Troubleshooting Your RV’s Slide-Outs

Published Categorized as RVs

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When I first started RVing, slide-outs on any RV were almost unheard of, in fact, it wasn’t until 1990 when inventor and now chairman and co-founder of the Newmar Corporation, an RV manufacturer based in Nappanee, Indiana, Mahlon Miller, designed and patented the first power slide-out, did they begin to build traction. Now of course, almost all models of RVs have slide-outs. They are common on travel trailers, motorhomes of all three classes, and I have seen some ingenious DIYers incorporate them into their home teardrop camper builds, as well as those that are doing restoration projects.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the types of slide-outs there are on the market and the most popular manufacturers. We’ll also examine some of the problems you may encounter with your slide-out units as well as some things to look for if it’s not working correctly. And finally, we’ll explore some of the options you have for preventative maintenance to hopefully avoid any costly repairs.

Identifying which slide-out you’re dealing with and its deployment and retraction design

The first thing you need to do when troubleshooting any RV slide-out, is to find out who manufactured it and its model number. Without a doubt, the most popular slide-out in most RV designs these days is manufactured by Lippert Components. These hydraulic slide-outs are manufactured with proper weight distribution in mind and as a rule, they will be larger units that will extend an entire area of your RV. A good example of this slide-out would be when your living area and the dining area are on the same slide. Larger slides such as these are likely to use hydraulic rams located underneath the slide, although some employ a rack and pinion system which utilizes an electric ball screw actuator. Your slide-out motor drives the ball screw in a forward or backward motion which ultimately moves your room in and out. Additionally, the actuator is equipped with an automatic clutching system which is designed to gradually engage the ball screw when activated which prevents damage to the gear drive and the ball screw.

Another type of commonly used slide-out design is called a Schwintek side. This system uses slotted rails on the slide-out, and an electrically driven worm drive that retracts and expands your slide-out as needed.

Some smaller slides manufactured by companies such as Accu-Slide, use a cable withdraw and expansion design which are more focused on slides designed to add a foot or two to your bedroom area, a wardrobe or closet located within that same area. In other words, this type of system is more suited for slide-outs that carry less weight.

Properly identifying your slide-out and its drive design is essential when maintaining or troubleshooting the unit. In fact, most slide-outs require a specific type of lubricant and using the wrong one, could possibly damage the components of your model.

Common slide-out problems and how to prevent them

The first thing I do when maintaining my 5th wheel RV’s slide-outs is to inspect the slide seals. First, fully extend your slide-out and inspect the top of the slide. This should always be done before you retract the slide as well. You don’t want any leaves, sticks or small stones up there when you retract the slide-out as these could possibly damage the seals.

When inspecting the seals, look for any cracks, nicks, or chips in the rubber. These can cause moisture to breach the seal causing damage to the interior of the slide-out and your coach.

Once you’re satisfied with the condition your seals are in, you’ll want to spray Protect All slide-out dry lubricant on a cloth and rub the cloth along the seal on both sides. You’ll need to repeat this process until all of the seals are thoroughly covered with the lubricant.

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Now that you have done this, inspect any window seals on your slide. While applying a lubricant on the window seals may seem odd, remember, this particular brand is a dry lubricant that creates a waxy film that protects a rubber seal from cracking due to prolonged exposure to sunlight. This make it perfectly acceptable for use on any rubber seal on your RV, especially if it’s exposed to ultra-violet light.

This particular brand of lubricate is also highly by me and other RV experts as the one you should use when lubricating a cable driven slide-out. As I said above, this protectant creates a thin waxy film to protect your seals and, in this case, your cables too.

Used on your cables, this lubricant works its way in between the indivisible strands of the cable and further protects them from moisture leading to rust. If you’re winter camping where salt or other corrosives are applied to the roadway or camping next to a saltwater body of water, you should definitely be using this lubricant. With that said, when applying this lube to your cables, simply spray it on your cloth and apply it the same way as you did on your seals.

Final thoughts

As I pointed out earlier in this article, there are four types of slide-out drive systems with those being the hydraulic system, the cable, a rack-and-pinion drive, and the Schwintek system that uses a worm gear drive with a slotted rail to expand and retract your slide-out.

In this article, I have touched upon the best way to maintain and preserve your rubber seals regardless of the class of your motorhome or type of your RV. I have also recommended a rubber seal lubricant and preserver that I use often on the window seals of my RV.

However, different slide-out systems require different care and different lubricants. While I can’t break down all of the variables of the four slide-out designs and how best to maintain them in this single article, in upcoming articles, I hope to share some of my thoughts on other designs and their maintenance too. In the meantime, be sure to read my guide on RV maintenance for essential components, including slide outs.

As always, my friends, thanks for following along with my column. I hope to see out on the road sometime soon. Drive safe and stay healthy.

By Brian

Born and raised in Michigan, contributing writer Brian C. Noell is a retired hospitality industry professional that now works remotely as a visual artist, writer and photographer as he travels around the United States in an RV with his dog Lizzy, an eighty pound Appenzeller hound dog.