Few moments of RV life are more idyllic than sitting under your awning enjoying the soft breezes and bright sunlight of a beautiful day. What can ruin this picture-perfect scenario in a hurry is a large hole in your awning. How do you fix your RV awning if it has rips or tears?
Before you can fix a torn RV awning, you need to measure the rip or tear. For smaller holes, you can tape or glue the fabric together to make the hole vanish. If your RV awning has a bigger rip, you need to glue or sew replacement fabric over the rip.
This guide to repairing a damaged RV awning will explain everything you need to know. First, we’ll help you determine what kind of awning damage you have. Then we’ll go over your repair methods. Finally, we’ll provide tips for keeping your RV awning in tip-top shape moving forward, so keep reading!
Identifying the Types of RV Awning Damage
Before you can proceed with patching up your damaged RV awning, you need to be able to see the rip, hole, or tear up and close and personal. That will require you to take down your awning. Then you can measure the hole.
Here’s what you should do.
Step 1 – Remove Your RV Awning
If you don’t know how to detach your awning, you should learn. After all, it’s good to clean the awning at least once per year. You can also store the awning outside of your vehicle during the offseason if you want.
You’ll need a ladder and ideally a second or third person to help you detach your awning from your RV.
Set the ladder in a stable place. With a second person holding onto it, climb up the ladder. The awning arms will have travel locks on either side. Release both the locks.
The awning tube–which is the cylindrical component that the awning fabric rolls up onto–features cam locks on both sides as well. By adjusting the cam locks down, you’ll set the awning to roll down.
Unfurl your awning to its full length. You’ll see the end caps, which are plastic or metal caps at the bottom of the awning. The end caps should have holes that are meant for a cotter pin.
Put the cotter pin in one end cap hole, then do it for the other end cap. Now you should be able to detach the lag bolts. These bolts connect your RV rafters to your awning.
Have your second person (or even a third person) take the awning arms one by one. You can detach the screws that connect the awning fabric to the arms.
Now your awning is free.
Step 2 – Determine the Type of Awning Damage
Lay your awning somewhere flat such as a driveway. You can put it in a large stretch of grass but watch that the grass doesn’t stain the awning.
You should use something flat and weighty to hold all four of the awning sides down so it doesn’t unfurl.
Now you can take a look at the awning.
Your awning can have several types of damage, so let’s talk about each type now.
- Loose strings: Although loose strings may not seem like such a big deal, they can become one if you ignore the issue. The strings previously held your awning together but now aren’t doing so. That area of the awning is weakened and can come further undone with time and use.
- Fraying: A frayed awning is likely one that started with loose strings but wasn’t addressed promptly. Once the material is frayed, you’d have no choice but to replace that portion of the awning. You might even need an entirely new awning.
- Tears: A tear or rip usually occurs when something catches in the awning and then pulls across, such as a large branch. A tear will be longer than it is wider, but not exclusively.
- Holes: The issue could be that your awning has holes punctured in it. Since these holes are likely caused by the elements, they probably won’t be perfectly cylindrical.
Step 3 – Measure the Diameter of the Awning Rip or Hole
Now that you’re sure that you’re dealing with a rip versus a hole or vice-versa, you need to determine the size of the tear. This will influence how you go about repairing your damaged RV awning, so it’s important information to have.
If the hole or tear is three feet in size or under, then it’s categorized as a small rip. These are easier to repair. You shouldn’t delay in fixing it, as the hole will grow bigger as you continue to use your awning.
For any holes or tears that exceed three feet, these are considered large rips. The damage is more substantial but likely not altogether unfixable. If you get on it today, you could potentially repair your RV awning.
Related Reading: Should you tow a camper with a broken or torn awning?
How to Repair Small Holes in Your RV Awning
As we’ve alluded to, if your RV awning has a small hole that’s less than three feet, this is a more fortuitous position to find yourself in. Well, it’s not like any awning rip situations are good, but this is better than most.
Going back to what we mentioned in the intro, since the extent of the awning damage is not significant, you can use an awning repair tape or glue to patch your awning up into a condition that’s just about as good as new.
Step 1 – Clean the Awning
This is a good rule of thumb to start with whenever you’re working on your RV awning. It’s detached, you have it in front of you, so you might as well clean it.
