the specific material your awning is constructed from.
The two most common types of awning material are vinyl and acrylic.
Extend the awning fully and lower it as far as it will go to provide better reach for cleaning. For vinyl awnings use a approved cleaner and a soft brush. A stiff brush might be needed on an acrylic awning to remove dirt stuck in the fibers. Always wipe with the brush and avoid scrubbing too hard. You can remove the protective coatings or do damage to the fabric itself. Wet down both sides of the awning with the cleaning solution or soapy water and roll the awing up for 5-10 minutes to allow the cleaner to loosen up the dirt. Extend the awning back out and continue cleaning. Rinse very thoroughly with water ensuring to remove all the soap/cleaner.
After cleaning allow the awning to air dry completely. You never want to use heat to try to dry it, as excessive heat can damage the fabric. Once dry you can respray the awning with a protective conditioner.
Can You Repair an RV Awning Yourself?
When an RV awning gets damaged, stained, or worn out you need to think about fixing it. But there are a few things to think about before you take on an RV awning repair or replacement.
The first thing you need to do is assess the extent of the damage. Is it just a few stains? A rip or tear? Or is the entire awning in need of replacement? After you’ve determined the level of damage, you can start researching your options.
If the damage is minor, like a few stains or a small rip, you may be able to repair it yourself with a roll of RV awning repair tape. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. This typically involves cleaning and drying the surface thoroughly and installing the tape on both sides of the fabric. We always keep a roll of RV awning repair tape in our travel toolbox to fix a small hole or tear before it turns into something larger. It may be possible to repair larger holes, but you may have to add fabric to cover the damage. You can check with your RV dealer to see if they have a piece or replacement RV fabric that matches your awning. If done properly, the patch will be nearly invisible.
There are several DIY tutorials online that can walk you through the process. However, if the damage is more extensive, it’s best to leave it to the professionals or replace the camper awning completely.
Repairing an RV Awning vs Replacing It
If you’re trying to decide between repairing or replacing your RV awning, there are a few things to consider. How old is the awning? How extensive is the damage? Is it under warranty? Answering these questions can help you make the best decision for your RV.
If you have a newer RV, it may be covered under warranty. In this case, it’s probably best to take it to the dealership or repair shop and let them handle it. If the damage is minor, they may be able to repair it for you at no cost.
However, if the damage is more extensive or if you have an older RV, you may need to replace the awning yourself. Replacing an RV awning is not as difficult as it might sound.
RV Awning Replacement and Repair Cost
There are a few tell-tale signs that it’s time to replace your RV awning.
If the damage is extensive, if the awning is old or if it’s under warranty, replacing it is probably your best option. The cost of replacing an RV awning can vary depending on the size, material, and style of the awning. However, you can expect to spend anywhere from $500 to $2000 on a new RV awning. Common manufacturers for complete awnings are Lippert, Carefree, Dometic.
Repairing an awning is much cheaper, but also may not be an option for badly damaged awnings. You don’t necessarily have to replace the entire awning. Most times you can get a replacement fabric to install on your existing awning frame if it is still in good shape. Awning replacement fabric is available in a variety of colors and designs. You can find solid colors, faded designs, checkered patterns or even an American Flag awning. Replacement fabrics are available from your RV dealer, online retailers and Amazon for as little as $100.
How to Replace an RV Awning
Replacing an RV awning isn’t as difficult as it might seem. You can find replacement awnings at most RV stores or online.
Be sure to measure the awning before you buy so you get one that’s the right size. If you purchase an awning online, you may not be able to get the exact size your need, and that’s okay. It’s best to purchase one that’s too long instead of too short. They are easy to trim to the correct size. Make sure the awning you purchase indicates that you can cut it yourself.
Choose the best fabric for your needs when purchasing a replacement awning. Vinyl fabrics are a laminated fabric that prevents water from soaking through them offering great coverage for inclement weather. It is mildew resistant, but not mildew proof. Make sure to dry it before stowing it away. Acrylic fabrics are a woven cloth with a waterproofing coating and have the ability to breath. Air flows better through them and they are cooler to sit under than a vinyl canopy. Consult with the manufacturer before changing the type of fabric that is currently on your rig.
Most manufacturers offer instructions online and there are a multitude of DIY videos on the internet to guide you through the process if you cannot find instructions from your specific manufacturer. Research this before you start to disassemble and if you have any doubt in your ability to do so, take it to the professionals. It may be an unwanted adventure to transport your camper to the RV dealer AFTER you’ve half disassembled the awning assembly.
Installing the New Fabric
Once you have all the necessary tools, instructions and confidence to replace your awning fabric, check the weather to be sure you are in the clear. It’s going to take a few hours and at least 1 friend to help to get your new fabric installed.
Make sure you have a good clear/clean area to work. You’ll want enough space to spread everything out and be able to lay the new fabric out without damaging it.
Don’t forget to inspect the other parts as you disassemble. Look for any items that could be worn out and in risk of failure in the near future. Check that the electrical cable, if equipped, is sealed where it enters the camper. Replace any hardware that is rusted, worn or otherwise damaged.
With a little time and effort, you can successfully repair your RV awning on your own.
When to Call a Professional
There are some instances when it’s best to call a professional instead of repairing the awning yourself. If the damage is extensive, if you can’t find a replacement awning that’s the right size, or if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, call a professional.
They’ll be able to help you repair or replace your RV awning quickly and efficiently and get your RV or 5th wheel back in tip-top shape in no time.
If the awning was involved in an accident (ie someone forgot to retract it before driving away), gets caught on a low hanging tree, or some other unfortunate incident, it is best to have your camper inspected to ensure there was no damage to the main structure or roof of the camper.
RV Awning Accessories
Your awning can be outfitted with many different accessories to protect it, make it function better or to decorate it and make your campsite that much more fun.
- Awning de-flapper clamps can be installed on the sides of your fabric awning to prevent it from flapping in the wind. Excessive flapping can lead to rips and tears in the fabric.
- Support straps and/or stabilizer legs can be installed to provide support to free hanging awnings
- Mesh shades can filter out low angled harsh sunlight.
- Mesh/fabric walls can be installed to create an patio room or keep out unwanted insects or pests.
- Fun string lights can be hung on your awning to create a fun atmosphere for your camping adventure. Many styles of lights are available to fit your tastes or attitude. Be sure to use light clips that slide into the awning support to prevent damage to your awning.
Now that you know the basics of RV awning replacements and repairs, you can keep your RV looking great for years to come! Have you ever replaced your RV awning? Let us know about your experience in the comments!