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Beginner's Guide to RV Awnings: How to Open, Close, and Maintain Your Awning

You can't wait to get to the campsite, kick back, and enjoy a cold drink in the pleasant shade of your RV's awning. First, however, you need to have a grasp on the basics, such as how to open your awning. And how to close it. And if you're going to be opening and closing your awning, you also need to learn how to care for it—and how to avoid unintentional damage.
Watch Now: Tips on RV Awning Care: Opening, Cleaning, and Replacing Your Awning
Watch our video for tips or read on to learn:
  • How to Open Your Manual or Hybrid RV Awning
  • How to Close Your Manual or Hybrid RV Awning
  • How to Maintain Your RV Awning
RV Awning

How to Open Your Manual or Hybrid RV Awning

Opening your RV is a simple process once you've done it a few times. If you have an owner's manual for your awning (or for your motorhome, if your awning is an OEM model), always follow the instructions listed for your particular model. Many owner's manuals can also be found online, if you don't have one. The following guidelines provide general instructions that apply to most RV awnings.Before you start, it's helpful to have an idea which type of RV awning you have: traditional or hybrid. A traditional awning is fully manual, with spring-loaded arms. With this type, you need to loosen the rafter knobs, walk out the awning, and manually set the tension. With a hybrid system, simply rotate the awning rod to open the canopy. (For more details, read on below.)
Classic Spring-Loaded Awning
Watch Now: Demonstration on opening and retracting a Solera RV awning.
RV Awning Rafter Knobs
RV Awning Latch Lock
Featured: an awning rafter knob, also known as a tension knob (top) and travel latch (bottom).
Step 1Undo the travel latch or lock that holds the awning to the side of the RV. If you have a standard spring-loaded awning with small black rafter knobs, loosen the knobs now (just a few turns are necessary—don't remove them or loosen them all the way). Next, do the same to the other side of the awning.
Awning Rod
Step 2Use the awning rod to move locking lever to the "roll down" position.
RV Awning Rod In Use
Step 3Hook the awning rod into the strap loop. Pull the awning down as you walk backward. If one end gets stuck, you may have to give the arm a gentle tug (or have a partner help) in order to evenly open the awning. Some models require you to twist the awning rod in order to extend the fabric.
Lowered RV Awning
Step 4For spring-loaded awnings, slide the inner arm to the top of the outer arm, apply tension by gently pressing downward on the arms until the fabric is pulled taut, and tighten your rafter knobs. Repeat on the other side.On models that are not spring-loaded, the arms will automatically stay in place whenver you let go of the road.
Adjust Awning Pitch and Height
Step 5Adjust the height and pitch (or angle). On some models, this is accomplished by pulling a lever or latch on each arm and raising the awning to the desired height. This is most easily accomplished with two people simultaneously lifting the awning arms. However, it can also be accomplished with one person. Just adjust both sides of the awning in increments until it reaches the desired height.Newer hybrid awnings can be adjusted by simply pushing or pulling the arm to the desired position without having to bother with levers and knobs.Tie your strap out of the way when you're finished.

How to Close Your Manual or Hybrid RV Awning

Retracting your manual or hybrid RV awning is easy—just take the steps above in reverse!
Lowered RV Awning

Step 1

For standard awnings only: If you have a standard awning with spring-loaded arms, start by lowering both sides of the awning. Then loosen the black rafter knobs and slide the inner arms back toward the RV until they lock into place.
RV Awning Rod

Step 2

Push the locking lever into the "roll up" position. For hybrid awnings that don't lower down as far as standard awnings, use the awning rod to push the lever into the proper position.
RV Awning Rod in Use
Step 3Holding the strap (with either your hand or the awning rod, depending on your model), walk forward so that the awning rolls up against the RV. Some models require you to twist the awning rod to roll up the fabric. Be careful not to let go of the strap, or the awning will slam against the side of your RV.
RV Awning Locked Position
Step 4Be sure the locking lever is in the locked position. Close the safety latches or locks that hold the arms against the RV. Tighten your rafter knobs if your system has them. You are now ready to travel!

How to Maintain Your RV Awning

Like with everything else on your RV, it's important to learn how to properly care for your RV awning to make it last as long as possible. Keep in mind that most insurance companies consider awnings to be an accessory and often don't cover them, so you definitely want to keep your awning in the best possible shape.
RV Awning
Awnilng RV Angled for Water Runoff
Always tilt your RV awning at a slight angle to allow for water runoff.

Tips for Opening and Closing Your Awning:

  • Do adjust the pitchThe pitch, or angle, of your awning is crucial. Angle one corner of the awning downward to allow water runoff, or invest in an awning with an automatic rain dump feature. (Another tip: steer clear of the dumping location unless you want a quick outdoor shower.)
  • Don't rip your awning with the doorBe sure your awning clears the top of your door. Also make sure your travel companions are aware when you're opening the awning—the last thing you want is someone unwittingly throwing the door open on your half-open awning and tearing the fabric. Most RV doors these days have rounded corners to prevent this kind of mishap, but it's still a "better safe than sorry" situation.
  • Do roll up if it's windyMost RVers wonder at some point how much wind their awnings can handle. Unfortunately, the only way to know this for sure is to leave your awning out in high winds and see how long it takes the wind to destroy it. A good rule of thumb to keep on the safe side is that, if you're questioning whether or not it's time to roll up, it's time to roll up. Some awnings even include wind sensors and automatically roll up if they detect winds of a certain speed.
  • Don't leave the awning unattendedRetract the awning when you leave the campsite to avoid damage from wind, storms, or unnecessary UV exposure.
RV Awning Clamps
RV awning clamps secure your awning fabric to its frame to prevent flapping and tears.

Tips for Securing Your Awning

  • Do use awning clamps Use RV awning clamps to prevent the awning from opening while you drive, and to prevent the fabric from flapping in the wind when extended.
RV Awning Cleaner
Wash your RV awning regularly to keep it in prime condition.
Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Awning
  • Do clean your awning regularlyAt minimum you should clean it once a year with dish soap and water before storing your RV for the winter. Ideally, however, you should clean your awning every few months or more frequently, as needed. RV awning cleaner is also available. Read more about cleaning your awning here.
  • Don't roll up a wet awningDoing so can cause mold and mildew to form on the fabric. If you absolutely have to roll it up wet, open the awning again as soon as possible and allow it to fully dry.
  • Do clear the awning of leaves and debris before rolling it up Not only will this stuff accumulate and weigh down your awning over time, but it'll also fall on your head and into your eyes next time you open the awning. Been there. Not fun.
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 6/12/2021

Douglas W.

5/22/2021

I have a 2020 Keystone Hideout and I was hoping you can tell me how to adjust the pitch on my power awning.

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.

5/24/2021

I'm not sure what awning you have on your Keystone Hideout but have you tried any of the methods that we mention in step 5 of the "How to Open Your Manual or Hybrid RV Awning" section?


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