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Ask Dave: The RV’s awning stitching leaks. What can I do?

Answers to questions about RV Repair and Maintenance from RV expert Dave Solberg, author of the “RV Handbook” and the managing editor of the RV Repair Club. This column appears Monday through Saturday in the RV Travel and RV Daily Tips newsletters. (Sign up for an email reminder for each new issue if you do not already receive one.) Today Dave discusses awning stitching which leaks.

Dear Dave,
We have a 2016 Rockwood fifth wheel camper. The awning is one of the newer type with the shield that covers the awning when retracted – an improvement, I think. The problem is that the awning is two-piece. A seam runs the length of the awning about a foot off the camper wall. The needle holes leak when it rains and the drops fall off wherever. Is there a product that the seam can be sealed with so it doesn’t leak? Thank you. Keep up the good work. —Herbert

Dear Herbert,
Thanks for the question, as awnings are usually just extended, retracted, and forgotten. But they do require a little bit of maintenance.

Awning fabric is typically made of either vinyl or acrylic material and it is breathable. According to the A&E manuals of years ago, any stitching area needs to be “treated” when it is new. Most awnings use a special thread that is designed to swell when wet and seal the holes created by the stitching. It is recommended to extend the awning and wet it down thoroughly so all the thread gets wet, top and bottom. You can use a spray bottle underneath to reduce the wet mess. Let the awning dry thoroughly and test it again.

If the awning still leaks

If it still leaks there are several good seam sealer products on the market that you can apply when the awning is dry. These can typically be found in the camping section near tent supplies, as this is common with tents and popup campers. Old-timers have used paraffin or wax from a candle, as well. There is even a seam sealer tape but I would not recommend this as the extension and retraction would probably curl the tape.

Once a year you should also extend, clean, and condition your awning. A&E Systems (Dometic) recommends using a 5-gallon bucket of water, 1/4 cup dish soap, and 1/4 cup bleach and clean the awning thoroughly. I don’t always use bleach unless it has gotten bad.

They recommend conditioning the fabric after it has dried. Here are several awning cleaners and conditioners on Amazon. Carefree of Colorado recommends 303 High Tech Fabric Guard.

I have not been able to find anything in Lippert manuals other than the recommendation to clean with a mild detergent once a year.

Storing the awning

One last thing. Try to store the awning dry, as moisture will turn to mildew and mold. Sometimes it is not possible due to weather, so it’s important in those situations to extend the awning out at a later date to let it dry. Also, when storing for long periods of time, extend the awning occasionally to let it dry out as condensation will form during temperature changes.

Read more from Dave here

Dave Solberg worked at Winnebago for 15 years developing the dealer training program, as marketing manager, and conducting shows. As the owner of Passport Media Creations, Dave has developed several RV dealer training programs, the RV Safety Training program for The Recreation Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation, and the accredited RV Driving Safety program being conducted at rallies and shows around the country. Dave is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

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littleleftie
16 days ago

I sewed up a small awning for our window by the head of our bed. I simply rubbed a candle along the seam after it leaked the first time. Worked like a charm and it can be repeated as needed (I haven’t had to do it any more times yet) and no more leaks. And that candle is easy to store.