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Ask Dave: Should we be concerned about full-body RV slides with appliances?

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Dear Dave,
Just looking over some of Tony’s RV reviews, it looks like a lot of the travel trailers he looks at have full-body RV slides of mechanicals in them such as refrigerator, sink, oven/stove, etc. How does this affect the slides and mechanical systems? Looking at a review with suspension issues and slides above them, I would think that full slides with mechanicals in them could be a major issue. I’m not looking at these, but what are some of the points to look at before purchase? —Jeffrey, 2016 Gulf Stream 30 ft.

Dear Jeffrey,
Thanks for the excellent question and the opportunity to open up a discussion on slide rooms, mechanisms, and what to look for in not only full slide rooms but smaller ones as well.

Much research into slide room mechanisms

When I was at Winnebago, designers and engineers spent more than five years researching and testing different slide room mechanisms as well as the structural integrity of the sidewall with what was going to be a big hole in it. We chose to use the HWH hydraulic slide mechanism and rams as it seemed to transfer the weight to the outriggers and ultimately the chassis. This put very little stress on the sidewall so we had no issues with bowing and sealing. The mechanism was extended and retracted 14,000 times over the course of testing and taken out on the test track over sine waves and cobblestone testing. I still think it’s one of the best mechanisms in the industry today.

The industry took a dive in 2008 for a few years. HWH was dropped due to concerns about making it through the tough times and costs. At the same time, Power Gear was used by Fleetwood and others. It went through several changes over the years, starting with the bridge-like supporting arms and moving to a rack and pinion style, which is now owned by Lippert. I would say the new generation is holding up very well. Other manufacturers like Newmar developed their own mechanism, which had gears and rails similar to rack and pinion. This was all back when slide rooms were just a couch and dinette or bed, not full-body slides.

Full-body RV slides: Who did it first?

For years, Newmar was the only RV manufacturer that offered the kitchen slide room until others could engineer the LP, water, and electrical requirements to move in and out without issue. Some used an accordion-type wire or line while others hung the electrical underneath and supported it with a series of springs. In my opinion, the best method of design is to have the lines cradled in a protective loop that moves or rotates as the room goes in and out. It’s very similar to the design of an elevator as the electrical cords underneath just rotate, nothing gets pulled.

Don’t push the weight

In the past 20+ years, I have spent a great deal of time researching slide rooms and mechanisms, especially the ones that have had issues such as Schwintek. Winnebago used Schwintek for quite some time and did have some issues with it. I talked with both Winnebago engineers and Schwintek technicians. It seems there was really nothing wrong with the Schwintek design, just in the application.

A full-body RV slide

It is only designed for a certain amount of weight. What I find typical with RV manufacturers is that they push most components to the limits due to cost. I have not seen a lot of this mechanism used on full-body slides and would probably stay away from one that does.

Plus, owners do not know how to operate the system. The jacks need to be extended and the unit level and secure before extending and retracting. Otherwise, the chassis and sidewall can twist. That creates resistance on the room and sidewall and the motors have to work harder. Plus, one side of the room might weigh more than the other due to appliances and such, so the motors do not work the same. They must be synchronized by leaving the switch depressed until the motor stops, which could be a few seconds after the room stops.

According to the Schwintek technician and several RV engineers and service technicians, they would rather not be recognized—the rooms were just too large and heavy! Then you can add to that, that the RV manufacturers fabricate other components that also are not capable of handling weight and resistance such as underneath roller mechanisms, side trim pieces, and moldings.

What do we look for in a full-body RV slide room and mechanism?

Lippert now owns the majority of the slide mechanisms used in the industry. They are working closely with the RV manufacturers to match the correct mechanism with the slide application to try and reduce the number of failures.

First I look to see how the weight of the room is transferred or supported by the underneath brackets, rams, and/or rack and pinion. I see several full-body slides that come out and rest against the sidewall. You can actually see the perimeter flex or bow as the weight rests heavily against it. Personally, I’m not a fan of the full-body slide. I think it just offers more issues than it provides for in the space. However, I don’t spend a huge amount of time in an RV. So, to me it’s a waste of money and more of the “wow” factor I’ve talked about before.

Couch and dinette slide allows for residential-type furniture

I like a couch and dinette slide as it provides a little more room in the living room and kitchen. That way designers can use more residential furniture rather than those skinny old couches and dinettes. I like a bed slide, as it provides room to walk around and to change clothes. Plus, by putting the 60″x80” bed sideways, we get an additional 20” of living space in the same length coach.

