Extending the Life of Your RV Awning
Awnings are a great feature to have on your RV. There are several different types of RV awnings, and they serve different purposes. There are window awnings that provide shade and keep the rain away from your RV windows. There are slide-out awnings that protect the slide-out roof from debris and water.
Then, there are patio awnings. Patio awnings extend the living area of your outdoor world, similar to the patio on your home. The patio awning provides shade and cover when you want to sit and enjoy the great outdoors. The awnings on your RV will provide years of reliable, trouble-free operation if you do a little preventative maintenance and cleaning.
Perhaps the most important component of your awning is the fabric. The fabric used on RV awnings is one of two types: acrylic or vinyl.
Acrylic fabric is a woven cloth that lets air circulate through the fabric. This air circulation allows the fabric to dry quickly when it gets wet. Acrylic fabrics are water-repellent but not waterproof. If you have ever experienced camping with a tent, you know that you shouldn’t touch the underside of the tent fabric if it is wet. Touching the wet fabric allows water to seep through the fabric. The same applies to acrylic awning fabric.
Vinyl awning fabric is mildew-resistant but not necessarily mildew-proof. Mildew can form on the dirt and dust that collects on the fabric. It will be worse in high temperatures and/or high humidity, and if the fabric is stored wet.
Some awnings have an aluminum or vinyl wrap-around weather guard that protects the awning fabric when it’s in the travel or stowed position. If your RV awning did not come with a wrap-around weather guard or Aluma-Shield, then make sure you protect your awning fabric with an Awning Pro-Tech awning cover.
NOTE: Aluma-Shield cannot be retrofitted to your existing awning. You will have to purchase a whole new awning with Aluma-Shield. The cost for this can be more than $1,000. Awning Pro-Tech Awning Covers are the only patented retro-fit awning covers of their kind on the market and cost around $100. Extend the life of your RV awning for an affordable price with an Awning Pro-Tech awning cover.
Cleaning your Awning
Before you do any maintenance to your RV patio awning, window awning, or slide-out awning, make sure you have read the “Awning” section of your Owner’s Manual and/or Manufacturers’s Specs.
When you open your awning for the first time each year, or if it has been stored for a while, you will need to inspect the awning fabric for any signs of mildew or stains. Remember, vinyl awnings can mildew.
To prevent dirt from embedding into the woven fabric of acrylic awning fabric, you should simply hose the fabric off on a monthly basis. Avoid scrubbing acrylic awning fabric, especially on the underside, as scrubbing can remove the water retardant finish. If you do choose to scrub, use a very soft-bristle broom or scrub brush, or better yet, a bug sprayer.
Mix a combination of mild dish detergent and water. Never use aftermarket cleaners on your awning fabric because it can damage the fabric and/or speed the deterioration. Using the soft brush and soap mix, saturate the awning from the top only while it’s open.
Roll up the awning and let it sit for 15 minutes. This will allow the soap to break down the dirt and to penetrate through to the bottom without disturbing the waterproofing underneath. Then, extend the awning out fully and hose off thoroughly. Allow the awning to dry COMPLETELY before rolling back up to the stowed position.
NOTE: Once you rinse your RV awning after washing, make sure it is completely dry before rolling it up and/or installing an Awning Pro-Tech awning cover.
NOTE: Never use oil-based or abrasive cleaners on awning fabrics. Clean and thoroughly rinse both sides of the awning fabric. Carefully follow all awning manufacturer directions.
Inspecting Your Awning
- Inspect the awning fabric for any tears, peeling, or excessive wear. Check with your RV dealer about what materials to use to repair the awning fabric. Also, check your warranty policy to see if your awning is covered for fabric replacement because, unfortunately, most warranties will not cover deterioration due to sun and weather damage.
- Do not store the awning when the fabric is wet. Allow enough time for it to dry completely on both sides before storing the awning because a wet fabric can mold or mildew.
- While the awning is out, inspect the awning hardware. The bottom awning brackets support most of the load from the awning. Check the lag screws in the awning brackets to make sure they are snug and secure. Inspect the arm pivot holes for any enlarged holes or broken rivets in the handles.
- Check for a warped roller tube. If the roller tube is warped, it will be noticeable when you roll the awning out.
- Inspect the awning end caps for secure mounting. Check for broken rivets. Caution: Never attempt to remove the awning end caps. Spring tension can result in serious injury.
- Make sure the awning rail is securely mounted to the side of the RV, and that the sealant behind the rail is not cracked and falling out. This could cause leakage inside the wall of your RV through the mounting screws.
NOTE: Have any damaged or broken parts repaired before using the awning or installing an Awning Pro-Tech awning cover.
Using the Awning
In addition to cleaning and inspecting your awning, there are a few things to keep in mind when using the awning:
- Always lower one end of the awning to allow for water to run off. The weight from pooling water on the awning fabric can cause extensive and costly damage.
- Any wind gusts over 20 miles per hour can cause extensive damage to the awning and to the RV. Never leave the awning out unattended. If everyone is leaving the campsite, store the awning in the travel position. When you go to bed, store the awning because unexpected storms and/or wind gusts can happen throughout the night. Even when you are at the campsite, you should use awning tie downs to prevent any damage caused by high wind gusts or a sudden storm.
- You have the option to position the awning arms straight down and stake them to the ground, but you will get better support if they’re attached to the bottom awning brackets on the side of your RV. Remember, it is much easier to prevent damage to your awning than it is to repair it.
Check with your RV insurance provider to make sure your RV awning is covered in the event of any damage or deterioration. Know what type of fabric your awning is — vinyl or acrylic. The two different fabrics have different care requirements and withstand exposure differently. You can check your Owner’s Manual or ask your Dealer about the awning fabric material.
Know how long your awning and/or awning fabric is covered under warranty. Some insurance companies require separate coverage for RV awnings. Since awnings and awning fabric can be costly if not covered by insurance, make sure you protect your awning fabric and your investment by purchasing and installing Awning Pro-Tech awning covers.
Excerpts of this Article by Mark Polk
WARNING: Do not attempt to transport your RV with Awning Pro-Tech covers installed, unless you have the “Travel Clips” in place.