Can You Drive an RV with the Slide Out?

A slide out is the fastest way for travelers to increase their livable space in an RV when parked at their favorite campsite. They also offer the convenience of retracting into the RV, creating a streamlined vehicle when in motion. No matter how well you maintain your slides, one day those slides might get stuck in the “out” position and you wonder if you can still drive your RV.

You should never drive an RV with the slide out. All vehicles are designed to be aerodynamic; driving with the slide open will throw off the balance of the vehicle, making you a danger to yourself and other drivers on the road.

Slide outs are an RV feature that allows portions of your camper to “pop out” from the main structure using a motor. Even when properly maintained, RV slide outs can become stuck in the “out” position, making driving impossible.

If you find yourself with a slide that won’t close, there are ways to remedy the problem before you hit the road again. Grab your sleeping bags and tuck in for everything you ever wanted to know about RV slide outs.

Types of RV Slide Outs

If you find yourself with a slide out that will not retract, you need to first determine what type of slide out your RV has before you can fix it. There are two main types of RV slide outs:

  • Electric motor-driven slides: electric motor slides power a slide gear that extends or contracts your slide. Electric motor slides are best used for smaller, lighter pop-outs.
  • Hydraulic Slides: hydraulic slides can be found supporting large, heavy pop-outs for RV areas such as kitchens or living rooms. These can typically be found running the entire length of the RV as opposed to smaller sections like with the electronic motor slides.

Depending on what type of slide out your RV has, there are several reasons your extra space has encountered a problem:

Electronic motor-driven slides

  • Overloaded motor
  • Gear box breakage
  • Drag

Hydraulic Slides

  • Valve failure
  • Pump failure
  • Excessive wear on the hydraulic line, typically from overexposure to heat

As tempting as it might be to break out the tool box and try to fix the problem yourself, it is always best to take your RV to a certified repair shop so they can adequately access and correct the problem so you can get back to your travels. While it may seem like a simple fix, there are other issues that could be affecting your slide out that you may not see such as:

  • Old or cracked rubber seals. Be sure to lubricate your rubber seals often and wipe them down after every trip so they do not collect dust or liquid that could break down the material. Leaks and water damage are the most common issues RV’s are diagnosed with.
  • Poor stability leading to uneven weight distribution. Whenever you are extending or retracting your slide out, make sure it is not tipping in or out from the RV.
  • Worn out shear pin (helps the slide outs operate). Shear pins are a relatively affordable fix and can be found at your local camping store.

I’m Stuck with a Broken Slide Out

We have now identified the type of slide out you have on your RV but that still leads us to the bigger problem: you have a slide out that won’t retract back in and you have to hit the road. What do you do now?

As someone who has not only owned an RV with slide outs but owned a very old RV with slide outs, nothing is more stressful after a long weekend than trying to pack up camp and realizing that your slide outs will not close and now you are that much farther away from your shower and warm bed. 

Before you give up all hope, take the following steps to determine if this is a problem you can solve easily, or if you need to call in the big guns for help.

  • Make sure that your slide is not in the “locked” position – I realize this might sound like an obvious task but this has happened to me more than once.
  • Check to see if you have enough power in your RV to close the slide out. If you are parked in a campground you may be able to request a temporary power surge to juice your RV. If you are parked in a remote location, try to use a generator to boost your power supply.
  • Gently push on the slide out and see if you can move it back into place; do not try to force it in, doing so may cause more damage to the slide mechanism. You cannot wrap a bungee cord around it to “keep it stable” while you drive.
  • Call a repair man to come out to your location and attempt a repair. Possibly the most expensive option but may be your only option if you can’t get the slide to retract

If you have some expertise in automobiles you do have one other option to opening/closing a stuck RV slide out – doing it manually. There are many steps to this process that will undoubtedly get you covered in grease and scrapes but it is far cheaper than a house call to the woods. 

  • Find the slide out motor which will be located under the slide out. You can also consult your RV manual
  • Use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding the brake assembly to the motor and set aside
  • Find the crank extension, either inside or outside the frame, and attach the crank handle. You can also use a wrench or socket and ratchet set 
  • Retract slide out
  • Reattach the brake assembly to the motor

What Can I Operate on a Moving RV?

Driving with a slide out open may be a no-go for travelers but there are many features that can still be used on your RV when you are in motion or parked at your campsite:

  • Beds: if your travel partner can drive with a steady hand, you may want to consider a cat nap while journeying to your destination. Just be sure that bed is not located in an extended slide out.
  • Restrooms: when trying to make good time on your trip, it may be more beneficial (and sanitary) to use your RV restroom rather than making pit stops at gas stations along the way. Just be sure to hold onto something while in use; one bad bump could send you sprawling to the floor with your drawers down!
  • Water Pump: you can wash your hands, your dishes, possibly even your laundry if you have enough power! A shower could be a bit tricky, but still doable.
  • Air Conditioner: just because you’re in motion doesn’t mean you can’t keep your living quarters cool; crank up that AC so you can relax in comfort once you reach your campsite.
  • Generator: If you have an on-board generator you can use it to power appliances, such as your convection microwave, to prepare yourself a snack. I would not recommend trying to cook anything on your stove, however. One bad turn or quick break could land you with a lap full of hot food and a giant mess to clean up.

One important thing to remember: even though you can use these items while your RV is in motion, some states will prohibit their use. Be sure to check local laws to ensure your RV activities don’t ruffle any feathers.

Maintenance is Key

Thousands of people use camping to relax, unwind and escape the stresses of their every day lives. An RV can make camping accessible for anyone, especially with the added features of slide outs for extra space and comfort.

If you want to ensure smooth trips in your future, be sure to maintain your RV slide outs and never travel on the road with them out.

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