Many of todays Caravans are fitted with roll-out or pull-out awnings that work on a pair of tensioned springs. There are a number of offerings from the likes of Dometic (previously A&E) and Carefree of Colorado. These are not only appealing to owners of new vans but old ones alike. They provide not only extra shelter, but also living area when combined with an annexe.
In this discussion we will cover the basics of choosing the correct awning, and ways to modify your caravan to accept one of these popular units.
Assessing your Caravan
Awnings are available in a number of sizes. We offer 10ft through to 16ft. Larger are available, but not through Caravans Plus. The first step in deciding which awning to fit up, is to access the possible obstructions.
As these types of awnings use legs or hardware to hold the awning out, there must be provision for the hardware to be installed vertically with little to no obstruction.
Clearance lights, annexe lights, windows, access doors, main doors, and roof curves can all play a part in deciding where to fit and how long your awning can be. Usually you are looking for the maximum area that covers the main door, windows, etc within the awning hardware when installed vertically.
The diagram above indicates an optimum position. This is what anyone contemplating an awning installation needs to be looking for.
The hardware legs are vertically positioned without any obstruction, whilst the bottom brackets are firmly bolted into the sill panel of the caravan. The top brackets are close to the top, and the awning roll is free from sitting over windows and doors.
When installing the top and bottom brackets, the installer needs to make sure they are being fastened into more than just sheeting. Timber can sometimes be found in the sill panels of caravans. If not, then it needs to be added in the form of plywood behind the sill panel skin.
The same goes for the top brackets. You may find that you will need to add some plates that measure around 100mm x 100mm x 3mm. These can be made from aluminium, and simply fixed into place using silicone and pop-rivets. This method will allow for greater surface tension, thus the top bracket will have more bite.
For more information on modifications see the footnote.
Deciding on the size
It is important to understand how an awning is measured, and why the manufacturer labels a 12ft awning a 12ft awning.
All awnings, if it be Dometic or Carefree are always measured from the centre to the centre of the awning arms. Never take the measurement of the fabric. You will be 1 foot too short, and this could cause you some serious problems with clearance.
The diagram below shows the correct way to measure, and the not so correct.
Note: Measurement may vary slightly due to incorrect installation. Round to nearest foot.
What else do I need?
In addition to the awning hardware (legs) and awning (fabric on the roller) you will need some rope track. Rope track is also known as Caragroove or sail track. This will enable you to secure the rope which is sewn into the header of the fabric to the caravan.
You will need to install this on the side of the caravan using double flange or if the installation is being done to the top corner, then the single flange is used with the groove facing outwards.
Rope track can be simply screwed or pop-riveted to the Caravan. Always seal the fasteners with a good quality silicone or polyurethane sealant.
60s and 70s round roofs
Caravans built in the 60s and 70s are still plentiful, and are a popular base for many projects today. The smaller Caravans around 16ft can pose some problems when trying to install a roll-out awning. Most people will find that to clear the doors, windows, lights, etc, they will run into problems with getting a straight length across the top on which to install the rope track and in turn the awning itself.
This can easily be overcome by fabricating some end brackets. These will need to be made, as they cannot be purchased. The following diagram shows how a bracket system can be devised using plates, silicone, bolts, and screws/rivets. Bear in mind that the bracketing system needs to be sturdy enough to take some of the awnings weight.
In some cases it may be imperative to re-enforce areas on the Caravan to accept the additions. Caravans such as those from Jayco usually have timber inserted from factory underneath the sill panel. If your Caravan is lacking, then this will need to be fitted in order for the coach screws supplied with the awning hardware to bite into a little more than just aluminium sheeting.
The same is required when fitting the top brackets, although 100mm x 100mm x 3mm aluminium plate painted Vilotone white, fixed into place with rivets and silicone is an acceptable solution.
All awnings are shown using the link below:
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