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RV Slide-Outs: Get Enormous Space, But At What Cost?

RV Slide-Outs: Get Enormous Space, But At What Cost?

As amazing as RVs are, there are definitely some compromises. One of the biggest ones being space. No matter how big and nice your RV is, you won’t be able to compete with the space of a traditional home. However, as RV technology has advanced, so has the space thanks to the RV slide out.

What Is an RV Slide Out?

An RV slide out is a small “pop-out” that extends outside of the RV during your stay to give you extra living area. It’s a way to get significantly more space in your RV when it is parked.

Slides come in all sizes. Sometimes just the bed pops out. On other RVs, it seems the entire side of the RV slides out. Some of the largest RV slide outs can extend up to 3 feet. And if you add multiple slides, which many RVs do, your space becomes enormous.

truck camper rv with two slide-outs

Unsurprisingly, you cannot drive the RV with the slides out. When you are ready to drive, you retract the slide, and it comes back into the main interior of your rig.

How Do RV Slide Outs Work?

Many RV slide-outs work using an electric motor. All you need to do is push a button and the room will extend or retract. If you have a larger RV with an enormous slide out, it may be hydraulic instead. This means a hydraulic pump moves your RV slide in and out.

To understand how an RV slide-out actually works, think of it like this. Imagine your slide is a drawer and your RV is a cupboard. When everything is retracted and the “drawer” is in, you won’t have as much space inside the “cupboard” (your RV). But when you extend the slide (pull out the drawer), your space increases substantially. It gives you all the room of the slide-out (drawer), plus the interior space of the RV (cupboard).

What You Need To Know About RV Slide Outs

You may be thinking, “Wow, that sounds amazing!” And the truth is, it can be. But there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Before you purchase a rig with or without RV slide-outs, consider these pros and cons.

Pros

You have probably gathered by now that the best thing about RV slide-outs is the extra space. Traveling or living in an RV can feel cramped. But slides give you so much added room. Another benefit is slides make your RV wider. This means you might opt for a shorter rig, and a shorter rig will be a million times easier to maneuver.

With extra space comes more layout options. Furniture and structures can be arranged in different ways when the slides are out.

fifth wheel rv with slides out

Having slides in your RV is best for when you are staying somewhere for a while. Once you get set up, you don’t have any extra work, just extra space.

Cons

Although the extra space is wonderful, there are some drawbacks to having slide outs. Any time you have more moving parts, more things can go wrong.

Extra work: Slides require extra time to set up and take down. They also entail extra maintenance. We’ll talk about maintenance and common RV slide out problems soon, so keep reading for more details.

Added weight: Slides are heavy, and all that extra weight can really impact your gas mileage. Since RVs are notorious for having terrible gas mileage, making it even worse is a definite con.

Poor insulation: RV slides are also poorly insulated. If you are cold weather camping, you will definitely notice your slide-out floor and walls are cooler. You may even notice a draft depending on the quality of the slide seal.

When you constantly have to pump out heat to stay warm, you’ll definitely notice it on your heating bill, too.

rv in cold weather

Balance issues: Your RV slides are not designed to hold a lot of extra weight. You must be constantly mindful of where you put things so you don’t overload your slides. Additionally, to extend your slides, your RV will need to be pretty level so you don’t get off-kilter.

Impaired access during travel: Sometimes, when the slides are in, you aren’t able to get to everything in the RV during travel. This can be a huge pain. Want something out of that cupboard? Guess you’ll have to wait until you get to the next site. And sometimes, even the bathroom and bedroom are inaccessible with the slides retracted. 

More difficult to access outdoor storage: Many RVs have storage compartments underneath the rig. In some RVs, these also slide out. But in other cases, you’ll have to crouch down underneath the slide-out to access the storage bays. Many people have smoked their head on a slide in just this scenario. There is even a risk of damaging the fiberglass shell if you aren’t aware of your surroundings prior to pushing the slides out.

rv with slides out over storage bays

Water leaks: This is probably one of the biggest concerns with RV slides. After all, water has the potential to destroy your RV. You can have water leaks through the slide seals. And if water pools on top of your slide out and you bring them in, all the water can come pouring in too. Many people opt for slide-out awnings to help prevent this.

