“Hi – can you do an article on slides? I own a 2018 24 ft Freedom TT with a slide and I’m not quite sure what I should be doing to maintain it so it operates well. Recently during a long trip in the rain, I discovered a leak when I opened the slide so a general article would be very helpful. Thanks.”
I hope the information I have written below helps you to understand how to maintain your slide(s). I may have told you more than you care to know, but just skip over the parts that you are not interested in. Lol!
In the early days of RVs, the living space in a trailer or motorhome was determined only by the actual length and width of the RV. Manufactures did their best to make use of the space with built in cabinets,and lots of fold out innovations like shelves and even beds.
In the late 90s that began to change when the first slide outs began to emerge. Gradually over the years, the numbers of slide outs in RVs increased from 1,2,3 and now 4 is very common. Some RVs have even more. I have seen a couple of very large fifth wheels with 5 and 6 slides. A recent trend is to make a slide called a “wall slide”. This very large slide can run almost the entire length of one side of the RV and makes for an incredibly roomy feel.
Many RVers have a “love-hate” relationship with their slides. The love the added room and incredibly spacious feel, but hate the fact that slides can be a problem sometimes. They either won’t go our or won’t go in! Slides can also leak.
It is best to give you a brief explanation as to the different kinds of slides and how they work. There may be other variations that I am not detailing here, but the principles will be similar.
Slides in RVs are basically of two types: mechanical and hydraulic
- Mechanical slides are propelled by an electric motor. One example of this type of slide is the Schwintek slide that uses a sprocket which ratchets along tracks that are attached to the sides of the slide.
- Below are some pictures of what this slide looks like. Note that the arrows show that you should make sure that there is a thin bead of caulking along the upper edge of where this track is attached to the slide as it can leak along this edge.
- below is a picture of the motor in a Schwintek slide and how it interacts with the track along the slide:
- Mechanical slides can also function with cables and with a rack and pinion design.
- Hydraulic slides also use an electric motor attached to a pump that pumps liquid under pressure in a cylinder that is attached to an arm that pushes and pulls the slide in and out. This is a pretty simplistic description but i hope that you get the general idea. Below is a diagram showing the mechanism, courtesy of Winnebago.
So that now you have a general idea of how slides work, how do you maintain them?
Here are some tips:
- Make sure to extend and retract your slides all the way. The seals will not do their job of keeping out water and dirt if they are not flush against the slide wall when it is extended and the inside seals need to be flush against the inside wall when retracted.
- The gaskets around the slides are really critical to making sure that you don’t get leaks around the slide while driving and while stationary and with slides extended.
- When the slides are extended, it is important for the proper seal for the slide to be fully deployed. It is very common for the gasket to remain folded in after the slide is extended as in the picture below.
- The easiest and simplest way to correct this is to take the end of a pole, preferably with a smooth plastic handle end, and put it under the gasket. Gently slide it up unfolding it as you go. See the picture below.
- It is recommended that you coat these gaskets with a good quality UV protectant like 303.
- It is also recommended that if you have a track on the side of your slide like those in the Schwintec system, you keep the track clean and free of debris.
- Sometimes slides will end up pulling to one side or another and will need realigning. In our opinion, realigning a hydraulic slide is best left up to a qualified RV mechanic.
- Schwintec slides are different. They get out of alignment because the two electric motors that use the tracks to extend and retract get out of sync. There is simple process that you can go through to realign the slide if it seems to extend or retract unevenly. Below is a great video that shows you how to correct a slide that is out of alignment and to prevent it from getting that way. They refer to this realignment process as “retiming” the slide.
- It is a good idea to periodically inspect the mechanical parts of your slides, that are visible, for dirt and debris.
- A good spray with a dry lubricant will also help to clean and lubricate. There are lots of specific slide lubrication products on the market, but to be honest, I have not used them, so I cannot recommend any.
- I can recommend the PTFE product by WD40 below. This spray is recommended by Schwintec if you wish to lubricate the track and sprocket. This product is good for spraying any exposed parts of your slide mechanism as it won’t attract dirt. You can also use it to clean the parts by spraying it on then wiping it off.
- Both types of slides usually use rollers underneath the slide to assist in the smooth movement extending and retracting. In my experience there is no indication from the manufacturer that these rollers need maintenance of any kind. It is very important that you take care, however, not to let any household items that might fall on the floor, find their way into these rollers.
- My recommendation is that any other form of maintenance or adjustment to your slides be left to an RV mechanic.