Learning how to work on your RV has many benefits, including saving you time when you’d otherwise be waiting to schedule an appointment at an RV service center. Of course, there are certain maintenance tasks you should know how to do yourself and others that require more expertise.
Figuring out how to install an RV roof vent isn’t rocket science. But it also needs to be done correctly to prevent roof leaks and water damage to your RV’s interior. Here’s everything you need to know about RV roof vents.
What is an RV Roof Vent?
An RV roof vent is essentially a hole in your RV’s roof. Don’t be alarmed when you do an RV roof inspection, however, as this hole is intentional. RV roof vents are typically square and the opening is protected by a screen and a vent cover. Some also have a fan component between the lid and the screen.
Why Have an RV Roof Vent?
Airflow is important for comfortable RV living. In addition to your AC unit, roof vents promote healthy airflow throughout your RV’s living space. Good airflow prevents mold and mildew in hot, humid climates, assists with temperature control, and keeps undesirable bathroom and kitchen odors from lingering.
RV roof vents also let natural light into your RV’s interior. While they aren’t as effective as the skylight in most RV bathrooms, they’re still useful in lighting up your space during the day. Of course, there are roof vent shade accessories you can install if you want to reduce that allowance of natural light.
Why Have an RV Roof Vent Cover?
As much as RV roof vents are beneficial, they can become a liability without a vent cover. The vent cover protects the vent and vent lid from rain, leaves, pollen, and other airborne debris and minimizes how often you need to clean the vent screen.
Most RV roof vents come with a basic lid that opens and closes as needed. Installing a vent cover on top of that lid extends the life of the vent and vent lid. It also keeps water out of your RV if you accidentally leave the lid open during a storm and allows you to keep air flowing in and out when you encounter inclement weather on your RV trip.
How to Clean an RV Roof Vent Screen
Cleaning the screen on your roof vent should be part of your regular RV maintenance routine. Over time, dust, pollen, pet hair, and other debris can get lodged in the screen, reducing the effectiveness of the vent and increasing the risk of damage to the vent fan blades.
To clean your screen, make sure the vent fan is powered off and the vent cover is closed. Loosen the screen by removing the screws holding it in place. Then, take it outside and you’ll have two options.
The fastest method is to use a portable RV vacuum to remove debris that has accumulated on both sides of the screen. The other method is to get the screen wet, use a gentle sponge to wipe it down, and then rinse it off. With this method, you’ll need to leave the screen outside until it dries completely before replacing it in your roof vent.
How to Remove an RV Roof Vent
Before installing a new roof vent, the old one has to come out. You’ll need an impact driver with the proper attachment and a plastic squeegee or a putty knife. RV vents are secured by different fasteners, such as Philips, #2 square tip, or ¼” hex head screws, so check your vent to know which type you’ll need to remove.
Here’s an overview of the RV roof vent removal process:
- Use your battery disconnect switch or remove the cable from your battery’s negative terminal to discontinue the power supply to the vent fan.
- Remove the screws holding the interior trim ring in place and set it aside.
- Unplug the wiring connecting your old vent fan to your RV’s 12-volt power source.
- Carefully ascend onto your RV’s roof.
- Remove the sealant around the edges of the vent.
- Use an old plastic squeegee for RVs with rubber roofing material.
- Use a putty knife for RVs with a metal or fiberglass roof.
- Remove the screws securing the vent to the roof.
- Remove the old vent by carefully inserting a putty knife between the vent flange and the roof surface and gently prying the vent free.
- Use extreme caution to prevent damage to the roof.
- Some vents are installed with butyl tape between the underside of the vent and your roof. Remove any tape that’s left behind once the vent is out of the way.
Once your old vent is removed, it’s a great time to visually inspect the framing and roofing material around the vent opening. Look for any signs of water damage and make the necessary repairs before installing a new roof vent.
Speak to a Camping World service technician if you have questions about repairing damaged framing or roof material.
How to Measure an RV Roof Vent
The standard opening for RV roof vents is 14.25” x 14.25”, but don’t assume that your RV came with standard vents. Take the time to measure so that you can select the right replacement vent.
You must measure the dimensions of the rough opening in your RV’s roof, rather than the inside dimensions of the existing vent and/or cover.
If you’ve already removed your old vent, measure the length and width of the opening left behind. If you haven’t removed your old vent, you’ll need to remove the interior trim ring inside the RV or travel trailer, allowing you to more accurately measure the size of the rough opening.
How to Install an RV Roof Vent
With your old roof vent out of the way and a proper replacement in hand, you’re ready to install a new one. In addition to the aforementioned tools, you’ll need denatured alcohol, rags, butyl tape, and a new set of screws, which usually come with new roof vents (if yours didn’t, use new screws instead of re-using the old ones, but make sure they are the correct length and thread gauge).
Here’s your general roof vent installation procedure:
- Use denatured alcohol and a rag to clean the area around the roof opening where the old butyl tape was removed.
- Install new butyl tape on the underside of the new roof vent (all four sides).
- Keep wiring out of the way and set the new vent into the roof opening.
- Make sure the hinge side of the vent faces towards the front of your RV.
- Secure the vent using screws.
- Tighten until you see a small amount of butyl tape squeezing out around the edges, but do not overtighten.
- Use a squeegee or putty knife to remove excess butyl tape around vent edges.
You’re not done yet! It’s critical that you choose the right roof sealant to seal around the edges of your new roof vent. Our guide to completing an RV roof inspection will teach you more about choosing the right sealant for your RV.
