Installing an RV Slide Awning

Our Alpine Slide Awning from Carefree of Colorado is perfect for our new RV.
My husband and I have completed both big and small RV projects.  We started out with our pop up camper that we remodeled.  Over that process, we decided to pay to have some things done professionally.  For some projects, it is worth the money.  However, there are some projects that just make sense to take the DIY approach.  We made the decision this fall to install our RV slide awning.  So, how hard was it and was it worth the time and effort?

A slide awning, or slide topper as some call it, fits over the slide on your RV.  As you expand your slide, the awning will roll out for coverage.  When you retract your awning, it will roll up for storage.  These keep dirt, debris, and water off of your slide while it is extended.  In camping groups that I belong to, there are members that are adamantly opposed to slide awnings.  Others think they are a necessity.  I don't have a strong preference either way, but I can see the benefits outweighing the disadvantages.

First, this project was not necessarily hard.  It took time because of wanting to be precise and do the work correctly.  We also ran into a slight issue that I caused.  I will get into that later.  But, you will want to block out 2 to 4 hours to do this job depending on the size of the awning you are installing and your skill level.

Before you get started, measure your slide all the way across including the flange.  You will also need to measure the slide depth or how far out it extends.  When you order the awning, you will need these measurements.  How to measure for a slide awning.

Measure how far the awing comes out from the RV.

Also, measure from flange to flange on the slide.
For this project, you will need:
  1. RV Slide Awning Kit - We installed the Carefree of Colorado Alpine Slide Awning.  You can find a dealer through their website.
  2. Butyl Tape
  3. Geo-Flex Clear Sealant
  4. Tape Measure
  5. Level
  6. Pencil
  7. Drill
  8. Extra Screws 
  9. Drill bits
  10. Ladders
Once your awning arrives, unbox everything and make sure that you have enough screws for the complete installation.  The awning rail that came with our kit had so many holes but only a few screws.  We purchased additional screws to add to our rail for extra support.  You can purchase screws from any hardware store.  Be sure to do this before you start.  No one wants to stop in the middle to run to the store!

Unbox everything and make sure you have enough screws and read through the directions thoroughly before you get started.
Measure the location of where you want to place the awning rail.  Mark a center mark to align the rail on the RV as well as on the rail itself.  You can use these marks to line up for installation.

I used a small screw to make a little mark on my rail at the center mark so that I could align with the center mark on the RV where we would install.
I lined the back of the railing with the butyl tape to add some additional sealant.  We lined up the marks of the center lines (on the camper and rail) and drilled the first pilot hole for the first screw.  I added a little GeoFlex Sealant into each pilot hole before adding the screw to close the seal.  I worked on each side of the center screw where I started working on the left and right each time and checking to be sure my rail was level as we went.  This process probably took the longest because of the number of screws and pilot holes we had to drill.  Just be patient and take your time.

Place some butyl tape behind the awning rail to provide some additional seal before you begin to install this on the RV.

Align your awning rail with the center lines you have marked and position for your first pilot hole and screw.

After I drilled each pilot hole I added Geoflex to the hole before adding the screw.

Next, I added the mounting brackets to the slide-out room.  I marked the slide room for pilot holes and placement with my pencil first.  Next, I added some Geoflex behind the bracket and aligned the bracket with the pilot hole marks for installation and carefully placed the bracket onto the slideout so the sealant could adhere properly.  I drilled the pilot holes and added Geoflex to each one as I added each screw.  Again, take your time.  Things will start to move more quickly after all of this.

The Geoflex should be used behind the mounting brackets as well.

Attach both mounting brackets to the slide.  Use the same process of drilling pilot holes and adding Geoflex sealant to each hole before adding the screw.

Now you are ready to add the end cap extensions onto the mounting brackets.  Do not secure with the screws yet.  You want to be able to position things as you need to at this point.  

Slide the awning tube into the rail.  You can use silicone spray to make it easier to slide inside of the railing.  There will be a visible cord for you to slide into the awning rail.  This will certainly be a two-person job.  Remove the wrap around the tube and begin to place the ends of the tube into the end cap extensions.  You will have to unroll the awning slightly to do this, but be sure to roll up the slack so that it does not sag.

Add the end caps to the brackets before inserting the awning tube into the rail.  

Secure the ends of the end cap extensions and the awning with the shoulder screws.  You will do this for each end.  Make sure that the awning is centered and in the place you want it.  Once this is done, you can now secure the end caps to the mounting brackets with two screws underneath on each bracket.

Once you have secured everything, you can remove the spring locking pin (cotter pin).  This is where I made a mistake.  I did this one step too soon and had to manually rewind the spring mechanism inside of the awning.  I do not recommend making this mistake.  Actual tears were shed over this event and the process of manually rewinding the spring tension.  It resulted in lots of bruises up and down my arms from a slipping vice grip and awkward positioning. Not fun!  

Do not pull the spring tension pin too soon....or....

Your awning will sag and not roll up or extend properly.

After we rewound the spring tension in the awning tube it works perfectly.
You will also remove the float lock pin that is orange from each end.  At this point, you can test your system.  My YouTube Video share this process with you from start to finish as well as some reflections from the project itself.

After we finished our project, Craig and I talked about whether this project was worth it.  Yes!  For starters, we live nearly an hour from any dealership that would be able to install this for us.  So, we will be tying up at least 2 hours of driving time.  We would also have to hook up the camper to take it and back it back down the drive when we return home.  And, when we take it to have the work done, there is no telling how long this would take.  In the amount of time, it would take us to go to a professional for the work, we could just do the job ourselves.

We love this awning.  This Carefree of Colorado Alpine Model design is made not to billow in the wind.  It rolls up nicely and works just as it should.  If you compare the brackets and end caps to other models, you will quickly see the design difference that makes this a really sturdy set up.  The end caps provide the perfect support system and ensure the awning remains close to the RV as you are towing and have the awning closed.  

You can do this project yourself.  It will take some patience and time.  But, it won't take longer than taking it to the dealership.  If you are purchasing a brand new RV, you could ask them to do this for you before you take possession of your RV.  I would recommend asking specifically for this brand and model.  I do think it is a winner.  

And, once you have done one RV project, you will find out that it is not that difficult or daunting to do.  The worst part about this project to me was the fear of drilling into a brand new RV.  Boy, I hated doing that.  And, I was just sick over pulling that pin one step too soon.  Aside from this, it was a quick project that gave us great results.

If you are thinking about a slide awning, do it.  It is an excellent upgrade that will be worth the money in the end.  You can treat this awning just like you do your front awning.  Clean it with an RV specific awning cleaner.  You can take a leaf blower and clean out from underneath as needed.  

Until next time...

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