Motorhome maintenance: awning dos and don’ts

SmartRV’s Patrick Frick answers some common questions about RV, motorhome, and caravan awnings.


Awnings can add a huge amount of space and style to your motorhome or caravan. Treated well, it will add to the enjoyment of your holidays for years to come. Awnings are not difficult to care for, but a little maintenance goes a long way.

What should I look for when buying an awning?

The first thing to consider when looking for an awning is what vehicle you have and what size you need. You want to make sure the awning covers at least the side-door entrance. In general, you would go for the maximum size that will fit your motorhome. The next thing on the list would be to check for compatibility with any extras you might want to add such as privacy rooms or lighting for the awning. If your awning is more than four metres, you should have a centre rafter to stabilise the awning.

Other considerations are more about aesthetics such as colour and shape as well as brand preference.

How should I clean my awning (and how often)?

It’s a good idea to clean your awning about every six months. The awning can be cleaned with water and a towel or a soft brush only. You can use a PVC cleaning product to clean the fabric if it is really dirty. Never use a water blaster or harsh chemicals, and of course, remember to ensure it is completely dry before putting the awning back in.

Do I need to waterproof my awning?

Waterproofing is not required. You should only use the awning in moderate rain to prevent damage from water pooling on top of the awning and stretching the material. One thing that you can do to prevent the water running down between the motorhome and the awning housing is to install a water seal.

What do I need to check before heading away on holiday?

Check the operation by winding the awning out and back in. This is a good opportunity to lube the awning joints on both sides where the awning body goes back into the housing, as well as the joints on the legs and supports. This will ensure a much smoother operation.

It is also a good idea to check the awning is complete and secure on the vehicle including any wingnuts, etc. that could get lost.

What is the best way to remove mould/mildew?

The key thing to avoid mould/mildew is making sure the awning is dry when rolled up. If it has to go back wet, make sure to open the awning at the earliest convenient time and dry it all off. If you do spot mould, you could use a mould removing spray, but do a spot test first to make sure it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals that could damage the awning.

What else can I do (or avoid) to extend the life of my awning?

Try to be cautious with the weather conditions. The awning material is made of layers of PVC and polyester and will react to changes in temperature. Trying to close the awning after it has been in the sun for an extended period of time can be difficult due to material expansion, and the awning might not close fully.

This is still safe due to the safety mechanism in the rollers, but to prevent damage to the fabric, you shouldn’t store the awning in this condition. Never use the awning in heavy wind, as it might cause severe damage to it and/or your motorhome. It is always a good idea to secure the awning legs with pegs and tie down straps in case of an unexpected wind gust.

When you open the awning, it is good practice to support it as soon as it has been opened for 0.5m–1m to avoid unnecessary strain on the awning.

Patrick Frick joined the team at SmartRV in 2010 after moving to New Zealand from Germany. He did his apprenticeship at Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart and was trained at the Bürstner and Hymer factories. Patrick has experience in working on all makes and models of motorhome and is a certified self-containment officer.

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