Should I Tow My Camper Home With A Broken Awning?

Vintage, used, or brand new—your camper home is susceptible to normal wear and tear and eventually, something is going to break. That, of course, includes the awning.

The awning on your camper is the part that can be extended out on the side.

Quite useful—it will either bring shade on a hot day or provide protection from inclement weather.

Awnings are, generally, retractable. Some are manual while others are fitted with a small motor. Either or, they can both malfunction—leaving you in a bit of a pickle. Today we’ll look at what you can and should do when your awning is broken or won’t retract.

Can I Drive With a Broken Awning?
Broken Awning Driving Don't do it

First things first—I highly recommend not to drive when your awning is broken. It’s not only dangerous for you, but it can also be a great danger for the people sharing the road with you.

Even if the awning is retracted, if the motor or spring is broken it could still unroll while you’re driving. Depending on the speed at which you’re traveling, it could shoot out—potentially hitting other cars or pedestrians.

Why Does the Awning Break?

A broken awning on your camper could be the result of a number of things. It could be a mechanical failure, which is bound to happen at some point—whether it’s the awning or another part of your camper.

Normal wear and tear may lead to compromised motors or springs, making them weak. Or the fabric could perish from the sun, or wear out from flapping in the wind.

It could also just be sheer human error—maybe you’ve hit a tree or a sign, bending the supports and damaging the tubes.

It’s also possible that your camper will take a beating from bad weather—strong gusts of wind could tear the fabric or even break the gears and springs. It has been reported that awnings have broken off while driving, due to strong winds. The wind could get inside, unrolling the fabric if the motor or springs aren’t functioning.

One thing I often see is people leaving the awning open in the rain for too long. This will only fill it with water, creating a heavy pool that will eventually tear or break something.

How Can I Avoid Breaking an Awning?

There are a few simple precautions to take if you want to avoid breaking an awning. I’ve listed some below to help you along.

1. Invest in Deflappers
Deflappers for RV

One thing that can really destroy an awning is too much flapping. It doesn’t even have to be strong winds that cause it, just a small breeze could easily do some damage.

Deflappers are clamps that you can attach to the fabric and metal frame, like these from Camco.

They will then prevent the fabric from flapping in the breeze.

If you still need to use the awning during windy weather, you could invest in an anchoring kit.

It will help keep the awning secure and prevent over-stressing of the frame. Although it’s helpful, however, it won’t work in very strong winds. In these cases, it’s better to retract the awning altogether.

2. Always Roll up the Awning When Not in Use
Roll up the Awnings

Parked at a campground and planning to go hiking during the day? It’s crucial to remember to roll up the awning and securely attach it when it’s not in use.

There may not be much of a breeze when you head out, but this could quickly change, depending on your location.

The last thing you want is to come back to a broken awning after a great day of exploring. If the awning has broken loose, it might have shattered a window or scratched the side of the camper.

3. Be Cautious in Tight Spots
Tight Spot for RV

I think we’ve all been there, you see a spot, try to park but realize it just wasn’t big enough.

Having a spotter to help you out can make it so much easier to get around. Make sure your spotter checks for uneven ground. If the ground is uneven, you may be clear for the wheels, but the top of the vehicle could take a hit. Watch out for trees!

4. Keep The Awning Dry When It’s Raining
Should I Tow My Camper Home With A Broken Awning? 1

If it’s merely drizzling, you won’t have to worry much about your awning, you can keep it extended and continue to enjoy the scenery. However, during a heavy downpour, you should definitely retract the awning

Keep in mind that the water could quickly create a pool on top of the awning. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to keep one side higher than the other, to create a slope. This will allow the water to run off the fabric instead of pooling.

By the way, you shouldn’t retract a wet awning unless it’s absolutely necessary. The fabric can quickly rot and develop mold, mildew, or algae—then you’ll have the huge job of cleaning the awning.

It’s also more likely to rip if it has water damage.

If you do have to pack up the awning when it’s still wet, make sure you unroll it as soon as possible. Then let it dry naturally.

For some excellent tips on taking great care of your camper’s awning, check out this video.

5. Keep Your Awning Secure When You’re On The Go

Before driving off into the sunset, it’s crucial to check that the awning is securely in place. All knobs should be tightened and ensure that the rewind lever is in an upright position.

Make sure the fabric fits tight and smooth around the awning tube. This will prevent any strong winds from getting underneath.

My Awning Has Been Damaged, What Should I Do?

Secure your Awnings

If you notice that your awning has been damaged, you may not be able to retract it. In this case, it’s important that you remove it completely before driving off. As we mentioned above, it’s very dangerous to drive with a broken, extended awning.

When the tube is bent or the supporters are damaged, you will likely not be able to roll the awning up. In this case, you will have to remove it altogether.

However, if the damage is only minor and you can still roll it up and secure it, you could easily drive your camper.

You could also secure it using straps like these.

You first roll up the awning and then attach the straps—they should keep it from unrolling while you’re driving.

As soon as you find any damage to the awning, you might want to get out your camera or phone and take photographs—it’s good to have a few pictures for the insurance.

How To Remove the Awning

Removing the awning can be rather difficult, and will need at least two people. Here’s a quick how-to guide:

  1. First, you have to release the travel locks, there should be one located on each side of the awning’s arms.
  2. Find the cam locks, these are located on either side of the awning tube. Set them to the roll-down position. Do this by moving the cam lever toward the ground. There should also be an indicator showing the roll-down position.
  3. Now you need to roll out the awning about 12 inches. However, if the cam locks are damaged you might need a board to hold the awning in this position.
  4. Find the hole for the cotter pin at the end cap. There’s one at each end of the tube in the cam assembly. Turn the inner tube manually—you have to keep turning it until the holes line up. Then insert the cotter pin, bend the ends outward and secure it with pliers. Repeat on the other side.
  5. Find and remove the lag bolts, these attach the awning to the rafters of the RV.
  6. Next, you will need to set up two sawhorses. These have to hold the awning tube so it won’t fall on the ground.
  7. Ask your helper to hold an awning arm while you locate the screws that secure the fabric to the arm. You have to look for the screws near the cam. Then remove from each side.
  8. For this last step, you may need a third helper. You need to hold the awning tube while your helpers each hold an awning arm. Then you carefully walk the awning assembly off of the camper or RV. Make sure you walk carefully since the person holding the tube will be going backward.

Once the awning has been removed from your RV, place it across the sawhorses. Be careful not to bend the awning arms.

How Much Is a New Awning?

Retractable awning on RV

If your awning is so badly damaged that it’s totally irreparable, buying a new one may be the only way out. Fortunately, in many cases, you will be covered by the camper’s insurance—which is why those photos you took are necessary.

A brand new awning can cost anywhere between $120 and $2500.

It may sound like a lot, but the cost of repairing one could be double.

Conclusion

You should never attempt to drive with a broken awning. Going down the highway at 60 miles per hour, it could unravel itself, becoming a danger for you and others.

Also, remember that something as small as a rip in the fabric can do a lot of damage. It might attach itself to the roof, potentially damaging your satellite tv antenna. It could also continue to rip, leaving very little to hold the tube in place.

Always attach the awning securely before hitting the road, use some straps for extra peace of mind.

Take good care of the awning by keeping it safe from the elements, and always let it dry before packing.

If you have more questions or concerns, I would love to help—leave a comment in the section below.

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