How to Use RV Slide Outs

RV slide out
(photo by Erin via FlickrCC)

Traveling or living in an RV can make for tight quarters. But with an RV slide out, you get bonus square footage that conveniently tucks away when you’re on the road. Small travel trailers with slide outs can become spacious and comfortable, making them a great choice for those looking for a truly home-like experience. Extra space without the extra bulk — what’s not to love?

For the most part, using your RV’s slide out is as simple as flipping a switch. But there are a few things to know before you buy or rent a vehicle with slide outs. Read on to learn more about how to use RV slide outs and how to troubleshoot any problems that might arise.

What to know about your RV pop out

The RV slide out has been around since 1990, when inventor Mahlon Miller created his patented power slide out. Since then, the technology has developed quite a bit — today, there are RVs where the entire kitchen pops out!

If you plan on traveling in an RV with a slide out, be sure to call ahead to the campgrounds where you’d like to stay. Some older campgrounds can’t accommodate these kinds of RVs due to their extended width. No matter what’s allowed, however, it’s always wise to check your surroundings before deploying your slide outs. You’ll want to make sure you can do so without hitting anything next to your campsite, such as a picnic table, barbecue grill, or power source. On that note, it’s suggested that you hook up your RV to the water, sewer, and electric lines before operating your slide outs.

It may sound obvious, but your RV slide outs should only be extended when you are parked. Because slide outs can add three feet of space in either direction, extending them usually makes your RV wider than what’s allowed on the highway. Bottom line: It’s not safe and not smart to use your slide outs at any time other than when you are parked in an area wide enough to accommodate them.

Using the RV slide out mechanism

There are three main types of RV slide outs, each with their own way of operating:

  • An electric slide out has a slide out motor that extends the slide out with the flip of a switch or push of a button. This is the most common kind of RV slide out.
  • hydraulic slide out uses a hydraulic pump to deploy the slide out. This is usually found in larger motorhomes.
  • The tip out is a type of slide out that has a hinge at the bottom that manually “tips out.” This is typical in older RVs.

Making sure the mechanisms are oiled is important to ensure a smooth slide out experience. From time to time, you can use a dry silicone spray or a dry lube protectant to lubricate the bearings. This should become part of your regular preventative maintenance in order to keep everything working as intended.

(photo by mkriedel via FlickrCC)

Troubleshooting RV parts for slide outs

One of the most common problems with RV slide outs is the rubber seal that surrounds them, which can wear down over time and cause leaks and water damage. To delay the inevitable, you can treat your slide outs with a rubber seal conditioner to prevent fading, cracking, and deterioration. If it’s too late, however, you may need to buy replacement rubber seals for your RV. For a quick fix, try using some RV sealant tape to patch things up until you can make a more permanent repair.

More troublingly, you may encounter problems with the RV slide motor. In that case, refer to your RV’s instruction booklet for directions on how to use the manual override. Before you take your rig to the repair shop, check to make sure nothing is physically obstructing the slide out and that you have enough power to operate it. Worst case scenario, you might need to change out the motor altogether.

RV accessories and awnings

Because the walls of a slide out tend to be thin, this part of your RV can become extra hot in the summers or frigid during winter. The RV slide out awning is one feature that can help better regulate your interior temperature. An RV awning (also known as an RV slide topper) helps cool things down when it’s hot and sunny outside while also adding another layer of protection during rainstorms. During the winter, you may consider buying RV skirting, which can block winds and help insulate your rig.

Finally, since RV slide outs are notoriously delicate, it can be a good idea to use slide out supports to help bear the load of the extra weight. Although it’s not a necessity by any means, it can offer a little peace of mind if you have an older RV or if you’re worried about the stability of your slide outs.

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