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Ask Dave: Why does my RV’s electric awning retract only intermittently?

Dear Dave,
When I try to roll up the awning at the side of the coach, it rolls about half-way and then stops. It acts like it doesn’t have enough charge in the battery, but it is full. I’ll wait about 5 minutes and then it may finish rolling up. It will eventually roll all the way up. When rolling it out, there is no problem; only when going in. There are two 6-V Trojan batteries, 3 years old, with 13.6 volt charge; plugged into shore power. The water level is OK. —Ernie, 2006 Tiffin Allegro Bay

Dear Ernie,
I’m not sure what make and model your awning is. However, A&E electric awnings were used frequently back in 2006. I do believe it is a house battery issue since waiting a few minutes allows it to work.

How the system is designed

So let’s look at how your system is designed to operate on the 12-volt house power. Since you did not provide the floorplan, we do not know for sure what battery bank your coach had originally, what type of converter it has, or if it has a larger inverter that would charge the house batteries.

Typically, Tiffin used four 6-volt batteries connected in series and then parallel. You can verify that by looking at the tray design. You can get by with two 6-volt batteries connected in series. However, they will have fewer amp hours, drain faster, and cycle more often. I would suspect your 3-year-old batteries are not very good at this point.

Fully charged batteries should read 12.6 volts when not being supplied power by either a converter or inverter. I am curious as to where you are seeing the 13.6-volt “charge,” as this would indicate that the converter or inverter is trying to charge the batteries. When the batteries get low, the converter or inverter will provide a charge of 13.6 volts until the batteries get to 12.6 volts, and then drop to 13.2 volts. So, if you are seeing 13.6 volts somewhere at all times, it seems the converter recognizes dead batteries.

Possible reasons for the awning to intermittently retract

There are so many “gremlins” when it comes to the 12-volt system and the operations of components that can cause things to work sometimes and then not another. In your case, since the awning works extending through the entire cycle, it’s most likely the weight of the awning fabric is helping push the tube even with low power. So when it is retracting, the weight is causing resistance and needs more power or amp draw.

If the batteries are sulfated, they show a good charge and drop like a rock when a load is applied. Since waiting for 5 minutes helps it finish, then it indicates the batteries have been allowed to rejuvenate slightly to retract.

Even if you are plugged into shoreline power and the converter is supplying power to the 12-volt system, it might not have enough amperage to supply everything. Try turning off all 12-volt components other than the awning, or attach a 12-volt charger on the booster setting, and see if that works. If it does, we can assume the batteries are sulfated and the charger is weak. If not, then we need to look at the awning itself.

Motor inside the awning tube

Most awnings have a motor inside the tube that turns and moves the awning in and out. Any resistance in the arms and pivot points will make the motor work harder and have a higher amp draw. Check all arms and pivot points to make sure they are lubricated to the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) specifications and that they are not bent. A slightly twisted arm will create enough resistance to cause severe amp draw and create this situation.

Also check to make sure the fabric is rolling up on the tube straight or in-line and not “stair stepping”. This would indicate a misalignment of the fabric and also cause resistance.

If all this is verified, then it could just be a motor getting weak which could be checked by a technician using an amp draw meter. However, I would start with verifying power, lubricating pivot points, checking the fabric alignment, and making sure the arms are not bent, and hopefully you will find the culprit.

Dave Solberg 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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Gayle V.
1 month ago

I had the exact problem with my A&E.
After many hours of trying to diagnose the “electrical” issue, turns out, all I needed to do was to lube all the pivot & slide points.
(I used “Blaster Garage Door Lubricant”) (in my opinion, its better than WD40).

Bob p
1 month ago

My uneducated guess is the reduction of battery current reducing the amount of current available. He has cut the available power in half and probably has a certain amount of sulfation in 3 year old batteries. I had a low current situation in a motorhome several years ago that turned out to be a defective battery I had replaced 4 months prior. I can’t explain why but returning the battery to Autozone in FL after buying it in TN, they were out of stock with that battery so I wound up with a much better battery than originally purchased, gee my luck had changed. Lol

Fred
1 month ago

I’ve had 2 problems with my powered awning with wind sensor. It started working only intermittently, which I thought was a motor problem. But I discovered it was a pinched wire in the awning arm running from the motor into the rv. I strung new wire & protected all of the possible pinch points. I also have an intermittent problem caused by the installer. He tapped into a 12volt line in the bedroom for a power source. Now sometimes, when I turn off a particular light in the bedroom, the awning retracts, even though there’s no wind.

Dale e Rose
1 month ago

The ground connections need to be cleaned. I use Deoxit, which is recommended by Mike Sokol. Corroded wiring grounds can stop the flow of electricity. The best way is to disconnect the wires and clean everything with a wire brush, then spray it, and reconnect.

DAVE TELENKO
1 month ago
Reply to  Dale e Rose

Hi Dale, I do believe that have provided the BEST solution to Ernies situation & using Deoxit is a great way to go for all electrical connections, especially DC ones.
Snoopy

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