Slide Outs: The Benefits, Things to Consider and Proper Care & Storage

RV slide outs—we love them! Whether you call them “slides” or “slide outs”, they can make all the difference in RV livability, giving you much more room in areas that can otherwise feel cramped, such as galley kitchens and master bedrooms. Back in the day, slide outs could be difficult to use, but thanks to Mahlon Miller of Newmar Corporation, who is considered to be the “Father of Power Slide Outs” and has been named among the 100 Most Influential People in the History of the RV Industry, today’s slide outs are remarkably easy to use, and have become fundamental to modern RV design.

Extra living space might not matter so much if you use your RV only for summer camping, when you’re going to spend the vast majority of your time outside enjoying the beautiful weather. If, for instance, you’re the intrepid cook who does everything on a grill or over the campfire, then maybe you don’t need much kitchen storage in your RV, and so the extra cost of a slide out is wasted money for you. But if you spend a lot of time in your RV, whether that’s because you’re a four-season camper or a snowbirder, or if you use your RV in situations when you need every inch of space that you can get—hunters who use truck campers or families who need extra beds, for instance—then a slide out can be crucial to both comfort and having the space you need to bring your gear.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at slide outs: the benefits, the things to consider, and how to take good care of them.

The Benefits of Slide Outs: All That Extra Space, and Some Cool Amenities, Too

Okay, so maybe this is a no-brainer because the benefits are obvious, right? Slide outs give you extra living, storage and relaxing space in your RV. And when you start to talk about multiple slide outs, full wall slide outs, or opposing slide outs directly across from each other, you get the maximum benefits. A well-planned bedroom slide out, for example, gives you space for a walk-around queen or king bed, as well as extra room for wardrobe closets or drawers, not to mention places to put necessities like a CPAP machine or a humidifier. Similarly, a slide out in the kitchen area can make room for a larger refrigerator/freezer, a full oven and more countertop space, all of which can be crucial to families who want to get away for a few days on a budget. And for folks who live the RV lifestyle more regularly, a full wall slide out or opposing slide outs in the living room area create space for residential style furniture, large screen TVs and entertainment systems, gas or electric fireplaces and other amenities that give your RV that home-away-from-home feeling that is so important when you’re spending months on the road or in campgrounds. Well-built slide outs in the right places can transform a regular RV into a fantastic RV.

If You’re Purchasing an RV: Should You Get a Slide Out or Not?

Now that we’ve established that we love them, we have to admit that not everybody needs them. RVs with slide outs tend to cost a little more than those without them, so it’s important to consider whether or not your RV lifestyle is going to make the extra cost worth it. A lot of RVers we talk to give this question a resounding “yes” right away, and not just the folks who are living in their RVs full time. As we mentioned above, sportsmen who use truck campers for hunting or fishing seasons find that a slide out gives them that extra bit of room they need for their gear, their ice chests, and the deer or that limit of fish they’re bringing home at the end of the trip. Similarly, lightweight family-friendly travel trailers often depend on a slide out to make enough sleeping and dining room for larger families. However, if you’re in the market for an RV and you only camp a few times a year, a slide out may be a luxury you don’t really need. On the other hand, getting that extra space and amenities might be the very thing that makes you want to head out camping more often. So spend some time really thinking about your individual needs before you shell out the cash.

How you like to travel is a big consideration. If you tend to stay put in one place for a while, then slide outs can make your life so much more comfortable and enjoyable. But if you love the road-tripping life, some RVers say they find the daily fussing with slide outs to be tiresome. In this case, it comes down to comfort vs. convenience.

There’s also the issue of slide out size. Keep in mind that some of the older campgrounds were built in the days before slide outs were common, so it’s important to find out everything you can about the actual size of your campsite. Otherwise, you may find yourself unable to extend your slide out at all, and that might be a problem because some RVs are pretty much impossible to use with the slide outs in. This is especially true of travel trailers and fifth wheels with deep slide outs; if you can’t extend them, you may not be able to get to the refrigerator or the bathroom, much less your bed at the end of the day.

If you’re not sure what your needs are in regard to slide outs, give us a call or come down and talk to one of our knowledgeable salespeople; they’ve been selling RVs for a lot of years and can give you some great insights.

