What to Do if an RV Slide Out Stops Working?

RV slide outs are a great way to add living space to your motorhome or trailer while camping while keeping the rig slim and lean. But what if one of your slide outs – or all of them – break down?

Here it is in a nutshell –

Check to see that you have enough power to run the slide outs. If everything else is working and one of your slide outs is stuck – unless you’re very mechanically-inclined, get a pro to fix your slide out system. 

If the slide out is open, try to push it in gently so you can drive to the RV shop to get it fixed. Never go on the road with an open slide out. Either call in a professional to see your rig at the campground, or pay a professional tow truck to pull your RV to the store. 

Clearly, if an RV slide out stops working something needs to be done to fix it.

Pronto.

So, let’s take a look at what could go wrong with an RV slide out and how you can fix it – including how much it may cost you too.

What’s an RV slide out anyway?

A slide-out or slideout is a system that uses a small motor to slide a small portion of an RV in and out of the main frame. When the slide out is tucked inside, the RV looks like a uniform box from the outside. When it’s pulled out, it looks like a box with extra boxes popping out of it.

These extra boxes are the slide outs and they provide additional living space when the RV is parked.

RV with slide outs open

It’s no wonder they’re a popular feature in many advanced RV setups.

Slide out systems are available in many RV models. They can be found in Class A motorhomes, travel trailers and 5th wheels. Less common in Class B and Class C motorhomes. (If you’re not sure what these RV classifications mean, check out my article about types of RV’s).

Why a Malfunctioning RV Slide Out Is Such a Problem

You can probably guess why a malfunctioning RV slide out is so problematic.

Basically –

  • If slide outs are stuck open, you can’t get on the road.
  • If slide outs are stuck shut, you can’t access parts of your RV.

But there’s more.

Can’t move your slide outs? This could just be a symptom of a larger problem. There may be power failure to parts of the vehicle, if not the entire RV itself. This could prohibit you from using the lights, refrigerator, phones and TV, and more.

Broken slide outs can be dangerous in some scenarios:

Not only are you blocked from accessing your bedroom, kitchen, or bathroom nooks, you or a fellow passenger may be stuck in a room because the slide outs won’t open.

These are all scary situations to be involved in, especially being trapped in your RV. In that case, you should try to get help as soon as possible rather than diagnose the issue. You can always do that later, but the safety of all passengers onboard is what matters most.

If all your passengers are indeed safe and able to get out of the vehicle, you can move on to determining what may have caused your malfunctioning RV slide outs and how to fix them.

Before we get into that… a few more words on slide outs getting stuck while in the campground vs. when you’re driving.

What to Do if the Slide Outs Won’t Open and You’re on Shore Power

If you’re staying at a park site or campground, you’re relying on what’s known as shore power. This is power that is distributed to all RVs, trailers, and vehicles on the campground that are not operating but need juice to power lights and electricity.

Your RV may have a 30-amp adaptor or a 50-amp adaptor. The 30-amp adaptor provides roughly 3,600 watts or 120 volts of power. A 50-amp adaptor gives you up to 12,000 watts or 240 volts of power. You shouldn’t always go for more power, though, especially if your RV has an Electrical Management System or EMS. This won’t let you exceed certain power loads.

Okay, let’s get back to the matter at hand.

You’re at a campground and your slide outs have malfunctioned. What do you do?

If you’re not already on shore power, make sure your vehicle is plugged in. You might have to talk to a campground manager about requesting a temporary surge in power. This way, your slide outs will get enough juice that they should be able to open. Alternately, if your slide outs run on hydraulics, you may have to request more hydraulic fluid. Chances are, hydraulic slide outs power failure is caused by pump or line leaks. You will have to address these, but extra fluid at least lets you get off the campground and to a mechanic.

What to Do if the Slides Won’t Open and You Need to Drive

You might also find yourself in another unenviable situation:

Your slide outs are stuck open. They’re poking out of your vehicle, possibly even prohibiting you from closing the doors all the way. What are you supposed to do now?

Obviously, you can’t drive with the slide outs protruding out of your RV. This is a hazard to other motorists. All they have to do is clip the slide outs and they could cause major damage to your vehicle and theirs.

If you’re dealing with this problem, you can always try to muscle the slide outs back in. Don’t push too hard. After all, your slide outs are supposed to automatically open and close, and forcing them could damage internal mechanisms. Your aim is just to temporarily push in and secure the slide outs so you can drive your RV to the repair shop.

If the slide outs truly won’t budge, you may have to call a tow truck and get your vehicle transported to a mechanic’s. Yes, your vehicle can tow the trailer, or you could drive your motorhome but at this point, with the extra width added, you’d best call in the pros.

What Causes Slide Issues?

Your RV will have slide outs issues for one of two reasons: mechanical or hydraulic failure.

Mechanical slide outs issues may occur if your gearbox is  broken. This is common if your RV is older. The gearbox just stops working. The slide outs motor triggers, but without the gearbox, the slide outs cannot open or close. You might hear whirring noises, which are coming from the motor, not the gearbox.

Another mechanical problem with RV slide outs is a broken shear pin –

This pin is part of the gear that operates the slide outs, so once it stops working, so too do the slide outs. This issue affects many RV users. If you’re very mechanically inclined, it might be a good idea to buy some extra shear pins so you can fix this issue as it arises. It almost definitely will at some point during your RV ownership. There are YouTube videos that show how to do that but honestly, having watched them, I would just call in a mechanic.

Then there are hydraulic issues. We talked a little about these above, but we’ll go over them in more detail now. The first matter to address is a busted hydraulic valve. This valve runs hydraulic fluid to the pump. If the valve is having issues, fluid can travel, but it’s often an inadequate amount. Therefore, your slide outs is stuck.

You could also have a hydraulic leak, as we described before. This happens when there’s damage to either the hydraulic pump or the lines connected to said pump. The hydraulic fluid leaks, so the pump isn’t getting the required fluid and the slide outs fail to move.  

Repairing Slide Outs

Some RV slide outs malfunctions are repairable on a DIY scale but of course this depends on your skill level.

For instance, you can replace a shear pin if it’s broken or worn down. You will have to know how to access the main gear inside your slide outs first. This often means unscrewing the slide outs wall to get to the interior components. There’s a slight risk of electrical shock, so be careful if you’re doing this job yourself.

All in all, unless you have the required tools and skill level, slide out repair is best left for the professionals. With any luck, an RV repairman may be able to fix your slide out without having to move the RV itself. 

The Costs Associated with Broken RV Slide Outs

Okay, let’s talk money, shall we?

How much exactly are you going to shell out if you get your RV slide outs fixed by a professional?

Since slide outs are a costly addition and not every RV has one, fixing them isn’t going to be cheap. According to this handy infographic on RV ownership, the general cost of RV slide outs repairs is between $500 to $1,700. That’s per slide outs.

For a fifth-wheel or travel trailer, it’s roughly the same price cited above to get each one fixed. You’d pay less for a pop-up or truck camper, about $1,500 max.

Heftier RVs might be more expensive than the data above lists. For instance, if you have a Class A motorhome – the biggest and most expensive RV’s out there – the prices would probably be higher than $1,700. You might pay anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000+ max.

The older your RV is, the more serious the issues often are with the RV slide outs. Although it will cost you more money, it’s worth shelling out to ensure your vehicle is safe and drivable with slide outs that will stay in place.

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