An awning rail is greatly important when you want to keep the van cool in the summer and the rain from leaking into the RV. The RV awning installation cost is from $250 to $2,500, so you can save money if you know how to install RV awning rail. The process only requires a few tools and materials with proper knowledge.
Let me show you how to do the proper RV awning installation below.
Table of Contents
What You’ll Need
1. Awning Rail
An awning rail is a metal piece with screw holes for attaching to the camper van. Commonly, the length goes about 12 meters and can be cut depending on the RV’s awning rail size.
You can choose two types of awning rails – magnetic and fixed. A magnetic awning rail isn’t as strong as a fixed one, so I prefer the latter. Magnetic rails tend to move when the wind gets strong.
I recommend that you measure the area where you planned to install the awning to get the exact number of awning rails to procure. For this project, I used two awning rails to fit the spot just above my RV door at the back.
You’ll need some screws to install a camper awning rail properly. I used three-quarter inch number-6 stainless steel countersunk screws because they fit the rail nicely. The screw should be at the right length so they don’t penetrate inside the van.
Some awning rails come with the necessary screws and bolts, so these parts are your best course of action when installing a rail.
For this project, I used three screws – one in the center and two at each side.
A screwdriver will be the best tool for this project in tightening the screws. Avoid using a power drill as it will likely strip or over-turn them, which minimizes the structural integrity of the entire rail. Make sure that you use the screwdriver that suits the screw head.
If the screws have a flat head, look for a flat head screwdriver. A Phillips screwdriver is perfect for screws with a cross head at the front. A hex screwdriver is ideal for screws with a hexagon head.
4. Circular Saw
For the ease of cutting the metal rail to desired proportions, you’ll need a circular saw. This type of cutting tool can cut through rails just like a hot knife through butter. With the right blade, you can stack up a few pieces of rails and cut them all at once.
An inexpensive alternative is a hacksaw. This type of saw can cut through metal accurately, but you’ll need to exert plenty of effort.
Regardless of what type of cutting tool you use, make sure to mark the part where you’ll be cutting the rail for accuracy.
5. Round File
You want the awning rail to be really smooth so as not to puncture or damage the awning when you insert it. The round file comes in handy when you want to smoothen the ends of the awning rail. It comes with a circular cross-section to file the interior holes.
You can also use a flat file if you can’t find a round file around. This type of file is typically used for general purposes.
6. Bonding Sealant
You’ll need some adhesive to help the RV surface stick on awning rail strongly. I’m using the Tiger Seal as a backup to the screws. This sealant also serves as a bit of a filler to prevent any water from entering into the screw holes and RV interior.
The Tiger Seal is available in many colors, but I think white goes best with the motor home. This sealant is easy to use with its tube container and seems to provide a very strong bond. However, it may dry up inside the tube if left unused.
7. Cleaning Solutions
To make sure that the rail sticks onto the van tightly, clean the area with a good cleaning solution. I recommend using the Demon Machine cleaner to remove any dirt and grime. This cleaning solution can be used on vehicle paintwork and other materials.
You might need some mineral spirit to increase the adhesiveness level. It ensures that the rail won’t be moved even when the wind gets strong. What this solution does is to clean and degrease the surface with minimal residue.
8. Ladder (Optional)
You’ll need a ladder when you can’t reach the desired installation area for your RV awning rail. I recommend that you get a folding ladder because it stores away nicely in your camper van when not in use. It should be stable and sturdy, so you won’t run the risk of falling to the ground in the middle of the project.
If you don’t want to spend an extra penny on a new ladder, you can improvise and use any stepping stool to get an extra height.
Also, check this article about RV awning reviews if you’re thinking of buying a new awning for your RV.
Step 1: Decide Where To Fix The Awning Rail
The first thing to do in installing RV awning rail is to find where to fix it onto the van. For this tutorial, I chose the back of my motorhome.
You want to get it as high as possible so that it clears the top door when it opens. If your RV has a little curved section at the top, I recommend fixing the rail directly underneath that trim, on a flat surface.
Step 2: Measure And Cut Rail To Desired Length
When you have two awning rails, it’s likely they’re going to hang beyond the end of the motorhome because they’re too long. In this case, you should cut the rails into the proper lengths. Make sure that each screw hole is close to the joint so you won’t get any wobbling.
Use a ladder when the installation spot is too far to reach from the ground.
Step 3: Smooth the Rail And Clean the RV Surface
Now, use a round file to remove any sharp edges that might catch the fabric when you try to feed the awning through.
Using the Demon Machine cleaner, spray the spot where the rails will be set up and give it a good clean. Follow up with some white spirit so the awning rail has the best chance of sticking onto the van.
Step 4: Position And Install
Mark the RV surface to create a guide, then position the first side rail. Next, position the other side neatly up to the first side.
Once you’re satisfied with the placement of the rails, remove the first side off and apply some bonding seal. Do the same on the other side.
Afterwards, line both rails back on the RV exterior, secure the screws with a screwdriver, and your job is done.
Here’s a video to help you fit an awning rail into the RV.
I hope this guide about how to install RV awning rail helps you. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of installing an awning rail in your camper home. It helps protect the camper van from any sludge or insect accumulation and other unpleasant outdoor elements.
Let us know what you think about this RV awning rail installation tutorial. You can also share this article with your friends if you like it.
Welcome to a new journey! I am Rober Clark, also a full-time RV-er and currently exploring the US with Dane. I have four years of working as a contractor, so building a home inside the RV is an extremely rewarding task for me. I find new challenges and new limits to break every day.