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Can you shorten an RV awning? Why would you do that? Wouldn’t you want it to extend to its full length so that it can provide maximum shade?
There are products out there that allow you to shorten RV awning without any further modification needed. These products come with standard features that can either fully extend or retract awnings to what you need.
But what if you’re stuck with an RV awning that doesn’t have that capability? What if you can’t buy RV awnings that adjust to your needs? What should you do with your current awning?
Before we answer those additional questions, let’s get to know how RV awnings work and how to shorten RV awning properly.
How Do RV Awnings Work?
Before we get into customizing and modifying your current RV awning, let’s get to know how they work first.
An RV awning is an effective way to increase your space around your RV. This effectively helps you include the outdoors as part of your living space. Anyone who’s owned and lived inside an RV knows how claustrophobic it can get when you’re cooped up for far too long inside a small space.
Also, you might want to look into RVs with slide outs if you want a more spacious cabin. With that, you’ll still be able to enjoy breathing easily while inside. This may come in handy when it’s windy outside and you can’t deploy your RV awning.
Learning how it works will help you use and maintain it properly. You can also anticipate and ensure damage protection. All of this knowledge can help you save money from doing repairs, buying the right products, and keeping your RV awning in tip-top condition.
The Two Types Of RV Awnings
There are two types of RV awnings: mechanical and electrical. Mechanical awnings use torsion springs to retract by hand, while electrical awnings use a motor. This is how you shorten RV awning on most campers.
So Which One Should You Get? The Difference Between Electrical Awning Vs Mechanical Awning
As mentioned above, there are two types of retractable awnings: electrical and mechanical. You’ll find electrical awnings on most of the new trailers and campers in the market today. You’re more likely to find mechanical RV awnings for older models, although there are aftermarket kits you can install to upgrade to electrical ones.
Because of the added motor needed to lengthen and retract the arms, electrical RV awnings are more expensive than mechanical ones. There are complex parts in an electrical awning that you won’t find in a mechanical RV awning. You’ll also need special wiring and an electrical source to power it.
Now just because we said mechanical awnings are operated by hand doesn’t mean you’ll need a circus strongman’s physique to lengthen or shorten RV awning. Hydraulics or springs will assist you by multiplying the force you apply by ten-fold or more.
There are built-in safety features to keep your RV awning from unrolling while you’re in transit. On electrical RV awnings, the gear keeps it in place, while for mechanical RV awnings, there are physical locks that you can (surprise, surprise) manually engage.
A Little More About Electric RV Awnings
Electric RV awnings have nifty features like auto wind retraction or water dumping when it reaches a certain threshold. If it’s too windy outside, it will automatically shorten the RV awning to prevent damage. If there’s water pooling on the awning’s fabric, it will tip one arm to let the water slide or run off before assuming its original position.
So How Does An Electric RV Awning Work?
An electric RV awning (depending on the make and model) is powered by a 12V DC or 120 AC power. This electrical current courses through the integrated tube motor. This then extends or retracts the arm from the housing to lengthen or shorten the RV awning when you need it to.
These arms are pushed out by gas pistons or a spring tension system. There are also electric RV awnings that use a hydraulic system to raise or lower the RV awning.
In case of power failure, electric RV awnings have a manual override system. This is when a little elbow grease and the use of torsion springs come in handy. You’ll also need a hex key and a drill. This is usually supplied with the kit, but go ahead and check the manual for the size just in case you need to buy one. In effect, you’re getting a manual RV awning when you buy an electric awning too.
The good thing about RV awnings is that they are made of light composite materials. Aluminum and other aircraft grade metals are used for the arms, while the fabric can be anything from vinyl to synthetic leather. Lifting these should be easy for just about anyone.
Normal operation of an electric RV awning is conveniently done through the push of a button. There are manual locks for some electric RV awnings, but for the most part, the motor does the work for you.
What About Mechanical Retractable RV Awnings? How Do Those Work?
Older RVs have mechanical RV awnings mainly because these were the only ones available during that time period. The mechanical RV awning was improved as more people got into the lifestyle and technology advanced. At first, the improvements were to make them lighter, more aesthetically pleasing. And then motors were installed to make it even more convenient to use.
That’s not to say that mechanical RV awnings were hard to use. In fact, their simple design made them easy for just about anyone to operate. Let’s just say modern mechanical RV awnings are constructed in the same way as electric RV awnings minus the motor.
And just in case you lost your user manual, here’s how to use your mechanical RV awning. This is applicable to most mechanical RV awnings.
- Release the arm travel locks and loosen the rafter knobs. You’ll hear a click when it is successfully unlocked.
- Switch to open mode to extend the arm.
