Best RV Slide Out Mechanism TypesAnthony Day
This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
Before you buy an RV, you must consider space and whether it should have one or multiple slide-outs. If so, what type of slide-out mechanism will be the best?
RV slide-out mechanisms are divided into two main categories – hydraulic and electric. Hydraulic systems are singular, but electrical systems have subdivisions such as cable, gear, and Schwintek systems. It all seems confusing when all you want is something that works with one button, right?
Hydraulic RV slide-out mechanisms are best for larger, heavier sections, while electric motor-driven RV slide-out mechanisms are best for lighter slide-out sections. While hydraulic-powered systems are stronger overall, electric motor-driven slide-out mechanisms are easier to maintain.
Even with the latest RV slide-out system in place, there is still a chance it can malfunction due to mechanical error, dust and debris getting stuck inside, rust due to a water leak or a slide-out section that becomes malaligned.
Because an RV is a significant financial investment, it is crucial to know as much as possible about the slide-out mechanisms. The slide-out mechanisms are used at least twice at each stop, once to deploy them and again to retract them, and the last thing you need is a failure.
What Types Of RV Slides Are Available?
The rack and pinion system is the oldest and most widely installed RV slide-out mechanism. It has been used commercially since Fleetwood RV started producing RVs almost 70 years ago.
Since then, more complex slide-out mechanisms have been brought to the market, and currently, you can choose between the following –
- Electric motor-driven
- Power gear
- Rack and pinion
Electric Motor Driven RV Slide Out Mechanism
Electric motor-driven RV slide-out mechanisms are typically used in smaller, lightweight sections. They are easy to operate and uncomplicated to repair.
Slide-out mechanisms that fall under the electric motor-driven systems are Schwintek, cable slide, rack and pinion, and power gear.
- Operational even if the RV is off because the battery powers it
- Easy to operate
- It has a manual override system
- Not typically for use on large slide-out sections
- It does not allow for floor flush extensions
- Hidden motors can be difficult to reach and only serviceable by technicians.
Hydraulic RV Slide Out Mechanism
A hydraulic system is the most popular mechanism for large and heavy slide-out systems. Hydraulic systems are powerful, reliable, and can operate from one motor.
Hydraulic slide-out mechanisms are usually installed for the lounge area and the bigger bedroom slide-out sections. A motorized hydraulic pump powers it. Hydraulic pumps can be installed on several mechanisms, such as a rack and pinion system.
- Reliable and durable
- Can carry heavy loads
- One system to operate all the slide-outs
- In case of valve failure, it can be manually operated
- It can be installed with different systems and on any RV
- A line rupture or valve malfunction needs immediate repairs because it affects all slide-out sections.
- It can be problematic to isolate a damaged valve.
- Hydraulic systems are more expensive to maintain and repair.
Cable Operated RV Slide Out Mechanism
Cable slide-out mechanisms have been around for a long time. It is typically operated by an electric motor that extends and retracts the cables with pulleys. The components are usually installed above the slide inside the RV.
Cable-operated mechanisms may look simple but must be installed by professional RV centers specializing in cable-operated systems and are not recommended for the larger slide-out sections.
There are usually four cables on each side of the slide-out, two visible and two hidden inside.
- Easy to operate
- The cables are strong and durable
- If the motor fails or a cable snaps, there is no manual way to retract or extend the slide-out
- Not compatible with large or heavy slide outs
- Cable fixtures are not very strong
Power Gear RV Slide Out Mechanism
The power gear mechanism is run by an electric motor powered by the RV 12V battery. It has inner rails that allow for flush extension seals.
The power gear system is preferred in RVs and is typically seen only on high-end RVs that require a clean and polished look.
- Can handle heavy and larger slide outs
- In case the motor fails, a manual override system allows for a flush retraction and securing before traveling.
- Easy to maintain and repair
- If a rack or gear fails, the entire unit needs to be replaced
- Must be professionally installed and serviced as it is a closed unit
- All visible extensions must be cleaned before retracting to prevent dust or debris from entering.
Schwintek RV Slide Out Mechanism
The Schwintek slide-out systems are essentially a rack and pinion styled mechanism that is easy to operate and reliable.
This mechanism is typically reserved for smaller slide-outs such as kitchen units or wardrobe sections. The Schwintek slide-out mechanism can adjust itself should one side of the slide-out not extend fully.
- Easy to operate
- Easy to repair
- You can manually push the slide-out in should the motor fail
- Not for larger slide-out sections
- It has a low load capacity
- You cannot extend the slide-out from inside should the motor fail
- Not capable of achieving a floor flush extension
- Must be cleaned before retracting to prevent dust and debris from entering between the seals
Rack And Pinion RV Slide Out Mechanism
The rack and pinion slide mechanism is becoming popular and common for RV slide-outs. They are typically flush with the RV floor and mounted on the slide-out side. The racks are visible both in and outside the RV.
The floor is extended when the pinions move over the teeth on the rack and are most commonly used with an electric motor, not hydraulic systems. The reason the rack and pinion have been the most popular system is that they can create a flush floor on the inside of the RV.
The flush floor is especially desirable for older persons or people with a disability that require ease of movement. A difference in floor height, even a few inches, can cause somebody to trip and fall, potentially causing injury.
- A popular slide-out mechanism
- Most affordable to install in an RV
- Easily operated with one button
- Creates a flush floor on the inside of the RV
- It can be operated manually in the case of a failure.
- A new mechanism and system that has not been tested for many years
- The rack can gather dust and debris and damage the gears and motor if not cleaned before retracting.
Helpful Tips Before Extending Any RV Slide Out
Even the best RV slide-out mechanism can fail, but you can do a few things to prevent that as far as possible. Here are things to consider –
- Before activating your slide-out mechanisms, open a window or the door to prevent a vacuum from forming and blowing a valve or popping a window.
- While retracting the slide-out mechanism, keep an accessible window and the door open to prevent a vacuum from forming.
- After parking the RV, walk around the vehicle and check there are no obstructions in front of the slide-outs or rocks underneath that may damage the mechanism.
- Get on the roof and clean any slide-out covers from debris like leaves and dust before retracting.
- Use a dry spray cleaning can on all moveable parts before retracting the slide-out.
- Wipe down all the rubber weather seals and, if possible, make sure they are dry before retracting the slide-out.