RV Slide Out Guide – Read This First


There are a lot of things to think about when purchasing an RV – how big of a rig do you need? Will you use it mostly for short trips or longer journeys? Do you want a slide 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!

Slide outs can be a huge improvement – they give you more room to move around. However, some people are uncertain about purchasing an RV with a slide out, or about using slide outs on occasion, because they worry about taking up too much room with their rig, or about how long it will take to set up and take down the slide out. Contrary to fears, slide outs are easy to set up, but there are a few things to consider about motorhome slide outs. 

Should you get an RV slide out?

If you tend to camp in one spot for a long time, you may want to consider an RV or camper slide out. However, if you tend to spend just one or two nights before driving again, you may not want to set up an RV slide out each night. The number of people you’ll be traveling with is also a factor – an entire family may want more room than just one or two people on the road. Bedroom slide outs are the most popular, because bedrooms in RVs are notoriously small and can be cramped.

Before you open your slide out

If you do want to set up your slide out, check the campsite before you reserve it to make sure there’s plenty of room for you. Ask or look online to see if there are trees, utility posts, or other obstructions that might block your RV slideout from extending. 

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.

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 Slide Out Repair

Keep in mind that while RV slide outs make your rig much more comfortable and convenient, they also come with a whole new set of maintenence issues. The mechanics of sliding a room in and out that weighs over a thousand pounds is an amazing feat that requires some extra attention. Watch the vertical stance of the slide as it moves to make sure its stable – it should not tip in or out as it is extended and retracted. Poor stability can damage your floor and affect the RV slide out rubber seal. 

Sealing slide outs is another challenge, especially when they’re extended. RV slide outs are a major source of water leaks, especially as the RV slide out rubber seal ages and stiffens. You’ll need to make sure you keep the rubber seal in good shape and well softened so it doesn’t crack and allow water in.  

If your slide out does fail at some point, many motorhomes have a manual override that allows you to retract the slide and head somewhere for repairs. However, some do not – leaving you with the sides out and requiring you to find an RV repair company that will come to you to fix the problem or get you to their shop. As the RV gets older, you may also find the motor losing some power. 

Slide outs can be a huge factor in having a comfortable and roomy motorhome, just keep in mind that they may require some extra maintenance as well.

Happy camping!


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