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RV Awnings: Use and Maintenance Tips From a Full-Timer

RV awnings are more important than people realize. Learn the basics about how to use and care for them and all their benefits.

RV awnings are more important than people realize. Learn the basics about how to use and care for them and all their benefits.

Do All RVs Have Awnings?

If you already own an RV, you likely have some awnings on it. If you don’t, you definitely need to buy some and install them. Most RVers don’t give much thought to awnings, but they play an important role in comfort as well as certain maintenance issues, so they’re important to have.

Unfortunately, not all campers, trailers and motor homes come with them, and buying them can be quite expensive. So, when shopping for these types of vehicles, always check to see if awnings are part of the deal. Otherwise you could end up spending far more than you thought!

All recreational vehicles should have awnings on every window, and all owners should learn how to maintain those awnings!

All recreational vehicles should have awnings on every window, and all owners should learn how to maintain those awnings!

Why RV Awnings Are Important

RV awnings serve several purposes. They protect against heat, keep water out of the RV and help to create internal privacy.

For example,

  • if it is very hot outside, lowering awnings can keep the temperature down inside of your travel unit because they block direct sunlight,
  • if you have left your windows open, and it begins to rain, your awnings will keep rainwater from entering your coach if you have left them open and
  • they also provide a certain measure of privacy when in the open and low position.

When you’re on the road, these things become important because the last thing you want to deal with is an overly hot RV or a flooding situation! For these reasons, it’s important to do what you can to protect your RV awnings.

Guidelines for Use

If you plan to leave your travel unit unattended, even for short periods of time, or if heavy rains and winds are forecast, you should always roll your awnings up and secure them tightly.

When setting awnings up, always secure them with tie-down straps and anchoring systems so that high winds won’t be able to damage them.

The best products we've found for doing this are the awning anchoring kit made by Camco and the awning anchor kit and the JR products 9523 Awning Tie Down Straps because both are well made and are strong enough to hold awnings in place in rough weather. We've used them for years without incident.

Wind Accident #1

Years ago my husband and I left our awnings in the open position and went off to a local store to pick up a few groceries. It was a beautiful day, so we felt we were safe to do this.

We were wrong!

A high wind came up unexpectedly, caught our long awning from its bottom area, tore it off of its straps and threw it backwards over the top of our fifth wheel.

It did a great deal of damage, and it took a bit of time and effort to make repairs, but we learned a good lesson from this experience.

When you’re vacationing it’s easy to become lax when it comes to details, but it always seems that this is the time when problems occur. You cannot ignore your responsibilities, or you have problems!

Wind Accident #2

However, sometimes it takes more than once to learn a lesson!

We had left our campground to head towards our next destination. Before long, other drivers started honking their horns. We looked out our window only to find that our long awning had not been properly secured, had come loose and had fallen halfway down the side of our RV! A little more wind and it would have gone the rest of the way!

We pulled over and made adjustments, and fortunately no damage had been done.

Rain Damage

One problem we’ve never had, fortunately, is to have our long awning ruined from rainwater. This is because we do two things when rain is forecast:

  1. Tilt the awning to one side.
  2. Carry a broom so that if the water gets too heavy in the central area of the awning, we can gently push the awning up and force the water to slide off to the ground, thus relieving the weight of the water.

We’ve seen a lot of people get awning damage because they didn’t do these things, and when the awning broke, it damaged other parts of their RVs as well.

Carrying a long handled broom may seem a simple solution, but it’s one that few people think of to do, and it can cost them plenty in terms of repair bills!

Snow Damage

Those who RV in cold climates need to know that snow can do the same type of damage as rain. Therefore, it either needs to be cleaned off regularly or slide rooms need to remain closed.

Tree Damage

As the one video showed, parts of trees can also fall on awnings, add weight and possibly damage them. Therefore you need to be careful where you park and always check the awning before closing it to make sure any residue is cleaned off before closing it so that you don’t damage the awning material.

RV Awning Care

An important tip to remember is to never store your awning when it’s wet. Also, you should thoroughly wash each side of an awning and let them dry before storing. This should be done at least once per month.

Use approved products for washing awnings so that you do not damage them such as the awning cleaner we use that is manufactured by Thetford called Premium Awning Cleaner for RV and Home.

The attached video shows you how to use it. We have done this and can verify that this stuff really does a great job. It's much better than others we've tried, even though it requires some elbow grease!

Although cleaning an awning with this product does not guarantee that mildew won’t occur, it certainly lessens the chances of this happening.

Some coaches come with protective covers. These are also helpful when it comes to protecting awnings from mold and mildew problems.

Awnings Can Be Difficult to Manage

Many RV owners curse their awnings because they’re tricky to put up and down. If you don’t get these tasks just right, situations like those mentioned above can happen. When they do, it’s not fun!

Some people think having electric awnings is the answer, but it really isn’t. They are just as fragile is manually controlled ones, and they cost a whole lot more to own!

Best Advice

My best advice is to have two people deal with your awnings. That way if one of them misses something, the other can catch it. Doing this also gives you an extra set of hands when maneuvering RV awnings into position, especially if it is raining or windy when you’re doing this job.

The bottom line is that you really do need to have awnings on your recreational vehicle for the reasons mentioned above.

If you follow the advice I’ve provided here, you’ll learn the best ways to deal with them and will be very happy that you have them!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Sondra Rochelle