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If you’re wondering what the different types of RV slide-out mechanisms are, you have come to the right place.

Is your camping and road trip obsession compelling you to buy an RV with a slide-out mechanism? Maybe you already own an RV but would like to learn the reasons behind your slide-out function not working properly? Well, to better understand all of these features, you must understand the different types of RV slide-out mechanisms.

There are a few different types of RV slide-out mechanisms and each has a unique working mechanism behind it. Many use electric motors to operate in an automatic manner, while some use hydraulics to slide out. The ‘rack and pinion’ system is the most popular RV slide-out mechanism.

However, there is more to this than meets the eye. All types of RV slide-out mechanisms come with their set of pros and cons and if you want to replace, repair, improve, or even remove your RV’s slide-out mechanism, you must know the intricacies behind this feature. The following article discusses the different types of RV slide-out mechanisms in detail, highlighting their pros and cons, in order to give all RV-lovers out there the necessary information you need to look after your home away from home! It also discusses whether adding slide-outs to your RV is worth the trouble.

All the information and statistics about the types of RV slide-out mechanisms discussed are obtained from reliable sources like Life On Route and Tool Box. The information is authentic and bound to help you out.



What are the Different Types of RV Slide-out Mechanisms?

You must know about the diverse collection of commercially available RV slide-out mechanisms if you want to better maintain your slide-out and learn how to tackle any problems that may come your way.

1. Motor-controlled Slide-outs

In all probability, any RV slide-out mechanism, regardless of whether it relies on rack and pinions or pulleys, will be powered by an electric motor. These types of RV slide-out mechanisms may draw power from the RV battery, a standby generator, or plug into the main supply socket if you park somewhere.


  • Very easy to use. Saves the owner the hassle of moving the slide-out manually
  • Versatile; as it can be modified to move the slide-out and even fold it back up
  • Great for smaller applications and light slide-outs
  • Since most RV motors run on 12 V DC supplies, they draw very little power from the main battery


  • This type of RV slide-out mechanism is power-dependent. Hence, it may also prove costly in the long run
  • The motor needs maintenance and is liable to malfunction if not looked after
  • Out of all RV slide-out mechanisms, motor-powered ones have the highest probability of catching fire due to the electricity usage

2. Rack and Pinion System

According to Life On Route, the rack and pinion system is the most popular RV slide-out mechanism. It involves a gear with teeth called the ‘pinion’ that moves perpendicularly across a rail with teeth called the ‘rack.’ By making a clicking sound, the pinion moves along the rack to release or retract the slide-out.


  • This system is very affordable since the components involved are easily available
  • The rack and pinion mechanism needs little to low maintenance
  • It is perfect for heavier applications and takes up very little space, giving the space between the slide-out and living area an open look
  • It can be powered by an electric motor
  • Since there are very few moving parts, the rack and pinion system is not likely to break down


  • Since this system is used for heavier applications, it can be hard to operate manually in case of a motor failure
  • If there is a power outage, you will have to climb under your slide-out to operate the system as the rack is installed under the entire structure

3. Hydraulic System

The hydraulic system is another popular entry in the types of RV slide-out mechanisms. This system relies on pistons to move the slide-outs and works on the basic principle of applied pressure. A pump is used to move hydraulic fluid into the pistons present inside the hydraulics. This causes a build-up of pressure, leading the pistons to push and cause the slide-out to unfold.


  • This system is the fastest to use. Push one button, and your slide-out will prop up faster than rack and pinion or electric systems
  • It can run multiple slide-outs by using a single pump and hydraulic system
  • Does not require much maintenance
  • This system is perfect for heavy applications due to the immense pushing and pulling forces hydraulic systems can generate
  • You can control the slide-out speed using valves


  • The hydraulic system may need lubrication after prolonged use
  • If the pump malfunctions, the system is rendered useless until repairs are done

4. Power Gear System

Although a very uncommon RV slide-out mechanism, the power gear slide-out system is the quickest electric slide-out system. It uses a hidden motor mechanism to move the slide-outs.


  • Once again, the power gear system promises to shock you with its speed
  • The motor is completely hidden and does not interfere with the aesthetics of your RV
  • This system is used to support very heavy slide-outs and does so with ease


  • Due to the strong motor needed, the power gear slide-out system is quite expensive
  • The heavy-duty motor may drain your RV battery more than other electric slide-out mechanisms
  • Since the motor has to be hidden under the floor, it causes a small protrusion under your slide leading you to step up onto it
  • The power gear system is quite heavy and may make your RV more difficult to drive due to the added system and slide-out weight

5. Schwintek Slide-out Mechanism

Schwintek slide-out system is another popular entry among the different types of RV slide-out mechanisms. Ideal for lightweight and shallow applications like bed and bathroom door slide-outs, the Schwintek slide-out mechanism is widely available. This slide-out mechanism has a similar working principle to the rack and pinion system. Using gears and stationary racks, the Schwintek slide-outs are made to retract or unfold using electric motors with relative ease.


