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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Tips for Tip-Top Condition: Caring for Your RV Awning

Your RV awning: it’s a component of your RV that brings you so much enjoyment in the outdoors and protection against the elements. In both beautiful and inclement weather, your awning shields you and makes it easier for you, your family, and your loved ones to enjoy the great outdoors in greater comfort.

Out in camp, when you’re getting away from it all, your awning shields you against the influences of snow, sleet, rain, and more. When the weather turns sour you can still get outside and enjoy the relative creature comforts of shelter against precipitation underneath the awning.

Even when it’s not cloudy and the skies are bright and clear, your awning helps to limit your exposure to the sunlight. If you’ve had just enough rays for one day, you can retreat to the shelter of the shade. In all weather, your awning provides so much comfort and asks so little in return. It’s a thankless job.

Yet, for those of you who both recognize and appreciate the service of your RV’s awning, here are some tips for care that will go a long way toward keeping it happy, healthy, and in generally good shape in the long run. Some of these items are even passive, meaning you have to do little more than remember to close it when you’re not there.

These tips are intended for the care of slide-out awnings and RV patio awnings, but to a similar degree, they apply to the care of window awnings as well. Consult this simple intro to awning care and get in touch with us if you have any remaining questions! 

1.    Use an RV awning stabilizer: Not all awnings need one, but being prepared with one, even as a backup, is generally a very good idea. The basic premise here is that the arms that are used to extend and support the awning (whether manual or power-operated) are typically not capable of sustaining any forces on top of the relatively light weight of the awning.

Think of it this way. When you’re out in camp in a cold area in the winter and it starts to snow, your camper awning will accumulate a little bit of snow on top of it. This puts a much greater strain on your awning’s arms and supports than you think it does and can cause permanent damage. It can ruin the mechanical operation of the arms and even break them, causing the awning to collapse.

Even worse is the wind, which can put an even greater strain on an awning than a light snow load. Blustery winds are a serious problem for RV awnings; the general rule of thumb is to roll up your awning if there’s wind, but even a light breeze can damage one. That makes it a good idea to be prepared with a stabilizer kit or tie-down straps at all times.

For more information, consult the manual that came with your awning or RV or get in touch with us, telling us about your equipment, and we’ll lend you some insight.

2.    Do not leave your RV awning open when you are not present, even if you’re just inside: A good habit to get into is to keep your awning stored and away when you aren’t under it. This means keeping it closed even if you’re just inside the RV. The obvious reason for this is so you don’t get caught unaware by snow, rain, or wind, but there is another reason for it as well.

One of the main reasons that you should keep your awning furled away when you’re not under it is because UV light is damaging to most awning fabrics. It’s possible that your awning is made from UV resistant material, but that doesn’t make it impervious. This is similar to how UV light destroys the rubber in tires and why some conscientious owners keep their tires covered when they are parked.

Anyway, even if your awning actually is UV resistant, that’s no reason to let it bake in the sun. That feature is there to add some years to the life of the awning when you are under it and it’s keeping the sun’s rays off of you. It’s not there so you can leave the awning open under the sun for no reason.

Besides, keeping your awning rolled up when you aren’t using it just helps prevent any problems before they arise.

3.    Do not allow snow (or water) to gather and pool in the top of your awning: In our first point, we cautioned you to use support and stabilizer kits for your awning to prevent stress loads (like wind and snow, depending on how the stabilizer kit works) from damaging the awning. Even if you use a stabilizer kit, that does not give you free rein to allow rain or snow to collect on the top of your awning.

Actually, allowing this is basically a sure-fire way to damage your awning and cost you a lot in repairs. The awning is not meant to support any load, so even a little one is going to put a strain on the awning fabric and mechanics and ruin it.

To put it into perspective, there are two things that can happen from a strain on the awning, and neither is good. The worst-case scenario is that you damage the joints and mechanics that open and close the awning and keep it there. The other scenario is not much better.

Alternatively, a pool of water, for example, can cause the awning fabric to rip and the water to spill through. This theoretically incurs less damage than a broken awning arm, but you might be surprised how difficult and expensive it will be to replace or repair the fabric. Just prevent it in the first place and don’t allow anything to collect on the top of the awning.

