RV awnings are an essential part of the camping experience. They not only shield you and your belongings from the sun, wind, and rain, but they also provide a nice shady space for you to sit back and take it easy.
With proper maintenance, you can extend the life of your RV awning. But it’s a simple fact of life that, even with the utmost of care, awnings suffer enough wear and tear that at some point they’ll be ready for retirement.
It’s not always immediately apparent that it’s time to replace your RV awning fabric. However, you sure don’t want to be caught off guard and have it go out of service when you need it the most.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for signs that your RV awning needs replacement.
How Long Do RV Awnings Typically Last
A few different factors determine how long your RV awning will last.
First off, what’s it made of?
Is it vinyl, acrylic, canvas, or some other material? Simply put, some RV awnings are more durable than others, so they have a longer lifespan.
Other factors are how often you use your RV (and how long the awning is exposed to the elements) or, when it’s not in use, whether the RV is stored in a covered or enclosed area or if it’s left out in the open.
You may never have to replace your RV awning. However, it’s not likely. A general rule of thumb is to expect them to last between 5 and 15 years.
Signs Your RV Awning Needs Replacement
Like we said, it’s not always obvious when it’s time to replace your RV awning, but here are some of the tell-tale signs you should watch for:
If you see cracks in the fabric, or if it’s torn or ripped, you can patch it… but you’re just delaying the inevitable. Once a crack begins, it’s a sign that the awning fabric has aged from exposure to the elements, and it’s going to spring new cracks with ongoing use. This is also a good time to do a full inspection of the awning hardware (the arms, mounting brackets, roller tube, etc) to ensure it’s still in good shape.
Like deteriorating fabric, when you see that your canopy is coming apart at the seams, that’s a definite danger sign. Awning fabric is stitched to create the pockets needed to hold it to the side of the RV and onto the roller tube… so when that begins to go, it’s time to start shopping for a replacement.
Heavy Mildew Build-Up
Mold and mildew aren’t going to cause your awning to lose its function, but it can often smell (BAD!) and is hard to remove completely. A lot of cheaper awning material is actually made from two pieces of fabric that are “glued” together. Mold/mildew can grow between the two layers, so no matter how hard you scrub, you can’t get it all out. And because it’s a health hazard , you sure don’t want to let it hang around or spread to other areas of your RV.
Looks Out Of Date (Style)
Maybe you want a new look, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes retro is cool … and sometimes it’s not. Change is good, and maybe the time is right for a different color, pattern, or style. Current awnings look a whole lot better than those manufactured ten years ago.
Fabric Has Stretched Over Time
When water collects on your RV awning during a heavy rain, it can cause the fabric to stretch. This makes the canopy droop or sag… which only makes it MORE likely to collect water. You might be able to fix it temporarily by pulling it tighter, but the damage is pretty much already done.
Next Steps to a New RV Awning
So what’s next? Decide whether you need to replace the entire RV awning or just the fabric. If your awning hardware (the arms, mounting brackets, and roller tube) are in good working order, you can simply get new fabric. As seen in the video below (for a Dometic/A&E manual patio awning), the process is actually quite easy to do yourself:
If you have a different make/model of awning, or need to replace the fabric on your slide toppers, you can view our extensive library of awning and slide topper DIY replacement videos here.
We use, and highly recommend, fabric from Tough Top Awnings. Their fabric is far higher quality than any other we’ve seen, which is why we’ve replaced all of our awnings & slide toppers with it. We’re such big fans of Tough Top Awnings that we’ve partnered with them to offer RVgeeks viewers a 5% discount! Use the code “RVGEEKSROCK” when you place your order (either online or on the phone).
Also, be sure and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for care so you can prolong the life of your new awning/fabric as much as possible. Maybe your RV’s previous owner was neglectful, but that doesn’t mean you have to be.
Here are some general tips:
- Clean the awning regularly using a gentle soap (a good rule of thumb is if it’s safe to use on your RV’s finish, it should be fine for your awning). Harsh chemicals may clean quicker… but you risk that they’re damaging and aging the fabric, which is only going to lead to premature failure.
- Don’t leave it open during harsh weather… rain can pool up and stretch the fabric, and wind gusts can cause weak fabric to tear (or, worse yet, damage the awning hardware… which is a more expensive repair/replacement)
- Avoid rolling it up when it’s still wet or even damp, as you’re only increasing the likelihood that mold/mildew will grow. If you HAVE to roll it up wet… try to remember to unroll it and let it dry out as soon as possible.
- Inspect it regularly for the first signs of damage, wear & tear, and/or the presence of mold/mildew. Catching these issues early can help you prevent a sudden failure.
The fact is, RV awnings are essential. They also require regular attention, so it makes good sense to take care of them so they’ll take care of you.
We hope that our list of 5 Signs Your RV Awning Needs Replacement will make your RV experience more enjoyable and help prevent any significant problems for you down the road.
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