By Gary Motley
Motley RV Repair Center
Slideouts are probably the post popular innovation on RVs in the past 25 years. Automatic stabilizers are also a very popular option. You will notice I used the term “stabilizers” and not jacks. Current technical information often refers to these devices as stabilizers instead of jacks because they aren’t intended to be used as jacks. In fact, it is a safety concern.
To get most of my information for this article, I asked my technicians to give me their ideas based on jobs we have done and concerns we have repaired that normal maintenance or proper use would have prevented. Thanks to Allen, Ron, Carole, John and Mark for their help.
PROPER USE, MAINTENANCE AND CARE OF SLIDES
- Make sure all travel locks, travel nuts and spring locks are in the proper position before attempting to operate a slide.
- Cabinet doors, drawer fronts, etc. can create problems when extending or retracting slides. Be sure they are positioned properly for this purpose. I have seen some pretty ingenious ideas to keep them from opening while traveling. Often they can come out and when the slide is extending they are not visible. If they have come out, you will not know. This is the reason for these devices.
- Do not use the top of a retracted slide for storage.
- Make sure there is no debris on the top of the slide before retracting or extending. Clean the top of the slide awning or slide. This is a good idea each time.
- All lower compartment doors should be closed and the area below the slide clear of obstructions before retracting.
- A slide is designed to operate properly with the weight the factory installs. A small amount of additional weight is acceptable. Use judgment when storing additional weight on the slide. This is also true for slide bays. Put the rock collection elsewhere. On a side note, be aware of overall weight factors for your RV.
- Always check for obstruction in front of the slide before retracting. The same is true for extending.
- Keep the slide tracks, equalizer gears, etc. cleaned and properly lubed. Use only soft brushes to prevent scratching the hydraulic cylinder extended rams.
- When slide rams are extended for long periods of time, a slight coating of hydraulic oil can help prevent the polished ram from rusting or pitting. This is particularly true in salt air. Clean it before retracting to remove dust, etc.
- Keep an eye on the floor in front of the slide when the slide is extended. Abnormal wear would indicate a need to adjust the slide.
- On most slides the top hits first when retracting. The ram(s) then pull the bottom in to seal. The opposite is true when expanding.
- The retract/expand ram(s) on most slide rooms is not affixed positive to the bracket on the slide itself. The nut is generally not pulled tight to the bracket. This is to allow the ram to work up and down in the bracket.
- There are numerous slide systems. Each one has a different adjustment procedure. When adjusting be sure the guidelines from the slide system manufacturer are followed.
- Lubricate the slide flaps (sweeps) and seals periodically for best results. Several companies make a spray for slide sweeps.
- Periodically inspect the underside of your extended slide for unusual wear patterns and adjust or repair as needed.
- The in-and-out function of the slide can cause damage to the main side wall or the inside/outside seal flanges. This can be done by continuing to ask the slide to move after it is fully extended or retracted. Too much pressure can cause the slide room seal flanges or side wall to bend or break loose. If your slide does not have a means to prevent further movement when the seals are fully engaged, do not continue pushing the button.
- Many slides have an electrical switch, called a potentiometer, which is a device to prevent excessive slide seal pressure. These devices are adjustable. Proper adjustment is critical. Read your manual or contact qualified personnel.
- At one time one of these potentiometer systems had an electronic defect. TV remotes and garage door remotes could cause the slide room to activate. The fix for this was to put a switch in the 12-volt DC line side of the switch and turn it off unless being used.
PROPER USE, MAINTENANCE AND CARE OF STABILIZERS
- Keep the springs clean and properly attached. Replace them if they appear to be stretching.
- If any stabilizers bleed down when extended there is a leak or other concern that needs immediate attention.
- Stabilizer pads should have stable and fairly flat surfaces to rest on when the ram is extended. A sloping or unstable contact surface could cause slipping or side load on the stabilizer. (Kwikee had a recall on their bolts that hold the foot on. Check with your dealer.)
- The cleaning and long term extension of the rams dictates care much like the slide rooms.
- When extending stabilizers, follow your owner manual as far as the sequence of which stabilizer to extend when. Extending them in an improper sequence can put undue stress and strain on the windshield, chassis, and slide room openings. I have seen many windshields pop out or crack as a result of this. I have also seen main body sidewalls crack from this. These cracks generally originate at the corners of the slide room openings.
- Stabilizers often have lights and buzzers to indicate when one stabilizer is still down. If you ever suspect a problem with one of these, check it out for proper operation.
MAINTENANCE COMMON TO SLIDES AND STABILIZERS
- Read your manual to determine proper maintenance intervals. For carefree operation always follow proper maintenance procedures.
- Receiving installation maintenance and user information for any new part or accessory installed on your RV is a must. This information is crucial in helping you get the most enjoyment of the installed item(s). Fill out and return all warranty. This is sometimes for your safety and an opportunity to receive updates and new product information in relation to the item(s) purchased. Have this information available for technicians if service is ever needed. The serial number and model number can be very helpful when technicians are gathering information to service the item(s).
- Know where all the 12-volt DC fuses and circuit breakers are located for these features and check these first if you think you have a problem.
- I can’t stress enough the importance of battery maintenance, clean terminals, and good ground connections. Low power can damage a slide or stabilizer.
- Keep hydraulic reservoirs full of the proper hydraulic fluid. Clean around the filler cap before removing the cap to help prevent unwanted contaminants in the reservoir. When checking these reservoirs for full, stabilizers and slide rooms should be in the retracted position.
- In some instances the electronics and switches are exposed to road grime from under the RV. They have come from the factory with a protective cover. It is important this protective cover not be removed. It is a good idea to check that it is performing properly and protecting the controls.
- Slides and stabilizers have many different safety features as to when they will operate. Switch on or off, Stabilizers up or down, etc. Always refer to the manual if they are not performing and make certain all these settings are met.
- Most manuals advise the RV should be level with the stabilizers extended firmly before the slide is operated in or out.
Thank you for reading this article. Use these points to improve the long time enjoyment of your RV.