4.    Use de-flapper kits or clips to keep it from flapping in the wind: Alright, you’re thinking that you’re safe with the awning open just so long as you use a supplementary support structure or kit and don’t allow anything to accumulate on the top of the awning. You’re half right; there’s one more thing to consider.

So you know that wind can cause damage to an awning, and therefore you need to support it with a stabilizer, but this is not all you need to do. The reason is this: when the wind blows, it doesn’t just put a strain on the arms that support the awning. It can cause the awning fabric to flap back and forth violently.

This may not damage the arm that supports the awning if you have been prudent about using a stabilizer, but it can damage the awning fabric. Over time, repeated exposure to the wind can cause the fabric to stretch, tear, or fray. However, there are special kits you can buy, often called awning de-flappers, that prevent this damage from happening. You can see some of them in our collection above; if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

5.    Use awning locks and covers when you’re on the road: Some RVs come with awning locks and covers, which means you may not even need to buy a supplementary set, although not all owners know how to use them or are even familiar with them. Spend a little quality time with your RV getting to know the ins and outs of its features and you might not even have to make a purchase.

However, locking and covering your awning when it’s rolled up and stored is valuable for a few reasons, and we sell RV locks and awning covers in our collection of accessories via the link above.

Keeping the awning-covered when you’re driving (or in camp) will keep sun and rain off it, which is valuable to preserve its integrity and lifespan. In addition, locking it while you’re on the road will keep it from experiencing too much strain, which will protect the mechanical integrity of the awning.

Basically, whenever the awning is stowed, it’s a good idea to keep it covered, and when you’re driving, you should keep it locked and covered.

6.    Conduct inspections several times per year, or even every time you open it: Anytime is a good time to inspect your awning, but if you don’t get in the habit of thoroughly inspecting it every time you unfurl it, do it at least once per year.

When you’re inspecting your awning, you may be able to detect issues before they really even become issues. When you open it, pay attention to how easily it opens; do the same thing when closing it. If it doesn’t move fluidly or issues noises, it might be time for a deeper dive.

Look at the mechanical components for signs of wear or failure, and, of course, inspect the fabric itself for fading, stretching, wear, and fraying and also for signs of mold or mildew growth, which can cause a lot of damage to an awning.

If the awning checks out, roll it up and stow it and test the lock and covers (if you have them). Make sure they are still in good working order.

If you identify potential issues in your inspection, you can address them right away before they progress any further.

    7.    Wash your RV awning routinely to keep it clean: As long as you take good care of your awning throughout the year, rinsing it down with a hose is probably all of the cleaning you’ll need to do. Use a brush to remove any stains or discoloration or to dislodge stubborn dirt from the fabric and then hose it down with water.

If you have a hard time getting it clean, you can probably take care of the issue with some soap and warm water. You don’t need special cleaners most of the time, just a little elbow grease, warm water, and soap should do the trick.

A few rinses per year should keep most dirt and debris at bay, but if not, we do sell some specialized RV cleaners in our collection at the link above. Take a look through them to learn a little more about the different variations. Really, routine cleaning should be all you need, but if you need to learn more about special cleaning solutions, reach out to us.

8.    Never store it while wet after cleaning, and avoid closing it if it’s wet, generally: One thing you need to remember is that you should never put your awning away while wet as long as you can help it. It’s understandable that your awning might get wet from a surprise rainstorm and you need to store it right away to prevent damage, but if that happens, you really should open it right away after the storm has passed so you can allow it to dry off.

When it comes to cleaning, never rinse off your awning and then store it right afterward. Always give it time to dry before storing it, because if you don’t, the next time you open it there is a very good chance you’ll be staring down mold and mildew.

If that happens, you’ll just clean it again and put it away, only to see that the mold and mildew have returned once more. The best way to avoid this is simply to make sure you only ever store your awning when it is dry. That will prevent nearly all water-based, long term damage.

Contact Us for More Tips for RV Awning Care 

Following these tips will go a surprisingly long way toward keeping your awning in really great shape for years to come. Don’t allow the elements to abuse it, keep it clean and store it properly and you’ll enjoy many seasons under the same awning.

Nonetheless, if you have questions on awning maintenance, you can always get in touch with us via our live chat or by calling us. We’re ready to put our collective years of experience to work for you - so get in touch with us at 866-332-7881.

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