Slide Outs on a recreational vehicle (RV) provide extra living space. They can stop working for a number of reasons and can cause stress and aggravation at the beginning or end of a camping trip or vacation. While there’s no simple fix-all solution, there are several areas you can check to figure out what to do if an RV slide out stops working.
If your RV slide-out stops working, check a few simple solutions first: Make sure your batteries are charged. Make sure there are no obstructions preventing the slide out from going out. If you have after-market slide locks, check to make sure they have been removed. Determine if your slide-outs are electric or hydraulic.
If you have an electric slide out:
- Check fuses and wiring
- Check house batteries
- Check the motor’s shear pins
If you have a hydraulic slide out:
- Check for leaks in the hydraulic line
- Check the pressure of the pump
- Check hydraulic valve
You can manually extend or retract the slide-outs, but this will not work on all RVs. It is important to check the owner’s manual before proceeding with this option to avoid voiding the warranty.
To understand why your slide-out isn’t working, it’s important to know what kind of slide-out system you have. It’s also possible the problem lies outside of the slide-out, such as a simple obstruction. Keeping your RV and slide-outs in good condition is the best way to prevent future slide-out problems.
What is an RV Slide Out? Do All RVs Have It?
RV slide outs are extendable living spaces that add extra room in an RV. When parked, slide outs can extend out and add a significant amount of living space to an otherwise cramped RV.
RVs can come equipped with multiple slide outs, or a single slide out, and can be electrically or hydraulically operated. This depends mostly on personal preference.
Not all RVs have slide outs. Slide outs add additional maintenance and cost, but can be worth it if planning to spend a significant amount of time in your RV due to the additional space.
What Are the Different Types of RV Slide Outs?
There are two types of RV Slide Outs: electric and hydraulic. Each have their own unique design and workings. Typically, electric slide outs are found on smaller RVs, while hydraulic slide outs are used on larger RVs and require more power.
Electric Slide Outs
Electric-powered slide outs are typically used on smaller, lighter slide outs. They are often powered by an electric motor that is used to move the slide in and out. There are several types of electric slide out systems such as the rack and pinion, pully and cable, schwintek, and the power gear system. Some of the highlights of an electric slide system include:
- Powered by an electric motor that spins a shaft or pinion
- Several different systems to fit individual slide sizes or needs
- Runs on 12-volt DC power from the house battery
- Will work even when not plugged into shore power (also called dry camping)
Hydraulic Slide Outs
Bigger and heavier RV slide outs are typically moved by a hydraulic system. The hydraulics are able to generate more pushing and pulling power to maneuver the heavier slide in and out. Mechanically speaking, the hydraulic slide out uses a system similar to a rack and pinion slide system. Some of the highlights of a hydraulic slide out system include:
- Uses pump to push hydraulic fluid into tubes and create pressure
- Uses one system to power multiple slide outs
- No need for multiple electric slides
- Individual hydraulic flow valves let you control individual slides
Whether your RV has an electric or hydraulic slide out system, there may be times when it’s either not moving out or refuses to slide back in. Knowing which type of system you have will make solving the problem easier, and get you back to camping.
Why Won’t Your RV Slide Out Work (And What to Do About It)?
When you’re setting up camp and the slide outs just aren’t moving, it can be frustrating. When you know what type of slide out system you have, it narrows down the possible solutions. There is also the possibility that your problem lies outside of the slide out system.
Problems Outside of The Slide Out
You can’t always blame the slide out system when the slide outs aren’t working. Sometimes the problem lies elsewhere in your RV.
- House batteries
Usually at campsites your RV will be connected to shore power. Shore power is distributed to your RV to power things such as lights and electricity, not necessarily to operate anything. Equipped with a 30-amp or 50-amp adaptor, shore power should give your RV enough juice to power your slide out system.
With this being said, being plugged into shore power doesn’t always guarantee your house batteries are charged. And sometimes, you may not have shore power available, and are running on power you provide yourself via batteries or solar power. If your house batteries don’t have enough power, your slide outs will not work.
- Slide obstructions
Driving on bumpy, muddy roads or in bad weather with your RV can cause debris to get lodged into your slide outs. A rogue stick or caked mud can wedge itself in the slide out and cause it not to extend or retract.
If you cannot see any obvious obstruction, listen for odd sounds when the motor is running (if you have an electric slide out system). If the motor is laboring or making odd sounds, the problem could be an obstruction. Make sure to check your slide out areas carefully and remove any obstruction or debris.
- Slide locks
Camping with an RV has a ton of moving parts. There are so many things to remember to do before starting or ending your RV trip. In the midst of the chaos, it’s possible to forget a few simple things when the slide out stops working. One of these is forgetting to remove slide locks.
Slide locks are an aftermarket purchase that stops slide outs from moving around while driving. If you have these installed, make sure to check that they have been removed before trying to extend your slide outs.
Problems with Electric Slide Outs
Electric slide outs are powered by an electric motor. There are several systems, but for the most part they operate by spinning a shaft or pinion that moves the slide in or out. This system draws directly from the RV house batteries. If you have problems with an electric slide out, here are the possible issues:
- Blown fuses and faulty wiring
Electric slide outs use a lot of power when operating. Your slide out might refuse to budge because a fuse has blown. If you’re unsure where the fuses are, or how to replace them, check the owner’s manual for further guidance, as each RV is set up in its own unique way.