- Extend the awning to the length you want it to reach.
- Extend the support arms and lock them into place.
- Finally, raise the awning. You’ll want one side to be slightly lower than the other so that water slides off easily.
- To close or retract it, just do the same steps in reverse and remember to lock it before driving off.
How Much Wind Can An RV Awning Withstand?
22mph. Anything stronger than that, and you’re looking at some damage to your personal property if you didn’t shorten the RV awning on time.
Anyone who’s owned an RV knows that the wind is the bane of all RV awnings. And the wind isn’t just capable of destroying the fabric of your R awning. The wind can also wrench your arms violently out of its housing. It could also destroy your RV’s siding as well.
Because of that, you’ll want to ensure that you pull down your RV awning in time.
Now, RV awnings are classified into 4 types depending on their wind resistance.
Can withstand wind speeds up to 12 mph or winds considered as light to moderate breeze. These types of awnings are made of light materials. As a general rule, you should never use this in any windy condition.
Can withstand winds up to 17 mph. This is typically the type of wind that kicks up dust when it blows on the surface. While still considered a light to moderate breeze, this type of wind is strong enough to damage Class 1 RV awnings. So, roll your awnings up when you see dust in the wind.
Can withstand winds up to 23 mph. This is on the extreme side, and you should shorten RV awning when you see small trees sway in the wind.
Although you should never leave an RV awning out when wind speeds exceed 22 mph, these RV awnings are still rated to handle up to 30 mph. This is when you see large tree branches sway in the wind.
Just remember, the manufacturers tested these RV awnings in a controlled environment. This means RV awnings were subjected to extreme wind conditions in a unidirectional manner. In the real world, winds can blow from different directions and buffet your RV awning system around.
You will also have to consider the presence of swirling debris that can cause physical damage to your RV awning.
Wind speeds beyond 30 mph are dangerous to your RV awning so keep it under wraps until the sun comes back up and everything has settled down outside.
You can also use de-flapper clamps to keep your RV awning from blowing in the wind. You can also use spikes, stakes, and additional straps to keep your RV awning in place when it’s breezy outside.
Types Of Materials Used In The Construction Of RV Awnings
RV awnings are constructed using a variety of fabrics and materials. Knowing how they stack up to each other is a good way to help you choose the right type to get.
These are considered the standard types of fabrics used for RV awnings. Vinyl awnings are waterproof, easy to clean, and cost-efficient. They’re also very easy to repair with patches or by sewing the fabric together for minute tears.
- Fits a 18' Center of Arm to Center Arm Awning
The downside to this type of fabric is that it doesn’t breathe easily and can become brittle if exposed to too much UV rays.
You can treat it with a cream to help soften the fabric, but you will eventually have to replace it when it can no longer take the damage caused by the elements.
Not as waterproof as vinyl awnings and only serves as protection from direct exposure to the sun’s rays. This is a relatively light material that’s just as cost-efficient as vinyl awnings.
Same as Cordura awnings and is only used for sun protection. It can easily rip when there’s too much wind.
- Multi-Purpose Outdoor Mat: Use it to help keep dirt from being tracked into your RV or home, as a...
- Measurements: Measures 9-feet x 12-feet
- Lightweight Construction: Made from lightweight, mildew resistant, breathable material that will not...
- Reversible Design: Features a unique, reversible design
- Easy to Store: Folds easily for storage
If you’re looking for awnings that can retain colors better despite continuous exposure to the elements. This type of material is also moderately waterproof.
There are different types of metal awnings. The most commonly used metal is aluminum, which can be cut into slats for easy rolling into the housing. The downside to this is that it will cost you a pretty penny to install in your RV.
To keep your entire RV cool, here’s a related article explaining why there’s a connection between the paint used by marine vessels and RVs. Here’s The Nautical Reason Most RVs Are White.
Preventive Maintenance For RV Awnings
Awnings aren’t impervious to physical damage. To lengthen the lifespan of your RV awning, do some preventive maintenance.
The most obvious is to shorten the RV awning when there’s a strong wind coming in. make sure it is completely tucked in safely before driving off or seeking shelter inside your RV.
The good thing is that some electric RV awnings can automatically retract if there is an atmospheric change in the environment. Those types of RV awnings are definitely more expensive.
You’ll also want to disengage your RV awning if there’s snow. You don’t want all of that weight building up on top because it’ll exert unwanted pressure on your RV awning’s trailing arms.
Rub protectant cream on the fabric to keep the material soft and pliant. The added layer will also serve as protection against UV rays and moisture build-up.
Keep the material moisture-free by wiping excess condensation so that there won’t be any mold and mildew build-up.
