Eliminating Window Pains: How to Replace RV Window Glass

All sorts of parts can need replacement throughout your RV's lifetime, and broken window glass can quickly become an inconvenience. Without a proper window, you won't be able to regulate the temperature inside your RV, you leave an opening for pests to come in, and it's an overall security hazard when you're out camping.

Like many other potential repairs, you may need to make on your RV, however, doing it on your own seems much more appealing when compared to paying labor costs. Additionally, for many full-timers, there's not enough time or convenience available to have access to someone who can handle the job. So, it's time to learn how to replace RV window glass for yourself!

What You Need

Overall, removing and replacing RV window glass doesn't require too many pieces of equipment. You'll need:

  • A screwdriver
  • A replacement windowpane (or plexiglass for a temporary replacement)
  • Gloves
  • A helper

Additionally, if you have signs of breaking glass, you'll want to keep supplies around to clean up the mess. Having a garbage bag on hand, as well as a broom and dustpan, are helpful both for containing any broken glass and preventing yourself from getting cut. You should never attempt to pick up pieces of RV window panes by hand.

How to Replace RV Window Glass

With your supplies in hand, it's time to get started on the replacement. Take note that if you have a newer RV, you may be able to get a replacement windowpane before beginning this process, but that process can be tricky with older RVs. In the latter case, you will need to remove the old window to take measurements accurately before ordering a replacement. We'll cover these steps below!

With that out of the way, follow these steps on how to replace RV window glass.

Remove the Old Window

Before you can do anything else, you'll need to take out the old window. If you already have cracks forming in the glass, it can help to set up trash bags to catch any fallen pieces from getting into your RV. The person handling the window should also be wearing gloves for additional safety, even if it doesn't look like pieces are about to fall apart.

To remove the window, you'll need to:

  • Peel off the rubber gasket from the outside of the outer edge of the pane, using your screwdriver to loosen from the split and then pulling
  • Removing the inner gasket as well, if possible
  • On the inside of the window, remove the mounting screws
  • Remove the outer mounting screws, having your helper keep the pane steady
  • Take out the plastic frame mount, being careful not to let the windowpane to fall
  • Pull the window glass towards the outside of the RV and set it on the ground

You can use these steps to remove two-piece windows as well. Connected by a secondary frame, they will come out together, even as you take out the larger plastic frame mount. You do not need to separate the individual pieces to remove them from your RV successfully.

Measure the Window Opening

After you've taken out the old window, it's time to take measurements. While your first instinct may be to measure the windowpane itself, you'll actually want to focus on the window opening itself. You want these measurements to be as accurate as possible, so measure at least twice and keep everything to the nearest sixteenth of an inch.

The shape of the window will determine the measurements you need to take:

  • For rectangular windows, you only need to measure the height and the width of the window.
  • For parallelogram or trapezoid-shaped windows, you need to measure each side, and the length between opposite corners, for a total of six measurements.

Make sure to keep accurate notes on your measurements so that you can find an appropriate replacement.

Measure Sidewall Thickness

With the rough window opening dimensions recorded, there's still measuring to do with measuring yet. Aside from having the right surface area, you also need to have a window that's thick enough to fit into place. To accomplish that, you need to measure the sidewall thickness.

You can do this with a tape measurer and measuring from the inside of the RV to the outside. You do not want to include your window frame in this measurement, so keep it out of the way in whatever place you've placed it aside for now.

On average, sidewalls are between one and three inches thick.

Measure the Corner Radius

Most RV windows will have rounded corners, and if yours does, then you'll need to take one more measurement: the corner radius. Most models will have a size of 2.5 inches or three inches, but you still need to measure them out for best results. Naturally, those who have square corners don't need to worry about this step, and you can move on!

You can print out a template, or use a compass to draw out your own. The goal is to have a circle that has an outer radius of 3.125 inches (6.25 inches across), as well as a smaller circle with a radius of 2.5 inches (five inches across). If you're making your own, you can put the 2.5-inch radius circle inside the larger one.

Once you have your circles, hold them up to the visible curve of your window's rough opening and see which circle's curve most closely matches up with the edge. Whichever one does determines your corner radius, and you can add it to your list of measurements as the final piece!

Obtain a Replacement Window

Now that you actually know the dimensions of your window, you can work on obtaining a replacement. Some RV maintenance shops will be able to get a new window for you, or you may need to have someone custom order a pane that can fit your RV—again, potentially a problem with older motorhomes and travel trailers.

If you're watching your budget (as many full-time RVers do), it may be cheaper to get a custom window made rather than purchasing an OEM part, which can be just as costly as looking at new RV prices. Be aware that your RV insurance policy may not cover certain window replacement. Do your research before committing to a purchase.  For some, paying new motorhome or travel trailer prices is worth not going through the hassle.

You can also put in a temporary plexiglass window until you can get a replacement, which we'll discuss in more detail below!

Put in the New Window

Once you have a suitable replacement (temporary or otherwise), you want to put it back in place. These steps will mostly go in reverse of the stages of when you took the window out.

  • Have your helper hold the window in place
  • Place the plastic frame back around the windowpane
  • Screw back in the outer and inner mounting screws
  • Insert the rubber gaskets, starting from the inner pieces and then the exterior, if applicable.

Once you've put everything back in place, you've completed all the steps of how to replace RV window glass!

Making a Temporary Plexiglass Window

In some cases, you may not be able to find a replacement window, but your old window is too damaged to be safely kept in your travel trailer. In these cases, you can potentially cut out your replacement from plexiglass. You won't be able to keep the temporary replacement in place forever, but it can prevent glass shards from falling into your living area and keep inclement weather at bay.

To do this, follow the above steps up through taking the measurements. Once you know the dimensions of your window needs to be, you can follow this guide on how to cut plexiglass to get a suitable shape that you can then put into your opening until you can find a proper replacement. While this is suitable for handling side windows, you should always seek professional repairs for a busted windshield.

Want to upgrade instead of going through the hassle of a window replacement? Look at RVs for sale now.