With extreme weather events becoming more and more common, RVers are more likely to encounter hailstorms. So we thought it might be a good idea to write a post on how to protect RVs from hail damage.
We’ve lived in an RV full-time for more than two decades, so of course, we’ve seen some inclement weather conditions. But for the most part, we’ve become very good at avoiding them.
We did, however, encounter a pretty bad hail storm in 2022 on the highway in Montana (see photo above – that’s us). We were forced to pull over, but fortunately, nothing on our rig was damaged by the hail. (Although our poor little CR-V does have a dimpled hood now.)
So what’s an RVer to do if you know a hail storm is coming? How do you protect your RV from hail damage?
How to Protect Your RV From Hail
- 1.1) Avoid the Storm
- 1.2) How to Protect RV Solar Panels From Hail
- 1.3) How to Protect RV Skylights From Hail
- 1.4) How to Protect an RV Vent From Hail
- 1.5) How to Protect Your RV AC Shroud From Hail
- 2) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
How to Protect Your RV From Hail
Of course, everyone wants to protect their vehicles and homes from the damage that can occur as a result of a hail storm. But with our homes on wheels, we often have some pretty unique exposure. (you can sometimes pull a car into a garage or under a carport, but where would you find something like that at a campground?)
We need to be able to protect roof vent lids and protective covers, skylights, air conditioner shrouds, and even solar panels from serious damage if possible. There’ve been some pretty serious hail storms over the past few years with some crazy size hail. This stuff can do some pretty serious damage to many parts of an RV.
So, let’s take a look at how best to protect individual areas of our rigs from hail damage.
Avoid the Storm
This may go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: The best way to avoid hail damage to your RV is to avoid the storm altogether.
Of course, we can only do this if we know a storm is coming and we have time to make a decision not to travel to a certain area until the storm passes. Some RVers are adept at watching weather patterns develop. Some even invest in an RV weather station of some sort to stay abreast of developing weather events.
Growing up in an area not prone to intense hailstorms, we did learn about this the hard way. 🙈 (Remember our old mottos: “We learn things the hard way so that you don’t have to” and “We never stop learning”.) Apparently, after 20+ years on the road full-time, we’re still at it! 😂
We were driving across Montana in 2022, and Google Maps wanted us to take a 45-minute detour to avoid thunderstorms. I was like, “I’m not gonna waste 45 minutes (and fuel) to avoid no stinkin’ rain!” Well, the featured image at the top of this post shows where we ended up: on the side of the road, hoping our RV wasn’t being destroyed.
We were incredibly lucky that the hail wasn’t larger. Our RV wasn’t damaged in any way, although our poor toad, our ’03 Honda CR-V, now has a hood with a lightly-dimpled design in it. DOH! 😣
But the truth is that hailstorms can sometimes emerge seemingly out of almost nowhere, and with little warning. You might not be in transit like we were, so unable to move your rig quickly to a safer location.
Still, avoiding storms whenever possible is clearly the best protection from hail or any other type of inclement weather. We had a close call with potential tornadoes during our first year on the road, but that’s a topic for another day.
If unexpected hail does start to fall, with balls of ice slamming down on your rig, you need to take cover and deal with any damage later.
Let’s talk about what you can do if you’ve checked the weather forecast and you have a bit of warning that a hail storm may be coming your way. You’ll probably have very little notice, so it’s good to have a plan in mind in advance.
How to Protect RV Solar Panels From Hail
Not everyone has solar panels on their RVs, but if you do, hail can seriously damage them, especially rigid glass panels. (Not all solar panels have a glass surface. See our post on flexible solar panels vs rigid for more information.)
If you see that your rig may be exposed to hail and you’ve got glass solar panels, covering them is your first order of business. After all, they’re expensive to replace. And if your solar panels are damaged, they may not supply the power you need in the meantime.
If you’re at home when a hail storm is expected to be rolling in and you’ve got an RV cover, there’s no better time to get your rig covered.
In a previous post, we discussed the pros and cons of RV covers, but if you have one, an anticipated hail storm is the perfect time to bring it out to protect your RV. (If you’re looking for an RV cover, check out our post on the best RV covers to consider.)
An RV cover can protect the RV itself as well as everything mounted on the roof.
Now, if your rig is hit with some very large hailstones, it could still possibly sustain damage (look at that monster John is holding in the photo above)! But for the most part, in a mild-to-moderate hail storm, a quality cover will do a fine job of protecting your RV, solar panels included.
