Re-attaching Awning Fabric

I ordered two diameters of tubing — 1/8″ and 5/32″. The 1/8″ slips too easily through the slot in the edge of the awning cover slat, so I elected to use the 5/32″, which will barely fit down the sewn tube in the edge of the fabric.

In order to get the nylon tube to fit at all, you have to clean out the edge of the fabric. A straightened out clothes hangar is long enough to reach the length of each of the individual fabric stips (the entire fabric is made from narrow pieces, about 30″ wide). I put a small hook on the end of the hangar wire to catch the remants of the old fiber cord in the sewn tube. You have to run the wire through the fabric several times to get everything.

Steps:
1. Snip the
fabric about 1/2″ from each major seam. The allows you to slip the wire in one end and all the way through and out the other.
2. Run the hook through the edge several times, until you stop pulling out small pieces of brownish fuzz that looks like old wool.
3. Cut the end of the nylon tube on a 45 degree angle and push it in through the snip. If you can’t get the tube through at least half the width, then pull it back out and see if it’s got brown fuzz stuffed in it. If so, run the wire through again. I’ve been unable to get the nylong tube to go the full width, so I insert another length in from the other snip.
4. When the first tube is in as far as I can push it, a little more than half way, I cut it off and then grab it through the fabric and pull it back so that the tube slides into the 1/2″ of edge that’s towards the seam. I’m thinking that having some tube inside that snip (cut) will help when I’m trying to insert the fabric back into the aluminum roller cover. 5. Insert the tube from the other end, until it meets with the piece that was previously inserted.┬áThen cut it and work it back into the 1/2″ piece of the edge. This will leave a small length of edge without any tube in it, right in the middle of the section. You’ll also have a gap in the seam area.

Now, the next trick will be to order a new slat from Zip-Dee. If it’s longer than 8′, it has to be shipped by freight, which costs over $100, more than the slat. So for my 20′-7″ roller, I’m going to order 3 slats that are 7′ long and cut one of them so that they make a single long slat that is the exact length. I don’t think having two slits in the slat will be a problem. The fabric will still be covered from UV and it doesn’t mind gettng wet (it’s nylon).

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After thinking about it, I decided to take another look at the crimped edge of the slat. The aggressive crimps on the forward end were really discouraging, but I decided to attempt repairing the tube shape so that I could insert the repaired fabric in the original slat. Zip-Dee repair instructions say that it is possible to open up the crimps, if you are careful.

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The first thing I discovered is that you damage both edges of the tube when using a screw driver to pry the crimp open. I figured it was better to damage the lower edge, which is hidden under the fabric. I used the thin steel blade of a putty knife to protect the upper edge as I twisted the screw driver.

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As you can see from the number of nicks in the lower edge of each opened crimp, it takes 4-5 twists to open the entire crimp.

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Once the crimps are open, the tube is decidedly not very pleasing, as the deformed area is generally of varying diameter and pretty ragged.

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My solution was to use a drill bit of the same diameter as the original tube as a anvil to pound the tube back into shape. This required an external weight held behind the tube to allow a small ballpeen hammer to reform the tube edge. An added benefit is that the jaggies are also reduced. You can see the before and after here.

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The actual tube diameter might be 17/64″ or 9/32″, but the 1/4″ drill bit worked fine and the fabric slid into the tube OK, maybe a little bit more difficult due to the small jaggies in the lower tube edge. You can move the drill bit along by inserting a screw driver and taping the blade close to the slat with a small hammer.

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The fabric is back in (no photo) and the edge of the tube is re-crimped. There was only one small crack, right at the location on the forward end when the orginal “too aggressive” a crimp was. Otherwise, the tube seesm sturdy and the fabric seems to be effectively captured.

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Recall the two different awning rails? This Sovereign had the type on the left.

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Well, this awning had a “conversion rod” that took care of that. I wonder if this trailer was originally built for a different awning?

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All there was to do was put the arms on, carry the tube down to the street, insert arms, and rotate in place.

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Not so fast. Turned out the rear holdown had corroded/galled and I couldn’t unscrew it. A little vise work in the shop, followed by some tap and die action, and it works as good as new (except the pin holding the threaded rod is now bent, so I’ll be getting a new fitting).