How to Care For Your RV Awning + Maintenance Tips

It’s nowhere near as important as the engine and you probably don’t give it as much thought as your RV interior but your RV awning is still a big part of what makes your RV home

On a nice day, unrolling your awning creates a shaded, breezy respite from the hot sun. It turns the bare space around your parked rig into a welcoming patio area. It essentially creates an outdoor living room and doubles your RV’s living space.

In a campground full of parked RVs, unrolled awnings create a front porch effect where others are welcome to sit and chat for a while and everyone is a friendly neighbor.

Like just about everything else on your RV though, your RV awning requires a little bit of ongoing care and maintenance to keep it functioning properly. None of them are major but you will want to put some thought into how you treat this small but transformative part of your rig. Taking care of your awning is as important as caring for your RV roof. And, it doesn’t take much to keep your RV awning in good condition.

Here are nine tips for regular RV awning maintenance.

RV awnings require care and maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to care for your RV awning

Maintaining and inspecting your awning from season to season keeps it intact and smelling fresh. Stained, mildewed, or torn awnings can lead to more significant problems if left untreated and may require you to replace the entire awning. The following tips can help keep your awning intact and lasting for many seasons!  

1. Wash the awning once or twice a year

Dirt stains, sap, and leaves from trees can leave your awning looking dingy and worn. Mold and mildew can also build up quickly and all of these factors combined can cause unpleasant odors and unsightliness. Routine washing will help to minimize these occurrences.

Most of the time, a light spray with a hose is sufficient to clean dirt and debris off your awning. However, if stains persist, you can use a soft, long-handled brush and some mild soap to scrub them out before rinsing. Be as gentle as possible to avoid removing the protective waterproof coating.

Depending on your volume of usage, regular cleanings may be required more or less frequently. If you are a full-time RVer, you will want to clean your awning at least three or four times per year. If you are a snowbird or part-time RVer a thorough cleaning once or twice a year should suffice.

No matter how often you use your RV awning be sure to clean it with a proper awning cleaner at least once a year. These can be found at most RV supply stores and should be sprayed onto the awning before scrubbing or rinsing. Follow all package instructions for best results.

Keep in mind that a high-quality cleaning product can make the job much easier.

2. Allow time for the awning to dry before storing it

Improper drying practices can be extremely damaging to your awning. These can cause mold and mildew growth as well as fabric dry rot and rust on your awning’s mechanical components.

Be sure to allow your awning to fully dry before you roll it up and store it. In addition, if your awning is left open on a rainy or humid day, it should be allowed to dry for at least three additional days before putting it away. This is especially important for those who use their awning less frequently as it can stay damp on the inside for weeks after you roll it up.

Ensure that your awning is completely dry to prevent unnecessary issues. If you must retract the awning before it’s completely dry, open it back up at your next destination.

Just like putting away a wet tent, rolling up a wet RV awning can lead to mold and all of the problems that go along with it (dry rot, a bad stink, and eventually ruined fabric). Fortunately, if the sun’s out, the drying-out process should not take too long.

RV awnings require care and maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Inspect your awning during each use

Each time you use your awning, you should inspect the fabric for stains, tears, loose threads, pinholes, or excessive wear. 

You should also look at the mechanical pieces to make sure they do not look broken. Watch the awning while it is extending and retracting to ensure it rolls evenly. It is a telltale sign of mechanical damage or an issue if both arms aren’t moving evenly.

4. Roll your awning up when it’s not in use

Although the awning’s main purpose is to provide shade from the sun, constant UV rays can damage your awning over time. When you are not using your awning for shade or heat prevention, roll it up and stow it away to minimize damage from the sun’s strength. This is especially pertinent if you are a full-time RVer who utilizes their awning often or if you take lots of trips during the summer.

5. Repair rips and tears ASAP

Once extended, look closer at the awning fabric from a ladder, rooftop view, or the ground. Most small holes can be repaired with a vinyl patch kit. If you see deterioration or tears, you’ll want to patch it as soon as possible.

A small hole or tear can quickly expand if ignored and it’s easier to patch than you might think. Simply seal the tear with awning repair tape. Using repair tape can extend the life and use of the current awning without having to replace the whole cover.

6. Engage the awning lock

If you have a manual awning, make sure to engage the awning locking mechanism when you travel. It’s usually a lever-like mechanism at the end(s) of your awning. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.

