Saddest industry yet to see in my 25 years of camping. The very fact that Grand Design and Schwintek have not had RECALLS on the RVs they have destroyed by putting a less than adequate slide system on a family vacation vehicle is an embarrassment to them and the people who buy them. Sorry, I don’t really have a question, just a rant.
We bought our forever camper spring of 2022. Nothing but slide issues and missed trips. The flooring in my new camper even got destroyed because the slide was so out of whack. And this was upon our first trip using it. We are experienced campers—this would be our fifth and final forever camper. Did we ever get a headache! We noticed they changed the design on the 2023 models. So we wanted to trade up for that. YEA, to the tune of another $20,000 out of pocket!!! It’s just disgusting. —Rhonda, 2022 Grand Design Reflection 260RD
I must admit that I have had more questions and dissatisfied owners of the Schwintek slide mechanism than any other, and probably more than all the others combined. I have posted many questions and articles about the system and what might be causing the failures, so I won’t go into that, but rather refer anyone to those articles.
Want feedback from our readers on Schwintek
The reason I wanted to use your “rant” is to get some feedback from our readers on what they are currently seeing with the Schwintek in their rigs, and offer Lippert and Grand Design the opportunity to comment. I doubt we will see anything from them, but here are some comments I got from a former Winnebago representative that had worked extensively with Schwintek engineers before Lippert bought them out, as well as Winnebago engineers and product development managers. Winnebago used the Schwintek mechanism for several years and bought Grand Design a few years ago. So the comments are relative to both products. The following is not a quote, but rather an overview of our conversation.
Schwintek slide room mechanism
The Schwintek slide room mechanism has been used for decades in several applications other than RVs all over the world. For years, RV manufacturers used a hydraulic mechanism that was not only expensive but created costly design issues for some of the smaller rooms. The Schwintek mechanism provided a solution with smaller in-wall motors, no hydraulic pump, and less labor-intensive installation.
It is designed with two “H” columns that have a motor at the top that turns and drives a spur gear at the top and bottom of each of the columns. The actual motor, vertical rail, and spur gears are mounted to the sidewall of the rig, while the upper and lower gear rack that actually make up the “H” are mounted to the box top and bottom.
How the mechanism works
The room is pushed in and out by the gears with the rails on rollers that are designed to be placed within 6” of the opening of the slide and every 24″-30” apart. Here is where the manufacturing issues start. The entire weight of the room is supposed to be held by the rollers and nothing on the gears—they just move in and out.
Originally the Schwintek mechanism was only designed to be used in smaller dinette or loveseat slides. But I have found that most RV manufacturers and engineers seem to know better and try to stuff 10 lbs. of manure in a 5 lb. bag. So they started using them on couch and dinette slides and bigger. Then there were only two rollers underneath a 40” or longer slide.
Another issue with the Schwintek slide mechanism
Another issue is how the column was attached. Just look at the posts by Nanci Dixon on her Tiffin and the issues with her slide, as the “H” column was riveted in and broke all the rivets twisting the column, mechanism, and room. Everything had to be replaced.
Another issue I see often on the Lippert Scouts Facebook page is improper installation and room design. There should be a 2.5″ distance between the room and the column +/- 1/4″. If the room is too close, you will see the gears grinding away at the gear rack. If you start to see any metal filings or wear, get it looked at immediately, not when it stops working!
Most manufacturers do not have the testing facility to simulate the twists and resistance these units receive while going down the road or in unusual situations. Although Winnebago does have a test facility, people I talked to indicated all testing was down with computer simulation, which is disappointing. And according to the people I talked to at Lippert, they are disappointed by the lack of education to the end user and have developed one of the most comprehensive dealer and owner educational resources available.
RVers don’t always understand the system
This brings us to the other side of the equation—owners not understanding how the system works and proper operation. We have said this time and again: The unit must be level and secure before extending or retracting the room, otherwise the twisting and resistance on the gear and motor will create issues. Most trailer and 5th wheel owners pull into the campground and extend the rooms before doing this, as it requires them to go outside to extend the stabilizers or jacks. Even if the unit is level, the weight of the room extending can twist the sidewall at the opening just enough to put resistance to the fastening points such as the rivets. Once the rails are loose, it’s not long before there is a problem.
