The Ultimate guide To RV Roof Vents

How Tos & Tips

Many seemingly innocuous parts of an RV are in fact the crucial parts that help to keep your vacation comfortable and your vehicle in working condition. Case in point — the RV roof vent. These handy accessories are important in keeping the cabin well-ventilated without exposing yourself to the harsh elements outside. 

Thankfully, RV roof vents are relatively easy to maintain, but there are still many things to consider as an RV owner with regards to your RV roof vent. Let’s review some of the basics and a few in-depth tips.

How does an RV roof vent work?

Roof vents for RVs are key to keeping the air in your motorhome fresh and clean. They do this by allowing circulation of outdoor air and stale, odorous air, keeping your RV smelling and feeling good. Typically, your RV will come with one or two RV roof vents already installed. These are usually located in the bathrooms or the kitchen, and sometimes the bedrooms. 

Standard RV roof vents come with a screen and manual crank that operate with hinges, allowing you to open and close the vent. 

There are also upgraded versions that come with automatic vents with switches, so you don’t have to manually crank. Some come with a fan, which powers the air in and out of the motorhome and acts as a normal ceiling fan when the vents are closed. These are especially helpful when you’re not connected to shore power and can’t run your A/C, as they will keep air moving through your rig. 

These must, of course, be powered. If you plan to upgrade from the standard RV roof vent, you may need to wire your current vent to allow for a powered model.

RV Roof Vent Parts

Some of the best powered vent models come with remote controls and rain sensors that will close themselves if they sense inclement weather. Closing automatically in these situations can prevent damage to the vent and the rest of your RV.

For the standard roof vent, a vent insulator can improve the transfer of energy, heat, and light that comes from having what is essentially a skylight. Vent insulators are made of insulating foam with reflective material on the top. They help keep your RV cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, and can even come in handy to block out light for an afternoon nap.Some roof vents require you to drill holes in your roof’s surface, while others employ less damaging mounting systems. Brands typically offer vents in either translucent white or smoky gray, the latter of which allows less light to enter your cabin.

Purchasing an RV Roof Vent Replacement

An RV roof vent is meant to protect you from the elements, but it is also susceptible to harsh conditions itself. Due to rain, wind, ultraviolet rays and especially hail, most vents will only last for a few years of regular use.

Most RV roof vents for sale are reasonably priced. You can find them either online or at local retail shops, where they’ll generally be sold for under $50. Bring your busted old vent into the retail shop to make sure you purchase the right size (most are square and measure 14″ per side) and the right hinges to affix to your roof. Universal models also ensure a quick and easy replacement of any type of vent.

You should check all of the vents on your RV or trailer, as they will generally break around the same time due to weather conditions and similar wear. Before making the purchase, look for online user reviews to be sure you’re getting the best value possible.

*Keep in mind — unlike many other RV trailer parts, it can sometimes be difficult to find replacement parts for roof vents. The only essential parts of a roof vent, other than the mounting apparatus and vent lid itself, are the hinges, which can be hard to purchase on their own. 

RV Roof Vent Installation

You have your new roof vent, and now all you need to do is install it! Luckily for you, the installation process is relatively easy, as the vent will almost certainly come with instructions included. Many brands post instructional videos on their websites to help with installation, as do many average users — so you should find plenty of help online, should you need it. 

You can also go on YouTube for step-by-step video instructions, or reach out to a professional if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself!

The most important tip for installing RV roof vents, no matter the brand, is to be safe. Have someone nearby to help if you struggle keeping your balance on the RV roof. Be sure to do it during favorable weather conditions, before the next rain storm hits — water leakage will obviously harm your RV and make installation a dangerous proposition.

Supplies needed: Ladder, Screws, Screwdriver or a square head driver for a portable drill, Phillips head screwdriver, Needle-nose pliers, Putty Knife, Drill and drill bits, Butyl tape, Dicor Lap Sealant & caulk gun, Measuring tape

Step #1- To get started with your RV vent replacement project, you’ll first need to remove the old vent. Start by disconnecting the power inside your RV, and disconnecting the vent’s wiring if you have a powered unit. When you do this, take note of how it was all wired up — you’ll need to know how to wire in the new vent. 

