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 and door awnings that provide shade and keep rain away from your RV windows or entry door. There are slide-out awnings that protect the slide-out roof from debris and water. And there are patio awnings. Patio awnings extend the living area of our outdoor world. Similar to the front porch of your home, the patio awning provides us with shade and cover from a light rain when we want to sit and enjoy the great outdoors.
The awnings on your RV will provide years of reliable trouble free operation, if you take the time to do a little preventive maintenance and cleaning.
Perhaps the most important component of an awning is the fabric. 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. 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, humidity and if the fabric is stored when it is wet.
Some awnings have an aluminum or vinyl wrap-around weather guard that protects the awning fabric when it’s in the travel position. When you open the 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 will mildew. To prevent dirt from embedding into the woven fabric of an acrylic awning fabric you should simply hose the fabric off on a monthly basis. Avoid scrubbing acrylic awning fabric. Scrubbing can remove the water retardant finish. For stubborn stains blot the approved cleaner on the acrylic fabric with a sponge or soft cloth.
For more difficult stains, or mildew, on a vinyl awning fabric there are after market commercial cleaners made just for awning fabrics. One method that seems to work well is to spray the inside and outside of the awning fabric with the appropriate cleaner, then roll it up and let it sit for several minutes. This distributes the cleaner over the entire surface of the awning fabric and allows the cleaner time to work. Open the awning and thoroughly rinse both sides of the fabric. It may be necessary to scrub stubborn stains with a brush on a vinyl awning fabric before rinsing. You can clean the awning hardware with the same cleaner you use to wash the RV.
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 and cleaner manufacturer directions.
Inspecting the Awning
* Inspect the awning fabric for any tears or excessive wear. Talk to your RV dealer about what materials to use to repair or patch the awning fabric.
* 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.
* 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 for secure mounting. 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 and 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.
Note: Have any damaged or broken parts repaired prior to 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 runoff. The weight from water pooling on the awning fabric can cause extensive and costly damage.
* Any wind gusts over 20 miles per hour can also 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. Even when you are at the campsite, you should use awning tie downs to prevent any sudden 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 the RV. Remember, it is much easier to prevent damage to your awning than it is to repair it.
Awning Tip: Check with your RV insurance provider to make sure your RV awning is covered in the event of any damage. Some insurance companies require separate insurance coverage on the RV awnings.
For more information on RV awnings and everything else you need to know about your RV check out my best-selling book, The RV Book
Well that about does it. With the proper care and a little preventive maintenance you and your RV awnings will have it made in the shade.