Slide Outs Require Maintenance: There’s No Getting Around It

Slide outs require regular maintenance, and just like us humans, the older they get, the more maintenance they need to keep them in working order. Essentially there are two types of slide out drive systems: electric and hydraulic. They each have areas of vulnerability. Smaller, lighter slide outs tend to be moved by electric motors. This is great, so long as they’re built well and not overloaded, but as you can imagine, any number of things can go wrong with the motor, the gears, etc. Larger, heavier slide outs are generally run on hydraulic systems that handle those big, full wall slide outs with ease. However, they also have pumps, valves and lines that can leak or break. It’s a lot of work to move an entire room back and forth on a regular basis, and friction, heat and other factors can cause electrical and mechanical problems. And of course your slide outs also experience the constant bounce of traveling, exposure to the weather and all the other aspects that go hand in hand with RVing. These things take their toll on RV slide outs. Unfortunately, one thing can lead to another. For instance, if the roller assembly that moves your slide out becomes unstable or unlevel, it won’t be able to move the room evenly, which can cause floor damage, seal damage and more. This, in turn, can result in leakage, and we all know that water damage in an RV is best avoided at all costs.

If you’ve invested your hard-earned dollars in an RV with a slide out, then it’s worth keeping a close eye on it, so you can appreciate the extra space and comfort it offers you for years to come. Good maintenance is key to long lasting, optimal performance. And if you slack on that maintenance, a slide out might very well be the first place you’ll notice the neglect.

Slide Out Maintenance: The ABCs of Good Care

Our service department sees the results of neglected slide out seals all the time. As the rubber seals age, they get stiff and brittle, and then allow moisture to seep in. Whether your slide out is extended or pulled in, those rubber seals are what stand between the weather and your beautiful RV, so it’s crucial that you maintain that watertight seal. Loose seals can cause damage to insulation, walls and flooring, and provide an opening for insects or rodents to get in. Whether you do it yourself or pay your RV service provider, you must regularly inspect both the top and side seals of your slide out(s). Talk to your service provider so that you fully understand how the seals are supposed to function and make sure you have a good handle on what to look for when they start to fail. Thoroughly inspect them at least twice a year.

To keep your seals conditioned, use a slide out rubber seal conditioner, again at least twice a year or more often if your RV is constantly out in the weather. First wash the seals well, then spray the conditioner on both the inside and outside of the seals. This will not only prolong the lifespan of the seals, it will take some stress off your slide out motor because non-conditioned seals create extra drag as the slide out moves across them. Here’s a great video from a couple of our favorite lifestyle RVers, Gone With the Wynns, about how to condition your slide out seals: RV Tip—Care for Your Slide Out and Stay Out of the Shop.

When it comes time to park your RV between trips or for the winter, store your slide outs closed. This will help keep the elements from eroding the seals, and you won’t run the risk of snow or debris accumulating on the slide out roof. The extra weight of snow or wet tree debris can damage slide out mechanisms and topper awnings. Coating your seals before storage can also help you avoid cracked seals due to freezing temperatures.

Watch and listen to your slide out whenever you operate it. If you notice that it is sounding odd, moving more slowly than usual or seeming to be “jerky” in its movement, stop and check for anything that might be causing this. Has something fallen between the slide out and the RV wall, either on top or on the sides? You’d be surprised how a small pinecone or twig can hang things up and cause larger issues. We’ve heard stories about beer cans, fireworks debris, a lost sock and other interesting items that got caught between the slide out and the wall opening. Also, check to see if maybe a drawer or cabinet door opened during travel and is now in the way of the slide out. If you can’t find any obvious reason why your slide out isn’t behaving as it normally does, it may need to be re-aligned. Now is the time to take your RV into your favorite service center, because you really don’t want to cause damage to the motor or find yourself unable to close the slide out when you need to the next time. That would make for a bad end to a good camping trip.

Slide outs can make your RVing experience all the better in terms of comfort, livability and overall enjoyment. They do need regular maintenance, but with regular checkups and care, they will serve you well for years to come. If you’d like to know more about different kinds of slide outs and how they can improve your overall RVing experience, give us a call or come on over to Junction City. We’ll be glad to show you the variety of options that are on the highways today.

Photo: Guaranty

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