RV slide outs are a tremendous asset for many travelers and full-time RVers. The slide outs open the living space, transforming the RV into a spacious home. Most slideouts are set up to open the living room but many are also incorporated into the bedroom space as well. Slideouts are often overlooked in terms of maintenance and neglect can cause issues with performance and waterproofing. Luckily, basic maintenance requires little time and will keep your slideouts working smoothly for a very long time.
Types of Slide Out Mechanisms
Not all slideouts are constructed the same and many different mechanisms exist to move the slides in and out. Every slide out requires power to move on a track and this power comes in different forms. Hydraulic power, electric, cables and chains are all common means of opening and closing. Regardless of the mechanism, the slide moves on a track that requires a clean and lubricated path to function properly. Dirt, grime and material buildup will block and gum up the track, creating issues that prevent the slideout from opening or closing.
The second issue that can occur is a failure in the power source. A leak in the hydraulic system will reduce or seize power and a failure in the electrical system will have the same result. Ensuring the electrical and hydraulic systems are powered and functioning properly will power the slide outs and move them along at a normalized pace. The most common issues with hydraulic systems are leaks and pump failures. Check your pump and fluid reservoir to ensure the fluid level is full and the pump is working. If the pump fails, a replacement is often necessary.
On the electrical front, always do an inspection of the connections and clean away any corrosion that may interrupt the cables. Test your battery when boondocking or plug into shore power before operating the slides at home or RV parks. Ideally, you will utilize power to open and close the slides, preserving battery power for outages and boondocking.
Cleaning and Lubrication
The best thing you can do for slideouts is regular cleaning and lubrication cycles. Leaving slide outs open for an extended period of time makes them especially vulnerable and the tracks should be cleaned and lubricated before storage. This means it will slide back out in the future rather than sticking from the buildup of dirt and grime in the system.
Cleaning is a simple matter of removing dust and spraying the tracks with a lubrication product. Cleaning is done by wiping the exterior with a damp rag to remove surface dust and grime. Before storing, consider using an air powered cleaning canister to spray the tracks. These air canisters are the same ones used to clean computer keyboards and electronics. His step is not always necessary but is prudent, especially when camping in dry, dusty regions.
In terms of lubrication, use an approved product designed specifically for RV slideouts. Typically, a dry silicone style lubricant is used to maintain the track without adding moisture that can cause damage in storage. Purchase your lubricants from RV specific vendors to ensure a good dry silicone spray is used. Spray before storing but also add a spray every couple of months during storage if desired.
Inspect the Seals
The seals are a critical element on slideouts and they use rubber gaskets for waterproofing. The issue with rubberized seals is elemental wear and tear over time. Rubber breaks down when exposed to direct sunlight and it will become brittle over long periods of time. This is a slow process and in some cases, may take decades before seals require replacements.
Maintaining seals involves basic cleaning, treatments to extend the life of the rubber and parking on level ground to prevent water pooling and a potential breach in the seal. Cleaning the seals is similar to the tracks. Take a damp rag and wipe away debris that can work into the cracks and wear down the seal. Work the entire top, sides and exterior of the slideout seal to clean the entire thing. Parking under trees and near plants that shed will increase the frequency at which the seals require cleaning.
Lastly, treat the seals with a rubber protectant to prevent elemental wear and tear. A rubber protector will coat the rubber and add serious life to the seal. Rubber treatments are common and readily available at any hardware store or RV specific retailer. Do a monthly treatment to keep everything in great shape while in use and in storage.