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RV Awning 101: How to Choose the Right RV Awning for Your Rig

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Looking for the perfect RV awning for your rig? Read on to learn all about RV awnings and how to choose the right one for your motorhome.

RV awning replacement

RV awnings do so much more than just protect your motorhome from the sun, rain, and other elements. The right RV awning can increase the versatility of your motorhome and make camping in the outdoors all the more fun. From creating the perfect sunroom outside your RV to helping you dine under the stars, RV awnings can do this and so much more. But how do you decide which RV awning is the right one for your rig? Read on as we explore the different types of RV awnings, factors you should consider while choosing the right one, RV awning replacement guidelines, and much more.



Types of RV Awnings

RV awnings are available in different types based on how they function. Here are the most common types of RV awnings you will find in the market.

types of RV awnings

Fixed RV Awnings

As the name suggests, fixed RV awnings are permanently built-in on your RV's roof and windows. You cannot change or adjust their height or position and they remain as such even when you're driving. The pro of this type of awning is that it provides constant shade and protection from the elements even when you're on the road. The downside is that fixed RV awnings are prone to getting damaged and falling off easily, this makes them a hazard while driving. Also, not being able to adjust their position means they are less versatile.


RV Slide Out Awnings

In contrast to fixed awnings, slide-out RV awnings are stored under the roof of your RV and can be easily slid out as and when needed. You can find both manual and electric slide-out awnings for RVs in the market. These awnings are usually made of canvas so they are lightweight and easy to maneuver. The downside to using these awnings is that water can pool on them easily so you have to make sure the awnings are clean and dry before storing them to prevent mold.


RV Patio Awnings

RV patio awnings are the most common type of awnings found on larger motorhomes. They are also called sheltered awnings as they provide more than just shade. These awnings are larger in size and fully adjustable in terms of length, height, and size. You can find fully covered RV patio awnings that act like a sunroom outside your RV. You can use the 'patio' area for outdoor picnics or even for storage when your RV is parked. Patio RV awnings are usually made of fabric and provide protection against the elements. The downside to using patio awnings is that their set-up is a bit more complicated and they need a lot of maintenance.


Automatic RV Awnings

Automatic RV awnings work electrically and can be deployed and retracted by a simple push of a button. You can find these RV awnings in different sizes but they need to be installed by an expert. While the most convenient to use, automatic RV awnings are also the most expensive and require a lot of care since their repair and replacement can cost a fortune.


Roller RV Awnings

Roller RV awnings are mounted on a set of rollers that make it easy to open and close the awning. These awnings can usually be extended further as compared to slide-out RV awnings and are easier to maneuver. You can pull them out manually or get an automatic roller RV awning system installed. In either case, when retracted the roller awnings get rolled up tightly and get stowed in a recess in the RV. But since these awnings have more moving parts they also require more maintenance and care.



Comparing RV Awnings Materials

Acrylic RV Awning

Vinyl RV Awning

Metal RV Awning

Wood RV Awning

​Pros

  • Good air circulation and breathability

  • Resistant to bugs

  • Repels water on the surface and dries quickly

  • Can handle the elements

  • Fade, scratch, and puncture resistant

  • Waterproof and UV-resistant

  • Fabric stays taut on the frame

  • Better handling of the elements as compared to acrylic awnings

  • Extremely durable

  • Fully waterproof

  • Resistant to extreme weather conditions

  • Aesthetically pleasing

  • ​Less expensive than metal

  • Can be customized as per need

  • Easy to DIY

Cons

  • ​Not waterproof

  • Can cause pooling of water

  • Prone to wind flapping because of getting overstretched

  • Prone to water pooling that can lead to mold and mildew

  • Attracts dust and debris so needs to be cleaned regularly

  • ​Expensive

  • The sound of rain or hail on metal can cause noise pollution

  • Prone to rust and corrosion

  • Attract more heat during hotter months

  • ​Not waterproof

  • Needs constant maintenance

​Cost

​Reasonably priced

Reasonably priced

​Expensive

Expensive


How Do RV Awnings Work?

Before we jump into all the factors you should consider before deciding what type of awning you need for your motorhome, here is a look at how RV awnings work.


Electric RV Awnings

Electric or automatic RV awnings use either 120AC or 12V DC power to work. They get this power from your RV's electrical system or a generator. The arms of the awning extend and retract by using gas pistons on a spring tensioning system. Automatic RV awnings usually also have a manual override so you can open and close the awning even if the motor is acting up or you don't have power.


Here is a video explaining how automatic RV awnings work


Manual RV Awnings

Manuel awnings use a torsion spring mechanism that is installed in the awning roller tube to open and close. A switch releases the awning tube and you can then use an awning rod to reach the strap that lets you pull the awning out. The inner support arms can then be extended to the outer support arms on each side to raise the awning on both sides.


Here is a video explaining how manual RV awnings work


Choosing the Best RV Awning for Your Rig

Here are some of the factors you need to consider when purchasing a new RV awning for your rig.


Size of Your Rig

The size of your motorhome is crucial when it comes to deciding what type of RV awning you should choose. Larger motorhomes may require custom-built RV awnings as the standard size may not fit properly. Smaller campers may only be fitted with manual RV awnings as the electric ones may not be made in that size. Make sure to properly measure your RV before you go awning shopping. You can consult your RV's user manual for size guidelines if your RV already comes with an awning pre-installed and you are looking to replace it.


Your Requirements

Do you need an awning to protect your RV from the sun and keep the rooms cool? Or do you want to create a sunroom outside your RV? Do you want your awning to be waterproof? Do you need an awning that works even when you're driving? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself before you decide what type of awning you need for your rig. Your requirements will help you decide what mechanism and material are perfect for your RV awning.


Ease of Installation and Use

Automatic RV awnings require professional help to install and troubleshoot. Manual RV awnings have a slight learning curve when it comes to their use. Both types of awnings have their own set of pros and cons, it is up to you to decide which type of awning is easier for you to use long term.


Cost

Aluminum RV awnings are expensive but durable while acrylic and vinyl awnings are cheaper and readily available. However, they may not be suitable for extreme weather conditions. Your pocket and budget will help you decide which awning is the right choice for your RV.



RV Awning Replacement

Your RV awning can get damaged due to age, bad weather, trauma, or a number of other reasons. Some mishaps have an easy fix for example small rips or holes in the awning fabric can be easily fixed with RV awning repair tape. But bigger issues like broken arms or mechanisms may require professional help to repair. You may choose to replace your RV awning because it is damaged or simply because you need an upgrade. Is it possible to replace an entire RV awning system without help? Yes, but this will depend on the type of awning you choose and your own handiness.


While replacing an entire RV awning system may be tricky for most people, you can easily replace RV awning fabric yourself. Here is a video explaining how


The Best RV Awning

The right RV awning can be a great addition to your motorhome. Not only will it protect your RV from the elements but it can also help you create the perfect outdoor space for picnics and more. You can use accessories like RV awning sunshades to create a sunroom outside your RV, perfect for summer BBQs and lounging in the sun during winter. Add some RV Awning LED Lights to bring your outdoor space to life, nighttime camping would never look the same. The best RV awning for your rig is one that is easy to install and use, keeps the elements at bay, and lasts you a long time.






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