I also look at how the room is built and the sealants or gaskets, as well as how the room slides over the interior flooring. Tony Barthel and I have had this discussion about not being able to find out about the construction, as most manufacturers don’t really want you to know. That’s another tell-tale sign, in my opinion. The ones that have exploded views and cut-away information are proud of their construction. What are the others hiding?

What do you think about full-body RV slides?

Now, I will open it up for discussion. I can tell you from my research that you will find good comments and bad comments about almost every manufacturer and mechanism out there. It all depends on how well an issue was addressed at the time. Let’s hear from our readers in the comments. Readers?


 You might also enjoy this from Dave 

Ask Dave: What is the best lubrication spray for my RV’s slideouts?

Dear Dave,
What is the best lubrication spray for my RV’s slideouts to keep them from jerking? —Randy

Read Dave’s response.


Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

Read more from Dave here

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Jesse Crouse
3 months ago

Only slide problem on our 06 Tiffin Phaeton was the “plastic” or polymer ramp where the slide room goes down at the end of it’s travel to make the slide out even with the main floor. They had to pull the slide and shave down where a piece of the ramp had become detached so the slide floor could move freely.

Randy
4 months ago

We have a “four season” Keystone Avalanche with the stove and refrigerator on a slide. We have never had any problem with previous Keystone RVs which is the reason we purchased the Avalanche new last year. Wintering is a problem as we have not found any way to really insulate the water connections to prevent freezing. The water line for the ice maker is completely exposed on the outside slide. Keystone’s literature stating that the RV is good to temperatures as low as -4°F is misleading. You cannot use the ice maker in the winter due to this exposed water line. We have a Schwintek slide for the bedroom and it got stuck trying to close it. The RV dealer didn’t give us a hint about what to do and told us they could look at it in 30 days, but I found the solution (I believe) on this forum. I was able to reset the slide and get it to close and then open again. This is the only issue we’ve ever had with a Keystone slide.

Paul Cecil
4 months ago

With all of the kitchen hoses in the slide there is another issue. There is a flex hose to allow the slide to move while allowing the sink to drain. RVgeeks on YouTube posted a video on 24 October 2021 on just this issue they experienced with a broken flex drain hose in their Newmar RV.

Spike
4 months ago

I have had slides on every RV I’ve owned since 1999. Many with gas and water lines in them.
Knock on wood, haven’t had a failure yet.

I loved the HWH hydraulic ram slides I had on two Winnebago Journey motorhomes. Best ever!

My current Newmar Mountain Aire has four slides. I avoided floor plans with full wall slides, but that’s just me. If you own a Newmar with slides a standard maintenance item…and it is a MUST DO…is to check the tightness (torque) of the 4 bolts that secure each slide motor to its support bracket. Unfortunately, the design of the motors has the bolts “in line” with the shaft going through the motor and torsion stresses can work the bolts loose over time. Everything works fine, just do the maintenance check!

Last edited 4 months ago by Spike
Pablo Flaifel
4 months ago

I would prefer to avoid problems and complications during my vacation, therefore NO slides is better. I would definitely avoid slides with propane or water connections, that’s asking for trouble. I personally have a 2002 Fleetwood Bounder with 2 Power Gear slides. I have had no mechanical issues with them, but I am careful on the weight I put on them. The seals do need maintenance and water intrusion can be an issue, specially when retracting them after rain. I always try to level the RV with a slight incline to the front or rear to help clear the water on top of the slide toppers just as we do with the awning. My next RV will have no slides, keep it simple!

Michael Gardner
4 months ago

I owned a class c from FR. Full side slide: 21 feet long. Schwintec. We’d be driving and hit the brakes just a little harder than normal and we’d hear EEERRTT!! I tracked it down to the slide moving forward. It would slowly bounce back as we traveled. Schwintec is “ok” for small slides IF installed right and weight on slide is kept down. Full side: no way!

Joe M
4 months ago

On my 2016 Adventurer 38 Q I have experienced major failures on all 3 slides on the rig at least twice and more on one slide. On the large Digisync ram system slide, the pinion gear teeth stripped off one ram soon after purchase of the rig. Also, on that large slide the hangers that support the ram has bolts attaching the hanger to the frame were welded in place during manufacturing. Of the 4 bolts, 3 snapped off with the welded bolt heads making for a very difficult repair. The other 2 slides use the Power Gear slim rack systems. On those 2 slides, all the drive blocks broke at various times, resulting in significant repair expense. The kitchen/sofa slide seems significantly overloaded. Needless to say I have not been pleased with either of these 2 types of Lippert systems that have been a major expense to repair and maintain

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