How to Seal an RV Roof Vent
With your new RV roof vent kit screwed into place, it’s time to seal it in place so that water doesn’t leak in during the next storm. With a compatible roof sealant in hand, here’s your process:
- Clean the flange and screw heads with denatured alcohol before applying sealant
- Cover each screw head with a nickel-to-quarter-sized dollop of self-leveling lap sealant.
- Avoid silicone or latex caulk.
- Run a bead of sealant around the edges of the vent.
- The bead should be about two inches wide and ¼-½” thick.
Note that we still haven’t mentioned anything about replacing the interior trim ring. That’s because there’s one more step to installing an RV roof vent properly.
How to Wire a New RV Roof Vent
There’s one more critical component to your roof vent installation: connecting it to your RV’s 12-volt power source. You can safely climb down from your RV roof and head back inside to wire your vent up.
To supply power to your vent fan, follow these steps:
- Double-check that your battery disconnect switch is engaged or the cable is removed from the negative battery terminal to remove the flow of power from your battery to the old vent fan wiring.
- Follow your fan’s manual for instructions on making safe electrical connections.
- Once you’ve followed all instructions, disengage your disconnect switch or reconnect the battery and test the fan for proper operation.
When you’re satisfied with the fan’s operation, replace the vent’s interior trim ring and your installation is complete.
How to Install an RV Roof Vent Cover
If you need to keep the lid of your roof vent open overnight, a vent cover is a great way to protect your RV from moisture and other environmental debris. This process outlines the basic steps for installing a MaxxAir vent cover, one of the more popular models available today.
The installation process and required tools may vary based on vent cover make and model.
What you’ll need:
- New vent cover
- Should come with brackets, nuts, washers, and bolts
- Drill with drill bit (size recommended in vent cover manual, 3/16”)
- Sharpie or pencil
- Philips head screwdriver (or impact driver with Philips head attachment)
- Ratchet or wrench with socket sized for nuts and bolts that came with vent cover
- Center new vent cover over your roof vent.
- Use a sharpie or pencil to mark the location of the four slots in the cover’s mounting flange.
- Remove the vent cover and set it aside.
- Position brackets so that the slot in the bracket lines up with the marked locations.
- For maximum strength, brackets should be mounted as close as possible to the outside corner of the roof vent frame.
- Mark the location of the screw holes in the brackets.
- Drill screw holes through the roof vent frame.
- Place carriage bolt(s) upward through the slot in the brackets and use smaller bolts to secure brackets to the vent frame.
- A flat washer, lock washer, and hex bolt should be placed on each bolt inside the roof vent frame to secure the brackets.
- Place the vent cover on the four upward-facing carriage bolts in the mounting bracket slots.
- Operate the vent to make sure the lid clears the vent cover when being raised and lowered.
- Secure the vent cover using large washers and hex nuts provided.
- You may need to push carriage bolts upward to secure hex nuts.
Keep in mind that a small gap will remain between the vent cover mounting flange and your roof. This gap is intentional to allow condensation to escape.
What is the Best RV Roof Vent Kit?
If you’re replacing your RV roof vent, getting a complete vent kit is the easiest way to go. Here are a few of the best options to consider:
MaxxFan Deluxe Remote Control RV Ventilator System
MaxxFan’s all-in-one RV roof vent kit is one of the first of its kind. It boasts an automatic rain protection feature that closes the vent when it detects moisture. The MaxxFan Deluxe also includes a 10-speed fan, a handheld remote control, and adjustable fan speed and thermostat settings.
Dometic Fan-Tastic Ceiling Vent/Fan with Remote Control
As its name suggests, the Dometic roof vent kit is a fantastic option for upgrading your old RV with a modern roof vent. It offers a 14-speed RV roof vent fan, a built-in thermostat, a handheld remote, reversible airflow, and a rain sensor to keep moisture out of your RV even if you forget to close the vent before going to bed.
MaxxAir MaxxFan Dome
The MaxxFan Dome is a useful vent replacement option for RVs with circular roof openings. This six-inch exhaust fan is made for RVs with a one-inch roof thickness. It boasts a removable screen for easy cleaning and a lockable lid with easy, push-button operation.
What is the Best RV Roof Vent Cover?
If you need to replace a damaged RV vent cover or want to add extra protection to your roof vent, consider these best-selling selections:
MaxxAir II Vent Covers
The major upgrade of the MaxxAir II over the first generation is double the ventilation. You’ll be able to enjoy plenty of fresh air and circulation throughout your RV living space, regardless of the weather.
MaxxAir I Vent Cover
MaxxAir’s original vent cover still offers plenty of ventilation and it’s a more affordable choice than their second-generation upgrade. It protects your RV’s roof vent from rain, hail, and other debris and features a UV inhibitor that dramatically extends your roof vent’s lifespan.
Camco Vent Cover
Designed to fit all 14” x 14” RV roof vents, the Camco cover is an aerodynamic choice that offers similar weather protection as the MaxxAir covers. It’s manufactured with UV-stabilized resin and features removable louvers for easy cleaning and vent maintenance.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing work on your RV’s roof vents, contact your local Camping World Service Center. Our expert technicians would be happy to give you a hand!
Have you removed and installed a new roof vent for your RV? Let us know what worked best for you!
Tucker Ballister is a Technical Content Writer for Camping World and a lover of the open road. You can check out more of his adventures and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.