If you see signs of wear and tear, treat it immediately. If there’s a rip in the fabric, sew it together or apply a patch to keep the edges from flapping and tearing. As a stop-gap, you can also use awning repair type or the ever trusty duct tape to hold the pieces together until a more long-term solution can be had.
Make sure you secure the entire system when you’re driving your RV because excess vibration can loosen the arms and joints. Keep it locked up nice and tight, and you should be good to go.
Ensuring your RV awning is in good condition, whether in use or in storage, will help you save money from repairs. Since RV awnings are considered as accessories, insurance companies won’t cover them should there be any damage incurred.
Other Related Preventive Maintenance Articles That Might Be Useful For You
Living in an RV is a full-time job. Aside from driving it from one place to another, you’ll find that most of your time will be spent doing little repairs here and there before you can fully enjoy where you park it. If you take the time to do it on a daily basis, you’ll find you’ll have more time for relaxing as the time spent on preventive maintenance and repairs diminish with constant vigilance.
So here are some things you’d want to check regularly:
Your comfort on the road is a definite high priority. Making sure you have a working toilet is a good way to ensure that your trips are hassle-free.
- The Best RV Toilet To Get For Your Camper
- RV Water Pump Won’t Stop Running? Here’s What To Do
- Do RV Toilets Have P Traps?
Stopping is just as important as going, especially with an RV. You’d want to make sure that you can stop on time and on a dime. Taking the time to look underneath your RV to ensure all lines are in good condition and no leaks are present is a good way to have peace of mind. Here are some articles related to brakes in heavier vehicles.
Batteries And Other Energy Components
Your RV requires a good battery to keep running. Installing two or more to power all the other components is a good way to ensure you’ll never run out of energy to keep everything operational. At the very least, it’ll help you extend and shorten RV awning when a strong wind comes in.
If you have solar panels installed, make sure you clean them periodically so that you’ll get the full potential when the sun’s out. You’ll also want to check your battery enclosure for storing the excess energy for any acid build-up or loose wires.
An RV is an extension of your home. It is your home away from your real one. Because of that, it should be as comfortable so you’ll want to use it as much as possible. The condition of your airconditioning and heater system is going to be your priority.
Cleaning the inside of your RV also requires special tools like a vacuum cleaner, cleaning solutions, and brushes. A regular cleaning schedule will ensure no harmful dust, bacteria, mold, and fungi build-up inside your cabin. It’s important to stay healthy while you’re out on the road.
Your RV is a home on wheels. To keep it serviceable, check your tires to make sure they’re in good condition. Bring your tires to the service center to ensure they are still within the limits of safety. The last thing you want is to get stuck in the middle of the road with a flat and without a jack.
You can’t fit everything into your RV if you have a lot of stuff. Installing a hitch is a good way to increase your cargo space. Adding a rack on top of your roof is another good way to do that. Just make sure you don’t overload your vehicle as it can damage your RV’s frame.
Last but not least, here’s an over-all maintenance guide for large vehicles, which is applicable to RVs too.
Here’s hoping all of the information here will help you know more about how, why, and what happens when you shorten RV awning.
Keep your RV awning protected at all times and perform preventive maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape. By doing that, you’ll be able to save hundreds of dollars in repairs and lengthen its service life at the same time.
And if you’re not sold on the RV lifestyle yet, here are some articles that can help sway your decision making to get a larger vehicle for recreational purposes.
- Are Big Cars Hard to Drive? Here are Some Truths.
- 15 Pros And Cons Of Heavier Cars
- Are Heavier Cars Better In Rain And Snow?
I Keep My Awnings Safely Tucked In, And Yet I Still See Wear And Tear. What Do I Do?
Moisturize the fabric. Abrasions can happen when the fabric rubs against itself when you’re driving your RV. You can minimize this by applying a light layer of protectant before storing you shorten RV awning into its storage unit. Throw in a desiccant to keep mold and fungus from growing on the moisturized layer.
Can My Solar Panels Power My Electric RV Awnings?
Yes. RV awnings require minimal power to operate. Once deployed, the manual brakes keep it in place. There is no more need for electricity to course through the electric motor to keep it up. As long as you have enough charge stored in your batteries and motor, you’ll be able to lengthen or shorten RV awnings without any issue.
Just How Much Damage Can The Sun Have On My RV?
A lot, and that’s why you need to protect it. Your RV isn’t impervious to damage over time. As a home, you would want to take care of it in the best way possible. Paint protectants and keeping the surface clean from all contaminants are among the best ways to lengthen your RV’s life. Keeping your RV out of the sun when it’s parked and employing RV tire covers is another way to do that. Last but not least, ensure you shorten the RV awning before you drive off so you don’t damage it in transit.