Airstreams have come with Zip Dee awnings since 1967
They are undoubtedly part of what gives Airstreams their classic look. Especially with that vintage striping! Now, I am not necessarily in love with the bright blue color of our awning but we will be keeping it at least for the time being. New fabric can cost a pretty penny and since this is something easily replaceable in the future, we will wait to have it done. For now though we had remove the awning in order to make repairs to the shell and the awning frame, as well as polish the shell more easily.
We have a total of 3 Zip Dee awnings on our trailer a small one on the rear, one on the road side, and the big boy on the curbside. I personally started with the rear because I knew it would be much easier to remove and I wanted to get a feel for how the whole process was going to go. Before you get started, I recommend having a pair of gloves and a buddy to help you. I was able to do most of it by myself but one mistake could have caused more damage than it was worth.
Each awning has a spring inside the roller tube, that's the main piece that runs the length of the trailer and that the awning fabric wraps around. This spring is what pulls the awning up when it's time to put it away. It's located on the left side of the awning as you're looking at the trailer. The first thing you need to do is unwind this spring. To do this, you need to slide the main arm bar out of the main arm tube. If yours is corroded together like mine, it might be near impossible to remove. If this happens, what I had to do was remove the head casting from the main arm bar in order to unwind the spring. Avoid this if you can as it gives you a much shorter lever and is much harder to control the spring.
Once you have the arm loose from the body of the trailer, use the arm bar as a lever and rotate it counter-clockwise to unwind the spring. The amount of rotations will vary with the length of the awning, approximately the length of the awning plus 7. (21 foot awning plus 7 = 28 turns)
CAUTION: Be very careful, this spring is powerful. If you let go of the arm bar or head casting while the spring is under tension you will end up with a propeller that is likely to break any nearby bones.
Now that you have the spring unwound, next up is removing the support arms. These are bolted into the hinges on the shell.
The final step to remove the awning completely from the trailer is to drill out the rivets along the top of the awning. The best thing you can do for yourself is get a rivet removal tool. If you don't have one of those you can just use a 5/32" drill bit. (double check the size on your particular trailer but that's the standard buck rivet size on Airstream trailers)
For this you'll want to have two people on either side of the awning ready to lower it down as you drill out the rivets. We rested the roller tube on some crates, so the weight of it was not pulling on the awning as we removed the rivets.
That's pretty much it! Check out the video below to watch the whole process unfold.
DISCLAIMER: This blog is for entertainment purposes only. We are not Airstream experts and are not making recommendations. We share our opinions and what works for us, but you should always do your own research and make your own decisions.