We like a product like Thetford premium RV awning cleaner. Thetford’s cleaner is recommended for plastic, vinyl, or fabric awnings. It has no chlorine, so you don’t have to worry about awning color damage or fading.
You don’t have to use that exact awning cleaner, but the product you select should be non-abrasive. You also want a water-based rather than oil-based product to protect the quality and color of your RV awning.
Apply the cleaner on both sides of your awning. It should be clean of dirt, debris, and any lingering traces of mildew and mold by the time you’re finished.
Be sure to clean slowly yet concertedly around the hole or tear so you don’t rip it further.
Step 2 – Air-Dry the Awning
You can’t tape or glue a wet awning, so give it time to dry. You’ll have no choice but to air-dry the awning, so hopefully, you have a sunny day, and your awning is positioned in a spot where it can receive lots of sunlight.
Step 3 – Tape or Glue the Awning
Now you have to decide how you’ll repair the small RV awning hole or tear. To reiterate, you can use RV awning tape or glue. Camco’s RV awning tape is a highly recommended product among RVers.
To use awning tape or glue, gently pinch at the area of your awning where the hole or rip occurred and hold the two pieces of fabric together. Then apply glue or tape over the ripped area.
When you’re finished, smooth down the tape so it doesn’t have any air bubbles. The tape should stick translucently, and the glue should dry invisible too. That said, glue slowly so you don’t leave too many blobs.
If you are gluing, then give the glue time to dry according to package instructions. When the glue is dry, flip over the awning and apply tape or glue to the backside of the rip. This solidifies the unified fabric so it’s less likely to come undone.
How to Repair Large Holes in Your RV Awning
Once you get into holes and tears that exceed three feet, you can no longer use awning tape to stick them together. It just won’t work. Your only option is to sew or glue a new patch of fabric onto the tear to obscure it.
Here’s what to do.
Step 1 – Clean Your Awning
You don’t have to worry about getting tape to stick to your awning with a bigger tear, but it’s still a good idea to clean the awning. The same products and methods we recommended in the last section suffice.
Step 2 – Buy the Replacement Awning Fabric
This next step is a lot easier said than done depending on what your RV awning looks like.
If your awning is a simple color like beige or maroon or even navy blue, then you can breathe easy. You should be able to shop around online and find a color match for your awning.
A note about online shopping: before you purchase the awning outright, contact the seller and ask if they can send you a swatch. They should ideally do this for free, but be willing to pay a small sum (as well as cover the shipping fees).
Online photos can be deceiving. Everything from the brightness of your smartphone or monitor to the display settings can make a color look darker or lighter than it is in real life.
Getting a sample of the RV awning fabric will tell you whether the color match is perfect or if you need to look elsewhere.
For those RVers with a unique awning color or a vivid, one-of-a-kind pattern, you can try searching for it online. Maybe you’ll get lucky, but more than likely, you won’t be able to find what you’re looking for since the design is too specific.
You’ll have to contact your RV manufacturer and ask what your options are. The manufacturer might be willing to send you replacement awning fabric for free or you could have to pay for the replacement awning.
What if your awning is out of production? Well, you can try buying replacement awning fabric that’s as close of a match as possible. However, this can create a kind of patchwork look if you didn’t get an exact match.
You might be better off just buying a new awning at that point.
Step 3 – Re-Measure the Awning Hole or Tear
Yes, you already measured the damage once, but it doesn’t hurt to be doubly sure. The reason? You need exact measurements to determine how much replacement fabric to cut.
Step 4 – Cut Your Replacement Awning Material
You measured out the hole and it’s 4.5 inches or six inches even. That does not mean you need to cut a six-inch strip of fabric.
You want the fabric to be a little bigger than the original rip or hole so you have some wiggle room.
We recommend increasing the height and width of the original tear measurements by two inches apiece. If your rip was six inches by four inches, then you’d cut fabric that’s eight inches by six inches.
Is this going to be too big? Yes, but you can always trim the fabric.
If you don’t already own some, please invest in a good pair of fabric scissors when cutting the replacement awning fabric. Using regular kitchen scissors could cause the fabric to fray when trimmed. Your replacement patch won’t hold up as well.