Remember, though, some hail storms are so substantial that no matter what protective action you take — if your rig is parked outside it could sustain significant damage.
Tilt the Panels
If you’ve seen our post answering the question “Should I tilt my RV solar panels?“, then you know that the rigid glass solar panels on our Newmar Mountain Aire are capable of being tilted using SolaRVector motorized lifts.
Of course, we installed them to take maximum advantage of the sun at low angles. But if you’re about to get hit by a hail storm and you have time to tilt your panels, it’s not a bad idea to do so. Hail will be more likely to deflect off a tilted panel without the impact of a direct straight-on hit, so less likely to shatter the glass. Anything to prevent damage to your solar panels is worth doing.
As we noted with regard to RV covers, if hail is large enough, even a tilted solar panel could sustain damage.
Protective Solar Panel Covers
If you want to protect your RV solar panels in the event of a hail storm, you can either make or buy some sort of hard protective covering and place it over the panels.
Obviously, you’d need some advanced warning of the impending hail storm to be able to do this, but some people do have solar panel covers they can set over them when a storm is forecast.
Some people in high-risk areas use a “cage” made from wire mesh, brackets, and screws to protect their solar panels in the event of a storm. The sun can pass through this type of cover if the mesh holes are large enough, but they shouldn’t be so large that hailstones can pass through them.
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Protect Your Solar Panels With Methacrylate
A layer of a substance called methacrylate can be used to protect solar panels from scratches, dirt, and dust. But methacrylate might also protect your solar panels in the event of a hail storm, or at least reduce the damage.
Methacrylate is available as a spray or it can be added to the panel as a thin protective layer that is installed over the panel. It won’t prevent your solar panels from receiving and converting sunlight unless you spray it on too thick.
The good news is that it doesn’t take anything super fancy to protect your solar panels from hail stones. Even an old blanket will help if that’s all you have.
The trick is to be prepared in advance. If you don’t have extra blankets on hand to cover your solar panels, then, of course, this advice isn’t helpful. So, if you have space, carrying a couple of extra blankets in your rig when you travel, means you’re better prepared for a hailstorm.
High-quality rigid solar panels are pretty durable and can withstand a fairly substantial hail storm. But if you live in an area where large, heavy hail is a fairly common occurrence, you may want to consider taking action to protect your solar panels.
How to Protect RV Skylights From Hail
To protect your skylight from hail damage, you can take steps similar to those noted above for solar panels. You can temporarily cover your skylight with a blanket, tarp, or wire mesh if you know a hail storm is expected.
You can even create a wooden box that you set over the skylight in the event of an anticipated storm, or use an appropriately-sized plastic tote turned upside down to cover it. Of course, it will likely be windy, so securing a tote, box, or other protection is important. Think duct tape (although go easy to avoid a messy cleanup).
- Recommended for temporary household repairs including holding, seaming, sealing and bundling
- Works on a variety of surfaces, including wood, vinyl, plastic, leather, metal and laminate
Note that skylights made of lexan can withstand a fair amount of hail impact and is the best choice if you need to replace a damaged skylight. We also suggest using our step-by-step guide if you’d like to take on an RV skylight replacement as a DIY project.
How to Protect an RV Vent From Hail
The great thing about RV roof vents is that you can install hail protection today and leave it up there all year round. Once you’ve installed good vent fan covers, should you find yourself in a hail storm, your vent will be better protected. You’ll also be able to open your roof vent in any weather.
Of course, the cover itself may be damaged or broken if the hail is large enough. But if it sacrifices itself to prevent the vent itself from breaking, at least your RV will stay dry. For more information, see our post on how to install an RV roof vent cover.
How to Protect Your RV AC Shroud From Hail
The best way to protect your RV’s AC shroud from hail damage is to use an RV AC cover. This is something you’ll usually only do if you’re parking your RV for an extended period of time or if you have advanced notice of an impending hail storm.
RV AC covers are made from materials such as vinyl or other heavy-duty fabrics. So, like RV covers, they’ll offer only so much protection. But it will likely be sufficient to protect your AC shroud from all but the worst hail storms.
Like some of the other suggestions noted throughout this post, using RV AC covers is only reasonable if you have no trouble getting up onto your RV roof to install and uninstall them. Again, the best protection from a hail storm is not to find yourself in one if at all possible.
But since that’s not always possible, these steps you can help you minimize damage to your RV.
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