Campground space: In some cases, RV parks have very narrow spaces. In these instances, you may not have enough space to fully extend your slides. If you can’t access everything with your slides in, this could be a huge problem. Be aware of branches, electrical pedestals, and other objects when putting your slides out.

Slide-Out Maintenance

To keep your RV slide out in tip-top shape and prevent problems, you must perform some maintenance. First, it is important to keep your RV slides properly lubricated. You’ll want to have lubrication on hand at all times, just in case you need it.

You should also clean all moving parts. Dirt and grime can impact performance, so you need to keep them in check. Speaking of keeping things clean, you also need to ensure your slide tops are clean before retracting. If you have leaves or sticks on the slide when you retract it, you can make a mess or cause bigger issues. Slide toppers or awnings are popular to help with this.

If you notice any irregular wearing on your RV flooring or loud noises, this is also a sign that your slides need maintenance. Your slide rooms may move out of alignment over time. You will probably need a professional RV technician to make adjustments in this case.

Another area of maintenance is the seals. Slides have rubber seals that will need to be replaced if damaged. It is important to regularly inspect them for damage or gaps. Like we said before, the last thing you want is mice or water entering the RV.

RV Slides - Types - Pros, Cons - Maintenance Discussion | Mondays with the Mortons S2E4

What Can Go Wrong With RV Slide Outs? 

As you have probably gathered, there is a lot that can go wrong with RV slide outs. Water leaks, rodents, and cold air can all be issues if you have bad seals. Your RV slide may cause wear and tear on your flooring or even stop working altogether if it is out of alignment. Sometimes, people have even had their slides get stuck in the extended position.

Many of these problems are challenging to fix on your own. That means you’ll probably have to pay for a professional to take care of it. But that is better than what could happen if you let the problems persist.

Are RV Slide-Outs More Trouble Than They’re Worth?

Are slides more trouble than they’re worth? It depends on your preference, really. But oh, the added space is glorious!

If you are a full-timer, the benefit of the added space probably outweighs the potential cons. The same goes for RV camping with a large group of people. But if you’re just using it to sleep in on an occasional weekend, they might not be worth it. If you are handy and can take care of things before they become big problems, slides are great. Just make sure you’re aware of the proper maintenance strategies before deciding which RV to make your own.

There is nothing quite like extending your slides after a long cross-country haul. You won’t believe how much bigger your RV feels. This added space is wonderful, but RV slide-outs are not without their flaws. Now, it’s up to you if you want slides or no slides on your perfect rig. 

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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James G Christian

Saturday 9th of January 2021

We have a 2015 Forest River with a full length slide about 20 ft long. It's been nothing but problems since we got it. Very poor design as it is driven by two little gear motors and has the dinette, the kitchen, the bathroom vanity, and the queen bed all on it. I wouldn't reccemend that type. If I ever get it back from the shop I'm going to look into remodeling it.

Daniel Phillips

Saturday 9th of January 2021

Nothing beats a BB

Nicole

Friday 8th of January 2021

Thanks for the info

Mortons on the Move

Friday 8th of January 2021

You're welcome!

Jim Andreas

Friday 8th of January 2021

Very good info on slides. Our 5th wheel has 3 and we love the extra space they provide but. maintenance is something that needs to be understood and done if you want to get the benefit from them.

Mortons on the Move

Friday 8th of January 2021

Thanks, Jim. We agree!

Randy Shay

Friday 8th of January 2021

Thanks for all the great information! Keep it up and HAPPY TRAILS!

Mortons on the Move

Friday 8th of January 2021

You're very welcome! Happy Trails! :)

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