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Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine
If you’re trying to figure out how to adjust a camper slide out, you can thank Mahlon Miller for that joy. He invented the power slide out that almost no one can live without back in 1990.
This huge change for the RVing world earned him a spot in the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Hall of Fame.
This is one of the most significant improvements made to campers, RVs, and fifth-wheel campers in the past twenty years.
Typical campers are only seven to eight feet wide, and slide outs add much-needed additional living space.
Slide outs can turn an eight-foot-wide living room into a twelve or even thirteen-foot space when strategically utilized. This is huge to full-time RVers and weekend campers alike!
Unfortunately, nothing on an RV is indestructible, and slide outs are no exception. From time to time, slide outs will need fixing and adjusting.
The easiest and most basic way to adjust a slide out on your camper is to ensure no debris or metallic fragments are blocking its path. RV slide outs operate on a system of cables and rails, and making sure that these are intact and free of blockage is crucial to adjusting and maintaining your RV slide.
A simple fix like this one is not always enough to properly adjust your camper slide out. To find out more about slide outs and how to correctly maintain and adapt them, keep reading!
How Do RV Slide Outs Work?
We will soon detail several different types of slide outs, but every kind of slide out operates similarly. The slide out is on a slide mechanism that gets pulled in and out electronically. The type of slide mechanism or track is the interchangeable part of a slide out.
The slide out is electrically powered to move on the slide mechanism by spinning a shaft or pinion, similar to how a water mill operates. The shaft or pinion spins and slowly propels the RV slide in or out along the track that it is on.
The beautiful part about using electric motors to power the slide out is that the engine is connected directly to the camper’s battery. This means that your RV doesn’t require electricity to move the slide out in and out.
It is done through DC power, meaning that the RV slide is directly wired into the camper battery. This is perfect for boondocking or dry camping if that is your RV lifestyle of choice!
Different Types of RV Slide Outs
The first type of RV slide is the rack and pinion slide out system. Rack and pinion slide out systems are most popular because they are cheap to build, easy to maintain, and easy to operate. They also take up very little space inside the camper and require few moving parts to operate.
The rack and pinion slide out utilizes the shaft and pinion system mentioned earlier to move in and out on the track. Their only downfall is that rack and pinion slide outs are very difficult to operate manually if you should happen to have electrical issues.
Pulley and cable systems are the second type of RV slide out we will discuss. Although they are not as popular as rack and pinion slide outs, they are more prevalent on heavier, larger slide outs.
Because they rely on cables and pulleys controlled by an electric motor, they can handle more weight than other slide outs.
Because of its unique design, strength, and parts, pulley and cable systems are also the most expensive slide outs. Another con is that the pulley and cable system uses up a little more space in the camper than other slide outs.
Despite these cons, many people love cable and pulley slide outs because of the ease of use and the lack of maintenance they require.
The other two types of slide outs are the Schwintek slides and the power gear slide out system. Neither of these systems is as popular as the pulley and cable or the rack and pinion slide out systems and is only used for specific purposes.
What is a Slide Out on an RV?
If you find yourself at a campground and look around at all the different types of campers and RVs, you will notice that very few campers do not have slide outs.
It’s almost unheard of to purchase an RV without slide outs outside of airstream campers, pre-1990s campers, tiny campers, and a few other specialty RVs.
Since they became popularized in the 1990s, slide outs have provided much-needed space and flexibility to RVers. A slide out is a section of your camper that can be moved in or out of your RV but that remains sealed and enclosed at all times.
Slideouts are controlled either electronically or hydraulically and range in size and width greatly. A slide out can be anywhere from one to three feet wide and three to fifteen feet long.
They are easily moved out once your RV is stationary but are just as quickly retracted when driving. A well-designed slide out should be almost unnoticeable until it is extended but should look like just another part of your camper.
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RV Slide Out is Crooked: What to Do
While significantly improving the layout and space of a camper, RV slide outs are subject to problems. One of these problems is that slide outs can tend to go crooked over time. This is a fairly common problem, so don’t freak out too much if it’s happening to your RV.
