The retractable awning is one of the most useful innovations in RVs in recent decades. Though they are now considered standard equipment, older RVers may recall the cumbersome canvas awnings that had to be pulled along the roof by a sail track – they were unwieldy, especially when wet, and certainly no fun in the wind! Retractable awnings have revolutionised life in – and outside of – our RVs.
Types of Awnings
There are many types of RV awnings to choose from, all built from different materials and having distinct functions. Before purchasing, you should spend some time selecting the right one for you, as each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Some models feature a mounting bracket on the RV’s side, whereas others do not. Some have a winding handle, while others can be drawn out or retracted by hand, and some are roof-mounted rather than wall-mounted, making them ideal for RVs with limited wall space (like campervans). Electric retractable awnings are also available; press a button and the awning opens or closes. Electric awnings, while more convenient, require either a battery or a mains power source, which is something to consider.
You should know awning selection is also influenced by considerations such as the length of the RV and the positioning of windows and doors.
While many RVers only have an awning, you can opt for a full or partial annexe. Annexes come in a variety of configurations by companies like Kakadu, Australia Wide, and Annexe Solutions. There are floor mats for every size and fully enclosed annexes with three walls or merely a sun-blocker along one wall. Floor mats are excellent for preventing dirt and dust from entering the RV. Other alternatives include combining numerous doors, bug screens, and walls. For something different, consider an annexe that comes complete with a roof.
Impact of Weather on Your Awning
RV awnings are excellent camping additions, but they can get damaged by the weather in multiple ways. They can be severely damaged by strong gusts of winds; tearing the fabric, bending the supports, or breaking the gears and torsion springs. When deploying your awning, it’s critical to keep an eye on the weather, and for long-term visits, it’s preferable to use tie-downs on both ends to keep it secure. Patio awnings should be retracted and kept secure in winds of 30Kms/hr or above. Retractable awnings should not be used in the event of severe winds, rain, hail, or snow.
Awnings can effectively keep the rain off your RV’s door. But If left open in the rain, water can collect on the fabric until something gives way, bending and twisting the awning’s metal parts. or, worse, pull it away from its wall mounts.
Anti-flap kits, roof rafters and hold-down straps for bad weather, and additions to hold LED light strings (if your awning does not come with integrated lighting or you need more illumination) can all be found in camping stores.
Retractable awnings, like any other equipment in your RV, will benefit from regular maintenance. Cleaning is the only maintenance required; however, the springs may need to be re-tensioned from time to time. High tension springs are used within the roll-up mechanism of awnings to assist in retraction, and if the awning isn’t rolling up straight or has started to droop, the springs may need replacement. Professional assistance is the way to go because it’s not a DIY job unless you know what you’re doing.
Final suggestions and Techniques
- Do not slam the front bar into the rolled fabric when retracting. Always roll the fabric off the top of the roller tube, never from underneath.
- Twigs, leaves, and other solid material should not be rolled up in the awning. Lower the awning gently and sweep everything off before packing it away.
- Ensure the awning is entirely dry before rolling it up if it has rained or if there has been a lot of dew overnight. If not, spread the awning out to dry as soon as possible.
- Once a month, rinse your awning with a garden hose and scrub the underside with a household broom to maintain it.
- Clean the awning regularly, but avoid using household or industrial detergents. Use a gentle brush and a light natural soap like Ivory Flakes or Woolite in lukewarm water.
- A pull-down strap can be moved along the awning on some awnings. It works best in the dead centre, so make sure it’s there before retracting the awning.
- Some awnings have a covering, while others have bare vinyl. Vinyl doesn’t hold up well in the sun for long periods, so if you’re storing the van for a long time, invest in an awning cover.
- Shop awnings, highway signs, and overhanging trees can all cause damage to awnings. The tubes and side supports can also be damaged by hitting something and crushing or bending the tube or supports. This is something you need to keep in mind when you’re on the road.
As you can see awnings are a fantastic addition to any RV to keep you dry, out of the sun and give your RV some protection, but a poorly maintained awning can be more trouble than it’s worth. Make sure you do your research, look around and secure the right awning for your needs. Once installed, keep up with some simple routine maintenance and life on the road will be smooth sailing.
Also Read: Caravan Solar Panels – Maintenance & Efficiency Tips