Step #2- If you’re replacing an existing vent, you’ll need to remove the old trim ring/garnish piece. Unscrew the crank handle (if you have one) and remove the screen. Then, unscrew the crank assembly and detach the arm from the lid. If you’ll be installing a vent in a new location, mark the desired location (between roof joists), then cut a 14”x14” opening in the roof (or whatever size vent you purchased).

Step #3- For installing a new vent, you can skip this step and move to #4. If you’re doing a replacement, you’ll need to carefully peel off all of the existing sealant using a putty knife, taking care not to do damage to the roof. You can use a heat gun or hair dryer to heat the sealant up first. After the screws are exposed, unscrew them from the roof. You should then be able to lift the old vent out. 

Step #4- Next, if you have a powered unit, clip the old wires and make sure to leave enough length to make new connections. Then, use some denatured alcohol to clean all the sealant and debris off the opening. 

Step #5- Before the new vent gets placed in position, cover the interior screw holes with some butyl tape. This will help you get a really tight seal. Once the tape is on, put the new RV vent in the opening, taking care to install it in the proper direction. (The opening of the vent should face the back of your vehicle.) Put the screws in tightly, but do not to over-tighten them. If you need to drill new holes, be sure to fill the existing ones first. 

Note: If you’re installing a unit with a fan, route your power supply and ground wires first to make your connections before inserting the fan. Make sure that the power inside your RV is still disconnected, as you definitely want it off before doing any electrical work. Connect the new wires; they should go in the same way as the old ones you disconnected. Refer to your new vent’s installation manual for detailed instructions on how to do it properly and safely.

Step #6- The next step is to seal in the new vent. Cover all the screws with sealant, then run a line of Dicor Lap Sealant all around the edge where the RV vent meets the roof. This helps to prevent leaks, forming an airtight seal between the vent and roof.

Step #7- The last step is to reinstall the other components in reverse order (the crank arm, crank assembly, screen, and garnish). If you’re installing a new garnish, you can trim it to fit as necessary. Once your new RV vent is fully hooked up, turn it on, and make sure it’s working. 

And that’s it! You now have a new vent. 

Purchasing an RV Vent Lid Replacement

Of course, where there’s a part, there’s a possibility of it breaking. Such is the case with an RV vent lid — the piece that opens and closes above the vent to keep air from going out or allow it to come in.They tend to fall into disrepair over time due to rain, overexposure or simple wear-and-tear. Even ultraviolet rays take a toll on vent lids over time, making them liable to crumble at the slightest contact.

Just like replacing the entire vent, review your options and the specifications to ensure that your new RV vent lids are competitively priced and made to fit your vent openings and type of hinges.

RV vent lids are also sold for reasonable prices, generally under $20 if not $15. Camco’s white and smoky gray vent lids are both available through Amazon for roughly $16. (Notice how the product reviews are overwhelmingly favorable.)

RV Vent Lid Replacement Instructions

Installation varies depending on the brand and model of vent lid, but there are generally a few rules you should follow. You will not have to remove the whole vent structure, only the lid.

Tools needed: Screwdriver or a square head driver for a portable drill, Phillips head screwdriver, Needle-nose pliers

Step #1- Open the vent lid and remove the four screws that hold in the vent garnish, then pull down the garnish and set aside for later.

Step #2- Remove the crank handle (if you have one) using a phillips screwdriver, then pinch the sides of the vent screen to pry it down. Some vent screens have screws that will need to be removed as well before proceeding. 

Step #3- If your vent has a fan assembly, gently pry it down and set aside. Unscrew the two screws holding the operator assembly, then remove the assembly.

Step #4- Use a ladder to get onto your roof with the replacement lid. Flip the old lid open to remove, then place the new one in and flip closed. 

Step #5- Head back inside. Reinstall your operator assembly first. Then, reinstall the fan assembly and reinsert the screen. Screw the handle back into place. 

