How NOT to break your 4WD Awning - TIPS & TRICKS
Author: James Paul Date Posted:17 April 2020
How NOT to break your 4WD Awning
Having lived out of my Hilux for ten months while touring around Australia, I can confirm that if your 4WD awning breaks in the middle of a trip, it's a total pain in the butt!
When 4WD touring in Australia, one of the most useful items you will have in your camping arsenal is the a humble 4WD Awning. Whether it’s taking shelter from the relentless Australian sun or trying to keep dry in the rain, your awning will be rolled out and setup at least several times a day.
These days awnings come in all shapes and sizes and if you are like me, they are usually left on the vehicle year-round without even a thought to maintenance or the possibility of them breaking. Well guess what, 4WD awning’s break pretty often and they usually break in one of three common ways!
Photo: Central Australia is stunning beyond belief and very hard on your vehicle and equipment
No.1 - Destroyed by the wind
I would bet my left leg that strong wind would be the most common reason for the complete and utter destruction of many 4WD awnings.
Photo: Crazy winds James and Liz encountered crossing the Nullarbor 2016
The scenario basically goes something like this…’ There is no wind tonight and I can’t be bothered with the guy ropes, I’ll do it later if the wind picks up…then we cut to the sound of a beer can opening’.
Surprise, surprise you wake up at 3am to howling wind and the sound of the awing repeatedly smashing into the side of your vehicle becasue you didn't use guy ropes.
*Pro tip peoples...if you are setting the awning up for more than quick lunch break, use guy ropes or at least some fixed pole weights like sandbags to stop it from taking off in a high wind!
No.2 - Corrugated roads and vibrations
If you want to go 4x4 touring in outback Australia, you are going to end up spending a heap of time driving on seriously bad corrugated roads. No matter how good your suspension is, corrugated roads equal vibrations and vibrations combined with time, equal damage to your vehicle and the 4WD accessories you have bolted to it!
Photo: Drive a few hundred kilometres on these and you will understand how metal fatigue occurs
A common site you will see on a vehicle that has spent a lot of time touring in the outback is a 4WD awning that has detached itself from its mounting plate.
Photo: Awning mounting plate with broken pop rivets; this is an expensive top brand awning!
This happens because the pop rivets that hold the external mounting plate to awning frame inside the awning bag fatigue and crack or get turned to a fine dust via vibration.
Here is my outback 4WD failure equation: (METAL + METAL) x (VIBRATIONS + TIME) = BROKEN
*Pro tip peoples…before you even mount your awning on the vehicle, buy some super heavy-duty pop rivets, unroll the awning; then drill and install at least double the amount of pop rivets the manufacturer used on your awning! Also add a handful of spare pop rivets to your essential 4WD spares and tool kit because finding and buying them in the remote outback is near on impossible!
Photo: Buy the biggest and strongest pop rivets you can to reduce the chance of breaking
Photo: Installing additional pop rivets to reduce the risk of the factory ones failing
No.3 - Lots of Red Dust
This is all about zips! The fine red dust in Australia gets into everything and it is incredibly good at destroying zips. Dust gums up the zipper teeth when the zip is closed, causing the zipper slider to jam fast when you try to undo it. Once the zip is jammed, most of you will likely do what I did…try to force the zip open and end up breaking the pull tab off.
Photo: The red dust and dirt will be with your car for life because it gets into everything!
Trust me when I tell you that packing away an awning without a working zip on the storage cover is awkward and super frustrating. It also means that you will need to strap or tie it shut for transit, resulting in the awning cover and awning itself becoming packed full of dust!
So what can you do to stop this happening?
I have met a lot of people in my travels who swear by a regular squirt of WD40 for maintaining the function of their zips in the outback. They squirt it along the length of the closed zip from time to time and then wipe the zip down with a soft cloth.
I have never tried this on my 4WD awning or rooftop tent zips because I think the WD40 could potentially damage some of the fabrics and materials. I also personally think it could attract and bind more dust to the zipper teeth.
This solution is simple and boring, however it works! When travelling in dusty conditions, simply take the time to clean the zip often! If the zip is cacked in red mud or dust, I use an old dry toothbrush to clean the zip teeth and then a dry cloth to wipe it down after. You can do this when the zip is open or closed.
Using some common sense will help you to keep your zips working…if the zip looks like it is ‘more dust then zip’, then give it a quick wipe or bush down before you try to open it.
*Pro tip peoples…when your awning is in storage or not being used, take the time to open and close the zipper every couple of weeks. This will stop your zip from ceasing with gunk and corrosion.
Your 4WD awning will last a long time if you follow these three simple steps:
STEP 1 - When you first purchase an awning, install some additional heavy duty pop rivets or bolts to strengthen the backing/ mounting plate.
STEP 2 - Always use guy ropes to secure your awning if you are setting it up for more than a quick stop, or if you are using it in windy conditions.
STEP 3 - Clean the zipper on the awning storage bag frequently and ALWAYS before trying to open when the zipper is very dusty or muddy. Open and close the zipper periodically if the awning is not in use or in storage, this will prevent it ceasing up.