Then there are the motors. I do believe that the original motors were insufficient for the RV application, as they failed fairly quickly when there was some resistance. I noticed that they now sell the 500:1 ratio, which is being advertised as a faster extension and retraction. However, I see in some of the fine print the faster rotation also reduces the higher amp draw when they have to work harder during resistance.
Motors need to be synchronized
Also, one of the biggest issues according to the Schwintek technician is synchronizing the motors. In the owner’s manual it states that when extending or retracting, keep the button pushed in even after the room touches the wall and until the motor stops. This allows the two motors to “sync” back together. Most RV manufacturers do not build a slide room with the exact same weight on each side of the room, so one motor may be required to work harder than the other. Plus, no RV owner packs their ”stuff” with weight distribution in mind, so the motors will get out of sync.
Most owners let go of the button when the room touches the side as the motors start to “whine” like they were going to burn up! So the more the room gets extended and retracted without the synchronizing procedure, the more the motors get out of sync or alignment and eventually stop working due to the resistance.
Once that happens, the owner takes the unit to the dealer who has already decided the system is inferior and must replace the motors, and the misinformation starts flowing. Notice the photo above. To the left of my thumb is the upper bearing block that rides along the upper gear rail. See how close it is to the fastener of the rail? It doesn’t take much to twist or vibrate the room going down the road for that fastener to get loose and the block to clip it more each time the room is extended and retracted. Who is responsible for that? Shouldn’t the fastener be a flat head? But that would probably not provide enough surface space to hold. Shouldn’t the rail have an indentation for the fastener?
There have been many revisions to this system over the years. I would like to see what our readers are finding with the Schwintek mechanism as it is still being used. Lippert has come out with a revised mechanism they call the Slim Rack, which is similar. Their documentation now calls the Schwintek the “In Wall Slide”—completely staying away from the original name!
You might also enjoy this from Dave
The RV’s slide-out is stuck extended. What do the controller blinks mean?
My RV’s slide-out room is stuck in the out position. I get 1 green light and 8 red blinks. I already changed the motor plugs around and am still getting Motor 1 issues. Could this be a faulty controller? The wire seems to be OK and is not pinched. —Rosemdo, 2014 Forest River Grey Wolf
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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We purchased a 2022 Solitude last year new and it has the Schwintek bedroom slide. We stayed at over 40 campgrounds on three extended trips last year and always leveled before extending any slides. It always made a thumping sound when extending – noticeable only inside. However after winter warranty work, we picked it up in April and that thumping sound was much louder than ever before. And, you could hear it thumping on the outside when retracting the slides. I’ve never lubricated anything because Grand Design says not to in our manual. LCI seems to waffle on whether to do so. What should I look for in terms of abnormal wear? The racks are absolutely clean, but do show some wear marks. The rollers sit firmly on the floor. Not sure what is making this noise.
Our previous motorhome had rack and pinion slideout mechanisms that were bulletproof. Our new motorhome has three Schiwnteks and one hydraulic. I got a first hand lesson in Schwintek/Lippert garbage and have ordered the Vroom replacement for the largest of the three slides that has nothing but problems. I tried all of the normal fixes and was told by the Tiffin service center to replace it with Vroom. Never again will I buy a coach with Schwintek.
I was lucky to sell our DRV Elite Suites with two Schwintek slides. It almost ended our RV hobby. Problems were never ending but I finally started carrying my home made wiring harness to get our slides in or out when the slide failed us. I used four wires about six feet long. I unplugged the wires from the two motors at the controller. I plugged the four wires into the plugs and used the battery from my cordless drill to move the slides in and out. One Schwintek motor turns the opposite direction than the other so to eliminate confusion I used two red and two black wires to make sure the unit came out straight. It worked like a charm. I might add that I when one motor starts to fail the slide tends to bind and the controller shuts the system down. I found it imperative to change both motors when one failed so the slide would not bind. A friend of mine recently bought a brand new high dollar fifth wheel and was shocked to see that manufacture used Schwentek. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It’s good to know there is a beefier slide mechanism in VSS, albeit an expensive one.