Step 5 – Sew or Glue the Replacement Awning Fabric
Now that you’ve measured out how much replacement awning fabric you need, it’s time to adhere it. If you want, you can use glue. For those who are handy with a needle and thread, you can always sew the patch of fabric into place.
You want to be especially conscientious not to leave any spare strings or threads. You can always use your fabric scissors to cut any excess strings.
For those RVers who choose glue, be sure to allow the glue to fully dry before you roll up your awning.
Step 6 – Reattach Your Awning
Now that your awning is either taped, glued, or sewn, it’s time to put it back onto its awning tube and reattach it to your RV.
We hope you kept all those pins and screws because you’re going to need them. You’ll also need a second or third person.
Roll your awning up and reattach the tag bolts. Then slip the cotter pins into the awning tube where they were originally.
Switch the cam locks so they don’t roll down. Use your cam lock lever to pull the awning back up fully. Then reattach the metal arms and be sure to lock the travel pins.
What Causes RV Awning Tears?
You had thought your RV awning was in pretty good shape, so why does it have this big, gaping hole? Let’s discuss some of the reasons your awning can rip.
Wear and Tear
RV awnings are not meant to last forever. The older yours is and the more you’ve used it, the worse its condition will naturally be. The average lifespan of an awning is between five and 15 years.
If yours is coming up on that age or it’s older, then it’s probably best you replace it. Otherwise, what starts at one rip or tear can become many!
When a sudden storm rolls through, you might head for the shelter of your RV without remembering to pull up the awning. It happens to the best of us, but it can expose your awning to weather damage from wind, hail, or thunderstorms.
Whether it’s the wind that causes a weak area of the awning fabric to let go or sudden hail that makes holes in your awning, your awning will come out of the storm a lot worse for wear.
If debris kicks up from wind or other RVers parking their vehicle close to yours, the sticks, rocks, branches, and stones can most certainly tear through your RV awning.
If you paid very low prices for your awning and it wasn’t part of some mega sale, then it won’t last as long as a higher-quality manufacturer’s awning. You’re likelier to see loose threads and strings. Sticks and rocks can go through your awning like it’s paper.
Tips for Maintaining Your RV Awning
To wrap up, let’s delve into some handy maintenance and care tips that can prolong the life of your awning and keep it in one piece!
Clean Your Awning Regularly
Going back to what we said before, cleaning your RV awning is not something you should do only when the awning is ripped or torn. As you winterize your RV for the offseason, pull the awning off and give it a thorough cleaning. Be sure to clean the underside and the top.
Then, after you come back to your RV in the spring, it’s not a bad idea to clean the awning a second time if need be.
Don’t Ignore Strings
We hope we’ve made this clear, but loose strings are no minor occurrence.
The strings mean that the awning fabric has already begun to weaken in that area. Trimming the strings will prevent them from loosening further, which could be enough to prevent an unappealing tear in your awning fabric.
Fix That Small Tears ASAP
Although a hole the diameter of a pencil in your awning fabric isn’t a big deal, admittedly, you still can’t go on like it’s business as usual. Every time you unfurl and then furl up your awning, you’re putting strain on that hole.
UV exposure can weaken the fabric as well. Before you know it, the hole that was once the size of a pencil is now several feet bigger. If you had fixed it earlier, you could have taped it together in maybe 20 minutes.
Now you need to buy replacement awning fabric, which is a huge pain!
Safeguard Your Awning in Inclement Weather
Spring and summer showers can always catch you off-guard, but when using your RV awning, it’s best to know what kind of weather could come through. This way, you have the time to roll up your awning before the weather gets bad.
Related Reading: How much wind can my RV awning take?
Never Roll Up Your Awning When It’s Wet
When you clean your awning or it gets caught in the rain, it’s going to be soaked through. You must give the awning time to fully dry. You can blot areas that are damp, but don’t roll it back up until the entire thing feels dry as a bone.
The reason? A furled-up awning is dark, warm, and now moist since the awning is wet. Mold and mildew will happily spread across your awning.
Depending on the awning fabric, you might be able to remove mold and mildew with a specialized cleaner, but you could just as much have to replace your awning altogether.
A torn RV awning can put a real damper on your camping fun. The best course of action is to repair small holes when you spot them, as they will grow without your intervention. Now that you know how to repair holes and tears of all sizes, you can maintain the condition of your RV awning for a long time to come. Good luck!