It is also a good idea to check the wiring associated with your electric slide system. Exposure to moisture or excessive cold or heat can cause wires to faulter.
- Motor and gearbox failures
Motors are used in electric slide systems to drive a gear system that moves the slides in and out. If you push the button to move your slide and you hear the motor running, but nothing else is happening, it may be the shear pins of the motor are broken. This is rare, but a possibility.
When motor failure happens, it can be difficult to fix due to the location of the motor. If you have a rack and pinion slide out system, it can be really difficult to manually push in the slides. On the other hand, pulley and cable slide outs are easy to manually slide in and out.
- House batteries
As you can see, batteries play a big part in RV life. It’s mentioned several times already throughout this article, but it’s worth repeating. Electric slide outs require power from the battery to operate. If the house batteries are not charged, the system will not operate.
Problems with Hydraulic Slide Outs
Hydraulic slide out systems are used for bigger, heavier slides than an electric system. They use hydraulic fluid to create pressure. This pressure pushes against a piston that is attached to the slide out, making it move outward. If the hydraulic fluid is pumped in the opposite direction, the pressure is reversed. This will cause the slide out to retreat into the RV when you are ready to leave. Possible issues with hydraulic systems include the following:
- Low hydraulic fluid
Hydraulic fluid is used to create pressure to help your slide outs move in and out. If the hydraulic fluid is low, there won’t be enough pressure to push the slide outs in and out, especially since hydraulic slide outs are typically heavier than usual.
You owner’s manual can direct you how to replace hydraulic fluid and fill the reservoir. It’s important to understand exactly what type of fluid you need so that you do not mix different types of fluids. This can create problems and cause you to need to flush the entire system and replace it with the correct fluid.
- Fluid leaks
Another possible reason you have low hydraulic fluid is because there is a leak in the line. This can be due to several possible reasons such as general wear and tear, extreme heat or cold, or accidental holes when performing maintenance.
This can be fixed with a splice, but many RVers suggest taking it to a professional to get the line replaced entirely. Splices do not always work and can sometimes fail soon after. Replacing the line will fix the problem completely.
- Faulty valves
One of the benefits of using a hydraulic system is that you only need one system to operate all the slides. Valves are used to control which slide the hydraulic fluid goes to. If the valves are faulty, the fluid cannot reach the tubes that create pressure to move the slide outs.
How to Prevent Future Issues with Your RV Slide Out?
RV slide outs give you extra living space in your RV, making your trip more comfortable and enjoyable. When your slide outs stop working, it puts a damper on any trip and causes friction and tension. Taking steps to prevent slide out issues can ease your trip and make RVing fun again. Here are some tips to prevent future issues with your RV slide out:
- Drive slow on rough roads
Driving on rough roads can bump your slide outs while driving. This can also expose your slide outs to dirt, mud, sticks, and other debris that can cause obstructions, preventing your slide outs from working. Taking it a little slower on rough roads will help keep your slides in top shape.
- Open and close on level ground
Slide outs are heavy, weighing as much as a ton. When extending and retracting these slide outs, they must be on level ground. The roller assembly that is embedded in the outer frame of the RV is what the slide out moves on. This must be stable as the slide out moves. If the slide outs are not level, damage can occur such as loss of insulation and leaks.
- Check seals often
Watertight seals are used around the slide out of your RV. These are used to keep the weather out, but can wear down over time. This can be due to simple age of the seals, or due to extreme weather causing them to become stiff and leak. This can create problems like water leaks, letting cool air in or out, and insect invasions. Keep a close eye on your seals.
Problems with your RV slide out are frustrating to say the least. Knowing what type of system you have as well as how to fix it will help get you back to camping in no time.
Pros and Cons of An RV Slide Out
With all of these possible problems with RV slide outs, is it worth having them? Or would you be better off in an RV without them? There are several pros and cons to having an RV slide out. It’s important to take into consideration what kind of travelling you plan to do, and how long you intend to remain on the road. This will help you determine if you need an RV with slide outs.
- More living space
- Chances of a malfunction are small
- Makes travelling feel more homey
- Several different options to fit individual needs
- Hydraulic leaks
- Adds weight
- Need more space when parking
The biggest advantage to having slide outs is adding to your living space. This makes RV living more comfortable and homier. However, before choosing an RV with slide outs it’s important to understand all the possible complications that can happen.
Can You Drive If Your RV Slide Out Is Open?
If you’re getting ready to leave camp and can’t seem to get your slide outs to retract, you cannot drive your RV. It is important to make sure your slide outs are completely closed and secure.
Driving with your slide outs open will cause significant damage to your slide out. In addition to making your RV wider, driving with the slide out open can cause a dangerous shifting of weight.
Most slide outs can be physically pushed in if the electric or hydraulic system is not working. It is also important to remember to secure your slide outs once they are retracted.
Having an RV with slide outs can make camping more comfortable and enjoyable, giving you a homey feeling while travelling. It’s never fun when something stops working, especially your extra living space. Make sure you understand what kind of system you have, electric or hydraulic, in order to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it. If in doubt, always consult a professional to fix your slide out problems.
Hi, I am Brad. Car Independent is your source for independent views on cars and car accessories. Whether you looking to buy a new car or something cool for your car, you have many options. My aim to help you make the best-informed choices.