How to Clean RV Awning – A Comprehensive Guide to RV Awnings

For those who enjoy traveling and living on the road, there is no better choice of a vehicle than the big three: trailers, campers, and RVs. One important fixture of an RV is the awning. What is an awning? Well, basically it is a built-in tarp that is located at the sides of the RV which you can extend to create a makeshift roof. This, in turn, creates a little porch outside your RV where you can sit back and relax under a cool shady area.

For any RV camper, an RV awning is an essential element of the RV that will greatly improve your overall comfort during trips. It is basically a foldable roof made of either fabric or vinyl. Once you have settled into a nice camping spot, rolling out and setting up your awning will give you a nice shady spot to relax beside your RV.

In this article, we will be going through all the important tips and guidelines that concern the RV awning. Afterwards, you will have a complete grasp on how to set up, replace, maintain, and clean your RV awning; ensuring that your RV awning will last for quite a long time.


How to Make an Awning Frame – DIY Guide to Your Own Awning

You can buy RV awnings from RV manufacturers, but if you want to save some cash you can actually one yourself. If you are interested in making your own RV awning then continue reading below for a detailed step by step guide on how to create your own dependable awning.

What you will need

  • Tarp
  • Awning Frame
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Velcro Strips
  • Needle and Thread
  • Silicone Glue

Step 1: Measurements

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The first thing you need to do is to determine the overall dimension of your awning. You can do this by measuring your RV’s height and length. When it comes to the height measurement, make sure that the awning will be slightly smaller than your RV. This ensures you can properly fold it when not in use. Second, measure how far you want the awning to cover once it is rolled out. Take a note of your measurements.

Step 2: Buying the Parts

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Now go to your local camping and home improvement store and gather the necessary parts. Look for awning frames and tarps. Give the awning measurement you wrote down so that they can prepare the items you will need. Make sure the tarp is larger than the measurement as you will need that extra length to connect it to the awning frame.

Step 3: Preparing the Tarp

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Take your tarp and lay it out flat on the ground. Take a ruler and measure at least 2-inches from each side of the tarp. Take a pencil and trace a 2-inch line from one corner to the other. Now, take your scissors and start cutting along the line you made. Remember not to cut through the edges. You will be left with two slit located at each corner of the tarp once you are done.

Step 4: Preparing and Attaching the Velcro

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Get your Velcro strips and measure 2-inches from it. Now, cut 8 2-inch Velcro strips. You will be attaching this to each corner of the tarp. Once you have the 8 2-inch Velcro strips on hand, it is time for you to attach them to the tarp’s corners. Separate the Velcro strips and stitch each to both sides of the slits on the tarp. Repeat this for each corner of the tarp. This will be your main anchor points for the awning frame.

Step 5: Reinforcing the Stitches

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You should double down on stitching the corners to ensure it won’t rip apart during use. Stitch the edge of the flaps and repeat this for each corner as well. To further strengthen the tarp’s corner stitching, I suggest you apply some silicone glue over the stitched areas. Let the silicone glue dry overnight.

Step 6: Attaching the Tarp to the Frame

Once the silicone glue has dried you can then continue to attach the tarp to the awning frame. The process is simple, you just need to wrap each corner of the tarp to each side of the frame. Loop around the frame and attach the Velcro strips to each other. Slightly pull on each side to make sure that the tarp is tight and secure.

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There you have it. Your very own RV awning ready to be used. As this is a basic makeshift RV, you have to make sure you handle it with the utmost care. Don’t try to set it up during exceptionally windy days as it might rip off from the frame. Well, in regards to maintenance you can check below for proper ways to care for your RV awning.


How to Clean Your RV Awning and Maintenance Tips

Awnings are important especially if you are always on the road with your RV. It creates a comfortable space outside your RV where you can set up tables and chairs for a little R and R. Awnings are extremely easy to set up and disassemble. However, while your RV’s awnings appear to be quite sturdy you will still need to care and maintain it properly if you wish for it to last for a long time.

