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Doug King gives some essential pointers on how to put up a caravan awning – soon you too will be an awning expert

Erecting an awning is a lot like riding a bicycle: once you’ve mastered it you never forget how to do it.

That said, staying balanced while pedalling is a skill that doesn’t change between makes or models of cycle. Awnings, however, do vary on the details and they are easier to master with two people.

Besides reading the instructions carefully, the job will be made a good deal easier with a bit of preparation. All frames are made up of three sub-assemblies: the vertical legs; the front right and left sections that join the centre and corner vertical poles; and the roof poles. Half the battle is just trying to decide which pole is which.

Once you have identified the front frame, the only poles left will be for the roof, and they are easily recognised by the hooks at one end. To help you distinguish individual poles, mark them with coloured insulating tape.

Spray the awning channel with a silicone lubricant, such as Awning Rail Zip Lubricant, or silicone-based furniture polish. Finally, as with cycling, practice really does make perfect.

Thanks to Isabella Awnings and Bailey Caravans for their help with this feature.

The step-by-step guide below covers full awnings. Click here to find out how to erect a porch awning.

14 steps to awning heaven

  1. Start by laying down the groundsheet to protect the awning canvas from dirt or damage. Peg it at the corners to hold it in place while you erect the the awning. It may need to be moved afterwards, but that won’t be difficult, so don’t worry too much about accuracy.
  2. Having sprayed the channel with a silicone lubricant, insert the skirt in the channel along the bottom of the caravan and peg it in position. Then fit the wheel-arch cover. This can be attached with suction pads, Velcro or press studs, depending on the make.
  3. Before you do anything with the canvas, lay the poles out on the groundsheet in their approximate positions and assemble the front section of the frame. Extend the centre pole, but not the two front horizontal poles that connect it to the corner verticals.
  4. Unpack the awning canvas. Find the right-hand end of the bead on the awning roof and thread it into the front end of the awning channel. It’s easier if two people feed the awning bead along the channel.
  5. Adjust the roof section so its centre is in line with the middle of the caravan. You also need to consider the slope of your pitch, which may affect the level of the skirt from the ground at either end of the van.
  6. The roof poles fit into bracket pads that either slide or clip into position on the awning bead. Don’t lock the pads in place until the roof poles are correctly positioned. The number of poles is dictated by the awning’s size.
  7. Fit the front centre vertical pole through the roof canvas and leave it at an angle to support the roof. If you are erecting the awning in even a slight breeze, someone should hold the central pole in place once it’s up.
  8. Insert a roof pole into the middle bracket pad, extend the pole and connect it to the centre vertical pole. Tension the roof pole and, if it is square with the van, lock the pad in position. Leave the vertical pole at an angle.
  9. Fit the corner vertical poles to the extended front connecting pole. Tension the connecting pole. Extend the vertical poles to the ground. Insert the roof poles into the bracket pads and fit them to the corner poles.
  10. If the awning has a canopy, fit the short extension poles to the centre and corner vertical poles. Then feed the long canopy poles through the sleeves in the canopy and connect them to the extension poles.
  11. You can now adjust the vertical poles. If the awning has regulator tabs, fit the spikes on the bottom of the poles through the tabs and extend the poles. If there are no such tabs, simply adjust the poles so the canvas fits tightly against them.
  12. The next job is to fit the panels. You might need to slacken the roof slightly to allow them to be zipped into place. Release the tension of the roof and vertical poles a little. Once the panels are in, retighten as necessary.
  13. Peg down the ‘wing’ of the awning at each corner and then peg down the awning at the rear corners, the front corners, and at the centre vertical pole. Adjust the tension of the various poles and then peg down the remaining elastics.
  14. Erecting a full-size awning takes a little time and effort, but use it often enough and putting it up will become second nature — just like riding a bike.

Niall Hampton

See other Camping and caravanning tips and advice written by Niall Hampton
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