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Old 04-26-2016, 04:35 PM   #1
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Zip Dee: Why, oh why, doesn't Airstream upgrade?

I post this with the goal of providing additional useful information to the helpful posts I found here during my latest awning issue; and hoping someone knows why Airstream doesn't enter the current world of technology and select a manufacturer with a safer, more practical product. Great concept at one time, but it's time has passed. During a lengthy stay in Arizona, I again (constant over the six years of owning my 2009 flying cloud) experienced issues with a bent rear main arm on my awning. No, it didn't rain and I didn't leave it up in wind. Every time I have had the ability to leave the awing up over 24 hours due to stable weather conditions; it is a struggle putting the awing back down as the rear bar always bent slightly somehow. When this occurs during solo, remote boon docking, it poses such a problem I stopped using it since help is not around the corner. This time the awning was up for two days. The rear, main bar was not going to retract. As my neighbors tried to help, I commented on how it was always the rear one and that I couldn't understand why it is was always only one. They couldn't understand why there was an issue, period. As previous posts explained, having to disconnect the main bar while the awning is extended is disastrous due to the tension, but when you have to disconnect it to retract it, you have no choice. Despite strapping the awning to prevent injury, the tension still jerked it. Luckily, I ended up with only a bloody and swollen thumb. This would easily kill a person if not restrained somehow. Here is the interesting part. I called zip dee to confirm the approach to resetting the tension after having the bar machined (the professionals who did so also commented on the shoddy material considering the purpose). By the way, don't use a ladder as the manual suggests to support the awning while doing this. As I suspected, as you adjust the tension and it returns, the awning will try to retract and easily pull off the ladder. You need a sturdy person to shoulder and hold the awning. The rep insisted this wasn't the case, but you can't argue with physics. During the discussion, I asked about stainless bars as someone on this site had good results with them in similar circumstances. His response amazed me. He asked me if it was just the rear bar that kept bending, and under what circumstances. He said that an aluminum bar cannot withstand the tension long term of the awning spring as it is all exerted on the rear of the awning, and that Airstream insists they use them instead of stainless on smaller trailers to keep the costs down. This is the second time I have contacted zip dee. The first was for a rafter arm issue, which they again blamed Airstream for, citing a faulty installation and would not follow through on the process to honor a soon to expire warranty. Soooo...long story short, he suggested just replacing the rear bar with stainless since they are expensive. This all made sense since the front bar has always worked without issue, and having experienced that tension first hand, I don't see how one of those flimsy bars could stand up to it for any period. I ordered it today from an extremely brash zip dee rep who I had to ask to tone down her attitude after I stated what I wanted to order. She later insisted this would not solve the problem, yada, yada, yada. What really gets me is watching my neighbors every year across the U.S. with trailers that cost a fraction of mine push a button while finishing their drink and watching their awning extend or retract. They always comment on the Airstream awning and the materials and express surprise regarding the whole thing considering the cost of the trailer. My last comment, I am considering investing in a larger, new Airstream. The thought of spending $80K to fight with an awning every day is not appealing; neither is having to interact with them again when a problem occurs.
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Old 04-26-2016, 05:01 PM   #2
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The ZD used by Airstream seems flimsy compared to others I have seen. Funny thing is that not a trip goes by that I do not see a trashed awning because of high winds. Because there are so many SOBs and so few Airstreams it is usually one on those other awning brands.
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Old 04-26-2016, 05:19 PM   #3
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The awning bars need frequent lubrication where they slide or they will stick. A good shot of silicon spray will help a lot.

Our method to lower the awning which makes it easy for us.

First, put one hand to support the roller and use the other hand to release the catch and drop to the lowest awning setting.

Then one hand forward on the upper arm and the other to release the lockout catch, pushing outward on the upper arm while releasing the catch to take some tension off.

Then undo the lower arm and stow it, and go to the other side and repeat. The awning will now be free to roll up so keep control of it as you walk to the middle and grab the strap to guide it up.

The only time I've had trouble is when the arms stick from not enough lube, or there's a lot of wind blowing things around. Those two things together can bend an arm, keep in control of it.
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Old 04-26-2016, 05:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robi View Post
I post this with the goal of providing additional useful information to the helpful posts I found here during my latest awning issue; and hoping someone knows why Airstream doesn't enter the current world of technology and select a manufacturer with a safer, more practical product.
Zip Dee is one of the few awning manufacturers that makes an awning with arms that will fit the curved side of an Airstream trailer. But having helped an elderly couple with their Zip-Dee awning just two weeks ago, I must say it does seem as if the Tinkertoy way of putting together the awning arms and braces is needlessly complex and requires more brute force than some people can muster. The need for even a large, muscular camper (I'm large, but not muscular) to stand on a stepstool to deploy or retract the awning and to secure it once retracted shows that some redesign is needed.

