An RV awning is an integral part of your rig, making outdoor living more comfortable. You can enjoy the weather without getting burned to a crisp in the summer sun, and it offers additional protected space when it’s raining, making your RV a better indoor-outdoor space.
But you need to take care of your awning if you want it to last. Keep reading to find out the best ways to protect these important pieces of RV equipment.
About RV Awnings
RVs can have more than one type of awning. In addition to a traditional main patio awning, some RVs also have awnings over the door and/or windows.
The main patio awning is the largest one on any RV. It usually extends quite far out, and provides a wonderful shady spot outside your rig. There are also smaller awning models for your windows, which have similar benefits, keeping your rig cooler in the sun, and allowing you to leave windows open without it raining in.
A larger patio awning usually comes standard with most RVs, but window awnings are often an upgrade feature. They’re a fantastic addition, especially during the summer.
If your RV didn’t come with window awnings, you can watch our video to see how to install one here:
Or view our post with written instructions for installing a window awning.
RV awnings can either be manually or electrically operated. If manual, you’ll pull it out, extend the arms, and lock everything in place by hand. An electric RV awning opens and closes with the press of a button.
RV window awnings provide additional protection from the sun. They extend at a 45-degree angle to cast a shadow over your RV windows, keeping your rig cooler. All except the highest-end window awnings are manually operated. They pull out and roll up using an awning rod. Support arms help them stay in place when extended.
How Much Wind Can an RV Awning Withstand?
While RV awnings are usually fairly robust, they can also be large enough to catch a lot of wind and are expensive to repair or replace. An awning ripped loose in strong winds can also damage your RV (picture the fabric and/or arms flapping around in the wind, and you can imagine the ancillary damage that could result). You should retract them any time winds get too high.
That’s especially important for a large patio awning, which is most subject to wind damage due to its size. In general, we don’t leave our main patio awning out at night, or any time we’re away from the RV. Wind gusts can come up suddenly, and the last thing we want is to wake up to, or return to, an awning that’s been damaged.
Electrically-operated awnings often come with built-in wind sensors that automatically retract the awning for you (or prevent you from extending it) if the wind is too strong. Some sense wind speed directly. Newer models actually sense the motion of the awning arms. Both are designed to protect your awning from damage… but even so, you shouldn’t rely on them alone. Sudden gusts can do significant damage before the awning can retract. Of course, for awnings without an automatic retraction mechanism, you’ll have to retract your awning(s) yourself.
There is no hard-and-fast rule for when to retract your awning. We can’t tell you “If winds exceed XX mph, you should retract the awning.” How big is the awning (is it your patio or window awning)? Is the wind coming from the opposite side of the RV, or is it blowing directly from the awning side? Is your (manual) patio awning staked down? Is there the possibility of sudden wind gusts? All of these things are factors you need to consider.
The best rule of thumb to follow is that if you’re thinking/wondering if it’s getting too windy for your awning, it’s probably already (past?!?!) time to stow it.
What Can High Winds Do to an RV Awning?
Here are a few things that could result if you leave your RV awnings unrolled on windy days:
Tear Off Your Awning
If winds are powerful enough, they can rip the awning clear off your RV. This can cause a lot of damage to your rig, including scratched or gouged bodywork, broken windows, and more. It could also injure someone nearby.
Damage Your RV from Whipping Awning Around
A typical main patio awning can probably weigh about 70 pounds or more. Now imagine a 70-pound metal rod slamming into your RV. You can probably picture the damage already. The worst part? It could happen repeatedly if only one side detaches.
Window awnings can flap around similarly, smashing your windows and bodywork.
Break or Bend Awning Arms
Even if your awning fabric doesn’t tear/rip off, you could still have costly repairs, not to mention a lot of hassle. Strong winds can bend or break the awning arms themselves. You can replace just the arms for some RVs, but you may need to replace the entire unit. Either option is an unnecessary expense and inconvenience.
