Thursday, June 11, 2015

RV slideouts: Hydraulic or electric?

If you're shopping for your first RV with a slideout, you may be scratching your head: Hydraulic or electric? Electric or hydraulic? What's the difference – in a practical sense – between the two?

From the simple perspective, an electric slideout uses an electric motor, and probably a system of gears, and at times chains, to move the slide in and out of the RV. There'll be at least one electric motor per slide out. Hydraulic systems use a single pump, driven by electricity, which pumps hydraulic fluid through valves and lines to drive actuators at each slide out to get the slide out or in.

Hydraulic systems are often found on heavier slide out rooms. They simply have more muscle for the job. Muscle is good, right? Yeah, provided you don't have problems that are sometimes associated with hydraulic systems. Those individual components, be it valves, lines, or the pump can go gunnybag. Hydraulic lines can develop leaks – or worse, burst.

One of our friends with a large – pushing 40 foot – fifth wheel curses her hydraulic slideout system. When she wants to make a quick stop, she'd like the choice of which slideout to push out. On her rig, push the slideout room actuator button, the hydraulic pump fires up and slowly pumps out, first the kitchen, then the living room, and finally the bedroom. This means a "quick" setup for just getting a few hours of sleep on the road is anything but quick – the bedroom is the last accessible space in her rig.

Electric slideouts are individually operated. In our "big" rig we can slide out the living room, the bedroom, or the "entertainment center" in any order we choose. It's up to us to put out all, a couple, or just one. But electrically driven slideout systems have their own problems. An electric motor can go haywire. A gearbox can chew itself up. Drive pins, associated with the gear mechanism, can suddenly leave you stranded by shearing. Pinch the slide room or don't keep the system lubricated, the slide can develop a bit of resistance to movement, which in turn causes a greater demand for electrical power. Than can lead to tripping a breaker (or blowing a fuse), or worse, physical damage.

We owned several RVs without slideouts. We got along without them. But then again, they sure do make for "more space" in a tight space. It's a matter of tradeoffs. Many RVers report years of experience on the road without ever experiencing a slideout problem. But to put yourself in their camp, it's best to follow a preventative maintenance schedule. Drag out your rig's owner manual and follow the instructions on how to maintain that slide, how to lubricate it, how to jolly it along.

And be sure to read up on how to retract your slideout manually when something breaks. Just in case.

Slide on over to to hear more from Russ and Tiña on their weekly RV Internet broadcasts.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Slideout supports: Love 'em or leave 'em?

Yes, this photo is doctored. But this can happen!
There can be no doubt that slideout rooms in fifth wheels (and other RVs as well) are the difference between night and day. That little bit of extra floor space can make up for a whole-lot of "too much togetherness." Now the question: Should you use aftermarket slide out support stands?

Variously called "slide out stabilizers" or "slide out supports," these little jack stands are designed to slip under a slideout frame and crank up to give added support. One major retailer says they, "Protect your slideout extension tubes from bending, causing difficult slideout operation." Sounds pretty serious — a bent frame could be bad news when it's time to weigh anchor and hit the road. But hang on a minute — if they're so critical, why don't RV manufacturers provide them with new rigs, or at least make them a piece of optional equipment?

Not everyone with a slideout "buys into" the stabilizer story. One RV technician says his understanding is that if an RV under warranty comes in with a damaged slide that could be attributed to a stabilizer, all bets are off for getting warranty service. It begs the question: If your slideout needs stabilization to prevent damage, why aren't there scores of unhappy campers limping across the country on their way to service bays, slide out rooms flapping in the breeze?

Some of those who fore swear slide out stabilizers point to a potential problem: What if your rig were to "settle" while the stabilizers did not: They suggest the pressures placed on the slide out frame could be enough to damage it, leaving the RVer in a world of hurt.

On the other hand, friends of ours just don't feel comfortable "hanging out in space" without the additional support under their slide out. Of course, we also have a friend who won't venture up into the "gooseneck" portion of her fifth wheel until her husband installs a king pin stabilizer. Says she knows it's crazy, but she just imagines the whole works tipping down on the king pin when she shifts her weight forward. Does impose an interesting mental picture . . . okay, we'll turn it over to you. Have you had experience with a slideout frame bending — with or without a stabilizer?

Protect your RV's slideout
with this rubber seal lubricant

If you don't take care of your slideout you're asking for problems including dangerous, costly water damage. This rubber seal lubricant from Thetford prevents fading, cracking and deterioration. It cleans, conditions and shines, keeping seals flexible and protected from sunlight destruction. It is also useful on door seals and window seals. It's a mineral oil product and also acts as a lubricant.

Learn more or order.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Use a leaf blower to clean slideout tops

By Jim Twamley

RV slideouts are a wonderful invention and make RVs so much more spacious! Our first 5th wheel with a slideout would accumulate leaves, pine needles and dust especially when we parked under a tree. Since I didn’t know any better, we quickly accumulated this debris inside the rig when we retracted the slides. Some folks elect to install slideout awnings to keep dirt and debris off of their slideouts.
These short awnings automatically deploy when you extend your slides. They can be purchased and installed from any RV dealer with a service department, or if you are so inclined, you can install them yourself. Here is a cheaper solution that has multifunctionality and when I can use a tool in multiple ways it makes me happy. I like leaf blowers! They are great at cleaning up a paved campsite or blowing debris off your little slice of heaven in the RV park.
Arizona is dusty and I use this jewel of a tool to clean up my site in a hurry. But, it also does double duty as a slideout sweeper. I used a length of PVC pipe and a threaded elbow fitting to make a blower extension. I used some gorilla tape to secure it to the nozzle that came with the blower. Now I can clean off the roof and the slideouts without having to get on the roof or climb a ladder. I use a bungee ball cord to hold the blower attachment handle to the main unit and use it as a “sawed off” air shotgun to clean the campsite. When I want to clean the slides I simply attach the homemade blower nozzle extension. I also use this unit to blow out the bed of the truck.

Protect yourself and others
from sharp edges of RV slideouts!

Cut your head just once on the corner of a sharp RV slide out and you'll race out to buy a set of these so it never happens again! Camco's Black RV Slide-Out Corner Guards offer a simple solution to the danger posed by sharp corners on RV slideouts. Simply place them on each exterior corner of the slide to provide a cushion zone. They're made of advanced UV-stabilized resin for long life. Easy to install and no tools are required. Learn more or order.