How Do RV Slide Outs Work?

Last Updated on Aug 28, 2020 by Ray Roman

An RV slide-out is a part of your RV or travel trailer that extends out from the main body to provide more room. Many travel trailers come with slide-out some many have two. The slide-out creates a roomier interior and eliminates that cramped feeling inside the RV.

The photo below shows what the slide out looks like once it is extended. The travel trailer is the beautiful Grand Design Reflection.

What is an RV slide out?

RV Slide Out Pros and Cons

RV slide out has both positive and negative attributes. Though they provide luxury and comfort they can also come with all sorts of issues. On most camper, since 1999, slide-out are now standard equipment. But before you decide if slide out is for your let take a look at the pros and cons.

RV Slide Out Pros

The RV buying segment of the population easily fell in love with slide-out when they were first introduced. Walking into a travel trailer that had their slide-outs extended made the interior feel expansive, almost like an apartment. Full-timers were especially attracted to RV slide outs.

Slideouts on travel trailers and RV are now very commonplace. The number of slide-outs on a travel trailer depends on the length. Usually, you will find one or two, but recently some have had up to four.

One of the most requested locations for a slide-out is the bedroom. Bedrooms on travel trailers are notorious for being cramped. A bedroom slides out to add much-needed space.

RV Slide Out Cons

But not all is good with travel trailer slide out. They do come with issues you need to be aware of which often time the dealer will not reveal.

For example, they not only increase the weight of your RV, sometimes by up to 1,500 pounds, but they also increase the price of the RV by up to $12,000.

If you are buying an extended warranty a travel trailer with a slide-out adds 30% to 40% more to the price of the warranty. They also may limit the amount of under-storage in your unit.

One interesting con I recently discovered is that older campgrounds were not designed to accommodate a travel trailer with a slide so you will be unable to use them. Some new campgrounds charge a premium if you do have them.

Mechanical problems are common such as leaking gaskets, they can damage to the extent that they will no longer operate.

Nothing lasts new forever so as time goes by your slide-out is going warp from age and use. The structural integrity will diminish over time, and of course, they do require regular maintenance and possibly costly repairs. These are all issues you need to consider if a slide-out is in your future.

How Do RV Slide Outs Work?

There are basically two types of slide-out systems: hydraulic or electric systems.

Hydraulic Slide Outs: These systems are typically used on larger and heavier slides. They are very complex and most can power multiple slides. They also generate more power.

Hydraulic slide-out systems are vulnerable to pump, valve, or line failure. The fluid used in the system does wear-causing friction and heat. Lastly, the hydraulic lines can leak.

Electric Slide Outs: The electric slide out system uses a motor that drives a gear system. These types of systems are generally used on smaller slid outs. The electric slide-out system usually works very well as long as it has been designed properly and are not overloaded.

However, just like the hydraulic system, they are prone to several vulnerabilities. For example, the motor or gearbox can go bad, The drive pins can shear and the motor can draw excessive amperage if it encounters any resistance in the slide-out. This can cause damage to the motor or slide out and will probably trip your breakers.

Manual Cranking: Most slide out are equipped with a manual slide out as a safeguard should the hydraulic or electrical system fail.

How Far Do RV Slide Outs Extend?

It depends on the design of the slide-out but you can usually expect an extra 1 to 3 feet more of living space once the slide-out is extended. Make sure you know how far out it does extend so you can be prepared in case your campground needs dimensions.

How Are RV Slide Outs Made?

Interested in learning how slide outs are manufactured? Lippert Components one of the biggest makers of slide-outs has a video. Check it out below.

How To Protect and Maintain Your RV Slide Out

One of the best things you can do to keep your camper slide out in proper working condition and make it last as long as possible is to use an RV slide cover, also known as a slide topper.

RV slide covers are awning that extends automatically over your slide out. They help protect the slide out from the elements. such as leaves and rainfall. Here are some slide-out covers you may want to consider if you are in the market for one.


Ray RomanĀ is the owner/author of Go Travel Trailers. He is the main contributor of content and an avid researcher of travel trailers and the RV lifestyle. He loves flyfishing, vacationing in Red River, NM, and spending time with family and friends.