As for the rear arm always being the one to cause problems, that's possibly because the rear arm is the one that's always adjusted to slope the awning to drain water, because if you shorten the front one, the door rubs the fabric. Lengthening the rear arm to match the front again before trying to put the awning away might help. Might not. But it's worth a try.
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Old 04-26-2016, 05:50 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
The awning bars need frequent lubrication where they slide or they will stick. A good shot of silicon spray will help a lot.

Our method to lower the awning which makes it easy for us.

First, put one hand to support the roller and use the other hand to release the catch and drop to the lowest awning setting.

Then one hand forward on the upper arm and the other to release the lockout catch, pushing outward on the upper arm while releasing the catch to take some tension off.

Then undo the lower arm and stow it, and go to the other side and repeat. The awning will now be free to roll up so keep control of it as you walk to the middle and grab the strap to guide it up.

The only time I've had trouble is when the arms stick from not enough lube, or there's a lot of wind blowing things around. Those two things together can bend an arm, keep in control of it.

What lub do you use, most like WD40 attract dirt & that creates a hole new problem?
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Old 04-26-2016, 05:56 PM   #6
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Buy some dry spray on lube. WD has something like that. When I first got my Airstream the awning was a nuisance but I've got it down pat now. However, there is no way my wife could deploy or retract this awning. I guess the only solution is to go SOB with an electric awning.

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Old 04-26-2016, 05:56 PM   #7
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I use a very, very light coat of white lithium from spray can.
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Old 04-26-2016, 06:00 PM   #8
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Andy from Inland RV has recommended silicon lube for the awnings, locks and sticky window seals. Does not attract dirt but doesn't last forever either. When things seems a little sticky, give it another shot. Keep the entrance door latches and seal lubed as well or they soon close poorly.
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Old 04-26-2016, 06:00 PM   #9
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ZD recommends liberal use of silicone liquid spray. I spray the crap out of all the support tubes and braces whenever it starts feeling sticky and gritty. Makes operation much easier.
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Old 04-26-2016, 06:19 PM   #10
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At 5'-7 and shrinking I can't use the method that dkottum the tall one uses.

My solution is to use the hand grips Zip Dee sells (J.C. has them also, but their shipping costs are almost as much as the hand grips.

They do the job quickly and as others have said, a can of silicone spray once in a while makes the struts move easily.
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Old 04-26-2016, 06:54 PM   #11
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I do what Doug does - exactly (I could have written that same exact reply, Doug!). But I'm 6'1" and that helps a bit. There are a couple good videos on YouTube from ZipDee and others that have some tips I didn't understand until I watched them.

Someone in our unit has the handles mentioned earlier - and those seemed to be helpful for them - maybe for you too.

Sorry it's been problematic. I hope the suggestions help. Happy camping!!
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Old 04-26-2016, 06:57 PM   #12
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Not a lube issue

Thanks! That was my first approach six years ago. Zip Dee says not to lube at all. I used high quality silicone. No lube is going to help a bent main bar slide into place. Great insight Antagonist, I agree with you on all counts. The issue only occurs if the awning is up for more than 24 hours, so I am kinda buying into the reps theory. For $85, I am certainly willing to end the hassle and the embarrassment as to why my premium trailer has such a public issue. In this decade, manufacturers with unique products simply issue bid requests from folks and pick a better custom solution. Airstream ought to give up on this as they have other aspects and satisfy their customers. RVing has changed like everything else. I find it interesting the new trailers allow me to speak anywhere into my phone without touching it, but still have "Tinkertoys" for things that are really important. Love my Airstream, and Airstream, have even been to the factory repeatedly. The whole is not more than the sum of the parts.
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Old 04-26-2016, 07:16 PM   #13
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Sorry, it was protagonist. I guess I am feeling a little antagonistic after spending more money and time on my zip dee awning:}
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Old 04-26-2016, 07:32 PM   #14
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Thanks! That was my first approach six years ago. Zip Dee says not to lube at all. I used high quality silicone. No lube is going to help a bent main bar slide into place. Great insight Antagonist, I agree with you on all counts. The issue only occurs if the awning is up for more than 24 hours, so I am kinda buying into the reps theory. For $85, I am certainly willing to end the hassle and the embarrassment as to why my premium trailer has such a public issue. In this decade, manufacturers with unique products simply issue bid requests from folks and pick a better custom solution. Airstream ought to give up on this as they have other aspects and satisfy their customers. RVing has changed like everything else. I find it interesting the new trailers allow me to speak anywhere into my phone without touching it, but still have "Tinkertoys" for things that are really important. Love my Airstream, and Airstream, have even been to the factory repeatedly. The whole is not more than the sum of the parts.
Actually
The owner of ZipDee gave a talk at Alumopalooza a few years ago and spoke about the importance of lubrocating the sliding parts! He suggested silicone spray but I like wd-40 better myself.
I love our ZipDee awning! Of course at 16' our Airstream's awning is child's play to deal with.
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