An RV slide-out is part of your RV or travel trailer that extends from the rig’s sides to provide more room. Many travel trailers come with a slide-out. Some may have two or more.
Slide-outs create a roomier interior and provide more living space inside the coach. Depending on the model and class of your coach, you can usually expect to add an extra 1 to 3 feet of width to your RV’s living space with slide-outs extended.
How Far Do RV Slide-Outs Extend?
Inventor Mahlon Miller designed the first RV slide-out in 1990. His patented power slide-out became a hit with RV campers and retirees for the extra room it provided inside their coach. Since then, technological advances have expanded the scope and design of RV slide-outs.
Today, some high-end RVs have entire kitchens that slide out. On average, slide-outs can extend between 2 and 3 feet out from the side of your RV. If you have slide-outs on both sides of your rig, you can estimate an 8-foot wide RV expanding up to 14 feet wide when using your slide-outs.
Depending on the model and class of your RV, slide-outs could add 2 to 6 feet of extra width to your coach. It may not seem like much, but a few additional feet can make a rig much roomier.
A few feet can provide more comfort for downtime and relaxation and help you get more enjoyment out of your RV. Some RVs may have slide-outs that extend even further and can provide up to 16 extra square feet of interior space.
When going to an RV resort or campground, make sure the RV space has enough width to extend your slide-outs and that they allow you to use your slide-outs.
Know how far out your slide-outs extend so you can provide campgrounds with the correct dimensions needed for your RV space.
Types of RV Slide-Outs
Depending on the model, age, and class of RV, your RV slide-out may operate differently than the newest slide-outs. However, there are three main types of RV slide-outs, each with a different mode of operation:
- Electric slide-outs – a motor extends slide-outs with the push of a button or flip of a switch. Electric slide-outs are the most common type of RV slide-out.
- Hydraulic slide-outs – a hydraulic pump deploys the slide-out. This type of slide-out is often found on larger RVs.
- Tip out slide-outs – a hinge at the bottom allows users to manually “tip out” the slide-out section. Tip-outs are typically found in older RVs.
RV slide-outs can extend with gears, tracks, motors, or hydraulic lifts to extend and retract your rig’s walls to provide extra interior living or sleeping space.
1. Electric Motor Slide Outs
Electric motor slide-outs use an electric motor to move your slide out in and out. The track and gears are similar to hydraulic slide-outs or manual tip-outs, but the electric motor positions your slide out easily on lightweight and durable tracks.
Many RV owners consider electric slide-outs the best type because of their ease of you and automatic leveling feature.
If you’re boon-docking or off-grid, the motor that powers electric slide-outs operates on your RV’s main battery. It can run on an electrical supply at a resort or campground.
When running electric slide-outs using your RV battery, ensure the battery is charged enough to power the electric slide-out motor.
Electric slide-outs are the most expensive slide-out type and can be costly to repair or replace. Proper maintenance will ensure your electric slide-outs will operate correctly for a long time.
2. Rack and Pinion Slide Outs
Rack and pinion slide-outs are pretty standard and come in manual, hydraulic, or electric versions.
Rack and pinion slide-outs extend along a toothed track via gears that move the slide out along the track. The gears can move back and forth to move the slide-out inside or outside the RV.
This type of slide-out is most common on new RVs. They are less expensive than electric slide-outs and can be less costly to repair. However, rack and pinion slide-outs are heavy and can add significant weight to your rig.
If the slide-outs are manual, they may require a fair amount of effort to slide in and out. Electric and hydraulic versions will allow the slide-outs to extend with more ease.
3. Hydraulic Slide Outs
Hydraulic slide-outs extend on tracks similar to the rack and pinion type, but they are powered by hydraulic lifts that can be operated manually or with an electric motor.
Hydraulic lifts operate using fluid and pistons to power the gears that move the slide-out along a toothed track. Hydraulic lifts are quick, efficient, and lightweight, and they can handle more weight than rack and pinion mechanisms or electric motors.
Because they can handle weightier slide-outs, hydraulic slide-out systems are well-suited to very big rigs.
Tips For Using RV Slide-Outs
Keep Your RV Level
Ensuring your RV is level is essential for the correct operation of almost every part of your RV’s systems, from the propane refrigerator to holding tanks to your slide-outs.
However, ensuring your RV is level is especially important when using slide-outs. The tracks that hold the slide-outs can become bent when used on an unleveled RV.
And the slide-out’s operating mechanisms can quickly become damaged if you use them when your RV is not leveled correctly. And walking or sitting on a slide-out section that is not level can increase the risk of warping or damage.
Adding any weight to a slide-out on an uneven RV can even cause the slide-out to come off its track, making it impossible to retract.
If you park on uneven ground or a slanted surface, consider using jacks to level the RV, or avoid using your slide-outs if you can’t get the coach level.
Fully Extend Slide-Outs
Because RV slide-outs are designed to be walked around in and occupied while fully extended, the tracks and supports will not engage unless the slide-out is fully extended. If you attempt to open a slide-out partially, you risk permanently damaging it.
Damage can occur on the exterior or interior walls or the inside or outside the slide-out floor. Or it can happen in the RV interior, along the slide-out bottom. Damage could also occur to the track or the mechanisms that move the slide-out.
If you don’t have room to extend the slide-out fully, it’s better to leave them inside the coach or only open one side.
Whatever type of slide-out you have or are considering purchasing, taking care of your RV slide-outs is critical to maintaining good working order.
Keeping the tracks and moving parts oiled will help your slide-out mechanisms work smoothly each time they are used. Regular preventative maintenance will keep everything working as intended.