Two Types of RV Awnings

Before learning how to clean and take proper care of your RV awning, you need to first know what type of awning you have. There are two types of materials used in making an awning: fabric and vinyl. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages as well as their own specific method of cleaning and maintenance.

1. Fabric Awnings

Fabric awnings, also called as canvas or acrylic, are made of breathable textile. They can tolerate UV rays better than vinyl and will dry exceptionally quick. Fabric awnings are also coated with a special waterproof and stain proof finish.

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The downside to a fabric awning is its susceptibility to wear and tear.

Over time, the coating on the fabric will start to fade and once it takes its toll, you fabric awning will become harder to dry and could even lead to leaks. The only way to prevent this is by proper maintenance.


2. Vinyl Awnings

Awnings that are made of vinyl are mildew resistant but are not mildew proof. This makes vinyl awnings a great choice if you travel in an area that is warm and humid.

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Cleaning vinyl is relatively easy but you must avoid using awning cleaners. Awning cleaners usually contain bleach which is harmful to vinyl. If you have a vinyl awning, choose a cleaner with no traces of bleach.


Cleaning Both Fabric and Vinyl Awnings

There are three main practices you can do in order to help maintain your awning’s quality:

  • Step 1: Choose a high-quality awning cleaner that works great on cleaning fabric and vinyl awnings.
  • Step 2: Once you are finished cleaning the awning you should apply a protection to its surface. You will need different protections for both fabric and vinyl awnings. If you have a fabric awning then use a high-quality fabric guard while vinyl awnings will need a high-quality surface protection.
  • Step 3: Regularly clean and apply the protection to your awning. This will effectively increase its longevity and will be more tolerant to mildews and stains.

RV Awning Maintenance Tips

Now, cleaning is just one side of the coin when it comes to taking care of your RV awning. You should also know the important guidelines in maintaining your RV’s awning.

Tip 1: Learn How to Operate your Awning

Each awning will most likely use a different approach when operating. It depends on the manufacturer so always take your time with an instruction manual. One key element of using the awning is the rafter knobs. Remember to loosen this when operating the awning.

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Once the awning is open make sure that the knobs are locked in place. Familiarize yourself by practicing opening and closing the awning. This helps when you need to operate it an emergency.


Tip 2: Use the Awning Properly Depending on the Weather

Obviously, you will be using the awning primarily when it is raining. However, you should take into account how you set it up during a downpour. You should open it with a lower slant in order to let the rain slide off and not collect on the surface.

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Having water collect at the top will put a tremendous strain on the metal frames and might even cause it to bend. In the instance when strong winds are also present then you should avoid opening the awning to prevent any damage. This also applies to when there is a heavy snowstorm.


Tip 3: Do not Use any Abrasive Cleaners

Use water and soap. Avoid using any type of brush as you might cause the fabric or vinyl to tear over time. If you will be using bleach then makes sure it is safe to use on the fabric or vinyl.

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Don’t dry the fabric or vinyl by subjecting it to the heat of the sun. Air drying your awning is the safest method.

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Tip 4: Make Sure the Awning Dry Before Folding/Storing

One key tip I can give when it comes to making sure your awning stays sturdy longer is to ensure it is dry before you fold and store it. Storing the awning while it is still wet will cause mildews to form and could even cause an unpleasant odor.

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Tip 5: Do a Regular Checkup on your Awning

Inspect your awning every once in a while. This will allow you to spot any damages early so that you can take the necessary steps for repairs. Apply a regular coating of silicone spray to provide protection for your awning.

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5 Common Mistakes in RV Awning Care

You should also be aware of the following common mistakes RV owners do when it comes to using their awnings. These mistakes can cost you in repairs so it is best to avoid them from the get go.

