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Ask Dave: How often should I lubricate my RV’s slideout mechanism and with what?

Dear Dave,
How often should your RV’s slideout be lubricated and with what? —Leigh

Dear Leigh,
Most RV slide mechanisms are designed with very little preventive maintenance required on a regular basis and no scheduled lubrication required. However, if the room starts to make noise and hesitates a little during operation, there are some basic measures you can take depending on the type of mechanism.

The first step is to identify the type of slide mechanism and the manufacturer. There are more than a dozen different mechanisms; however, Lippert now owns most of them. There are hydraulic, electric, gear driven, rack and pinion, and rail slides. Lippert now owns Dewald, Kwikee, Power Gear, Schwintek, as well as several of their own. You can find a list of them here.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common mechanisms and recommendations:

Rack and pinion

The rack is basically a metal rail with teeth that a pinion or round gear rolls or pushes. Schwintek uses an electrical motor in the wall with a gear on the upper and lower rack to extend and retract the room. They recommend lubricating the gear only as detailed in this article.

Other rack and pinon mechanisms have the gears, rails, and bearing underneath the room and can be lubricated with CRC white lithium spray according to the Lippert owners’ manual. My preference is CRC Silicone.

They state, “Do not spray on the gear or rail gears, rather on the bearings on each side.” You can also use a 3-in-1 light oil or spray, just not on the gear.

Above is a photo of a toy hauler that I worked on. You can see the rust buildup on the gear and rail. The manufacturer stated it was just surface rust and not an issue. However, I thought it was best to condition this with Fluid Film and wipe off all residual moisture to prevent further rust and damage. Four years later it not only looks great but is still working! One downside of Fluid Film is it does smell pretty bad. So I’m looking for a better alternative but have not found one yet.

Looking through Lippert’s vast library of documentation for slide mechanisms, they do recommend conditioning exposed cylinders with a spray silicone and wiping it off once a week, and even more if exposed to salt in the air on the coasts. Not something we have to worry about here in Iowa!

HWH hydraulic mechanism

HWH manufacturers a slide mechanism with synchronizing rams that are extended and retracted with hydraulic power from a common pump that is also used for their leveling jacks. The company recommends spraying the rams with WD-40 and wiping it off to not only lubricate but also clean any contaminants off them. They also recommend extending and retracting the room twice a month to push hydraulic fluid through the system and keep the seals lubricated.

Cable slide

Smaller slideout rooms use an electric motor typically mounted above the room inside and a cable/pulley assembly. The motor of these and pulleys do not need to be lubricated. However, they do recommend inspecting the cables and pulleys occasionally to make sure there is no binding, frayed cable, or excess sag.

With these, typically there is not a periodic lubrication requirement, rather a recommendation if you hear noise or have some binding.

Other considerations

With that said, there are some maintenance procedures I believe are even more important such as leveling the coach and making sure it is secure before extending or retracting. An unlevel and unsecure rig will have a twisted chassis/floor and therefore an uneven sidewall. Extending and retracting a slideout room in this condition adds resistance to the mechanism.

Check alignment of the slideout room itself. Most slide mechanisms and rooms have adjustment points side to side and up and down. These can get out of alignment and also cause undue resistance or improper sealing.

Check the floor, rollers, or slide pads. Most rooms are basically “free floating” and either slide on the carpet or other flooring, or glide on rollers positioned either on the edge of the room opening or underneath the slide room floor. These can get broken or stop rolling and might need to be lubricated or replaced.

If the room slides on plastic blocks or runner, it’s a good idea to spray the plastic with a good silicone such as CRC Silicone just to help them glide better.

Slideout room seal

The longer you have the room extended, the more the slide room bulb seal and flap is exposed to the sun and has the potential for UV degradation. There are several spray conditioners on the market. I like the ProtectAll products the best.

And one last item: If your slide room does not have an awning over the top, you need to get on a ladder and make sure the top of the room does not have any branches, sticks, or other debris before you retract it or they will tear apart the upper bulb seal.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

Read more from Dave here

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Al Kemp
1 month ago

I always level the trailer before extending the slides, though there is built in clearance it puts added stress on slides that could impact the longevity of the moving parts. Dave must be inhaling Fluid Film directly to make a comment like that? I use it exclusively to lubricate and rustproof my vehicles the smell doesn’t bother me. I had multiple employee’s of Southern Ford drool over my ’01 F-350 (it lives in the rustbelt) asking if it was for sale in Georgia. It works that well.

Brad
7 months ago

I always thought leveling first was important but my Monaco Camelot manual states that you extend the slides prior to leveling. I have done it both ways but I normaly follow the manual’s instructions.

Impavid
7 months ago

Regarding the rack and pinion mechanism shown, this is what seized up on my Keystone slide. The RV dealer wanted $75 for the kit to fix it. I hunted around and bought all the parts needed at various places for a total cost of under $5.00

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
7 months ago
Reply to  Impavid

Good job, Impavid! But was that Canadian or U.S.? (Just kidding.) Have a great day! 😀 –Diane

Robert
7 months ago

We pre-tilt our travel trailer with the slide side slightly higher so that once the slide is fully extended then the trailer will be level. After some trial and error, I marked the sweet spot on the side-to-side (front mounted) level.

Bob p
7 months ago

I have always leveled before extending the slide out(except the first time with a hydraulic slide, bad move) however the Mountain Aire by Newmar said to extend the slides then level. I still leveled then extend, makes sense. Any thoughts on their theory?

Dave Solberg
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Bob,
Glad to see you level before extending as the maker of Newmar’s slide mechanism also recommends that! I talked with Power Gear a few years ago about Newmar and Entegra stating to level the slide first as it puts the rig in a “camping state” and then level and he said that was totally opposite of what the Power Gear design had intended. He also stated that some “know it all engineer” (his words, not mine!) had some type of formula to prove it although Power Gear had over 4 years and 14,000 extension and retraction research data. Different set of glasses I guess?

Dave Solberg
7 months ago
Reply to  Dave Solberg

PS…should be interesting to see what Newmar says now that Winnebago owns them and they have always recommended leveling before extending?

Tommy Molnar
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

We always level our trailer before extending the slide. Sometimes, if we’re just a ‘scosh’ off and it seems like the weight of the slide will correct it, we do it that way.

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