Even though RVs are nice, mobile, fun-sized homes, the fact that they are smaller than regular houses makes living in them for any period of time a bit of a squeeze for most of us.
But that’s where slideouts slide into the picture.
RV slideouts are small extensions that you can add to your RV to increase its living space and secure extra comfort for those long road trips.
However, many people have questions about these “instant home expansions” attached to their RVs. Such as why some can’t live without them, while others absolutely detest them.
In this article, we will be answering most of those questions and helping you decide if you really need a slideout — by showing you how they work, and how to keep them working in tip-top shape.
1. What are the Different Types of RV Slideouts?
RV slideouts come in all kinds, but for the most part, they are either:
- Slides that are directly pushed out of the RV.
- Flush mount slides, which, true to the name, are flush with your floor.
- Flush-mount slides work by first pushing out, and then extending vertically to meet your floor.
- These are more expensive and take up more space when retracted, but are generally seen as the better option.
- They don’t create trip hazards and other issues while you’re moving around in the RV and also form a significantly stronger seal.
- Push-out slides, which are often not level with the RV since they’re engaged from higher up.
- This means that they are raised above your base floor, so you’ll need to step up into them.
- These are more affordable and compact, but a little less secure and reliable.
You will have to evaluate what type of slide you are comfortable with before you buy an RV.
2. How Do RV Slideouts Work?
Slideouts, as the name suggests, are compartments that can be slid out to give extra space from inside the vehicle.
Many models can be manually pulled from the outside or pushed from the inside. But other newer models have automatic slideouts.
They can slide on their own using a motor attached from the inside. These are commonly found in smaller RVs with relatively lighter slideouts.
As for bigger RVs with heavier slideouts, a hydraulic pump pushes them out from the vehicle’s compartment.
If you’ve seen vans or busses with ramps for wheelchair access, or automatically retracting awnings, it’s the same principle of action.
3. Do RV Slideouts Typically Leak?
RV slides can experience leaking, which can occur quite often.
Some causes of leaking can include:
- Awning toppers are highly prone to accumulating water due to precipitation and snowing and can result in leaks.
- Cracks and crevices around the slide-outs compartment tray usually allow water to leak from the outside.
- If any of your slides have windows in them, the window seals could allow water to leak into your RV.
- Sagging can make small crevices around the seals. This could allow water to enter the steel supports inside.
Some models may get through this by adding rubber coating to seal this part from water.
Even this would fail when exposed too long to the elements.
4. Do RV Slideouts Need Support?
In most cases, RV slideouts do not require support.
That’s because newer RV models are engineered to handle a lot of weight without needing slideout supports.
To give you a better picture, newer models can handle full dining sets on their slideouts without bending the tube that supports it.
Older models could break the slideouts, especially when used in places with unstable footing or when your RV has a flat tire.
Using supports takes up a little more room, but it’s not all bad. Some older vehicles might need them to prevent sagging.
And if you plan to use your slideouts for an extended period of time, you might want to support the slideouts and reinforce the wheels.
5. How Far do RV Slideouts Extend?
How far your slideout extends is going to depend on the make and model of your RV.
However, you can generally expect an extra 1 to 3 feet of space from most common models.
As a rule, since they add weight and take up existing space: the more room your RV has before a slideout is installed, the more you can extend off from that.
6. How to Remove Carpet from Under RV Slideouts?
Doing this usually depends on the RV’s make.
For older models which are manually pulled out, you can use a pair of jacks to lift the slideout from the outside.
Then you need to use wedges inside the RV where the slideout connects with the floor and carpet. You can pull them out after that.
For newer models with hydraulic slide mechanisms, you might break the tubes while doing that.
So, the other way is to remove every bit of flooring that connects between the slideout and the RV.
This will let you remove the carpet from under it.
7. How to Adjust Slideouts on an RV?
In this case, you will want to have a technician adjust the slideout for you at least once a year.
You should refrain from adjusting them on your own unless you have been trained and have the equipment to do it.
A part of the problem here is that you will need to move the slideout room itself while making the adjustment.
This is one thing that you can’t do outside of an RV repair center.
8. The Best Lube for RV Slideouts?
As a general rule, you should refer to the manual first.
The manufacturers know which ones are the best for the model you are using.
What if you’ve lost the manual or are driving an older RV with outdated specs?
Go for either an all-purpose lubricant that doesn’t attract dirt, like Thetford, or use a quick-drying lubricant that leaves a thin wax film, such as Protect All.
9. How to Maintain RV Slideouts:
Because slideouts are made of metal, you should always be on the lookout for rusted parts.
This is usually due to moisture. In most cases, dirt and debris would damage the seals and make small holes that allow moisture to get in.
The only way to avoid this is to regularly clean and lube up the seals.
There are seal protectants out in the market that could help make them last longer. But when they do break – and eventually, all of them do – be sure to replace them ASAP.
The longer you let a broken seal allow moisture to enter, the more build-up you get, which will rust the slide components.
Sealant & Check-ins:
With a partner and a flashlight, close the slide-in halfway, then have your partner shine the flashlight towards the seals.
This is helpful because slideouts have two sets of seals: one set for having it fully extended, and another for when it’s closed.
Lighting up a flashlight while the slideout is halfway drawn brings the seals visible together.
If light passes through the seals, this means there are small holes, and you need to have them replaced soon.
Other than the seals, you also need to maintain the slide mechanisms.
You’ll want to keep everything lubed up, except the motors and gears. Those only need to be cleaned.
You should also maintain the batteries and give the slideouts a stretch every once in a while.
You might also want to clean up the slideout covers, especially after rain or snow.
10. How to Insulate Slideouts:
When preparing for heat insulation for the winter, skirting is going to be your best friend.
The moving parts between the slideout and the main body mean there will always be small creases around the slideout itself, especially under it.
Skirting can help you out with this by keeping trapping the air under the RV, so you will not need to find each crevasse.
As for the top part, you should add a cover to keep it protected from the snow. In case you haven’t, and snow has started piling up, you will need to remove it immediately.
The problem with snow is that the slideout tends to become warm enough to melt snow briefly, turning it into water long enough to rust the iron top.
11. How Long do RV Slideouts Last?
Slideouts are generally made using a material that’s thinner and more flexible than the rest of the RV.
Furthermore, they are very complex, which makes them more prone to failure during bad weather and other road conditions.
Because of this, they aren’t expected to last you for a very long time. Eventually, they will wear out.
A well-maintained and high-quality slideout is expected to last for around 3-5 years, on average.
Owning an RV definitely has its perks, but the number of responsibilities that they come with isn’t insignificant.
If you’re contemplating whether you should purchase an RV that has them, it’s a decision that will require some thought.
If you’re going to be using your RV as a motor home for cross-country living, you undoubtedly will find that you need them.
As long as you’re fit enough to manage and make adjustments around the vehicle, slideouts can become the perfect companions to your RV life.
On the flip side, though, these bulky boxes which require hefty maintenance might not be a great option if you use your RV for traveling. You’d be better off without them.
At the end of the day, it’s all about WHY you are using your RV.
Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.