Tuesday, April 5, 2016

RV Slides - they add room to your RV, but must be maintained.



The addition of Slides to RV’s has revolutionized the interior designs of RV’s, by giving you, the owner much more floor space to enjoy once you arrive at your campsite. 

If your RV has one or more slides, and nearly all of the newer ones do, there are a few things you should know.




The first thing to mention is the type of drive system for the slides on your RV. There are still some Hydraulic Slides, but the majority are Electrical on Motorhomes. And, there are even hybrids of these two on some RV designs. 

Regardless of the type, each requires specific maintenance to assure they operate properly. Be sure to read your owners manuals to educate yourself on what to monitor. 

If the manuals are vague, I recommend a call to your manufacturer’s technical team, and query them on the location of where the key parts are, and what you should know and be able to check, yourself.

Many Slides have awnings attached on the top. This is a great device that was once an option, but has become almost standard. It keeps debris off of the top of the RV, as well as keeping rain away from your top seal on your slide. 

As good as it is, you should get your ladder out and check the top of the slide if you have been at a site for several weeks, especially if you are at a site that has been windy and you have shade trees nearby. You may be surprised at what you find.

To reach between the top of the slide and the slide awning, I use an extendable painters pole, and have a number of different “screw-on” attachments that I have bought and some of which I have made myself for reaching and cleaning those hard to get to places on an RV

Hydraulic Slide 

Hydraulic Slide drive systems were once favored by manufacturers, and do require some additional maintenance. They will utilize a Hydraulic reservoir in the system, and the level in the reservoir, as well as the seals on the drive and hoses will require periodic monitoring for degradation and leaks. 

 I understand that there were once some RV’s that utilized a single hydraulic system for both Jacks and Slides, but I don’t have any specific names available at this time.

Electric Slides


Electric Slides are dominant today and relatively simpler to maintain, especially without the heartache of the extra hydraulic systems maintenance requirements. 

Electric Slides function by applying power to a gearbox, which pushes the “straight gear” attached to the bottom of the slide, thus moving the slide in or out.

Slide Tool: 


If your RV has Electric Slides, then your RV probably came with a rod, about 12-inches long. This is your Emergency tool for manually closing a jammed slide, or one with an electrical problem, or whatever has caused it to not operate properly. Keep it in a safe place


Lubricate the Gears: 


A maintenance tip here for the owner that believes in Preventive Maintenance. You should lubricate your slide gears and any alignment grooves/braces that the slide itself rides on when operated. 

This is probably the number one cause of problems with slides jamming, so check your owners manual for specific requirements for your rig, or if you can’t find the information, lubricate them every 2-3 months at a minimum.

Using Jacks with Slides 


Another cautionary note on your slides. When you are going to be at a campsite, even for an extended period of time DO NOT use Slide Jacks. 

The only possible exception, is if your manufacturer specifically requires you to do so, and I don’t know of any that do. IF you put a Jack under your extended slide, and the RV settles, the tire pressure lowers, or whatever, it can cause permanent damage to your Slide mechanism and/or the slide seals where they will not seat and seal properly to the RV body. 

Level your RV, extend your Slides, and enjoy yourself. They are designed to operate on a level vehicle, and stay set up indefinitely.


Slide Seals


The other big thing to monitor and care for on a slide is the weather seals. When your slide is fully closed, a set of rubber seals around the perimeter of the slide join to a set of seals on the body to keep the outside air and weather from entering the coach. 

Conversely, when the slide is extended fully, another set of seals around the inner perimeter of the slide join to another set of seals on the body to again keep the outside weather on the outside while extended.

These gaskets make a big difference in the cost of heating and cooling your coach, and the seals must be kept in good condition, stay supple, and not dry out. 

See the figure above as an example of a seal that was cut too short on a slide. With a gap this big (over 1-inch) your AC is going to work overtime to make up for the lost cooling; and, if you are in a cold climate, cold air will be seeping in and causing your furnace to cycle more often.

And, even more costly are the long rubber-type gaskets along the top, bottom, and sides of your slide. 

When these are not lubricated regularly, they can start to harden, or even worse, crack and tear. 

When you get to your site and set up your RV, be sure to check that all of these gaskets have flexed and seated properly, and are providing a good seal between the RV and the slide.

NOTE: A good tool for reaching up and adjusting slide gaskets is your awning pull rod. You can slide it between the slide body and the gasket easily to straighten the gasket.

Also, when you button up your RV as part of your "walk-around" before leaving the site, check that all of your slides are firmly against the RV body at all four corners. 

If not, re-set the slides, and of this problem persists, contact your manufacturer for what you should do. I had this happen with one of my RV's, and the people at an "approved service center" had to re-align the slide which is a tricky operation. 

Oh Yeah, ask and make sure that the techs assigned to work on your RV, for anything, is an approved, trained tech.

by Don Bobbitt, 2016