By ensuring the awning locking device is engaged before departure you can avoid tears in the fabric or damage to awning mechanical pieces while traveling.

If you have an electric awning, you may or may not have a travel locking mechanism. So, be sure to check your owner’s manual to learn if you need to engage a lock or not.

RV awnings require care and maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Don’t leave your awning open in high winds

Heavy wind or unexpected wind gusts can wreak havoc on your awning. It can even rip the entire awning off the side of your RV. 

Keep an eye on your weather app and the skies. If severe winds or weather is headed your way, retract your awning as necessary. Some RVs have auto-closing awnings when the wind picks up.

On that same note, be mindful whenever you’re leaving your campsite for the day or turning in for the night. The weather may be fine when you’re getting ready to leave but it doesn’t mean it’ll be fine the whole time you’re gone or while you sleep.

I know of campers who have returned to their campsite or woke to a badly damaged awning because it was left open in bad weather.

My best advice is to retract the awning before leaving your campsite and before retiring for the night.

8. Lower one side during the rain

If you leave the awning extended during a rain shower, lower one side of the awning more than the other. This allows the rain to run off instead of pooling on top. Pooling water on top of an awning can tear the fabric or damage the mechanical pieces if it becomes too heavy or submerges items in water. 

This tip doesn’t work for all awning types as some do not allow you to extend the sides differently. But if yours does, this tip will come in handy on rainy days.

RV awnings require care and maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Inspect your awning twice each year

Despite proper maintenance and care your RV awning will wear as it ages. In order to stay ahead of any potential issues you should thoroughly inspect your awning at least twice per year. Follow this basic guide:

Open your awning slowly and pay attention to how it feels. If there is resistance or loud noises, it may need to be inspected by a mechanic.

Once the awning is out, you should check over all the mechanical parts. Start by inspecting the roller tube closely for signs of warping. If it is warped, it will be fairly obvious to you.

Check over the awning arms. Inspect the brackets and poles for missing screws or signs of bending. Look for broken rivets or enlarged holes in the handles. All of these can cause issues in the future if they are not repaired.

Look over the awning end caps, checking closely for signs of damage and broken or missing rivets.

Inspect the mounting hardware and ensure that it is properly secured to the RV.

Thoroughly inspect the awning fabric keeping an eye out for tears or signs of excessive wear. Talk to your RV mechanic about patching holes if they arise.

Roll up your RV, paying close attention to its movement as you put it away. Once again, listen for loud noises, clicking, or other unusual sounds.

Once your awning is away, test the safety locking mechanism. Pull very gently on the awning to see if you can open it while it is locked. If the lock is working properly, the awning should not budge.

RV awnings require care and maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to wash your RV awning

Although there are several ways to wash your awning, the following is the easiest and most thorough way to clean your RV awning. 

After each season, it gets all that weathering soot and stains from our rig’s awning. Always do a reasonable inspection of the awning while cleaning it. That way, you can repair rips and tears right then and there. 

1. Extend the awning

Extend the awning to full length. You want to be sure that it is fully open so that you can clean every part of the awning. That also allows the fabric to dry completely so you do not get mold or mildew issues once it is closed. 

2. Spray the awning with your preferred cleaner

Use a secure step ladder and spray the awning with your desired cleaner. Always refer to your owner’s manual to see if there is a suggested cleaner. 

Let the cleaner saturate for about 10 minutes. That will help loosen hardened dirt and debris on the fabric. It makes your cleaning job a whole lot easier.

3. Scrub with a long-handled brush

Once the cleaner has soaked in, use an RV brush to scrub the awning. Lightly scrub the awning with a long-handled brush and a sponge with the green scrubber side. 

4. Rinse and let the awning air dry

After scrubbing the awning, rinse it thoroughly. Let the awning dry completely. 

Once completely dry, crank it slowly watching for an even and steady closure. Then you are ready for next time.

RV awnings require care and maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Spray mechanical parts with lubricant

Before closing the awning, spray some lubricant on the mechanical parts. That will help keep the mechanism working smoothly. 

Keep your awning in great shape

It’s true that your awning isn’t as integral to the functionality of your RV as some of its other components but having your RV awning in good working condition can really contribute to your quality of life when you’re on the road. Take good care of it and you’ll not only be rewarded with a great outdoor extension of your living space but you won’t have to spend your road trip money on a new awning.

Worth Pondering…

Until next time, safe RV travels, and I’ll see you on the highway!