RV Slide design has improved much over the last ten years and slide outs in your RV allow for more usable living area. A great addition to any camper or RV. They have been called pop-outs, tip-outs, slide-outs, expanding rooms, glide-outs, slide-rooms, and more but, when and if they ever quit working for you, you may even find another not-so-pleasant name for them! Theres nothing like getting to your destination, and the room refuses to slide out for you. Worse yet, you may be packed and ready to leave but the slide won't come in.... YEOW!
Being familiar with your slide system can not only help you to understand how it works but can save you $$$ when explaining the problem to a service technician. It should shorten his diagnostic time and keep you from being taken to the bank. It is the intention of this guide to help identify problems and familiarize yourself with your RVs slide out system. If you have an understanding and you feel comfortable with doing the troubleshooting and repair yourself... GREAT! IN ALL CASES, IF you are in any way hesitant about doing the work yourself, call a knowledgable RV Technician.
Lets get started:
There are several different types of expandable room systems in an RV:
"Tip-Outs" are hinged on the bottom and actually tip out. They are motorized or manually operated, depending on the size. The motorized units will have a cable or strap that helps to hold the unit while travelling in or out. Some times the cable or strap will get bound up but it is usually quite simple to fix, since the majority of these cable/strap systems are exposed and easy to get to.
"Slide-Out" rooms come with several different methods to move the room either in or out. They may be operated manually with a crank or just pushed out by hand while in the larger units, the employment of motor-driven cables, chains, threaded rods, or a rack and pinion system might be used. Further, some may employ hydraulic cylinders and lines to accomplish the task. On these larger slide systems, the floor may "drop" two to four inches into the final opened position, so that the floor is level throughout the RV, or it may simply have a small rise at the edge of the slide room. The majority of larger slide out rooms have a back-up system to crank the room in or out just in case power has been lost to the hydraulic pump or electric motor.... Unfortunately, some do not. (This is an important point to consider when purchasing an RV with a slide(s)... more about that later.)
There are many components to a slide drive system as well. Your system may include switches, wires, breakers, fuses, motors, pumps, gears, bars, hydraulic cylinders, hydraulic lines, cables, pulleys, pins... the list goes on.
Becoming familiar with your slide drive type. Lets run the slide(s) out and crawl underneath one of them. Take a good look at the underside. What do you see? In most cases, the larger slides will probably have two square bars with "teeth" on them. In the "not-so-large" slides you may only see one bar with teeth. This drive system is the most common on RVs due to simplicity and ease of repair. These bars are the "Racks"... part of a rack and pinion system. The "Pinion(s)" will either be exposed, where you can see it or will be on the back side of the frame, in the "Belly" of the unit. These pinions are tied together with a bar that runs between them and is used to keep the slide rooms travel perpendicular to that of the RV itself, so that it moves in and out freely, without binding on the walls of the RV, tearing up gaskets and seals, and making for a less-than-favorable outing. Some manufacturers use the rack and pinion system to drive the slide room in and out, although many are now using the rack and pinion just to keep the room square and moving freely and actually drive the room with a threaded bar powered by a 12 volt electric motor or hydraulic cylinders.
NOTE: Cable-driven slide systems with pulleys and tension springs can be a nightmare for the owner. (and some RV Technicians.) They are being slowly phased out for this reason. Because of the complexity in some design and adjustment, repairs and troubleshooting of cable-driven systems should be left to a competent RV Technician.
