Home RV Awnings

This is primarily for the people with the standard, A&E awning.  You guys with the more expensive, single-action or powered awnings do not need much, if any, of the following monologue.  I think the standard Colorado awning setup is almost identical to the A&E.

Winds

Make sure the wind is calm when you extend your awning.  I lost an awning right over the top of the RV in a sudden wind gust.  It broke all of the aluminum struts -- and missed my head by inches as it flew over the top.  The strut also cut a hole in my fiberglass siding.  Be very careful when retracting your awning during high winds.   High winds will occur anywhere.  So, I learned to keep the awning well staked.  Right.  Then one day feeling comfortable knowing that the awning stakes would hold everything in place, I started hear a clicking sound in my cupboards.  The awning was actually pulling the side of my RV off.  I went outside and saw the screws being pulled out.  I have not had the awning extended since.  I learned a similar lesson with my ramada/canopy.


I found an interesting article at the FMCA web site: Wind Forces and your Awning. (I had a link to the exact page but they moved it.)

Extension

The following is the normal procedure for an A&E awning.  If in question, read your unit's directions.

  1. With the extender rod, pull the security latch on the front end of the awning toward you. 
    This is a small t-shaped lever on the awning roll front casing cover.
  2. Unlatch the retaining lock on each of the two vertical supports. 
    This may be a lever that you pull sideways or it may be a plastic catch.
  3. Loosen the tension knobs on each support bar until they are loose but certainly not off.
  4. With the extender rod, pull the loop in the strap for about one foot. 
    Make sure both upper latches have released.  If not, wiggle the strut with the stuck latch. 
    If this does not release the strut, retract the awning and start over. 
    If this is still not good enough, climb the ladder and see why the strut is stuck.
  5. With the extender rod, pull the loop in the strap until the awning is fully extended.  It will stay extended. 
    If not latching, check  the security latch in step 1.
  6. Slide each unlatched support bar the bar to the awning roll until it latches.
  7. Tighten the 2 tension knobs.  You have a firm triangle between the RV, the tension bar and the extendable awning support bar.
  8. Attach an anti-flap device (Wal-Mart) in the middle to the tension arm of each end of the awning.  These look like oversized Ping-Pong paddles with a screw in the middle.  There are other kinds but they have the same purpose.  I like the ping-pong paddles best.
  9. Attach a packing strap hook, ratchet-end down to the end of the awning support (Wal-Mart, Costco).  A packing strap is normally used for household moving.  It is made of woven cording with a hook at each end and a tension ratchet in the middle.  The strap should be at least 10-feet long.  And is hanging loose from the awning casing.
  10. Extend each of the two extendable awning support bars to as high as desired by pulling the lever handle away from the support and pushing the handle and support arm out and up.  Release the handle when properly extended.  See notes.
  11. Drive a large tent stake into the ground -- slightly away from the vertical point of the awning end.
  12. Attach the ratchet-end of each packing strap to its stake. Tighten the ratchet until the strap is taught but not under serious tension.
    Note that your RV must be stable (on your jacks) for this otherwise movement of the RV can damage your awning supports.

Awning Extension Notes:

Struts to the Ground

In its normal connected position the awning struts form a triangle to the waist-high side of the RV.  This triangle makes for the strongest support configuration.

If you can be absolutely sure that no wind at all will occur while you are in camp, you may unclamp the lower latch and stake the support bar to the ground.  This will eliminate knocking your head on the support bar. 

If the wind comes up, and the awning strut is staked to the ground, the stakes may be pulled and your awning is history.

Other

A new awning will cost at least $700.  The lever handle is made of sintered metal.  This means that sooner or later, the latch will break.  These cost about $20 at you local RV store.  I carry a spare.  You will need a drill to remove the old pop rivets and use a pop-rivet tool ($10 WalMart) to install the new latch.

There are many new support arrangements to make this process easier or automatic.  I am sure they are worth the money.

Retraction

  1. Remove your attachments: lamps, bug bugs, flappy-things, etc.
  2. Make sure the bottom latches are secure in the side of the RV – especially if you had removed them and staked them to the ground.
  3. Retract the support arms by holding the lever handle away from the support arm and permitting it to slowly retract into itself.  Muscle.
  4. Remove the anti-flap devices on the extension supports.
    Loosen the tension knob in the middle of each extension support.
    Release the latch at the end of each extender support.
    Retract each extender support
  5. Have someone hold the retracting strap securely.
  6. Use the extender rod to push the security latch back (front awning casing) to its locked upright position.
  7. Carefully attach the extender rod into the loop on the strap.
  8. With a smooth release, permit the awning to retract to the side of the RV.  It should latch into the top of the extender arm.
    Note that if you permit the roll to have any angle (spiral edges), your vertical struts will not align when the roll reaches the top.  In this case, the outside struts will not cover the upper latch and you will need to carefully repeat this process until the awning rolls in a straight line.
  9. Pull the two arms at each end together, they should latch.  Tighten the tension knobs.
  10. Latch the retaining lock on each of the two support arms.  If it does not latch, then the arm is not itself properly aligned and latched into the top support.  You may have to retry the extend-release operation until it latches squarely at both ends (step 8).
  11. Put the extender rod away along with your attachments.

Awning Accessories

Cleaning

There are products just for cleaning awnings.  I find a dish soap solution (Joy) is good for this and many other things.  In Florida, a Joy solution kills the algae growing on the concrete – cleaning vinyl is a snap.

High Winds

Under severe wind conditions you may want to connect multiple packing straps and run this long strap the length of the awning at about the middle.  Stake these at each end of the awning.  Under these conditions, instead of more straps I would retract the awning and pray.

Do not underestimate the power of the wind to damage your awning and its supports.  If in question, leave the awning retracted.

Incident 1

While driving across a San Francisco Bay area bridge, the front strut came unlatched and even with the safety latch in place managed to extend way from the RV you have no idea how dangerous this is.  I use a bungie cord now at the top of each strut to make sure nothing unlatches.

Incident 2

While staking my strut to the ground a sudden burst of wind caught the awning and it flew over the top of the RV taking the struts and everything with it.  All aluminum pieces were broken.  One had pierced the other side of my RV.  And my neighbor said I was lucky as the strut with the nail in it missed my head by inches.  I no longer remove the strut from the side of my RV when setting up.

Incident 3

I set myself up more or less permanently.  I staked down the awning as described above.  I sat inside and listened to the winds.  I heard a popping sound.  I went outside to discover that the awning was destroying my RV.  It was literally tearing the entire side of the RV off.  The awning permanently attaches to the rain gutter strip on the side of the RV.  Running the length of the awning is a hemmed in rubber strip that installs the awning by sliding this hemmed strip from the open end of the rain gutter at the front of the RV to the place on the side where it permanently resides.  The front and rear brackets make sure it stays in this place.  So now the awning was pulling the gutter strip rivets out of the side of the RV.  Soon my roof would be loose and maybe even the side of the RV.  I retracted the awning permanently.  Right now as I write this I hear wind whistles and know I am safe.

Suggestions?  Questions?  Comments?  Push the Home/eMail above.
Written:  2003  Updated:  August 14, 2008          Back To Top