The awning rail on my Elddis need to come off and be resealed as it leaks when raining. Is this somehting that I could attempt or would you recommend seeking help? Unfortunately dealers to carry out the repairs around Chester are limited
It can be done on a DIY basis but, be warned, it is a messy and time consuming job. Are you absolutely sure that the leak is at the awning rail?
Most modern caravans use a system whereby the front section is joined to a rear section or to a short section in the middle. You may be able to get round the problem by only removing the affected section although it could be argued that, if one section is leaking, the chances are that there is water ingress along the whole length of the rail.
Firstly, remove the plastic insert in the middle of the rail to reveal the attachment screws. Remove the screws and use a thin, flat paint scraper to remove the rail. Don't be tempted to use a screwdriver as there is a risk that you may bend the rail.
Next, remove the old sealant. This will be a non-setting sealant and is a gooey mess. Take a piece of wood about 2-2.5" wide (5-6.5cm) about 1/2" thick and taper it down on one side only to form a sharpish wedge 2-2.5" wide. This will form a scraper. Again, don't be tempted to use a screwdriver or a paint scraper as those will damage the metal skin of the caravan.
Using the wooden scraper, remove as much of the sealant as you possibly can, wiping the sealant off the scraper as you go along. There should only be the thinnest film of sealant or none at all when you are finished.
Using white spirit and plenty of rags/kitchen paper, clean the residue of the sealant off the metal skin until the metal is completely free of sealant.
Examine the wood to which the rail was originally screwed and, if there are signs of "screw sickness" i.e. rust and oversize holes, it would be wise to consider re-drilling the rail adjacent to the old holes to enable the replacement screws of a similar size to go into fresh timber. The old screws are probably too rusty to be re-used. If you do go down that route, ensure that the holes are square to the rail. To this end, it may be wise to use a bench drill if one is available. Ensure that the holes are in the middle of the groove in the rail. Replacement screws of the same diameter and length as the originals are available from Toolstation, Screwfix or Wickes in boxes of 200 for around £2.00. Ensure that they are zinc coated to protect them from damp.
Once the rail has been prepared for reattachment, apply fresh, non-setting sealant liberally to the mating surface of the rail. There are several non-setting sealants on the market and they should be available from your local caravan accessory shop. Carafax Caraseal IDL springs to mind. You will need a sealant gun to use this as it is available only in cartridge form. Don't be tempted to use a "toothpaste tube" type as they are really quite difficult to use and are only meant for replacing odd locker doors on the outside of the caravan where only a small amount is required. Offer the rail up to the caravan taking care to get it into the correct position so that it will mate up with the other half. Pop in a screw at the end of the rail to hold it in position. Put in the rest of the screws then attach the other half of the rail ensuring that the mating ends are in alignment with the least possible gap. If not in alignment, there is a sure chance that the awning guide will be damaged. (I had this problem and the rail was replaced following accident damage by a so-called Swift agent's workshop. Reinsert the plastic centre filler to cover the screws. Wipe off any excess sealant with a rag or kitchen paper.