The sun at your back, the shadow of your RV behind you, and a homemade fire with some tasty snacks roasting in front of you: is there anything better?
For nature lovers and RV fans, the answer is no. From trailers to full-sized motorhomes, these vehicles often come equipped with awnings. These are designed to protect you and your favorite passengers from the damaging effects of the sun. They can also safeguard against more severe weather, including rain, snow, and wind.
There are three awning types your RV may come equipped with. These are RV patio awnings, which are made for smaller vehicles and cover only a small area. Then there are RV-slide topper awnings, which are meant to safeguard the vehicle’s roof. Lastly, window and door awnings keep these respective areas nice and shady for days spent out in the sun.
Any of these awnings can become worn down and even rip or tear if you’re not careful. This isn’t necessarily a situation worth panicking over, though. With some tools and know-how, it’s possible to fix most RV awning tears in five simple steps, which we’ll explain in-depth.
Understanding RV Awning Fabric Types
Before we get into how to fix awning rips, you should know the different types of RV awning fabrics. Most manufacturers prefer acrylic and vinyl awnings because these are durable, relatively easy to clean, and cheap to produce.
Here’s a more thorough explanation of both types of materials.
Acrylic awnings are softer than vinyl because they’re made of layers of cloth that weave through one another. There are miniscule holes throughout the awning, not enough to let water in, but just big enough that air can move. This is important, because it keeps your awning free of mildew, mold, and other unwanted bacteria.
This awning material can withstand almost all weather conditions, including strong winds, snow and ice, heavy rains, and hot summer days. Bugs, dirt, and dust are also no match for acrylic awnings.
If the material does get wet, due to the way the fabric is constructed, it doesn’t take long for it to dry. You can indeed retract the awning even if it’s drenched from the rain, but you should try to refrain from doing this if you can, as this can potentially invite mildew and mold.
Acrylic awnings have a variety of colors in fun patterns that are stitched in instead of painted. That means that even if you’re the type who likes to spend many days in the sun under your awning, the colors are less likely to fade from sun exposure.
Also, with the way air can move through the acrylic, this awning can withstand hot temperatures without getting too hot itself. That means you’ll feel nice and cool when sitting outside.
Vinyl awnings are made from a harder, plastic-like material. Although there’s no air circulation with this type of awning, it’s still designed to combat the development of mold and mildew via several layers.
That said, you will need to be careful about keeping up with your vinyl awning maintenance. If you let too much dust or dirt form on the top layer of your vinyl awning, then mildew can indeed develop.
There are some other ways you could get an infestation of mildew and mold, such as humid weather and retracting the vinyl awning before it’s fully dry.
Why Do RV Awnings Rip?
There are plenty of reasons you may have a tear in your RV awning, whether it’s made of acrylic or vinyl. Although both types of material are made to withstand weather conditions (even relatively extreme ones) without ripping, hailstorms, heavy snowstorms, thunderstorms, and very heavy winds can sometimes destroy an awning.
Also, if your awning comes into contact with sticks or rocks, this can also cause damage.
The longer you’ve had your awning, the bigger the chances of it ripping. Wear and tear and age can be major culprits, especially if you’ve noticed loose threads and strings dangling on the edges of your awning.
Now, there are two types of damage your awning may have sustained: small tears and holes or big tears and holes. Let’s break these down more.
Small Tears and Holes
If your awning is going to have any damage at all, small tears and holes are preferable. These must generally be about three feet wide (but sometimes less) to classify as small. That said, sometimes these are so miniscule that your awning looks fine, just a little worse for wear. You’ll only realize the issue once that you feel warmer when you sit under your awning. Perhaps rain gets through where it didn’t used to.
Big Tears and Holes
While you can sometimes go a few weeks or months without noticing a small tear and hole, that is not the case with larger tears. These are pretty obvious from the onset. Holes and tears are considered big if they’re more than three inches wide.
You can’t really get away with pretending these aren’t there, because you’ll feel wind, sun, and rain whenever you sit beneath your awning. Also, ignoring them is detrimental because the longer these tears go unrepaired, the greater the chance they could become even bigger. In some cases, the tear or hole may be so severe that you have to get a new awning!
Five Easy Steps for Fixing Torn RV Awning
Of course, before it gets severe, you want to try your best to repair the awning yourself. This will be more difficult with holes or tears that are three inches or wider, but not impossible. You should still try fixing these bigger holes before giving up and buying a replacement awning. Otherwise, you’re going to end up spending a lot of money.
Before we get into the steps you should follow to fix your RV awning, let’s go over the supplies you’re going to need. Depending on the method of repair, you may not use all these supplies for the same hole or tear. That’s okay! These supplies are great to have on hand anyway.
- Awning repair tape (this tape is made specifically for RV awnings and is three inches by 15 feet, so you get plenty of bang for your buck)
- Fabric scissors for trimming down your awning material (like these eight-inch scissors)
- A screwdriver
- Waterproof glue (this one, despite the funny name, is very strong)
- Sewing supplies, including a needle and thread (this portable kit is a 96-in-one and includes a tape measure, buttons, a thimble, scissors, needles, thread, and plenty of other accessories and tools)
- Water-based cleaning solution
- Replacement awning material (there’s plenty to be had, but this RV Vinyl Awning Replacement Fabric is very sturdy and the heaviest on the market today)
- A tape measurer
Step #1: Measure the Tear
Before recommending any reparation method, first you need to know the size of the tear or hole. This is where the tape measure comes in handy. Remember, the width is what we’re calculating here.
