How To Lubricate RV Slide-Outs

5th wheel trailer with 3 slide-outs extended - how to lubricate RV slide-outs
Learn how to lubricate RV slide-outs.

A Guide To Lubricating RV Slide-Outs

RV slide-outs allow you to double the living space in your RV with the push of a button. It’s not uncommon in today’s market for RVs to have multiple slides of different sizes.

Slide-outs move in and out countless times over their life, moving a heavy load and supporting it. This is no small challenge, and the wear and strain on the slide-outs and their components are considerable.

In order to prevent damage and/or failure to the slide-outs, periodic maintenance is needed. Knowing how to lubricate RV slide-outs will extend the life of your RV slides.

How to lubricate RV slide-outs

There are two different items to consider when performing this maintenance. The parts that move and support the slide-out and the seals that surround it.

Both are important pieces that require specific attention and lubricants. There are a few types of slide systems with different components to maintain.

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How to lubricate RV slide-outs

Rack And Pinion Slides

There are electric and hydraulic rack and pinion systems. Electric units use an electric motor while hydraulic units use cylinders, fluid, and a pump. They both, however, utilize a gear that meshes with the teeth running along the rails on the bottom of the slide.

Anywhere you have metal surfaces intertwining, there is friction, and where there is friction, there is wear. The teeth on these rails and the gear driving them are the two main components to lubricate.

Before lubricating, it is important to first clean the surfaces with some dish detergent and water or a cleaning solution. A bristled brush will help remove debris and clean out the gear teeth.

Once fully cleaned, do a thorough inspection of all the components for cracks, excessive wear, broken or missing hardware, and wires and lines that are hanging loose or damaged.

The rails should be sprayed over their entire length, fully covering the surface without using an excessive amount of lubricant that will collect dirt and debris. The motor gear will be lubricated with the same product; be careful not to soak electrical components.

Cable Slide Systems

Cable systems, unlike rack and pinion systems, don’t have metal gears meshed together, but they do still have moving parts causing friction.

Cables attached to the slide run around pullies, which also require lubrication. As with the rack and pinion parts, cleaning the cables before lubricating them is the best practice.

Having cables on the sides of the slide make for easy application of the lubricant. Lubricated cables will transfer the lubricant to the pullies as they run through them.

The pullies of these systems are located on the top side of the slide and accessible from the inside with the slide in the closed position. Check for broken or cracked pullies, loose or missing attaching hardware, and damaged cables.

Schwintek slide

Does your RV have those squiggly aluminum lines on the side of the slide? If so, you have a Schwintek slide system.

Popular on smaller slides, these systems are easy to access like the cable systems. The rail on the side of the slide extends and retracts the slide by meshing with a worm gear. Like the traditional rack and pinion systems, you have friction between these meshing parts.

One thing to note about this system is the groove, which is small and aluminum, unlike the larger solid steel teeth of a rack and pinion system. It is very important to keep it clean and free of debris that can damage the aluminum.

Important components are hidden behind the slide seal that must be lubricated.

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How often should I lubricate my RV slide-outs?

As with all maintenance, this will be determined by how often you use your RV and the environment you use it in.

For the average RVer who uses their RV for a limited season or only on weekends, doing a service once annually at the beginning of the season can be enough.

If you use your RV year-round, your maintenance schedule will increase. Your RVing style may increase your lubrication increments as well. If you move from place to place often, increasing the extending and retracting of the slides, you should be doing more frequent maintenance checks and lubrication.

Do you RV in hot dusty areas? How about winter RVing in cold weather? The environmental conditions your RV is exposed to will also determine how often to lubricate RV slide-outs. Dirt and debris on moving parts will cause premature wear that can’t be eliminated by simply adding more lubricant. Proper cleaning combined with lubrication is the fix.

The seals surrounding slides are exposed to the elements and can break down and fail without maintenance. Long periods in the direct sun or ice-covered nights can quickly lead to leaks around your slide resulting in water damage.

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Slide-out surround seals

You can’t think about how to lubricate RV slide-outs and forget about the seals that surround them. These rubber seals provide a weatherproof seal between the interior and exterior.

They prevent drafts and water from entering your RV. A leaking slide seal can allow water to penetrate the top and sides of your slide walls and ceiling. Going unnoticed, this can cause major problems including mold.

While there is some friction between the seals and the slide surface when opening and closing, this isn’t the main concern here. Seals drying out and cracking or becoming damaged are the areas of concern.

Wipe seals clean and check their condition before applying moisture restoring and protective products. Don’t forget to check both sides of the seals and the seal running along the top of the slide.

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What lubricants are the best?

There are a wide array of products available to lubricate RV slide-outs. As always, the best options are subjective, but there are some things to everyone can agree on.

Spray lubricants are popular for their convenience and easy application. Crawling under your slide-out with a tube of grease while trying not to get it full of sand isn’t fun.

Lubricants that provide lubrication while resisting dirt collection are also beneficial. Dry lubes, as they are often referred to, work well to help reduce road debris from collecting on your freshly lubricated slides.

When it comes to lubricants for the RV slide seals, you want something that keeps the rubber soft and prevents it from drying out.

Track your maintenance

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.

When it comes time for RV maintenance, don’t forget about your slide-outs. A jammed slide or water damage from a leaking seal can be easily avoided if you know how to lubricate RV slide-outs.

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