RV Awning Installation and Repair

Our RV awning is 11 years old now, and the canvas fabric recently tore at the top and bottom. RV awnings are a pain in every respect (except for the wonderful shade they offer), and we knew we were in for a challenging DIY repair if we tried to do it ourselves.

Fixing an RV awning is a job for at least two people, preferably three or four for certain parts of the job, and it’s easiest if someone in the group has done it before because it can be a little tricky.

Ripped RV awning torn before replacement-min

Oh no! Time for new RV awning fabric!

We were traveling through Rapid City, South Dakota, and recent hail storms had made a mess of many RVs and RV dealerships all around the area. Only one of the local RV dealerships and repair shops could get us in within the week, so we were thrilled when we backed into a bay at Jack’s Campers.

Fortunately, they had the fabric for a 17′ Dometic Sunchaser awning in stock, an old manual model that is not installed on new RVs any more. Luckily, there must be enough oldies-but-goodies on the road these days that Jack’s Campers stocks them.

We back our fifth wheel trailer into a bay at Jack's Campers in Rapid City South Dakota-min

We got into position at Jack’s Campers in Rapid City, South Dakota.

We called our RV Extended Warranty folks, Wholesale Warranties, to find out if this awning failure would qualify for reimbursement under our warranty plan.

We have had so much good luck with our extended warranty on major repairs like our refrigerator, trailer axle, suspension, toilet and window leaks and plumbing, that we were hopeful this repair would be covered too. However, only the mechanical aspects of the awning were covered, not the fabric.

In the end, the whole RV awning repair job ended up costing $444 out of pocket, most of that being for the new fabric, and it took the guys at Jack’s Campers just 45 minutes to do it.

The first step was to remove the awning arms and roller from the sidewall of our fifth wheel. They unrolled the fabric about a foot and unscrewed the mounting brackets that attached the awning arms to the side of the trailer.

Remove the bolts attaching RV awning to the side of the fifth wheel trailer-min

First, remove the awning arms from the sidewalls of the trailer.

There was putty in the awning fabric track where the mounting bracket had been, so this had to be removed with a flathead screwdriver.

Use flathead screwdriver to remove putty from RV awning track on fifth wheel trailer-min

There was some putty in the awning track, so it was removed with a flathead screwdriver.

Next, two guys slid the awning fabric off of the awning track on the RV wall and marched the whole thing into the workshop and rested it on some saw horses.

Two people slide the RV awning off the track on a fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Two mechanics walked the awning out of the track on the trailer.

Rest the RV awning on saw horses to remove the fabric-min

Once in the shop the awning was laid across some saw horses.

Manually operated RV awnings have a spring inside the roller mechanism (a “torsion assembly“) for rolling up the fabric. At one end of the roller there is a locking mechanism to keep the spring inside the roller tight so the fabric doesn’t unroll. This locking mechanism became important when the new fabric was installed to get the spring tensioned correctly inside the roller.

Locking end of RV awning-min

The right arm of the awning has a locking mechanism which keeps the fabric from rolling off the roller.

At the opposite end of the roller there was no locking mechanism. The bolt holding the awning arm to the roller at the non-locking end was removed and the arm was pulled off. The arm at the locking end of the roller remained attached throughout the job.

Remove bolt holding RV awning arm to the roller-min

Remove the awning arm from the non-locking end of the roller.

RV awning endcap and spring-min

Awning arm removed.

Then the rivets on the endcap were drilled out and the torsion assembly was pulled out.

Drill out rivets from endcap on RV awning-min

Drill out the rivets on the endcap.

Remove spring and endcap from RV awning to replace fabric-min

The endcap and spring (torsion assembly) are removed from the roller.

RV awning spring and endcap-min

The torsion assembly is out of the roller.
Spraying it with silicone spray will help the awning roll more easily.

Then the awning fabric was slid our of the roller.

Two mechanics hold the RV awning to slide the torn fabric off the track-min

Two mechanics slid the old awning fabric out of the track.

The new fabric was unfolded and laid out in the workshop, and then it was slid into the track on the roller until the fabric stretched the whole length of the roller.

Open up and spread out the new RV awning fabric-min

The new awning fabric was unfolded and laid out.

Opened up RV awning endcap-min

The new awning fabric will be slid into the track on the roller.

Install new RV awning fabric by sliding it along the track-min

The new awning fabric was started in the track on the roller.

Spraying the track with a heavy duty silicone spray helped the fabric slide along the track smoothly.

Spray heavy duty silicone on the RV awning track before sliding the fabric onto it-min

Spraying the track with silicone helps the fabric slide more smoothly.

Slide new RV awning fabric onto the roller along the track-min

Two mechanics slid the new awning fabric along the roller track.

Then the torsion assembly was placed inside the roller and new endcap rivets were installed.

Reinstall RV awning endcap and spring-min

The endcap and spring were reinserted inside the roller.

Install new rivets on RV awning cap-min

Put new rivets on the endcap.

New rivet installed on RV awning endcap-min

New rivet in place.

The fabric was positioned so it went all the way to the locking end of the awning. At the opposite end a set screw was screwed in to prevent the fabric from sliding off the track.

New RV awning fabric at endcap on locking end of roller-min

Make sure the awning fabric has been slid all the way to the locking end of the roller.

Screw in set screw to keep RV awning fabric from falling off the track-min

Put a set screw at the non-locking end of the fabric so it doesn’t slide off the track.

