Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Awning for the Airstream

Just in time for Key West 

One of the surprises eight years ago while my Overlander was being prepped for a return to service after a 23 year hiatus was that the trailer’s original awning deployed without self destructing.  In a double bonus, after scrubbing it with Clorox, we decided the 37 year old awning looked good enough to stay in service a while longer.

Seven years later, between annoyment with some under-side stains which would not come out, and the awning’s edges looking ripe for ripping, we decided it was time to replace the awning fabric.

While the awning’s original manufacturer, Carefree of Colorado, is still in business, they politely told me to work all issues through one of their dealers.  Frustratingly, the local dealer preferred I work directly with the manufacturer in determining what was needed for the task.  They would then gladly order the parts for me., where a lot of my RV-related parts come from, listed new awnings available in a variety of colors.  Unfortunately, they only offered a white weather-guard (the last 14 inches or so of fabric which covers the awning when rolled up).  Between not really caring for any of the color pattern choices, and deciding that anything other than an aluminum/gray color weather-guard would look out of place, the search continued into a second year.

A few months ago, “Current Resident” got a postcard from a somewhat local company who was offering a discount on custom patio awnings.  Noticing the card’s pictured awning was amazingly similar to the Airstream’s I got them involved with the project.

The Airstream’s awning is a vinyl/polyester composite material.  Although the awning company normally uses Sunbrella brand fabric material, they understood my preferences, and were able to locate Weblon Coastline Plus material which was an almost identical match for the original awning’s color & pattern.

While the awning company was comfortable making the Overlander a new awning, they were not comfortable with installing it.  The lead man even had a horror story about one of his technicians once being maimed by an unwinding spring.  So, we all agreed that I would remove the old awning for use as a template, and install the new awning.

Of course I have neither ever removed nor installed an RV awning before.  Fortunately, though, since the Internet had once provided me with the original installation instructions for the Carefree awnings of my Airstream’s era, no big problems were expected.

New installations came with the awning material already secured-to/wrapped around the barrel.  The instruction sheet showed two tall people sliding the awning’s loose end into the Airstream’s rail.  While I’m normally a one-man show for most of my projects, I do have a short wife who does not mind assisting on occasion.  Unless it’s hanging cabinets (don’t ask).

The barrel’s spring tension was relieved, and after drilling out one end-cap’s rivets, Kim & I slid the barrel off of the awning & valance.

I thought there was going to be one long torsion spring running the length of the barrel.  There are two short ones – one on each end.  Carefree had installed them covered with axle grease to counter corrosion, and the springs were consequently in great shape.

After spraying the awning rail with silicone spray, the awning would not budge from its 45 year-old resting place.  On closer inspection, three screws over the length of the rail were found to be holding the awning in place.  After removing the screws, the awning slid out without too much fight.

Part of the deal included replacement fabric for the bathroom window’s awning.  It came off easily, and was added to the pile for the awning company to pick up.

Around three weeks later the new awning arrived, and my wife, oldest son, and I got it slid through the rail without incident.

After that, Daniel & I installed the rest of the hardware, and preloaded the springs in accordance with the instructions.  No one got maimed in the process.

We headed out the next day with the Airstream in tow behind Kim’s Yukon on a trip through the Florida Keys.  Daniel & I both agreed the new awning, being suppler than the old one, was a lot easier to roll up evenly.  I think we will keep it.



  1. I have a very similar awning that I am trying to mount on my 1964 Globetrotter. Do you still have the Carefree instructions or a link to where you got them?

    1. Yes, I have an electronic copy of the instructions. Tell me an email address, and I will forward them to you.


    2. Could you send them to me as well, Tom?

    3. Is it too late to get a copy of those instructions?

  2. I have the same Carefree Awning on my 75 Sovereign. The fabric is shot, also the right cap bearing is gone, this is my main concern, also how did you release the spring tension without getting killed???

  3. I also have the same awning on my 75 sovereign 31, and the fabric is GONE, also the left roller cap bearing appears broken.
    Question, how did you relieve the springs without getting killed. Ever come across a replacement endcap and bearing/spring?
    Appreciate any input

  4. Jim - the spring on each side of the awning was only wrapped five turns. I was able to unwrap, and subsequently re-wrap the tension by hand. It was nothing the tension on a garage door spring.

    Sorry - Don't know where any replacement parts are.


  5. Who is the company who made the fabric for you?

  6. "The Airstream’s awning is a vinyl/polyester composite material. Although the awning company normally uses Sunbrella brand fabric material, they understood my preferences, and were able to locate Weblon Coastline Plus material which was an almost identical match for the original awning’s color & pattern."

  7. Thanks for this Tom. Could you email me the instructions as well?

  8. Can you send me the instruction as well for installing it.

  9. Anyone wanting the instruction pdf needs to provide an email address.


  10. please send instructions, and place to purchase the fabric, Thanks

  11. if you still check this can you please send the instructions