We are on our second Schwentek system within one year. Terrible results with this system, headed for Tucson in July to get the Vroom system.
I have a kitchen/ TV Schwintek slide on my Imagine 2970RL. Started out being slow but the usual tips (resync at open and close, rock it back and forth) did the trick. Now into 2 years of ownership half the time someone needs to get out and push on the right side (refrigerator side). Still slow going when it’s half way in, but once over half way, still pushing, it speeds up. Yesterday was the first time I had to use manual override. Now for manual override, first you have to locate the controller which is hidden behind a panel somewhere (mine under the bathroom sink). Then you look at some coded light blinks. These lights are placed inside a rectangular hole in the controller so I had to get down on my knees to see them. The manual override button is also inconveniently placed inside this hole. I could reach it with the erasure end of a wood pencil. But get this, you have to press the button 5 (6?) times then press it again and hold for at least 5 seconds. It worked.
How this happens? People keep buying new ones with same components, no improvements. What incentive does a manufacturer have to improve?
Our (new to us) 2022 GD 22MLE has been having Schwintek/Lippert slide issues since we purchased it. We read about holding the button for 4-5 seconds after extending and retracting but still have issues. The back (kitchen side) comes in all the way but the front side (bedroom) stays out 4″-6″. I can fiddle with it to get it closed but this happens 90% of the time. We have also had total failure twice (slide would not retract at all – scary when you are trying to get going in the morning) which required the controller to be reset.
Call to GD Support said it was out of warranty, that we needed to hold the button for 4-5 seconds to resync (which we knew) and to have a dealer look at it.
I currently have a new Schwintek/Lippert mechanism on order at the dealer. They said that the new mechanism is made with a “harder” metal that should do better.
We shall see…
We had the Schwintek slides on a Lance 1995 for the dinette, and now on an Arctic Fox 27-5L for the wardrobe. No problems with either. I level before operation and periodically lube the coupler and gib. On the Lance I fabricated a support leg to go under the slide when retracted to help keep the slide from bouncing while going down the road, which may have had some positive impact on the slide mechanism but was more about keeping the slide attached to the wall. I’ve noted that the video Schwintek used to have on YouTube showing the lube procedure is no longer there (at least I couldn’t find it), so I wonder if they still think the coupler and gib should be lubed.
I also have a Lance 1995 with no slide out problems. Use a foam roller cut to size as a support when traveling (see Lance Owners of America forum for more details on this). Some have reported floor problems, as it was not designed to support extra weight due to this mod.
I also have a 2017 Lance model 1995 with Schwintek slides for the dinette. No problems in the 6 years we’ve had it and the past 3 while we’ve full-timed. I also lube the coupler and gib every 3 to 6 months, don’t open the slide out until we’re level and plugged into shore power and “hold the button down” at least 5 seconds after the wall is retracted. I noticed that Lance put 3 rollers under the slide-out instead of 2. I’m guessing that helps with support. So far, we are happy with it…and with Lance.
I’ve had a problem with holding the button down to synchronize the motors. The extra pressure this created on the inside flange that stops the slide has caused it to come completely off. It was held into place by half a dozen screws into the fiberglass of the slide. Those screws all pulled loose. Not sure if I would claim that this is a design fault of the Schwintek or the RV manufacturer but never had this problem with any of the other slide systems I’ve owned.
Have a Winnebago 29VE with a full wall slide. Have had no problems at all so far other then a rattle while driving down road from the top rack bar. Also have on occasion moved room when not completely level and no problems. I do sync motors both in and out each time.
Uggg! We just bought a new Grand Design 5th wheel. The Schwintek slide holds the theatre seats and the fridge. When operating, it is very loud and moves very slowly. I’m wondering if something is wrong with it. I highly doubt the dealer we bought it from checked it as our experience when picking up the trailer from them was completely unorganized & chaotic. I didn’t see anything in the GD owners manual that said the trailer had to be completely level or that you need to hold the button to sync the motors. Now I see there are a lot of problems with these slides. One more thing to worry about, geez!