The new fabric was laid out so it could be rolled onto the roller. Then a vice grip was used to turn the spring between 15 and 18 times to get the right spring tension.

New RV awning fabric installed-min

New awning fabric is in place.

Use vice grips to wind up the new RV awning fabric-min

Use vice grips to rotate the spring 15 to 18 times to ge the right spring tension.

Then the awning arm was reattached to the roller with a bolt.

Bolt on the RV awning arms to the roller-min

Bolt on the awning arm.

New RV awning fabric with set screw and awning arm attached-min

Awning arm (non-locking end) is reattached.

Back at the trailer, the awning track was sprayed with heavy duty silicone.

Use heavy duty silicone spray to lubricate the RV awning track-min

Out at the trailer spray the awning track with silicone.

Then the new awning fabric was loosely wrapped around the roller and the whole thing was marched outside to the trailer.

Wrap the new RV awning fabric around the roller-min

Four guys assisted in wrapping the new awning fabric around the roller a few times.

Carry the RV awning out to the fifth wheel trailer-min

The awning is taken out to the trailer.

Our little project supervisor, Buddy, had been watching all the goings on through open big shop door from a safe distance out by the trailer. When the awning and its new fabric were brought out to the trailer, he backed up as far as he could into the parking lot to give the guys room to work!

Supervising puppy keeps his distance from the RV awning project-min

Stand back!

Using ladders and reaching overhead, four guys maneuvered the awning fabric into the track on the trailer and slid it all the way to the front end of the track. This is where having lots of hands can help.

Slide the RV awning fabric along the track on the wall of the fifth wheel trailer RV-min

The awning fabric is slid along the track on the side of the trailer.

After installing the awning on the trailer, the mechanics noticed that the two feet that held the bottoms of the two awning arms had each developed hairline cracks. So, they replaced each foot.

Replace the cracked RV awning foot-min

The feet of both awning arms had developed small cracks, so they were replaced.

The last step was to test the awning by rolling it all the way out and then all the way in again.

New RV awning installed on our fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Test the awning to make sure it rolls all the way out and all the way in again.

Completed installation of the new RV awning fabric on a fifth wheel trailer-min

Done!

Ta Da!! A job well done. The whole project took 45 minutes from start to finish.

Now that we’ve seen how a manual RV awning gets installed, Mark is confident he could do it without going to an RV repair shop as long as he had some extra hands for sliding the awning fabric on/off the trailer awning track and on/off the roller track.

Side note: If you have a manual awning, it is really important that you use some kind of velcro straps or bungee cords wrapped around the awning arms as extra security to keep the awning from accidentally opening while you are traveling.

Our photo above doesn’t show them, but we have used these awning straps ever since we bought the trailer.

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12 thoughts on “RV Awning Installation and Repair

    • Wow, you got 11 years out of your original awning?! That’s very good. Just curious why you didn’t opt for an electric awning this time around? We love our electric awnings on our 2017 Jayco North Point 377RLBH, yet we’re now our 3rd main awning in 2.2 years-all under Jayco’s great 2 yr warranty. Our issue is the material wrinkles severely in a short period (we’re full timers) and the LED light strip goes serpentine and the arms don’t retract flush into their tracks and get hung up on one side or the other. One rivet of two, was missing on the right side! This is Carefree’s last chance to get it right. BTW-in due time, we will get an extended warranty kind like you guys have. Keep up the great reports, I enjoy them all!

      • We like manual things because they are simple to operate, are less likely to break and are relatively easy to fix. The list of problems that you’ve had with electric awnings in the last 2.2 years is in many ways a list of good reasons to go with a manual awning!

        Upgrading to an electric awning would have been a lot more expensive than merely replacing the fabric on our existing awning. If our rig gets another 11 years out of this new awning, then I think we’ll have made the right choice.

        From what we’ve seen, many electric awnings extend horizontally from the rig, offering little shade when the sun isn’t right overhead, and they can’t be extended at an angle towards the ground. We like to aim our awning towards the ground when the hot sun hits the side of the trailer to keep the whole wall shaded. We also set it at an angle (from the front of the trailer to the back) when it rains so the rain drains off quickly. I’m not sure if electric awnings offer that option or not.

        In the end it’s just a personal preference.

    • We got lucky with this one that we were in an area with a lot of RV repair places and Jack’s had an opening for us. We’ve had some bloopers in our time, but we are very grateful when the stars align and we find good people!!

  1. Em,
    Love to see how creative people can be with tools and parts. Are we going to see an article about Puppy Chow Repairs? 🙂
    Bob

  2. I certainly enjoy your tech articles as well as the travelogue posts. BTW, I recently used the services of two businesses you have used in the past. Had axle work and some welding done at Ruckers (RTW) in Mesa, AZ. Neil remembers the lady taking all the pics. Also Sergio Bernal DDS in San Luis. I was very pleased with each. Thanks for the recommendations.

    • You are welcome, JR. From welding to dental work, that’s very cool! Both of those folks are wonderful in their respective fields. I’m so glad you had good experiences with each one. Dr. Bernal would have remembered us too as we’ve been to his office quite a few times over the last 11 years and I brought him a copy of the Escapees magazine article I wrote about getting dental work done in Mexico. Enjoy your travels. We’ll have plenty of travelogue posts coming up soon!!

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