RV Shrink: RV awning – Use it, don’t lose it!

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Dear RV Shrink:
This might sound petty, but my traveling partner and I are always arguing about rolling up the awning. In my opinion, RV awnings are not designed to be left out all the time. They seem flimsy, and any light wind makes them shake and rattle. The whole trailer rocks sometimes. I feel it is safer to roll the awning up if we are not going to be at the campsite.

My partner is always giving me a hard time when I insist we roll it up. Should I just give in and hope for the best? I hate acting like a “Nervous Nelly” all the time. If you can give me some advice to strengthen my argument or shut me up, I would be eternally grateful. —Rock or Roll in Raleigh

Dear Raleigh:
Stick to your guns, or make sure your insurance will cover damages. If you give in, at least make sure you use tie-downs. Over the years I can recall witnessing several awning disasters. With the popularity of the new scissors design, I think there will be even more claims submitted.

Don’t even think about tie-downs if you have an automatic awning with wind sensors. That will cause your awning motor to burn out. It takes less than a minute to manually roll up an RV awning. Why gamble?

Two of the disasters I have witnessed happened on beautiful, still days with not a wisp of wind. A phantom gust came out of nowhere and flipped the awnings up over the RV roof, ripping out the awning fasteners and smashing the roof vent and air conditioning shrouds. A quick weather event will not only destroy the awning, but also other parts on the RV.

I have saved many an awning while the owner was away. Some people have no clue, leaving the awning up without tilting it at one end. A short rainstorm will turn an awning into a pregnant whale before the weight of the water finally rips it away from the RV.

A 20 mph wind would make me nervous if my awning were at full sail. I want the peace of mind that it is all tucked away while I’m gone. A burst of wind is capable of blowing over a thousand dollars right out of your wallet before you even know what hit you.

The cost can also come slowly. Allowing your awning to constantly whip around in light wind will eventually destroy the bead that attaches the awning to the RV awning rail. Once that becomes degraded you will be looking at significant replacement cost.

Besides all the hassle of repairing damage, your argument should be based on economics. If you leave an awning up without a babysitter, it is not a question of if, it’s a question of when you will be dealing with damage.

While we are on the subject, another common problem with awnings is lack of use. I am not saying they need exercise, but they do need to breathe. A rolled-up awning is a condensation trap. If you don’t pull the awning out regularly and let it dry out, eventually it will rot to the point of replacement. Use it or lose it! —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.

 ##RVT934

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Joel and Betty

We have a metal awning cover when rolled so we do not worry about it getting wet or dirty from trees….and it is always windy here in southern Calif by the ocean or the desert so we do not use it much.

Steve S.

What a GREAT article. It covered all of the points I was thinking about, and I agree with all of them.
Here in Florida, especially during the summer, it can feel like you are a mile from the sun. The shade from an awning is a SIGNIFICANT value for us. One thing of note when we are choosing a campsite is that I look for one where the main awning will be on the west side of the camper. This ensure max coverage during the sunniest / hottest part of the day. Also, in some cases I have had to use a sunscreen ‘wall’ with the awning. These mesh screens can reduce heat from the sun by up to 85%. A significant value for those of us who like to spend more time outside the camper than inside. That said, we NEVER leave the campsite without rolling it up, and roll it up overnight.

Rob

My opinion – the awning is about the most useless piece of equipment on my rv, only thing worse are the stupid little awnings over the slides which are soon to go bye-bye.

Dick and Sandy near Buffalo, NY

Back in 2002 we lost our then manual awning from a micro burst while in the Front Row Club in turn 4 in the Talladega infield. The wind came up from nothing to severe. Knocked over a souvenir semi trailer in the infield and destroyed other awnings, tents and such.
A very good friend of ours has a very pricey high end 45 foot rig. They had the large passenger side awning out with the room screen and large screw in anchor tie downs in firm ground. Came back one day and the awning with the screen room and anchors were wrapped up on top and over to the drivers side of their rig. The awning was trashed, one of their ac covers and fan covers were trashed and the drivers side was damaged from the metal anchors. We learned from our Talladega incident to put in the awning any time we are away from our rig. We stay informed about wind conditions when at our rig and disabled the automatic retract because it will only bring the awning in and out for many cycles and is good in theory but not practical. We put our electric awning out when useful but it is always retracted when we are not at our rig or in inclement weather. And yes we have smaller side awnings on all windows to have some shade at all times where the sun shines. Safe travels and safe camping to all.

Carl

We have a screen wall system that attaches to the awning, so rolling it up is not as simple as pushing a button. I constructed a post and strap system that fits under each arm and is anchored to the ground with dog leash stakes. We have seen it go through a very bad storm that came through our site that uprooted trees next to us, but the awning held. The screen system also helps keep the wind from getting under the awning to lift it up. We have had it for 4 years now on a 2008 camper with original awning yet.

Diane Mc

We never leave our awning out during the day, when gone or at night if there is any chance of winds. Even with mild winds, we will put it in its lowest position. We are currently in Daytona Beach dry camped at the Speedway. Knew a storm was coming so didn’t put awning out, but did put smaller door & window ones out. At 10pm we were outside, almost getting blown away…lol, putting them in. Ever since we lost an entire awning traveling down I-70 thru Kansas (we found it on the other side of the 4 lane interstate and by the grace of God, it didn’t hit anyone. It was a defected locking device that failed) we use fly fishing Velcro wraps to secure the arms.

Jeff

I see this too much in RV parks around the country. People leaving their RV Awnings extended, when they are not there. And I’ve seen Awning that the WIND came along and destroyed the Frame work and the Awning flipped over the top of the RV. Even Staking the Awning down to the ground will not protect it in a strong Storm. And these Automatic things that supposedly roll the awning up in windy conditions are prone to fail!

You never know when weather is gonna creep up. Thunderstorms, Windstorms (out west).

Just best to roll it up! One less thing to worry about, when you’re out on a Day Trip away from the RV.

Ron Brooks

We lost an awning while on the road. I have never seen anyone mention the Velcro safety straps that wrap around the frame when the awning is in the traveling position. They would have saved me $1000.00.