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Enjoy Using Your Roll-Out Awning for Years with a Few Common Sense Precautions!
Hold the phone, Mac! I hope you're not telling me that you left that awning out all night are you? If so, I certainly hope that you anchored the thing down with some good heavy duty tie-down straps and anchor pins!! If not, you're just plain lucky that no storms blew in during the night and ripped your pretty little awning to shreds. Worse yet, it could have rolled your whole camper 90 degrees and you might have found yourself sleeping on the hookup side wall with your alarm clock ticking happily away on your chest!!!
RV awnings are fantastic options for extending the living space of your camper into the great outdoors. However, one must keep in mind that, to a gust of wind, they look, for all the world, like a huge para-sail! Adding insult to injury, the things are not inexpensive to replace. The average camper awning can cost anywhere from $900 to upwards of $2,500 depending on your particular brand, model and/or accessories. Let's cover a few points that might just save you a lot of hassle and more than a few Washington’s should an unforeseen storm arise and ruin your camping trip.
Some Basic Ground Rules1. NEVER leave your awning extended if there is any chance that a heavy wind storm could arise unless the roller tube at the front is tied down with heavy duty anchor straps. Even with these straps, the wind can rip the awning right off of the camper. My recommendation is simple ... if it might storm ... put the awning up.
2. NEVER leave your awning extended when you're not going to be in the immediate vicinity for any extended period of time or when you retire to the snore-room for the night. Storms are unpredictable and can pop up before you know it. Doubtless, you won't be snoring when you hear the ominous sound of ripping fabric or the awning arms beating holes in your roof or the hookup side of your camper!
3. Even when properly tied down, ALWAYS leave one end of the awning a few inches lower than the other so that the water has a place to run off. I recommend doing this on the side that is farthest from the main entry door so that you won't create a mud hole that you'll have to leap across to get into or out of the vehicle. Even though your awning LOOKS like it might shed water over the fringe, rest assured, it will NOT! The fabric will stretch to allow the first quart or so to stand. Then as more rain falls, it stretches to accommodate a gallon then 10 gallons then ... you get the picture. Water weighs 8.33 lbs per US gallon!! 50 gallons weighs an amazing 416.5 lbs and will literally rip the arms off of your camper if it can't find a way to the ground.
These days, more and more side-mount awnings consist of motor driven units. The same precautions apply to these and there is even less excuse for not storing them properly when adverse conditions threaten since all you have to do is push a button to retract the awning. Also, almost all modern power awnings are equipped with arm adjustments which allow the water to drain off to the lowest corner.
If you fail to follow these simple rules, I sincerely hope your insurance is paid up!
MaintenanceYour awning fabric should be cleaned whenever you was your camper. Simply roll it out and use a good quality awning cleaner and a soft brush to clean then let it dry thoroughly before you roll it back up. As a side note, keep in mind that a bit if mildew is just going to happen and it's going to turn into a mold stain unless you wash your awning about once a week. I don't know about you but in my yard that just ain't gonna happen!
I'm sure you've seen awning fabrics with horizontal black lines running across the width. This is a result of mildew growing while the awning is rolled up. It's intrinsic to awning fabrics because each time you retract the awning, air is trapped between the layers. When the temperature changes, whatever moisture is contained in that air condenses and settles to the bottom of each wrap giving those pesky little mold and mildew bugs a perfect neighborhood to make and raise their young.
Conceivably you could use bleach or a good quality mildew remover to keep them at bay but they are nothing if not persistent and eventually you will know they were there in the form of those aforementioned black streaks. Quite honestly, they don't bother me much since I know that it's pretty futile to resist beyond the occasional scrubbing. I just look down at my coffee cup or over at my lovely wife and I ignore them till it's time to replace the fabric anyway.
I hear that they don't have this problem in Arizona or the Mojave Desert but, just like washing my awning once a week, my moving to one of these places to prevent mold and mildew just ain't gonna happen!
In summary, don't be afraid to use your awning. Just use some common sense and you'll save yourself some serious headaches not to mention the cost associated with having to shell out the hard earned dough for repair or replacement!