Tuesday, April 5, 2016

RV Slides - add room to your RV, but they 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 the large fivers and tag-alongs. 

And, there are even hybrid systems of these two on some of the other RV designs. 

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

If the owners manuals are vague on this, as many are, I recommend a call to your manufacturer’s technical team (usually called customer support), and query them on the locations of the key parts, and what you should know and be able to check things, yourself.

Slide Awnings

Many RV Slides have awnings attached on the top. This is a great device that was once an option, but has become standard for all manufacturers. These awnings keep debris off of the top of the RV, as well as directing rain away from your top seals on your slide. 

As good as these awnings work, if you have been parked for several weeks or longer, with your slides open, you should occasionally get your ladder out and check the top of the slide.

 You may be surprised at what you find. It's not unusual to find such things as; deal leaves, twigs, mud-dauber, wasp, and other insect nests, along with even the occasional birds nest.

If there is something I need to remove, I will reach between the top of the slide and the slide awning, using an extendable painters pole. 

I have a number of different “screw-on” attachments that I have purchased and I have made a few myself just for reaching and cleaning those hard to get to places on the top of an RV slide.

Hydraulic Slide 

Hydraulic Slide drive systems were once favored by manufacturers, and these do require some additional maintenance over an electrical system. 

They 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 small  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.

When your Slides will not close?

Newer electrical slides have a "control box" attached to each slide that manages the function of the slide. These boxes often go bad, but if you have a newer design, such as a Bounder, when these controllers quit, there is an "emergency close" function that is not documented, but if you call the manufacturers customer service they can tell you how to get your slide to close under these conditions. 

Slide Tool: 

Some of the older manufacturers provide a manual way to close a non-functioning slide. If your RV has Electric Slides, then it probably came with a strange looking 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 this tool in a safe place.

Lubricate the Gears: 

Here's a maintenance tip here for the owner of an older RV 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 or allows you to do so, and I don’t know of many that do. 

If you put a Jack under your extended slide, and the RV settles, or 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 almost 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, 2017