I believe this is where the manufacturers make wrong choices to get to a certain price point. The Schwintek was never meant for heavy loads. They are very good at small slides, like bedroom closets, etc. and their capability to readjust is better than others. But, by using a Schwintek for a heavy couch and fridge slide is asking for trouble. That is why they developed the rack and pinion systems that have the highest weight carrying capability and are actually more affordable then hydraulic or cable. I would not have expected an upper-end Grand Design to use a Schwintek on a heavy slide, but I have seen it before. Sorry.
What Grand Design Model are you referring to?
Our 2018 Solitude has the Schwintek on the bedroom slide and, though extremely slow, it does fine. We don’t have any added weight other than bedding so hopefully it won’t give us any problems for a while. If it does, I would look into replacing it with a Vroom slide.
I was surprised to see the question asking whether Schwintek/Lippert slides were fixed. I had a 13 month nightmare with my Winnebago Tour in 2015 including 8 weeks at the factory trying to fix my slides. I would have thought that after all these years they would have fixed the issues.
The Schwintek slide is problematic to say the least. Designed obsolescence it would appear as the frames lack the necessary rigidity for long slideout life. And, where people fail to adequately level and support their unit, the stresses on the barely-adequate power mechanisms are compounded. The fact that they are problematic should be no surprise.
We have had a Prime Time Tracer trailer with the Scwintek system on the wardrobe in the bedroom. The only trouble we had was when a mouse found the wiring to be a great snack. No problem with the operation of it once the wire was fixed. We then had a Grand Design Imagine 2970 RL with Schwintek on both of the slides, without any issues in 2-1/2 years of heavy use. We now have a 2015 Thor Four Winds Super C with the same mechanism on both slides, and they have been without a problem. We do follow the directions to “synchronize” them by holding the switch. Haven’t had any operational issues yet!
I think you have found the key to successful, trouble free operation…follow the directions from the manufacturer. Imagine that!
My Lance trailer was built in June of 2012. Full dinette slide with heavily loaded inside and outside storage. I keep the Schwintek and slide clean and lube the motors and rollers often. We frequently use the slide only partially deployed. Due to the trailer build design, the slide is about six inches or so above the floor when in travel mode. I keep it supported with a scissor jack when traveling. So far so good. No issues, knock wood! Many thousands of road miles back and forth across and up and down the country.
Glenn, you say “I keep it supported with a scissor jack when traveling”. I’m not able to picture what you are describing here.
On the older Lance trailers, the slide is higher to clear the tires. They sit lower than most. Because of this, the entire slide is cantilevered and sits about six inches or so above the floor when retracted. The retracted slide does a good bit of bouncing going down the road. This has led to numerous issues and failures over the years. Many have developed ways to support it while retracted. I just use a wide base scissor jack under the inboard side while traveling. I use just enough tension to lift it about a half inch. This also pulls the outside bottom in flush to the side of the trailer. Any slides flush to the floor wouldn’t have this problem.
Thanks for the excellent explanation, Glenn. I’m sure Tommy will see it. If not, I’ll let him know so he doesn’t miss it, since you were kind enough to reply to his inquiry. Have a great day! 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
Thank you Glenn. Now THAT explanation gives me a picture perfect example of what you’re referring to. Thanks for taking the time.
We pray the Rosary before moving our 17 ft slide as we have had to replace our Schwentek twice within a 18 month span. Going to see Brian Vroom in July.
Funny! At least from the outside . . .
We have Schwintek motors on our two rear slides. One is the entire heavy bedroom and bathroom slide. We are on our 6th motor. We continue to replace in pairs. Have even had to replace the entire rack and motors on the bathroom/bedroom one. How can those spindly little racks support a 6 foot solid wood dresser with TV, 5 ft wood cabinet with two heavy porcelain sinks and tile floor? Miss engineering! No issues with our front hydraulic slides. Yes, I hold my breath every time I retract or extend. Too many times caught stuck out or won’t go out. Too many manual resets and gathering other campers to help push in.
We replaced ours with Vroom. Now I don’t hold my breath and cross my fingers every time we put the slide in or out.
I will tell you that the vroom upgrade to the schwimtek system is a game changer, Brian Vroom did an amazing job on our coach—it has been flawless,