ZipDee awnings last for years and years and original awnings are still in good working order on many vintage Airstreams.   Sun, weather and the steady march of time can take their toll on  awning fabric and if  you have an Airstream or Argosy trailer or motor home with sad looking, worn, torn or faded fabric (or maybe you absolutely hate the color) this is a manageable do it yourself project.

To do this, you'll need a few basic items:

  • New fabric (duh!) of your choice color and pattern
  • 8 foot stepladder
  • sharp knife
  • some basic sockets and wrenches
  • a phillips and slotted screwdriver
  • a drill (either electric or battery)
  • drill bits (they should be 1/8")
  • a rivet gun

First, you need to remove the old fabric. Unfurl the awning, and unbolt the part of the rear main arm closest to the roller tube  from the rest of the arm. Carefully slide the arm up and out of the rest of the main arm. It's under tension, so keep a firm grip on it to prevent unwanted movement and possible injury. This is one of three parts an assistant would be helpful. As you unwind the arm, count the number of revolutions it takes to remove the tension from it.

Now that you've removed the tension from the arm, temporarily put it back together. Climb the ladder, and locate the third slat on the awning cover. Using the phillips screwdriver, unscrew the two retaining screws on either end of that slat. Unclamp the awning from the side of your coach, and move it slightly outward so the slat is clear of the awning and coach. Slide the slat forward or backward to remove it from the awning. There should be little tension on the awning, but keep a firm hand on it to prevent unwanted movement. Have your assistant hold the awning so it doesn't hit the side of the coach when it comes down.

With the awning is off the rail, you can unbolt the tube from the arms. There should be a small machine screw and nut on either end of the tube holding the arms to it. After you've done that, you can pull the arms off, and cut the fabric off the tube, using the sharp knife. You'll see a line of rivets holding the old fabric in place, and you'll need to drill them out to get the rest of the fabric off the tube. At this point, you can detach the rest of the slats from the other end of the fabric. Generally, they are held on by a pair of screws, one on each end. Once you slide them off, you can discard the old fabric.

Next, take the new fabric, and, making sure it is oriented so the "lip" or "fringe" will point down when the awning is unfurled, slide the new fabric onto the tube. Don't attach it yet, that will come later. Next, slide the slats on the new fabric, and attach them to it. Wind the fabric onto the tube, and bolt the arms back on the ends of the tube. It's now time for that helpful assistant again (you didn't send him home, did you?) to help you raise the assembly back against the coach. Once you've done that, you can slide the third slat back into position, and screw it back together.
After you do that, you and your assistant can lower the awning back out until it's fully extended. Make sure it's oriented straight on the coach and tube. Now you can grab your drill again, and drill some new holes for the replacement rivets.

The fabric should have come with replacements, if not, you'll need to go to the hardware store to get some. Oversize-head 1/8" rivets are recommended.

Put a rivet every eight inches or so near the seam where the awning goes together for the length of the awning. After you've done that, you are ready to rewind the awning arm, winding the same number of revolutions it had when you took it apart. The number of revolutions is dependent on the length of the awning, which is why I am not being specific. Once you do this, you can slide the arm assembly back together, and bolt the pieces together. If you did it right, you can use your awning hook, and allow the awning to retract into its closed position. Clamp it down and go camping. Enjoy your "new" awning, and know you did it yourself!