How to Install or Replace an RV Slide Topper

Posted on November 1, 2020 by Daniel Renfro in Guides

Are you looking for clear and easy to follow instructions for installing an RV slide topper? Look no further because I got you covered in this blog about slide topper installation guide.

In this guide you’ll learn how to properly install and replace a slide topper. I will go through all the steps to ensure that everything will run smoothly for you.

This is very easy to do as you’ll soon see. Not many tools are required to do this and can be found lying around in your garage.

One thing you’ll need to consider before installing or replacing a slide topper is have someone to give you a hand. Some of the processes require two people to ensure maximum safety and efficiency of installation.

The following instructions provide clear and organized directions for proper installation.

How to replace RV slide topper fabric

The first thing you would need is to get a new fabric (also called an awning). The cost will vary depending on quality, and strength. I would recommend getting what you need for your region’s climate rather than what is considered to be ‘the best’. You can find where to buy an awning on most RV specialized online stores.

Please note that this is a two person job. Although possible it will be very difficult with just one person. I would recommend at least two people, but three is the best number of people to help. Your assistants don’t need to be RV expects, they just need to follow your directions carefully.

For tools you will need ladders (one for every person involved) and screwdrivers. Some other accessories that would help are duct tape and spray on lubricant (or any home hardware lubricant for that matter). A file if you have one, can be useful, but not essential.

When you are ready to install the new fabric, open the slide out completely and place the ladders accordingly. Find the screws for the anti billowing devices and unscrew them. They can be found at the ends of the roller tube. Don’t forget to keep track of all spare parts, particularly screws.

Both people need to unroll the roller tube slowly and carefully. The roller tube is spring loaded and can roll back up on itself if the steady tension is released. Be very deliberate with step as this can cause some minor injuries if the roller tube is released suddenly.

When you finish, make sure the slot is facing upwards. This makes it easier to take the old fabric out and the new one in. For safety reasons I recommend putting a pin at the end of the tube on both sides, this will prevent the roller tube from winding itself up. You can use any slender metal pieces such as long screws, but spare allen keys work the best.

On the other end of the slide topper there may be screws to keep the tarp into place, if so remove them and put them in a safe place. Trust me, you do not want to lose any pieces.

To make the old tarp slide out easier, spry some of the lubricant onto the track. This isn’t necessary, but makes the process much easier.

The next thing you may want to do is cut the old awning in half at the middle. Pulling out half a awning from one end and the second half from the other end is much easier. I would suggest you do this, unless you want to keep the old tarp (most people throw it out). Pull the tarp out and discard it.

The top of the slide may be dirty  and in need of cleaning. This is your time to clean it, but you never see it anyway so it’s up to you. See if there are any repairs that are required to the slider topper. It is much easier to do any repairs now when there isn’t an awning in the way. You have to pay special attention to any corner and areas prone to leaking.

It will make it easier when sliding in the new tarp to gently split the ends of the aluminum slider and cover the sharp edges with some duct tape. You can also use a file to gently debure the edges.

Then very slowly and gently slide in the new tarp. This is the funniest part of the job so enjoy it accordingly. Once the new awning is in place next to the roller (not all the way), take the other end and slide it into the gutter of the roller tube. Again proceed very slowly and deliberately. Be very careful to not get it twisted. A twisted awning is very embarrassing!

This is the part where the second person especially comes in handy. Start pulling each side super slowly while the other person is feeding in the tarp. Have lots of patience, as if you do something wrong you’ll need to backtrack. If you proceed too quickly, it may rip the tarp. Make sure there is the same amount of over hanging tarp at either end of the slider.

Now both people need to turn and release the pressure on both ends of the roller tube and slide out the pin. Maintain the pressure on the tube so that it doesn’t wind up by itself.

Gently release the pressure to allow the roller to roll the new trap onto itself. Make sure that it winds evenly. Now you’re done… Almost.

Make sure there are no spare parts, if there is, you did something wrong.

Slide the slider in and out to make sure everything works. The roller should roll the new tarp evenly and without wrinkles. After you test it a few times, you’re finally done.


How to install an RV slide topper

Begin by ordering all the appropriate things to install the slide topper awning. A friend or two makes things a lot easier. Also remove the gutter above the slider if you have one. This is where the slide topper will be installed. Another thing to do before starting is to take care of any issues you may have now, because you won’t have access to this area of your RV until it is time to replace the awning.

Glue the new gutter/rail that will later be used to attach the awning. Debure the rail in the end where you’re going to be sliding in the tarp or you can add some duct tape (or both). This will ensure that the tarp doesn’t ripe during installation.

Next thing you need to do is install the brackets on the side of the slider. This will hold the roller tube later. Each upper corner needs to have a bracket with a gutter above them. Next you will need to slide in the roller tube and fix it in place.

Some slide toppers come with a fabric attached in which case you’ll just need to take out the safety pin and let out the pressure slowly and gently. Keep the pin afterwards to make replacing the awnings easier.

If the awning doesn’t come rolled up in the package, please follow the steps outlined above.

Put the end caps on and you are done installing the slide topper. Test it a few times and you should be good to go.

Congratulations, you installed a slide topper on your camper van!

What is an RV slide topper?

What on earth is an RV slide topper you may be asking yourself? An Rv slide hopper is an extendable part of an RV trailer that slides out from the side. This room can be used as an extension of the interior. The awning, which is the fabric that goes over top of the slide hopper helps to shield the slide topper (and the van) from the summer heat. The slide topper can also be used to provide cover from the rain, although it won’t protect your van from heavy rainfall. This also extends to snow. Under a slide topper your van will be safe and dry to keep the bad weather away. This attachment can be easily added on or removed as desired. It can also keep rain and snow from getting inside your trailer while you’re parked.

Keeping the roof of the slide topper dry is important to prevent mold from appearing at the edges. Over time rainwater can damage and delaminate some portions of the slide topper roof and eventually cause a leak.

Are RV slide toppers needed?

Short answer is no. It isn’t a requirement to have a slide topper for your van. However, it is a nice ‘luxury’  item to have. As mentioned above it has many uses, mainly keeping bad weather away as well as providing shade.

If your area is dry, then it’s not that necessary, though it does help keep the RV cool. If you’re in a very wet climate, then it is almost necessary to have a slide topper awning.

In Summary

In this blog you learned how to install and properly replace a slide topper. As you can see this is quite a simple process but requires lots of patients. Once you have completed the installation your RV camper will look and perform better than before.

You can be proud of the work that you did and be sure to help out your buddies when they need a hand with replacing their slide topper awnings.

If there are any issues please leave them in the comment section below.

Enjoy your RV camping!