Step #2: Use RV Awning Repair Tape
Do note, this step is for small holes or tears that are below three inches ONLY. While yes, RV awning repair tape will hold bigger tears, this will only be for a limited time. All it will take is one good breeze or rainy day for the tape to give way.
That’s because RV awning repair tape, as handy as it is, is not designed for these bigger holes.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, you can go about fixing up your small hole or tear. Trim your tape to the length of the tear or hole, as most rolls of RV awning repair tape are significantly longer than you’ll need for one repair. Thick tape layers are preferable here.
Then, simply pinch the awning material together and adhere the tape. You should do this on both sides of the awning for best results.
Step #3: Size and Cut the Replacement Awning Material
Okay, but what if you’re dealing with a bigger hole or tear? How do you go about fixing that?
You’ll need to use your replacement awning material for this job. Of course, if you really want to, you can also use this for smaller tears, although that will be more time-consuming. If you’re worried about aesthetics or your awning is old and the repair tape doesn’t hold, this is another option to consider.
Since you’ve measured your hole or tear, you should already know how much replacement material you need. Your fabric scissors will slice the material without fraying it.
It’s okay to have a bit more than you’ll actually need. After all, you can always trim down some material if you have too much, but if you have too little, you can’t make the material appear out of thin air.
Step #4: Clean the Awning
Great, so your replacement awning material is sized and cut. You’re ready to adhere it now, right? Not quite.
You have two options for your replacement material: you can either sew it in or glue it on. If it’s the former, then you can skip this step. If it’s the latter, you’re going to have to clean your awning with the water-based cleaning solution.
Why? Glue will not stick as well to a dusty or dirty awning. To clean the awning, you’ll have remove it. Here are a few simple steps for how to do that:
- Look for the metal arms on both sides of the awning. These should be secured with travel locks.
- Open both these locks as well as the second set of locks you’ll see, which are the cam locks on the awning tube.
- To release some cam locks, you’ll have the turn the accompanying lever.
- Gently roll down the awning, lowering it to the ground.
Now you can unfurl the awning and clean it. Go softly around the ripped area so you don’t accidentally make it any worse.
Let the awning dry fully while unfurled. The glue won’t stick on a wet awning, either.
Step #5: Stitch in or Glue the Replacement Material
Once your awning is dry, you can now adhere the replacement material. If you are using glue, flip the replacement material over and make a thick outline around the cut-out edges. Now, place it precisely over the hole or tear, pressing gently yet firmly on the awning. Let the glue dry.
If you’d rather stitch in your replacement material, then use the sewing supplies recommended above. You will need thicker thread for this, as most awning material isn’t exactly soft or super malleable. Check the other side of the awning once you’re done and sew in that side as well.
Once you’re done, reapply the awning following the instructions above, but in reverse.
How to Prevent Future Tears
Phew! That was some hard work, but you did it. Your awning is now looking better than ever, and no one can tell that it was ever ripped or torn. You couldn’t be happier about this.
Of course, you want to avoid future tears and holes. What can you do to keep your awning in the best possible shape?
Here are some tips you should follow:
- Routine maintenance is key. By cleaning and inspecting your RV awning at least monthly, you can catch any damage before it gets bad. Remember that even loose threads and strings could be a sign that your awning is ready to fall apart.
- If you see something is wrong with the awning, don’t wait another day to address it. You might think that it can wait, but again, small tears can easily turn large, and large tears can easily get to the point where you need a brand new awning. If you’re absolutely strapped for time, then make sure to keep your awning rolled up until you get the time and resources to fix it.
- Make sure your awning is fully dry before you retract it. For both acrylic and vinyl awnings, water from rain or snow will roll off the material within a few hours. Don’t rush this, as you could encourage the growth of mold and mildew. Here’s a handy tip: you can adjust the angle of the awning so water can run off with more ease and your awning dries faster.
- If you can sense the weather is going to be bad, don’t use your awning. This includes weather conditions like windstorms, thunderstorms, and snow. You may want to stay inside your RV in weather like that to be safe.
- Avoid situations in which you overstretch the awning. This includes letting too much water pool on top of it without draining. Hail and snow can also pile atop the awning, which can easily cause a huge tear.
When it comes to kicking back and truly enjoying the wonders of nature, your RV awning helps you do that. After all, you have to take a break sometime, so once you pull over and park for the day (or night), you can take in the world around you under the comfort and security of your awning.
Well…until it rips.
As you can see from this article, a ripped awning doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Smaller holes and tears are always preferable because they’re easier to fix, but even if you have a bigger tear, you can still patch it up, and in five easy steps, too!
To prevent future rips, watch the weather conditions in which you unfurl your awning. Don’t forget to clean it as well. If you treat your awning well, you should be able to get many years of enjoyment out of it.