Slideout awnings have become a popular RV accessory in recent years, and for some very good reasons. A slideout awning helps avoid having dirt and debris pulled into the living space when the slideout is retracted, and also helps deflect sun and rain when it’s extended. If your RV is not equipped with a slideout awning from the factory, the good news is that you can install one in as little as two hours to add another layer of protection from the elements.
For this project, we installed a Dometic SlideTopper Deluxe on a fifth-wheel that was never originally equipped with a slideout awning. The Deluxe version features vinyl fabric and a white vinyl weathershield that protects the material from the sun while rolled up. The fabric is waterproof, and with the weathershield wrap, can withstand many years of outdoor exposure. A more expensive version, the SlideTopper Elite, offers a metal weathershield for even greater protection and durability.
Before ordering the SlideTopper, a few accurate measurements must be taken. SlideToppers are available from 66 to 192 inches, so to get the right size fabric, the first step is to measure the width of the slide from edge to edge. The Dometic SlideTopper can be installed on slideouts with a maximum extension of 44 inches; arms and hardware are available in four colors.
[satellite gallery=2]To begin the project, unpack the SlideTopper, then locate and mark the center on both the awning rail and the slideout. The instructions call for 6-7 inches of clearance from the bottom of the awning rail to the center of the mounting bracket. Because there was a window in the way, we had to reduce that clearance to about 41/2 inches, which actually presented no problems. The reason for the dimension is to provide slope to the fabric when it’s extended to allow moisture to run off. Even if the fabric has to be mounted fairly level because of obstructions, the weight of the moisture will cause the fabric to sag and will likely runoff anyway. It’s still beneficial to have a slideout awning versus going bare even if exact clearances cannot be met.
We used a good quality silicone rubber sealant and fastened the railing with the provided screws. Some installers prefer to apply putty tape, but using silicone rubber has the added benefit of “gluing” the railing to the wall and provides additional sealing for the screws. Filing the opening will prevent the fabric from hanging up when sliding into the railing.
From here, one end is prepped for installation of the fabric roller tube assembly (FRTA). The mounting brackets are attached to both the upper left and right corners of the slideout. You will need to follow the directions carefully, since individual brackets have their own specific guidelines.
Next, carefully place the FRTA on a padded surface to prevent damage, install the left-hand extension arm into the appropriate assembly and rivet together. Dometic supplies all hardware necessary for complete installation with the exception of sealant.
At this point, you will need two ladders and two friends. Unwrap one roll of fabric and slide the fabric into the prepped end of the awning rail far enough so that the arm extension goes beyond the mounting bracket. Insert the arm extension into the mounting bracket and install the other extension through the arm into the mounting bracket. Secure with the supplied pop rivet.
Center the SlideTopper on the slideout and install a #10, 3/4-inch screw through the bracket and into the extension arm on both sides. Remove the cotter pins from both ends of the FRTA and run the slide in and out several times to ensure that everything is working properly. Be sure that the SlideTopper is still centered, then install the #6, 7/16-inch TEK screws into the awning rail, 2 inches from each end to prevent the fabric from shifting inside the awning rail. Lastly, install the anti-billow stop and brackets.
The Dometic SlideTopper is a great way to add protection and comfort to your RV. Prices range from around $150 to $400, depending on size. For example, Camping World sells a 10-foot SlideTopper Deluxe for $296.99 (club price); add $71 for the Elite model. Camping World’s online calculator will help you find the right price for your rig.