TOPIC: Manually Operated RV Awnings
INSTRUCTOR: Russ Maxwell
[Ed Note: This topic related solely to manually operated RV awnings, and does not address the myriad issue pertaining to automatic RV awnings.]
Note: The instructor was previously the National Service Manager for Carefree of Colorado. Now independent rep for Carefree and other manufacturers.
Installation: Some customers like to do their own installations. Most RV dealers won't take your word for the size of awning you want. In some cases a 40 foot coach can't handle more than a 16 foot awning. This is because of crank out windows, the presence of many storage compartments, or other design features. The key is measurement! You may have 30 feet of available space, but what determines available length for the awning is where bottom brackets can be placed. Bracket is designed to sit on or adjacent to floor line.
The two bottom brackets bear the brunt of the load. They MUST be firmly affixed to the floorline. Even so one must wonder about how long the screws can handle the load.
To measure, make sure you're covering the door. Start past door, and figure out where in the rear you can affix the bracket. NOTE: Whenever making a hole in the RV, be certain it is completely and properly sealed to avoid rainwater intrusion. Don't use a power tool to install the brackets, as it is likely to over-torque the screws and bolts and can cause failure.
How to distinguish acrylic from vinyl awnings: All metal-wrapped awnings are acrylic (not vinyl). Tears cannot be repaired. DoughBoy and PlastiSeam are two products which repair vinyl tears.
Black knobs -- Use pure silicon spray only on awning parts....never WD40, machine oils, etc. Don't ever spray anything into brake mechanism. Spray inside of arms w/silicone. Only two points for lubrication are inside of slider arms and black knobs. Painted arms will slide more easily than unpainted aluminum arms. It typically takes 750 to 1100 pounds of water to break an awning. In set up, put as much tension on it as possible on the canopy so that it is taut, and can better resist airflow flutter.
As a rule of thumb, a center rafter is needed for awnings 17 feet and longer. But it's usually offered as an optional extra because some customers simply don't want them.
When awning is extended, some folks use hurricane straps. Straps are to keep awning from flying up. Need at least one, and better 2, springs at the tie down point. Tie straight down, not out at an angle. Many RVers use awning clamps. Purpose is to stop airflow/flutter.
"Ribs" usually will void warranty. They raise and stretch the material. And when you put it down, it sags. Vinyl stretches, acrylic won't.
Rain "dip" -- i.e., positioning one end of the awning considerably higher than the other to facilitate rain runoff: An inch isn't enough. Beware half moon tears if clearance above the doorway is impaired. If you're going to be away, roll it up! When you go to bed, put the awning away too! Worst possible time to raise awning is when the wind is blowing! Put awning up when you're away EVEN IF you use hurricane straps! How much wind can it stand? Steady windsare less troublesome. Gusts hurt. 15-20 mph gusts not a problem, but much above that can be a problem.
Pulling arms out versus staking them into the ground. Better to leave them connected to the bottom brackets, as it will provide a stronger support.
Make sure when you roll the awning up that it is locked in place. Try pulling it out. It's possible for the brake NOT to work. They don't physically latch, but rely on brake to control it.
.Cleaning. Don't use ANY household cleaning products. Get a vinyl cleaner...Starbright, etc. Vinyl attracts mildewhich can destroy fabric. Pitch is a problem: try ice cubes, made it brittle, then break them off. No known cleaners for tree sap for either vinyl or acrylic. Clean awning top & bottom at least every 60 days.
Storage: Wash it, dry it, then roll it up and put it away. Next Spring use you'll see less of the 12' lines, which is dirt which washes to bottom of each role
Vinyl versus acrylic for the canopy? Vinyl positive: it doesn't leak. Acrylic positive: it's cooler. Negatives: Acrylic very slightly leaks. It "breathes", so moisture runs through it. Vinyl awnings are noticeaby hotter underneath. Which lasts longer? It's a toss-up. Acrylic requires less care. But it does need care. Acrylic costs about $200 more per unit than vinyl.