And with the arms bent/broken, you’ll also have difficulty being able to properly secure the awning for travel. This means you may have to get creative with bungee cords and duct tape, or be prepared to repair, remove, or replace it before you can drive the rig.
Gusty winds can also rip your awning fabric. You can likely (temporarily) fix small tears with awning repair tape. But for larger ones, you’ll have to completely replace the fabric instead (RV awning fabric replacement is one of our favorite DIY projects… and we have lots of videos for different awning/slidetopper makes and models).
How to Protect Your RV Awning from Wind
There are a few simple steps you can take to prevent the types of incidents mentioned above from happening to you. Here are our recommendations:
The term “de-flapper clamps” might sound a little funny, but when you think about how your RV awning works, they make complete sense.
When you extend your awning, it only holds the fabric in place on two sides: where it’s attached to the RV and on the outer end where the tube is. That leaves the sides to flap in the breeze.
This flapping is annoying on a breezy day, and on a windy day, it can cause the fabric to tear. De-flapper clamps attach to the awning support arms and then clamp the fabric in place, helping to prevent flapping or tearing in the wind.
A stabilizer kit is another inexpensive yet protective option. The kit includes two spiral stakes, rope, and a connector to add to your awning. Think of it like staking down a tent to prevent flapping in the wind.
If you have a concrete or gravel pad, you might not be able to screw the stakes into the ground, so keep this in mind before purchasing.
Always Roll It Up When You Go to Bed or Leave
The best way to protect your RV awning is to roll it up when you aren’t around or if you’re sleeping. There’s no sense in having your shelter extended when you’re away. It may help reduce the temperature inside your RV, but it isn’t worth the risk when you’re not around to stow the awning if the wind picks up.
The same goes for when you’re sleeping. It might seem like a hassle to roll up, especially if you have a manual awning. But it’s a bigger hassle to fix the damage or replace the awning. We never go to sleep with our patio awning extended (although we do have the advantage of it being an electric model, so pushing the button is a simple task).
By rolling up the canopy, you protect it from unexpected changes in the weather or sudden gusts. Even if you’re using de-flapper clamps and a stabilizer kit, this is still the best course of action.
Many power patio awnings are equipped with wind sensors, designed to retract them in the event of windy conditions. We suggest that you consider that only as a back-up, and not assume you can simply ignore weather conditions and leave your awning out all the time.
What to Do If Your RV Awning Is Damaged by Wind
If the wind rips the fabric, you may be able to repair it with a patch kit… or replace the fabric yourself. RV awning fabric replacement is one of our favorite DIY projects… and we have lots of videos for different awning/slidetopper makes and models.
The original equipment fabric that comes on RV awnings and slidetoppers is... well, how do we say this?... CRAP!. It's no surprise, since the RV manufacturers are looking to cut their costs...Show More
The original equipment fabric that comes on RV awnings and slidetoppers is... well, how do we say this?... CRAP!. It's no surprise, since the RV manufacturers are looking to cut their costs. Instead of replacing it with the same stuff that failed in the first place, get high-quality replacement fabric from Tough Top Awnings, instead.
Plus you can save 5% on your entire order from Tough Top Awnings. The coupon code is valid online or over the phone!Show Less
If the awning hardware (arms, support legs, roller tube, etc) is bent or broken, you’ll probably have to replace it entirely. Depending on how handy you are, you might fix or replace it yourself. Otherwise, a professional can do the job.
Having an RV awning is awesome. It makes your outdoor living area much more comfortable. Both patio and window awnings can also keep your RV cooler in the summer.
But as with most RV gear, you need to take care of it. Fortunately, proper care is pretty simple with RV awnings. If it gets windy, just roll it up. If you want extra security, buy stake-down kits to secure it. This way you’ll be able to enjoy your awning(s) on the next nice day instead of dealing with costly repairs.
Geek Out with Us Every Week
Join our newsletter to learn about all things RV-related. Every week we offer free tips, tricks, product reviews, and more to our online community of RVers. Whether this is your first time on the road or you’re a seasoned expert, we’d love for you to geek out with us!