By Chris Dougherty
Chris Dougherty is a certified RV technician. Here is an article he wrote about RV awnings while serving as RVtravel.com’s technical editor.
With summer almost here, you may have already rolled out your RV awning. It’s a great addition to any RV, and with a little care it will provide many years of service. But just what kind of care does it need?
There are many different kinds of awnings. They range from the “bag” style manual awning, which is popular for pop-up campers, all the way up to fully automated types. The operation of all the various types vary, and careful attention to the manufacturer’s instructions will help ensure problem-free enjoyment of your awning.
Most awning fabrics fall into one of two categories: vinyl and acrylic (e.g., Sunbrella). Some awnings have material all the way up to the awning rail on the side of the RV. Some have a metal weather guard, which wraps around the awning when stowed for travel.
Inspect and clean the awning when first used in the spring
Especially in the spring when the awning is opened for the first time, be sure to inspect and clean the awning thoroughly. The hardware can be cleaned using mild soap and water, or whatever “RV wash” detergent you normally use on your RV. If the fabric is pretty clean, this may suffice for cleaning it. If, however, the fabric is more heavily soiled, there are commercially available awning fabric cleaning solutions available to help. In any case, be sure to carefully follow the awning and cleaner manufacturer’s directions for care and cleaning.
The awning hardware generally consists of the roller tube which the awning rolls up on, the springs and lock assembly contained within the awning tube, and the arms, which generally extend for adjustment and hold the awning taught. Again, there are numerous types of awnings, so your hardware may differ from what I discuss here. Check your manual.
Caring for the hardware is pretty simple
Basically, keeping the hardware clean and inspecting it for wear is the most you’ll ever have to do. Some issues I have seen include rusted adjustment knobs, broken springs and/or lock assemblies, and difficulty opening or closing due to dirt. The upper arm adjustment knobs should be worked and lubricated regularly to ensure proper operation. Once they seize with rust, they can be difficult to replace. Use an anti-rust lube like PB B’laster or WD-40. The springs and locking assemblies can occasionally fail, but there’s not much that can be done to prevent this other than cleaning and a shot of lubricant.
One of the biggest issues is pooling of water and/or wind damage. When using your awning, THINK! It’s common sense, really, but watch the weather and set the awning up appropriately. Make sure the awning is tilted enough for rain and/or air conditioner condensate water to run off and not pool on the awning. Water weighs 8.33 pounds per gallon. That’s a lot of stress on the awning assembly. Also, if there is going to be a breeze, make sure the awning is secured or stow it until the weather passes.
Just a few minutes of attention will ensure your RV awning works great when you want it.