Should I Tow My Camper Home With a Broken Awning?


My wife whipped out the chain saw to cut down the tree limbs sticking out over the street after I ran into them and caused some damage on the camper.

Sometimes things on the camper just break.  The awning is no exception.

If the awning breaks, is it safe to drive the RV or tow the camper home?  No, don’t drive home with a broken retractable awning.  The retractable awnings on campers and RVs are held to the side of the vehicle using spring pressure or the motor if it is a power awning.  If any of the components are damaged the awning could un-roll while driving down the road.  The awning and its supports can be ripped free of the camper turning them into a dangerous projectile for the cars behind you.

Awnings are great they extend the useful space of your camper by giving you a shelter from the sun and rain.  They also stick out little farther out then everything else on the side of the camper and sometimes get crashed or caught on a tree or sign.

How are awnings damaged?

RV awnings can get damaged in multiple ways.  They can be blown apart by strong gusts of winds, tearing the fabric, bending the supports, or breaking the gears and torsion springs, or when left open in the rain.  Water w?ill pool in the fabric until something gives, usually bending and twisting the metal parts of the awning.  The tubes and side supports can also be damaged by hitting something and crushing or bending the tube or supports.  

Sometimes Things Just Break

Awning are have springs, gears and motors if they are a powered awning and the component will wear out and break eventually.  The fabric can also wear out from flapping or rotting.

The wind could deploy an Awning

While researching this article I found several posts where RVers had their awnings get blown out by a strong wind hitting the side of the vehicle while driving down the road.  These instances the wind was strong enough to overcome the resistance of the motor or broke the gears in the tube pulling the fabric out as the wind was deflected up the side and underneath the awning.

How To Avoid Breaking Your Awning

Most broken awning could have been prevented by taking some basic steps and safety precautions.  Taking your time will save you down time and money.

Wind

To save your awning from the wind, keep it rolled up when you leave camp.  The wind may be calm when you leave but the weather can change.  If you are not at the campsite to roll up the awning when the wind picks up you could come back to find it bent and broken.  A bent and broken awning flapping in the wind could do additional damage to the sides, roof and may even break a window.

If you like to put the awning out and leave it out the using an anchoring kit like this one on Amazon will help to keep the wind from over stressing the frame of the awning. The anchoring kit won’t protect the awning form all winds and you will still need to put it away if a storm rolls in.

Deflap To Save The Fabric

Deflappers are clamps that clamp to the fabric to secure the metal frame to keep the fabric from flapping in the breeze.  The flapping will cause the fabric to wear out faster.  Deflappers will save wear on the fabric of the awning by keeping them from flapping in the breeze.   They will not prevent damage form very high winds but will keep the fabric form tearing in light breeze from wear.

Staying Dry In the Rain

If you are using the awning to stay out of the rain, set one side lower to allow the water the run off and not pool on the fabric.  Which side is up to you but consider where you are sitting and the slope of the ground to hopefully avoid having a river of water running between your feet.  Your access door may determine which side gets tipped down. 

Also, don’t put the awning away wet, if you must put your awning away while it is still wet or damp make sure you open it up when you get home to let it dry out.  Storing the awning while it is wet can lead to mold, algae and dry rot. A rotten awning is more likely to rip.

While Towing

Before hitting the road check that the awning is properly stowed for your model and all knobs are tightened and the rewind lever is rolled in the up position. The fabric should be tightly and smooth around the tube.  An awning lock like this one from Camco can also be used to keep a gust of wind from unrolling the awning. 

In tight spots

Go slow and use a spotter when maneuvering in tight spaces.  The spotter should also watch the slop of the ground.  The uneven ground can cause the top of the camper to tilt towards an obstacle that the bottom of the camper is clear of.  

What To Do If Your Awning Has Been Damaged?

Your awning has been damaged and cannot be rolled or unrolled the best thing is to remove it before continuing your trip.  If the damage is minor and the awning can be properly stored and secured tight to the side of the camper or you have an awning lock you might be able to avoid removing it.

When the tube is severely bent or the side supports do not completely close tight to side of the camper the fabric will not roll tight around the tube the awning will need to be removed.  An awning in this condition is likely to completely unroll while going down the highway.

Get Pictures

Don’t forget to take pictures of the damage before removing the awning.  You will need them if you choose to file an insurance claim.

Removing The Awning

It will take at least two people to remove the awning. Three people might be better.  Start by disconnecting the side supports with a wrench.  Your helpers will need hold the sides as they are removed.  If the top edge is not damaged you will be able to slide the fabric off by walking towards the back of the camper.  Depending on the damage sliding may not be possible if that is the case you will need cut the canopy from the camper.

If you are unable to remove the awning you self look for a mobile RV repair service or call the nearest RV dealer for assistance.

Why Do I Have To Remove The Awning?

Once the awning tube is been damaged or the side supports bent the awning will not roll-up tight.  The locking mechanisms, gears and/or torsion springs that keep the awning in the stored position could be broken or bent and may not be unable to the keep the awning stored correctly.   

If the awning moves out of the stored position while you are going 60 or 70 miles per hour down the highway the force of the wind could pull the  fabric loose by either breaking the weakened gears or springs.  The fabric unrolling will create a sail that rips the awning and supports off of the camper and into traffic.

Rips

If the fabric rips at the point where it attaches the top of the camper even just a little that could continue to rip while you are driving and then nothing will be holding the tube to the top of the camper.  The side support on their own will not be enough to keep the tube from dropping to the ground and becoming a projectile to the cars around you.

How Much Does a New Awning Cost?

A new awning with fabric and side supports can cost as much as $2500.  When we bumped into a telephone pole, crushing the awning tube the total repair was over $3800.  The new awning was about half of the cost.  The rest was for replacing some the siding and a new gutter.  We filed an insurance claim and had it repaired at the dealership.

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