#1. Never Ever Leave Your Awning Unattended

If you will be going on a hike or leaving your RV for a lengthy amount of time then you’d better make sure your awning is closed and secure. Weather can change without a moment’s notice. The last thing you want is to have your awning out while a strong gust of the wind or a thunderstorm rolls in.

See How to Open & Close RV Awnings...


#2. Secure RV Starting up

Make sure that your awning is completely secure before starting up your RV. There have been some cases where the awning suddenly falls open while the RV is on the move which is extremely hazardous for you and for other drivers on the road. Double check the locks and straps to ensure they are tightly secured.

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#3. Clean Your RV Regularly

Again, most will usually use their RV for months on end without cleaning the awning at least once. This is a huge mistake as mildew, stains, and rot can damage the fabric. Clean it regularly, clean it properly and dry it out before folding.

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#4. Dry Your Awning Before Folding It Back

Do not fold your awning while it is still wet. Air dry your awning before rolling or folding it back into place. Mildew will form if you don’t and chances are your awning will develop an unpleasant odor.

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#5. Apply lubricant to prevent grease on the awning’s steel frames

As the frames will be under attack by the natural elements regularly it is more susceptible to corrosion and rust. Prevent this by applying a lubricant. Do not use oily substances though as it might cause dirt to clog the joints. Instead, use a lubricant spray.


How to Open RV Awning – Proper Way to Set up

Learning how to properly operate your RV awning is essential in order to make sure you don’t accidentally damage it. If your RV already comes with a pre-installed awning then you can just check the manual for instructions. For those who bought or made an RV awning of their own, this guide is for you.

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Keep in mind that this instruction is based on A and E 8500 RV awning models. However, most RV awnings utilize this version so this should cover the basics. If you find that your RV is of a different model, you can always check the manufacturer’s manual. Chances are it uses mechanisms similar to the industry standard

  • Step 1 – Unlock the Travel Locks. The first thing you need to do when opening your RV awning is to unlock the travel locks that are located on both side of the RV arms. There are two ways to release the travel locks, most models use tabs that you squeeze in order to release the locks. On other models, you simply need to swing levers out of the way of the awning arm.
  • Step 1 – Unlock the Travel Locks. The first thing you need to do when opening your RV awning is to unlock the travel locks that are located on both side of the RV arms. There are two ways to release the travel locks, most models use tabs that you squeeze in order to release the locks. On other models, you simply need to swing levers out of the way of the awning arm.
  • Step 2 – Locate the rafter knobs and loosen it. These are found behind the RV awning arms and are the black knobs that ensure the arms don’t vibrate during traveling. Remember this when folding the RV awning as it prevents the arms from becoming loose and getting detached during motion.
  • Step 3 – Make sure the ratchet is in the rollout mode in conjunction with the awning rod. Some models use the slide mechanism to remotely release the ratchet. When driving, check to make sure that the ratchet is in the roll-up position. This ensures that the RV awning fabric is held in place.
  • Step 4 – Hook The Strap with the Awning Rod. Take the pull strap and hook it with the awning rod. Pull out the RV awning.
  • Step 5 – Make sure the rafter knobs are loosened when you slide the rafter outwards. Position the RV awning arms onto the rafter. Lock the awning arms and the rafter into position so that they won’t fold back down.
  • Step 6 – Tight the knobs. Once you have set the rafters up properly you can then tighten the knobs once again.
  • Step 7 – Awnings' Height Adjustment. You can adjust the height of the RV awning by operating the handles which release the auto-lock. You can lift the arms to your desired height as long as the handles are lifted. Once you reach the perfect height, release the handle to lock the arms in place.

How to Replace RV Awnings?

RV awning is an excellent way to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays when camping with your RV. However, as it will be constantly at the mercy of the natural elements there will come a time when you need to replace it due to wear and tear. No matter how much you maintain your RV awning it will need to be replaced sometime in the future.