Most Slide Drive systems use 12 Volt DC electricity from your RV Batteries to run the motor or motor-driven hydraulic pump, therefore you must have a charged battery and power to the switch for operation. Check the voltage of your battery and charge if/as needed BEFORE any troubleshooting. If there is no response when you operate the slide switch, (provided the battery is charged adequetely) check for fuses or breakers, usually around the location of the battery compartment or hydraulic pump, to insure they are in good working order. If the slide moves slow or jerks when moving, check for binding around the wall that it passes through. I've seen tree branches and other items ( a fishing pole, a wet tightly rolled T-Shirt, beer cans, used fireworks displays, and a "lost" Winegard TV Antenna! ) lodged between the top of the slide and the opposing wall, causing the whole room to come to a stand-still! LOOK for any objects that don't belong and CAREFULLY run your fingers around the inner and outer seals, between the slide and the RVs wall opening, top and sides, checking for foreign objects that have become lodged, using caution not to cut your fingers. If there is no obvious reason for the binding, but it still goes in, pack it up and contact an RV repair center. (It could be that it has lost an adjustment and needs re-aligned or some other problem.)
If you have a hydraulic system , it will have a pump with a hydraulic fluid resevoir. Insure the resevoir is full but not over the fill-line. Check for hydraulic line leaks, There may be one or several valves on the Hydraulic pump. Make note of their position and then tighten them all by turning them clockwise. There are times when the hydraulic fluid is under alot of pressure. Be very careful when working around these lines. Inadvertently introducing air into the system can make things worse.
This is a very common problem... If one side of your RVs slide travels in or out but the other does not, check the bar that runs between the pinion gears. A simple sheer pin/bolt replacement may be all that is needed to fix the problem. If the pinion bar isn't exposed, you may have to get into the "belly" to get access to it. (NOTE: Remember to insure equal distance on both sides of the slide before replacing the sheer-pin/bolt. This can be done by measuring the distance on both sides of the slide and using the button to adjust the working side to match the distance of the non-working side.) Have a helper tap the slide button in or out to line up the holes between the pinion and drive bar. The slide system has alot of pinch points and heavy torque through twisting action that can severely injure you so, for your safety, gloves and safety glasses are suggested.
Regular Slide Maintenance: Apply slide rail lubrication to the rack bars on an annual basis, more so if the slides are used regularly. Baby powder lightly applied to the outer slide seals helps to prolong slide seal life and reduces friction. Check the slide seals for damage and have them replaced/repaired as soon as a problem is discovered. If not done immediately, water dmage could compromise the structure.
In closing, Unlike trailers or RVs without slides, slide out rooms are fantastic because they open up your living space but they can also severely limit access to the inside of the unit when they are in the closed position. They WILL determine where and how you pack your rig for travel or vacation. They WILL determine what areas you will easily access and what areas may be harder to access in the event of slide failure.
IF you are thinking about buying an RV with slides, you already know they are spacious and open on the inside but, have the salesperson run the slides IN so you can see what the RV looks like on the inside, while the slides are IN. Think about the accessability to those areas... about your storage needs. Now think about what you would have to do to gain access to the interior IF the slides failed to work. I've seen RVs that have so many slides, and/or floorplans that were such that you could do little more than stand in the entry way... The slides block any movement to the right or left. It's not a bad thing... The owner just needs to know of the limitations. If you are traveling and need something from your RVs refrigerator, can you get to it without opening a slide... or two? Perhaps you've parked for the night but the slides won't go out because your batteries are dead ( Yeah, it happens) and you want to plug the RV into shore power but you need to access the power distribution panel because the main breaker is off? That happens too...) Can you get to it with the slides in? (NOTE: RV Manufacturers are not bound by any laws or codes in the placement of the Power Distribution Panels at this time but as a rule... for safety sake, slides should not limit access to the 110VAC and 12VDC power distribution box(es) so, make sure the power panel is in an unrestricted area and can be accessed without running a slide out.) Sure, there are several ways to get the slides out if your battery fails, like jumping the RV batteries with jumper cables.... (Oh, wait... I left those INSIDE THE RV... in an area I can't get to... and I'm 100 miles from nowhere!) Ask the salesperson if the slide(s) have a manual backup system to use in the case you need to over-ride the system and have him show you how they work. The more thought you put into it BEFORE something happens, the better you will be prepared when something DOES happen.
If you have any questions, comments or perhaps need help with an RV related issue, drop me a line at email@example.com