Slide outs are probably the post popular innovation on RVs in the past 50 years. But maintaining RV slide outs (and stabilizers, too) hardly ever happens. Most RVers ignore these RV features until something goes wrong.
I asked my technicians to give me their RV slide out and stabilizers maintenance ideas based on jobs we completed. This article addresses concerns we repaired that regular maintenance or proper use would have prevented. Thanks to Allen, Ron, Carole, John and Mark for their help.
Smarter Ways to Operate Your RV Slide Outs
There are numerous RV slide systems. Each one has a different adjustment procedure. Follow the guidelines from the slide system manufacturer when adjusting or maintaining RV slide outs and stabilizers. These general tips apply to most RV slide outs.
- RV slides operate properly based on factory determined weight. 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.
- Do not use the top of a retracted slide for storage.
- Make sure all travel locks, travel nuts and spring locks are in the proper position before operating a slide.
- Always check for obstruction in front of the slide before retracting. The same is true for extending.
- 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. (Install slideout toppers to prevent debris from gathering on top of slides altogether.)
- Cabinet doors, drawer fronts, etc. can create problems when extending or retracting slides. Properly position them 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.
- Close all lower compartment doors and clear obstructions from the area below the slide before retracting.
- Keep an eye on the floor in front of the extended slide. 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 some 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.
Routine RV Slide Out Care Tips
Keep the slide tracks, equalizer gears, etc. cleaned and properly lubed. Use only soft brushes to prevent scratching the hydraulic cylinder extended rams.
- Slide out hydraulic cylinders (rams) that stay extended for long periods of time can rust. Apply a slight coating of hydraulic oil to help prevent the ram from rusting or pitting. This is particularly true in salt air. Clean it before retracting to remove dust, etc.
- Lubricate the slide flaps (sweeps) and seals periodically for best results. Several companies make a spray for slide seals and 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 happens 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. For slides that not have a built-in stop that prevents further movement when the seals are fully engaged, stop pushing the button.
Some RV Slide Out Trivia
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. They fixed it by putting a switch in the 12-volt DC line side of the switch. It stayed off except while in use.
Proper Use, Maintenance and Care of RV Stabilizers
You will notice I used the term “stabilizers” and not camper jacks. Modern technical information often refers to these devices as stabilizers instead of jacks. Stabilizers are not there to lift the RV, but to prevent bounce. Cleaning and tuning your RV stabilizers is just as important as maintaining RV slide outs.
- Keep the stabilizer’s 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 rest on stable and fairly flat surfaces. 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.
More Tips for Maintaining RV Slide Outs and Stabilizers
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 cards. This is sometimes for your safety and an opportunity to receive updates and new product information in relation to the item(s) purchased. Keep this information handy for technicians who service your RV. 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 electronics and switches get exposed to road grime from under the RV. They have come from the factory with a protective cover. Do not remove this protective cover. 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. Meet all settings and refer to the manual if they are not performing.
- Don’t operate the slide until the RV is level with the stabilizers firmly extended to the ground.
Read your RV owners manual to determine proper service intervals for maintaining RV slide outs and stabilizers. RV spring cleaning time is a good opportunity to do it. For carefree operation, always follow the recommended intervals for maintaining RV slide outs and stabilizers.