What Is the Downside of RV Slide Outs?

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An RV slide-out can make a tiny RV feel like a spacious apartment. Some fifth wheels have five or six slides that double the interior space. But are there any cons to having these moving spaces? 

Actually, we have several reasons why you might want to think twice before buying an RV with multiple slide-outs. Let’s learn more.

What Is an RV Slide-Out?

An RV slide-out is a cut-out area along the sides of an RV that extends to create more interior space. Sometimes you have a slide in the rear of a unit.

When you’ve found a campsite and have leveled your RV, you can open your slide-out rooms to enjoy a more comfortable living space. When it’s time to leave, you retract the slide-outs so that your RV is compact for travel.

Are All RV Slide-Outs the Same?

Although decades ago slide-outs used to operate manually, most today have electric motors or hydraulics systems to extend or retract the room. You’ll find four main types of slide-out systems used today.

Smaller, lightweight slide-outs use Schwintek slide systems, which have worm-like gears and racks along the top and bottom of the sides of the slide-outs. Electric motors power the system. 

This system, however, is notorious for having problems because manufacturers install it on slides that are too large and heavy since this is the cheapest option.

The rack and pinion slide systems also use an electric motor but have arms that extend underneath the slide-out floor. Pinion sprockets and gears move it in and out, allowing it to sit flush with the RV floor. This is one of the most reliable systems.

Larger, heavier slides have hydraulic pumps that power the movement. These more complex systems can handle a bigger one that might hold a residential refrigerator and a large sofa. Generally, these are expensive slide-out systems to install.

Deeper slides might also have a cable system. These have a series of cables and pulleys that retract and extend the room. You can easily identify them because you’ll see a wire running along the top and bottom of the sides of the slide. Like the Schwinek, the cable and pulley slide-out system is one of the cheaper options.

Do All RVs Have Slide Outs?

If you’ve seen an Airstream, Casita, or Scamp, you know that not all RVs have slide-outs. But these higher-end popular brands aren’t the only ones.

Manufacturers like Forest River, Grand Design, and Winnebago also have entry-level travel trailers without slide-outs. But if you want the added space, they also have many options with at least one or more expandable rooms.

Class Bs, pop-up campers, and truck campers generally don’t have slide-outs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find exceptions. For example, Lance makes four truck campers that do have slide-outs.

What Is a Flush-Floor RV Slide Out?

A flush-floor slide-out is preferred because there isn’t a lip. When the slide-out extends, it sits level with the rest of the RV flooring. 

On the other hand, slide-outs that don’t extend flush sit on top of the main floor. This can be annoying as you can easily stub your toe on the slide-out floor when you walk by. 

For example, you have to be careful to step up into the slide if you’re sitting at the dinette inside the slide-out.

What Are the Pros of Having an RV Slide Out?

As mentioned earlier, RVers mainly enjoy having slide-out rooms because it creates more interior space. 

Two opposing slide-outs can make a huge lounge area where you can entertain guests or increase a bunk room’s floor space for the kids to play. 

This is important for travelers with large families or full-time travelers who want their RV to feel like home. 

What Are the Cons of Having an RV Slide Out?

However, there are quite a few problems with RV slide-outs. Some people refuse to buy RVs with slides because of the risks of leaks and failures that can ruin a camping trip. 

Other travelers don’t want a heavier RV to tow around. Still, others prefer to have a smaller footprint to access more options for campsites.

Increased Risk for Leaks

Because slide-outs are moving rooms, this means more gaps cut into the side of your RV. Although seals prevent rain from coming into your RV, they aren’t perfect. Seals rot and tear. 

So anytime you have a hole cut into your RV — whether at the air conditioning unit, Maxx air fan, or slide-out — you have an increased risk of leaks. And water damage can destroy your RV.

Increased Risk of Mechanical Failure

Because many slide-outs operate with an electric motor or hydraulic pump, should something happen to either of these mechanisms, the slide-out won’t function. This can ruin a weekend camping trip or cross-country road trip. 

If you can’t get your slide to retract when it’s time to leave, you’re in a bind. If you can’t get your slide to extend when you arrive, you might not have access to important locations inside the RV, like the bathroom or kitchen.

Heavier Overall Weight

The weight of an RV isn’t always reflective of the quality. RVs with multiple slides are much heavier. This doesn’t mean they’re made with better materials. 

Slide-outs can add hundreds of pounds to the dry weight of the RV. This can limit travelers’ tow vehicle options. For example, people who want to tow a trailer with an SUV may opt for a unit with no slides to reduce the overall weight.

Pro Tip: Before driving your RV, make sure to check the weight of your camper. Here’s How to Weigh Your RV at a CAT Scale!

Need for Larger Campsite

It’s not just the length that matters when pulling into a campsite. You also have to pay close attention to the width if you have RV slide-outs. 

If you stay at a campground with hookups, you can’t park too close to the shore power pedestal if you have a slide or multiple slides on that side of the RV. 

If you have slides on both sides of the unit, this means you need adequate space on both sides of the campsite for the slides to fully extend without hitting a tree, rock, or picnic table.

Restricted Access When Retracted

Finally, if you travel long distances, you may have days when you want to get inside your RV at a rest area or truck stop and make a sandwich for lunch or use the bathroom. 

Sometimes slide-outs retract so that you can’t access these locations. It can be impossible to use your own kitchen or bathroom. This restricted access is hugely inconvenient on long travel days.

Keep in Mind: RV slide outs can be a nightmare if you don’t know what to do if it malfunctions. Check out these tips for repairing your RV slide outs!

Are RV Slide Outs Worth It?

So are RV slide-outs worth it? Only you can decide this. For some people, the worry of leaks or failures and the cost of repairs is enough to deter them from buying RVs with these moving rooms. 

For others, there’s no way they can enjoy the camping experience without making the interior space larger. Think of a family of six compared to a retired couple.

RV slide-outs have some legitimate downsides, but the extra space sure does make the interior feel more like home. What’s your opinion? Do you like RV slide-outs?

  1. We love our slide outs on our Lance 2465. However, we are replacing the Shwinnteks with Vroom slides. Although we can easily access everything we need when both slides are in, we have already experienced the dreaded “slide won’t extend” problem. And we’re really not interested in experiencing the “slide won’t retract” nightmare that so many with these cheap Schwinteks have. I don’t understand why on such an expensive TT they use the cheapest mechanisms for the most used part of the RV.

  2. We purchased our Grand Design Image new seven years ago. We have had trouble with the slide since day one. It has been worked on 4 times with no real resolution. It works now but I don’t trust it.

  3. The wife says she will never own an rv without sildes again. The extra room awesome. I see it will be alittle more maintence for me but a happy wife is a happy life. I do like the extra room also so sildes are a yes for us

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