  • The Schwintek slide-out system is cheaply available and does not require much maintenance
  • It is perfect if you have small applications and do not wish to run expensive mechanisms
  • Since there are two motors controlling the system, it is self-aligning. If your Schwintek slide-out bumps into an object or begins losing alignment, the two motors work as an antagonistic pair to retract and realign your slide-out.
  • The motors automatically lock the slide-out in place when not in use


  • This system is difficult to control manually if the motor malfunctions. You will have to disengage both motors and then use force to move your slide-out, which makes for a very stressful and exasperating experience.
  • The Schwintek system cannot control heavy or long slide-outs due to the comparatively weak force exerted by the system
  • If the motor is non-operational, you will have to wedge a stick or lean a heavy object against your slide-out to prevent it from folding back out when not in use

6. Cable Slide-out mechanism

Labeled as one of the most reliable types of RV slide-out mechanisms, the cable system is as simple as it gets. You can use pulleys attached to cables to manually control your slide-outs or even have a cable control mechanism, like motors.


  • Very long-lasting and reliable
  • The cable slide-out system needs negligible maintenance as the cable health can be judged by a simple glance
  • Widely available and easy to use
  • Offers flush slide-out retraction and release, since the cables do not occupy a lot of space or lead to a boxy setup


  • This system is the most expensive RV slide-out mechanism. This is because it is very long-lasting and maintenance-free. However, some still consider the one-time investment to be too steep.
  • The system may prove to be a little annoying after a while if the user has to keep on functioning it manually
  • Having a control mechanism for the cables incurs extra cost while subjecting the system to possible malfunctions.

Should You Add a Slide-out in Your RV?

This would depend entirely on how you want your RV to be and what you use it for. Some owners keep an RV solely for road trips and camping purposes. In such cases, it might be unwise to add a slide-out to your RV because you would never spend enough time in it to actually make frequent use of the slide-out. This can lead to negligence and a lack of maintenance, which will lead you to incur unnecessary expenditure.

Furthermore, your traveling will become more expensive since the slide-out mechanism will add extra weight to your RV leading to a stiff ride and extra fuel usage.

However, if you use your RV as you would use a regular home, it is certainly recommended that you have slide-outs installed. These will make your life comfortable while giving your portable home an organized and tidy look. You wouldn’t want to have breakfast every day next to your toilet seat, would you? I know I wouldn’t! Therefore, slide-outs like doors, beds, tables, and chairs are perfect for you and worth investing in.

Maintaining your RV Slide-out Mechanism

1. Slide-out Seals

These are rubber borders surrounding the slide-out that help it seal back in place when the mechanism is retracted. Making sure that the rubber is not worn out, cracked, and falling off is paramount if you want the slide-out to be flush against the wall and not hanging out all the time. Keeping the rubber dust free and using lubrication to prevent wear are two key points.

2. Window and Roof Covers

RVs have a waterproof roof and windows to prevent water from entering your home during inclement weather or washes. This is essential because the water can permanently damage your motors and even cause fires in rare cases. This will lead to extra repair costs and heartache. Better safe than sorry. This also applies to the sunroof water shield that is liable to disintegrate after prolonged sun and water exposure since it is made of rubber.

3. Looking After the Mechanical and Electrical Aspects

Your slide-out will have levers, nuts and bolts, axles, and joints working in tandem to effortlessly move the entire structure. You must ensure proper lubrication to keep the system running smoothly and also ensure that all old parts are free of damage and not cracked, bent, or liable to break since this could interfere with the movement of the slide-out and even jam your system.

Similarly, looking after the motors, power gear systems, and wiring is necessary as these components are the reason your mechanism works. Looking after these is also beneficial because it ensures the safety of the entire RV by eliminating the risk of fires, current surges, and battery damage.

RVs have remained popular for a long time and sales are still high. According to RVIA, RV sales have a $114 billion impact on the US economy while supporting almost 600,000 jobs. Therefore, people are still investing in RVs and many use them as portable homes. If anyone is interested in buying an RV slide-out system, they should first know the different types of RV slide-out mechanisms present in the market before making their purchase. This will help them find the best option for them while enabling them to maintain and enjoy their purchase to the max.