Step #6- Check your work by opening and closing the new vent lid. If everything is working properly, you can now reinstall the garnish. 

Again, you can always check YouTube for step-by-step instructional videos, or hire a professional.

Protecting Your Roof Vent

A roof vent might break at any time, but with less exposure to harsh weather conditions, it will tend to last longer. If you can, keep your RV in a shaded storage area or garage for protection from rain, snow, hail and damaging sunlight.

If you’re willing to invest some of your hard-earned cash to make sure the roof vent doesn’t break too quickly, you might consider purchasing an RV roof vent cover. These oddly shaped apparatuses protect the vent lid from damage while keeping it dry. This not only means that your vent will last longer, but also that you can keep it open during rainstorms to allow air circulation without letting water leak in.

The standard for RV roof vent covers are Maxxair covers, which generally cost around $30. They’re designed to fit over all 14″ by 14″ roof vents, and the installation is straightforward (provided you have a drill) and detailed on the company’s site. In the long run, they’ll save you the cost of several roof vent replacements. Better still, you’ll almost never need to purchase an RV roof vent cover replacement — these are built to last.

Roof vent covers do jut out and above the rest of your RV chassis, so the added height may be a problem. If your RV already has trouble fitting through short spaces or comes dangerously close to hitting the ceiling in its garage or storage facility, purchasing a vent cover may simply be out of the question.

Rather than purchasing a roof vent cover, you might instead purchase a metal roof vent. Unlike the industry standard plastic roof vents, these metal vents are impervious to damage from hail as well as ultraviolet rays. However, they’ll still let water in if you leave it ajar on a rainy day. Both the vent covers and metal vents don’t allow light to penetrate like clear vents do.

RV Roof Vent Fans

If you find that heat is an issue during your travels, you may want to purchase an RV roof vent with a fan attachment to further help your ventilation. 

Most RV roof vents with fan attachments are made for 14″ by 14″ vent openings, but there are many further considerations here. Some, for example, will be quieter than others, and some will require more electricity to run at the same capacity. Most shouldn’t use more than 3 amps while operating at high capacity, operating from one or several 12V motors. Keep in mind, the more features, the more costly the fan will be.

It may be difficult to install a roof vent fan if the opening was only made for a standard vent. You’ll have to wire it yourself, or hire someone else to do so, which may be costly. An RV roof vent fan won’t be cheap in the first place. Unlike standard vents, they’ll almost always cost upwards of $200, though replacement parts will be significantly less.

Our Top RV Roof Vent Picks

#1 Camco 40480 Roof Vent Kit

Overall Rating: 4.6 out of 5 

Features: Seamless, one piece frame is leak resistant and weather tight, Built-in screen allows air through while keeping insects out, UV resistant translucent lid

#2 MAXXAIR 0004500K MaxxFan Smoke Standard Remote Fan Lid

Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5 

Features: Powerful 10-speed intake and exhaust fan, Thermostat to control room temperature, Electric lid opening with remote control

#3 RVLOVENT 12V RV Roof Fan Vent 14” 3 Speed Reversible Manual Lift 

Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5 

Features: Powerful and Efficient, can intake or exhaust fresh air immediately and stay cool without distracting noise, fan can be operated in Reverse/Forward mode with 3 speeds, 

#4 Maxxair 00-05100K MaxxFan Ventilation Fan with White Lid and Manual Opening Keypad Control

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Features: Controls at ceiling, thermostat, built-in rain shield, 10 fan speeds; Intake and exhaust

#5 Leisure Coachworks 14″ x 14″ RV Roof Vent Fan 12V Manual Riser Reversible Manual Lift

Overall Rating: 4.3 out of 5

Features: 12V with 1 speed in and 1 speed out, Simple installation with 2-wire design, 10 blade fan is powerful and quiet while saving energy

Hopefully this guide has helped to enlighten you in the ways of RV roof vents and covers, as well as other RV roof vent parts that might be of some importance the next time it’s time to replace and install your latest vent. Roof vents for RVs are important parts, and though the process of replacement might be tedious, it’ll be worth it for the comfort and ventilation provided!

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