There’s nothing quite like settling down under the cooling shade of your RV awning.
But, before we can relax and take in that fresh air, we need to understand the basics of operating a manual awning.
So, in this quick step-by-step guide, we will show you how to manually open an RV awning and close it. And you can skip down to the video for a quick walkthrough of the entire process.
Disclaimer: If possible, refer to your awnings owner’s manual for specific operating instructions. The step-by-step process detailed below is for traditional spring-loaded awnings. It does not include instructions for electrically powered awnings that come with their own set of specifications and requirements.
Video: How To Open & Close An RV Awning
For written step-by-step instructions and answers to frequently asked questions, continue below. We provided time stamps for each instruction so you can reference it in the video above if needed.
Let’s start with opening the awning.
Opening An RV Awning
Step 1: Find A Good Spot For Your RV And Get It Into Position
Before you even think of unfurling the awning, make sure that you’ve set the RV up in a good location. You will need flat level ground with appropriate space for the awning to stretch out. You also want to make sure the spot is appropriate and legal for RVers.
Step 2: Remove The Travel Locks And Loosen The Knobs
Video timestamp: 0:21
Once you’ve settled in, it’s time to remove any travel locks and loosen the awning knobs. Travel locks are more common with manual awnings. They’re present for the awning’s front and rear arms, sometimes appearing as Velcro or just any piece of material tied around the arms.
Then, loosen the Rafter Knobs at the back of each arm.
Step 3: Use Your Awning Rod To Unlock The Sheet
Video timestamp: 0:55
Take out your Awning Rod and use it to switch the locking lever into the “roll down” position. Make sure to apply just the right amount of pressure to prevent snapping or jamming the lever.
Step 4: Open The Awning Carefully
Video timestamp: 0:59
The big moment has come. Take the awning rod, hook it onto the strap loop and then pull the awning out as you move backward slowly. Some models require you to turn the awning rod counter-clockwise to extend the awning. Watch for wind shear, which can interfere with the unfurling process and potentially jam the awning into place.
Tip: If you find that the awning is jammed or just won’t come out, don’t panic. Have a partner examine the awning roll and arms while you apply slight outward tension with your awning rod. Ideally, they’ll be able to loosen the awning opening while you continue unfurling the rest of the sheet.
Step 5: Lock The Rafter Arms Into Place
Video timestamp: 1:06
For spring-loaded awnings, take both rafter arms, slide them up, and lock them into place. Push down on the rafter arms to add tension and then carefully tighten the bolts on each rafter arm as the fabric stretches out. This will ensure that the material stays in that spread-out position and won’t buck in the wind.
Step 6: Extend Awning Arms
Video timestamp: 1:41
To get the awning into the desired position, you can go about it in two ways. If you’re doing it solo without any assistance, it’s best to adjust the levers on both sides of the awning in small increments.
If you have someone on standby to help, get in position at both levers on either side and pull them up to get them into the best position you can manage.
Note that, ideally, you want the awning to slope down to avoid rain from collecting on the sheet.
Step 7 (Optional): Anchor The Arms To The Ground
Video timestamp: 2:05
Essentially you’re done. But, if you want you can remove the awning arms from the RV and anchor the feet into the ground. This makes it easier to walk in and out of the awning. Just be sure to stake the awning arm to the ground.
Closing An RV Awning
Step 1: Remove Any Debris
Whether it be stormy weather or June showers, your visit is likely to have collected quite a few elements—twigs, branches, leaves, pinecones—on your awning. Try to give it a wash or two to remove fallen leaves or even muddy debris. If it’s just a bit of rain, give your awning time to dry before you start rolling it back in.
If you took our advice with Step 7 and affixed the awning feet to the ground, try to remove any debris from each foot, as well.
Step 2: Attach Awning Arms To RV
Video timestamp: 2:19
This step is only necessary if you followed step 7 above and detached the awning arms from the RV and staked them into the ground. If so, we will simply need to remove the satkes and attach the awning arm back to the RV.
Step 3: Lower Awning Arms
Video timestamp: 2:27
For awnings that have spring-loaded arms, you should lower each arm gently. Twist and loosen the rafter knobs, allowing you to pull back the inner arms into the RV.
Continue pulling the inner arms until they click into place.
Step 4: Lower Rafter Arms
Video timestamp: 2:46
Next simply lower the rafter arms until they click into place.
Step 5: Roll In The Awning
Video timestamp: 3:05
Flip the locking lever until it hits the Roll-Up or Close mode. Taking hold of the strap loop, stand in the middle of the awning shade. Guide it slowly but firmly until the whole awning has rolled back in.
Step 6: Lock And Load
Video timestamp: 3:22
Using the awning rod, nudge the locking lever into lock mode. Secure each rafter arm by squeezing it gently to ensure that it has locked into the RV. Tighten the rafter knobs.
Take out your travel lock, whether it’s a Velcro or just a simple piece of fabric, to tie around each rafter arm and secure it back into its place.
Can I leave my RV awning out in the rain?
A light rain yes, but you want to close your awning during storms and strong winds. If you can’t roll it in during the storm, you should at least make sure the awning roof tips downwards to allow the rainwater to flow down and not into your awning’s compartment.
Wet awnings can cause mildew and mold, which can be hazardous for you and can also further deteriorate the quality of your awning.
How long does an RV awning last?
An RV awning lasts approximately 5-15 years, depending upon the frequency of use. Proper care and maintenance will undoubtedly extend the period of usability; however, take note that most manufacturers will only cover five years of warranty.
How much wind can an RV awning withstand?
This is a difficult question, and the answer can change depending upon several factors such as wind speed, wind velocity, and the quality of your RV design. Generally, however, most self-supported awnings will withstand wind at 20-25 miles per hour, assuming wind speeds are consistent.