Replacing the RV awning roof is a simple enough method, but if you have no knowledge of how to do it don’t worry as this guideline will help you every step of the way. While you can hire a professional to replace it for you, doing it yourself will help you save some cash. Plus, it is actually simpler than it looks. Below is a step by step guide on how to replace your RV awning roof.

Step 1: Find the Right Replacement

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Measure the old awning roof to know what size you will need before buying. If your old awning is gone, you can simply measure the awning frame to get an estimation.

Step 2: Removing the Old Awning Roof

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Once you have bought a replacement awning roof it is time to replace the old one. Of course, we start by removing the damaged awning roof. If you still haven’t removed the old awning roof then the following steps should help you with that.

Step 3: Disconnecting the Tarp

In order to remove the damaged tarp, you should first roll down the old awning and lock it in place. Next, you can bend the cotter pins by spinning the inner shaft until you are able to line up all the holes. This allows you to bend the pins.

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In order to remove the lag bolts, you will need to use a wrench. Once you have removed the lag bolts you can now remove the awning rafters from the RV. Once you have disconnected that rafters you can then easily unroll the fabric away from the awning frame.

A special note here that you should remember is the number of rotations you give to the spring to loosen it. Make a note of how many spins you made as this should be done exactly during re-installation. Once done, you can now remove the fabric from the awning frame.

Step 4: Installing the New Awning Fabric

Installing the new RV awning roof is easy. However, you must be careful not to accidentally tear into the fabric during attachment to the awning frame. Re-attach the torsion and fasten it back in place. Remember how many spins it took to loosen the springs, apply the same number of rotations. Re-attach every part of the awning frame again. Check if the awning operates properly by swinging it back and forth.

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There you have it, you have no properly re-installed a new awning roof. The most important element here is the tension springs. Too tight and you might cause it to rip the fabric, too loose and the fabric might get stuck. You should also check your RV’s manual if there are any specific guidelines you need to learn when replacing the awning roof. It is important to note that some RV awnings might have specific designs that are different from the standard awning structure. Be sure to always read through the manufacturer’s manual first and foremost. 


Reminders when Using RV Awnings

Now that you know how to properly set up the RV awnings, there are a couple of guidelines that you also need to learn. For example, if you are caught in the rain you should make sure that one side of the awning is lower than the other. This helps prevent water from accumulating on top of the tarp which may cause it to stretch and rip. You should also make use of the tent pegs and stake the awning legs firmly to the ground.

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RV awnings are generally used as a sunshade, if bad weather is imminent I suggest you roll the RV awning back up and stay inside the RV. RV awnings are not exactly designed for withstanding bad weather so it is best not to put it through the ringer which might greatly reduce its durability.


Conclusion

If you have an RV then you probably use your awning regularly. Protecting your RV awning is easy as long as you avoid the common mistakes. Hopefully, this article has helped shed some light on how to properly use and maintain your RV awning. To campers who regularly use RVs, having an awning is a great way to make the most out of your trip.

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However, as noted earlier RV awnings are susceptible to wear and tear. This is why it is imperative for RV owners to know how to care for and use their awning. If you have anything else to add to the discussion please feel free to use the comment section down below.

Comment down below if you found this article helpful or if you have anything to add. As always, coming in prepared with the right information is an essential part of outdoor activities. Never get caught with your pants down and arm yourself with the right gear and know how. I guarantee you will be enjoying every single one of your camping trips if you come prepared.

Kevin Smith

About the Author

Kevin Smith

Ahoy there! The name’s Kevin Smith, the proprietor of this little travel and outdoors blog. The outdoors has always been a passion of mine since I was a kid as my parents were avid campers themselves. They taught me everything I know when it comes to camping, hiking etc. and I would like to do my part by imparting my know-how to like-minded individuals who enjoy the same hobby as me. I started this website in the hopes of helping other people when it comes to answering questions, giving tips and recommendations focusing on the camping niche. Along with some close friends of mine, we are here to help you make the most out of your outdoor experience. Enjoy your stay and enjoy the wild side!

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