Trailer awnings

When we first placed our custom order for an Airstream factory-installed solar power system at the time of the build of our Safari trailer, we were glad that we also ordered their Full Awning Package, which consists of awnings on all three sides.  This enabled us to stay cooler and more comfortable while camping, especially in our desert heat.  Our awnings have performed flawlessly and we expect that they will continue to do so for a long time, provided that they are properly used, maintained and cared for.

Awning operation

Opening and closing the patio awning can be a bit tricky, so we were glad that we videotaped the tech as he opened and closed our awnings during the initial walk-through when we picked up our trailer at the dealer.  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “How To Operate Your Zip Dee Patio Awning“, made earlier this year in conjunction with Airstream.  This video is a good review and has useful tips, even if you have been using your awnings for years.

Awning cleaning

Each year we are scrupulous in doing our annual wash and wax job of our trailer, especially after camping next to the ocean, but I have not cleaned and lubricated our awnings, until now.  Our awnings are individually handcrafted by Zip Dee using Sunbrella acrylic fabric treated with a fluorocarbon finish that makes it water repellent and stain resistant.  Over time, dirt can get embedded in the fibers, which can lead to mildew, stains and decreased life of the awning.  Zip Dee recommends a thorough cleaning every two to three years using a mild soap solution in cold or lukewarm water, followed by thorough rinsing.  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “Cleaning Your Zip Dee Awning Fabric“, made earlier this year in conjunction with Airstream.  Before I began, I also reviewed the detailed instructions, “Awnings care & cleaning“, from Sunbrella.

Last weekend’s heat wave in San Diego was a perfect time to clean our awnings.  After selecting the appropriate straw hat and yellow Hawaiian shirt, I pulled out the awning and hosed it off.

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I then scrubbed the awnings with an extended-handled, soft bristle brush and a solution of one quarter cup of liquid Ivory Snow in two gallons of cool water.  Ivory soap was invented in 1879 by James Norris Gamble, and the phrase, “99 44/100% pure” first appeared in its advertising in 1882.  Last week I went shopping for the Ivory Snow Flakes that I grew up with (as seen in this vintage Ivory Snow Flakes commercial) and I was disappointed to learn that Procter & Gamble had stopped making Ivory Snow Flakes in 1978.

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I then rolled up the soapy awning, allowing it to soak for about 15 minutes.  Then I re-opened the awning and thoroughly rinsed it off on both sides (It was necessary to get on a step ladder to rinse off the dirt and soap on the very top where the awning attaches to the trailer).  I then left the awning fully extended to thoroughly air dry (which only took about two hours on this hot summer day).

Awning lubrication

After the cleaned awning was dry, I lubricated the hardware with silicone lubricant spray (I avoided WD-40, oil or grease which could attract dirt).  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “How To Lubricate Your Zip Dee Awning“, made in conjunction with Airstream.  As shown in the video, I slid the tube off of the rafter arm bar and I lubricated the ratchet stud (knob) and the slot exposing the spring and worked the lubricant in by pushing the tube on the ground several times.  (Refer to Zip Dee’s Parts List for hardware terminology).

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I then used a tooth brush to clean the dirt off of the teeth on the rafter arm bar, which was then sprayed with silicone lubricant and the excess was wiped off with a clean cloth.

43-rafter-arm-teeth.jpgI then slid the tube back onto the rafter arm bar and reattached the rafter arm to the awning roller shaft and extended the main arm fully for cleaning.  I sprayed the main arm with silicone and wiped off the excess with a clean cloth.

The roller shaft was then sprayed and worked back and forth several times as seen in the video.

This was then repeated on the arm on the other side of the awning.

Other instructional videos are also available from Zip Dee such as:

Straightening a Bent Main Arm Bar

Adjusting the Main Arm Bars (to fit the Clamp Wheel)

Ratchet Stud Replacement

Awning safety

We learned early on how quickly weather conditions can change, especially when camping in the desert, and that it is a good idea to not leave an awning extended during windy or rainy conditions.  We also learned that one good precaution to take when there is possible rain nearby, is to leave one side of the awning lower than the other to prevent accumulation of water which could weigh down and bend the supporting arms.

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We have also learned that it is best to retract the awning whenever leaving the trailer unattended or when going to bed for the evening.  By the way, it is easy to bump into the opened awning support arms (especially when entertaining), so we periodically hang festive decorative items on them, such as these Chinese flutes, for increased visibility.  Finally, prior to towing, we make sure that the patio awning is secured by the top travel lock (hook) and the two side clamp locks, the street-side awning’s top hook is secured, and the rear awning is rolled up.

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Now it’s time to cool off, relax, and watch this video of snowy scenes as Airstream Professionals visit the Airstream Service Center in Jackson Center, Ohio.

Comments

  1. says

    Great blog! I lubed my awning a couple of weeks ago (for the first time since we bought the trailer in 2005), and there’s no doubt that a good cleaning is due too. Your blog and the videos make it easy.

  2. Laura Balding says

    Our trailer awning collects rain water…we try to slant the awning…but the adjustment holes on the supporting arms are too far apart…and the awning drops dramatically on one side… further more even when up fully on both sides the entry door scrapes the underside of the awning… What is wrong? Do we need to add a third support to the middle of our awning? what about grommet holes for water drainage?

  3. Bill D. says

    Thanks for your comment Laura.

    Best to keep awning retracted when raining or when rain is likely or when windy or at the end of the day or when it is unattended… but if you really need it out, one side needs to be lower than the other (preferably the side that is farthest from the door) even if it “drops dramatically on one side”, otherwise awning damage could occur such as this:

    http://www.airforums.com/forums/f442/awning-damage-25266.html

    The door of our Airstream also slightly scrapes the underside of our fully opened awning, but it does not cause a problem for us. Awnings By Zip Dee provides a solution for this that we may consider in the future:
    The Door Roller:

    http://awningsbyzipdee.com/4485/48322.html

    I would not consider grommet holes for water drainage.

    Damage from wind is another concern that I recently posted about:

    http://airstreamlife.com/historysafariexpress/2012/05/06/desert-flowers-and-devils/

    Hope this helps!