RV awnings are great for those nice sunny days when you just want to relax outside under the shade. Unfortunately, they can be a little tricky to operate, especially for first-timers. A broken awning can put a real damper on any day, so it’s best to learn how to properly use and care for these shady devices.
First, let’s check out what Outdoorsy RV owner Mike Jackson has to say about proper awning usage.
How to Open an RV Awning
Opening an awning can be broken down into seven simple steps. Not following the steps in order can result in broken parts, so read carefully. Also keep in mind that parts may vary slightly from RV to RV, so be sure to double-check with your manual. Never force the mechanisms if there is resistance— this can lead to damage!
Step One: Loosen Rafter Knobs
On the back of each awning arm, you should find a (usually black) knob. Loosen this on both sides, but be careful not to unscrew it all the way.
Step Two: Release Travel Locks
Once the knobs are loosened, squeeze the travel locks on the side of the support arms to release. You should hear a click.
Step Three: Flip the Ratchet Mechanism to Open
On the end closest to the front of the RV, you’ll find a directional lever. Switch it to the open position using the awning rod.
Step Four: Roll Out the Awning
Use the awning rod to hook the pull strap on the awning. Pull the strap straight out, extending the awning.
Step Five: Slide the Rafters Up and Lock Them Into Place
The inner rafter arms should be pushed to the top of the opposing arms. Once they’re in position, you should hear them click.
Step Six: Tighten the Rafter Knobs
Those little knobs that you first loosened? Time to tighten both of those back up!
Step Seven: Raise the Awning
Now it’s time to lift! Using the handles on each arm, raise the awning. Lifting the handles will unlock the awning, allowing you to raise it. Once it’s reached the desired height, release the handle. It should lock into place.
If you’re raising the awning alone, do it in increments on each side. If you have an extra hand to help you, two people can lift at the same time.
How to Close an RV Awning
Closing an RV awning should be just as easy as opening one! Think of it as performing the reverse of each action when you raised it.
- Start by lifting the handle and lowering the extendable arms on the awning back to their original position.
- Then, loosen the knobs.
- Unlock the rafters and slide them back down.
- Grab the strap and position it away from the edge of the awning. Flip the ratchet lever to the up position so the ratchet can retract. Be sure to hold on tightly to the strap.
- Slowly let the awning roll up. There may be tension, so you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t go flying.
- Once it’s retracted, squeeze the arm to engage the travel safety lock and tighten up the knob.
Before hitting the road, always be sure that everything on the awning is properly locked and secured.
How to Care for an Awning
Not only do you need to know how to use an awning, but you should also be aware of how to properly care for one.
Cleaning an RV Awning
Experts recommend you clean your awning once a year, at a minimum. Most awnings can be cleaned up by simply hosing them down with water. If it needs a deeper clean, a soft bristle brush and dish soap usually does the trick. You can even pick up some specialized awning cleaners online, at RV dealerships, or at your local home improvement store.
If your regular cleaning solution isn’t working on stubborn substances like tree sap, you can spot clean the areas with isopropyl alcohol, Clorox spray, or Formula 409. When using these harsher cleaners for the first time, be sure to try it on a corner of the fabric first to ensure that it won’t discolor it or leave residue behind. Always be sure that it is completely dry before rolling it back up to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
Keeping It Out of the Sun
While the purpose of an awning is to keep the sun off of you, it doesn’t mean that the sun is good for it. Like most materials, RV awning fabric will break down over time with exposure to the sun’s harsh UV rays.
Try to keep your awning rolled up when it’s not in use. This will help it last longer and keep from losing its color. Some owners choose to treat the RV awning fabric with a protectant like 303 Fabric Guard or 303 Aerospace, which are designed to repel dirt and water as well as provide UV protection. Which one you purchase will depend on the fabric that your awning is made of, so make sure you check before you purchase.
Using an Awning in the Rain
If you’re using the awning in the rain, tilt one corner lower than the other. This will allow the water to run off instead of pooling in the middle and causing potential damage. Water is heavy and can cause the metal to bend or even completely snap off of your RV.
When to Replace an RV Awning
If you see noticeable damage such as tears in the fabric or broken pieces, it may be time to replace or perform an RV awning repair. If the metal frame or ratchet mechanism is damaged, purchasing a new awning may be your best option, unless you are mechanically inclined and know exactly what you need to do to fix the issue.
Rips and tears in the fabric, however, can usually be remedied by simply replacing the roll of awning fabric.
Cost of Awning Replacement and Repair
The cost of repairing or replacing the fabric of an awning is much less than buying a new one. You can often find new fabric for around $200. An entire new awning may cost anywhere between $500-$3500, depending on size, brand, and type.
Sit Back and Relax
Using an awning doesn’t have to be difficult. After a few times, it’ll start to become second nature. Just be sure to always follow each step in order, and never force parts if there is resistance. Awnings can be a great addition to any RV trip as long as you use them right!