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Can You Move an RV With the Slides Out?

Opening up an RV’s slides can provide an enormous amount of additional space. You can avoid bumping into each other and have room to stretch. RV slide-outs are outstanding when they work. However, you can find yourself in a conundrum when they don’t. New and experienced RVers often ask, “Can you drive an RV with the slide out?”

If you’re wondering the same, today’s article is for you! We’ll take a look at this question and whether it is good or bad for your RV to drive with any of the slides out. Let’s get started!

What Is an RV Slide-Out?

An RV slide-out is an extendable and retractable extension of a room or space in an RV. Manufacturers use them to increase and enhance the livable space. They’re prevalent in motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers. Some RVs have multiple or even opposing slide-outs that immensely enlarge a space.

The 6 Different types of RV Slide technologies and how they work!

How Do RV Slide-Outs Work?

You can extend or retract your RV slide-outs at the press of a button. Some newer models can even open and close slides through a mobile phone app. Several types of RV slide-outs exist, but most use electric motors and gears, hydraulics, or electric pulley systems to extend and retract. Some slides have manual overrides that can be cranked in or out using a hand crank or drill.

The process of an RV slide-out opening and closing is similar to that of a standard drawer. The slide-out sits on rails that guide and support the slide. By extending it, you gain the interior space it occupies. When you retract your slide-out, you end up with a compact and aerodynamic RV ready to drive down the road.

Pro Tip: Learn more about the pros and cons of having RV slide-outs in your RV.

SUV and travel trailer parked on the beach with slide-outs open
Slide-outs can expand your living space once you are parked at your campsite.

Do All RVs Have Slide-Outs?

While many RVs have slide-outs, not all do. Airstream is one popular manufacturer that doesn’t typically make RVs with slide-outs. However, the company did produce a minimal amount of RVs with slide-outs in the late 90s. It ceased production of these units by 2010.

While slide-outs are nice, they’re prone to mechanical issues and have a large footprint at the campsite. When retracted, they can prohibit full functionality of an RV. Users may not be able to access bedrooms, bathrooms, or kitchen appliances. Some RVers enjoy the idea of being able to have full access to their rig at a moment’s notice.

Can You Move an RV With the Slides Out?

The answer to, “Can you drive an RV with the slides out?” is simple. If you read the owner’s manual that came with your RV, you’ll likely find that practically every manufacturer recommends never moving an RV with the slides out. It doesn’t matter whether you’re changing campsites or moving a few feet to level your rig better.

Yes, it may be inconvenient and annoying to close your slides if you’re only moving a few feet, but it’s usually necessary. Take the time to do it right, and you can avoid making a costly mistake.

Cyclone RV with slide-outs open at campsite
Only extend your slide-outs once parked.

What Could Happen to Your Slide-Outs While Moving?

The frame on an RV flexes as the distribution of weight changes. Anytime you drive an RV with the slides out, you’ll change the unit’s levelness and weight distribution. This can cause the slide mechanisms to bind and potentially cause extensive damage to them. Sometimes on very large slides, a closed slide gets locked in place and actually provides some structural integrity. With the slide open the frame might move differently and could possibly cause frame or sidewall damage.

You may have witnessed RV dealers moving rigs around with their slides open. However, they’re typically doing so very slowly and only on very flat and level surfaces and unloaded. It’s also important to remember that they’re likely not going to be the ones footing the bill for any damage that might occur and not present itself until after the RV leaves their sales lot.

Pro Tip: Having problems with your slide outs? Read more about Schwintek Slide Troubleshooting Tips: Fixing Common RV Slide-Out Problems.

How Much Weight Can a Slide-Out Support?

RV slide outs typically have a maximum weight capacity between 600 and 1500 pounds. However, larger, beefier RVs are often much more capable. Because slides can house sofas, chairs, and other furniture, it’s important to be mindful of the weight of these items. There is such a large difference, so it’s a good idea to check your owner’s manual to avoid causing damage to your slide outs. 

Aerial view of Mortons on the Move fifth wheel trailer parked at campsite with slide-outs open.
Level your RV before you open up your slides.

Does My RV Need to Be Level to Open Slides?

Most RV manufacturers recommend leveling the RV before opening the slides. This helps ensure that the weight distribution doesn’t change on the RV, which can cause alignment or binding issues in the gears and slide mechanisms. You can cause severe and expensive damage to your RV by failing to level it before you begin extending your slides.

There is one RV type where it’s recommended to put the slides out before leveling. This is in motorhomes that use only the air suspension system to level the coach and have no jacks. Because of the way these systems work they do not put excessive stress on the slides and sometimes require re-leveling if leveled before putting slides out.

motorhome with air leveling
Our motorhome has only air leveling and is the only type that can/should be leveled after opening slides.

Pro Tip: We uncovered How to Level an RV the Right Way to make the process easy for you.

FAQ: How Do You Maintain RV Slide-Outs?

Repairs to RV slide-outs aren’t typically cheap, and your RV can wait in line at the repair shop for weeks or months to get fixed. Keeping the seals, roof, and moving mechanisms working properly is critical.

When it comes to the seals on your slides, you should inspect them regularly. Look for any signs of drying, cracking, or tearing. The rubber seals around your slides should create a water-tight barrier to prevent water from getting into your rig. Spraying a bit of rubber seal conditioner onto the seals will help extend their life and prevent any issues.

3-IN-ONE RVcare Rubber Seal Conditioner with SMART...
  • Contains UV inhibitors which help prevent cracking and fading
  • Long lasting water resistant formula reduces friction and wear
  • Extends the life of rubber slide-out and other seals when used...
driving travel trailer with slide-outs closed
Only hit the road once you have successfully closed your RV slide-outs.

Another thing you need to inspect regularly is the roof of your RV and its slides. Look for any cuts or scrapes in the roof material. Using a bit of Eternabond tape can repair small cuts in the material or work as a temporary fix on larger issues. Inspect the sealant around the slide mechanisms and reapply a clear, flexible sealant around screws and other areas where water could penetrate the slide.

The final piece of maintenance you need to do regularly is to clean and spray the moving components with lubricant. Use a paper towel or old rag to wipe down the slide components and remove dirt and debris that’s found its way onto them as your rig travels down the road.

3-IN-ONE RVcare Slide-Out Silicone Lube, Premium...
  • Specially formulated to lubricate, waterproof slide-outs
  • It’s quick drying, long lasting and safe to use on metal,...
  • Keeps any slide-out running smoothly without sticking or...

You should then use a silicone lube spray to cover the moving parts. You’ll want to extend and retract the slides a couple of times to ensure an even and smooth distribution of the lubricant.

If you have an RV that has extensive slide use you may eventually need to replace some of the components that wear out. Slides are usually only designed for a few thousand operations and beyond that items like rail guides, roller bearings and gears may wear out. We have had to replace some of these on one of our high-use RV’s.

How do RV slides work?

Don’t Drive With Your RV Slides Out

Driving with your RV slides out can easily cause thousands of dollars of damage, even if you manage not to hit anything with a slide while driving. The many components that work together when opening and closing the slides are sensitive, and one mechanism being out of alignment can throw off the entire process.

You don’t want your RV to sit in the lot of a repair shop because of an easily avoidable mistake. Take your time and put in the extra effort to close your RV slide-outs before moving your RV.

In addition to your slide-out, it’s also important to maintain your RV slide-out awnings (or slide toppers). Learn more here: How to Take Care of Your RV Slide Out Awnings

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Scott Venier

Tuesday 29th of August 2023

Don't lubricate Schwintek slide rails. It says this right in the owners manual.