The main reason a camper slide out is crooked is that over time, the steel bars that hold the slide out where it’s supposed to be, bend and wear down. Because they are made of steel, these bars are also prone to rust, which compounds any slide out problems.
The best way to deal with a crooked RV slide out is to make sure the gears and slide out track stay lubricated and free of debris. This will ensure that no problems occur while moving the slide in and out, which is typically what causes a problem in the first place.
Do I Have Too Much Weight on My Slide Out?
Another reason that your slide out may be crooked is because you simply have too much weight on the slide out itself. Slide outs are designed to be used as living space, and frequently there will even be furniture or couches on them. They are not made to hold an infinite amount of weight, however.
While having too much weight on a slide out at rest can lead to a crooked problem, significant damage happens while moving the slide out in and out. While the slide out is in motion, the gears are turning and aren’t as stable.
This makes them more prone to damage, which is why it is crucial to keep heavy weight off your slide out while moving it in and out. A crooked slide out could also pull away from the RV which will remove the watertight seal and lead to water damage.
Most RVs come from the factory with furniture specifically designed to be used on slide outs. This furniture is usually fairly lightweight and easily movable. This is not by accident but by design.
Campers are designed by a team of engineers whose job is to make sure that nothing is included in your RV that could cause damage. While it may be tempting to get rid of standard RV furniture and replace it with pieces of your own, this could lead to a crooked slide out.
Take care to check with the manufacturer of your specific camper and see how much weight your slide out can handle. Putting too much weight on your slide out or jumping around on it too much could lead to a crooked RV.
Should I Use a Slide Out Jack?
If you choose to swap out the couch or other furniture that came custom with your RV, using a slide out jack may be a good idea. A slide out jack will provide extra strength and stability for heavier furniture and movements on a slide out.
Slide out jacks can be found at most RV retailers and dealers and even at Lowes, Menards, and Tractor Supply Company stores. If you have trouble finding a slide out jack, a simple car jack or farm jack will work just as well. It doesn’t have to hold all the camper’s weight but simply support one part of it.
How to Fix a Slide Out on a Camper
The slide out on a camper could be nonfunctional for several reasons. There could be a problem with the electric motor that controls the slide outs in and out movement.
There could be a problem with the gears, shaft, pinion, or track that the slide out moves on. Or there could be another problem that we haven’t covered.
There is a short step-by-step process to follow when fixing any RV problem, no matter what. First off, make sure that the RV is unmoving and parked on a flat surface. The last thing you want to do is operate a slide out while moving or on a hill, as that could lead to severe damage.
Next, check to make sure that the “trigger” or button control that initiates the slide outs movements is not stuck. This button may also be disconnected from the electrical circuit that controls the slide out motor. If this happens, you will push the button, and nothing will happen.
If there is no problem with the slide out button, the next thing to check will be the electricity itself. There may be a tripped breaker or a blown fuse that is cutting off power to the slide out motor. The best way to check the electrical current is with the use of an electrical tester.
Using the tester, you can find where the electrical wiring ties into the slide out and check to ensure there is power at the terminals. If no breakers or fuses are tripped, and the slide outs have electricity running to them, then your problem lies elsewhere.
The third easy thing to check on with a slide out is the lubrication. If an RV slide out remains stationary for too long and doesn’t get moved in or out, the mechanical components may get rusty or stuck.
To ensure that this doesn’t happen, lubrication may be necessary. A simple machine oil or even WD-40 should do the trick.
Final Thoughts on RV Slide Out Adjustments
While there are things that RV owners can do on their own to save money and adjust your camper slide out, a proper fix may require the manufacturer’s assistance.
If a slide out has suffered water damage or requires vertical adjustments or height adjustments, it may need to be entirely rebuilt by the RV manufacturer. If the entire slide needs to be replaced, contact an RV technician immediately.
The best way to make this happen is to schedule an appointment with a camper dealer near you. They will offer the most assistance and will have the proper tools to get the job done right.
Don’t make a slide out problem worse by trying to fix a problem and only compounding it. Know your limits, do what you can, and let professionals handle the rest.