Let’s be real. Slides are the coolest thing since sliced bread. They can take a relatively small amount of space and double or triple it with some cunning engineering. But when it comes to storing your RV, should you store it with the slides in or out?
You should store your RV with the slides in. Storing your RV with the slides out increases your risk of problems with the RV, including leaky seals, damage to the slides, or possibly structural damage. Storing with the slides in, minimizes these risks and keeps your RV tidy and ready to go for your next adventure.
Is that really true, though? Slides are pretty sturdy, and RV designers make them to be used – shouldn’t they be storable with the slides out? Also, is snow or leaf litter on the roof really likely to cause a problem? Find out in this post.
RV Slides – Should You Store Your RV with Them In or Out
When storing your RV for any extended period of time, you should store it with the slides in. Here are a few of the key reasons why:
- Extended storage with slides out can stress the frame of your RV.
- Also, extended storage with the slides out can cause damage to slide walls, slide toppers, weather seals, and other components.
- When stored with the slides out, many RV undercarriages make tempting nests for things that slither and crawl.
- If snow or heavy debris accumulates on top of your slides, it could exceed the structural limits and cause damage to your RV.
- With the slides already in, your RV is ready to rumble when you are ready to take off on your next adventure.
Let’s examine these claims one by one.
Does Storing Your RV with the Slides Out Stress the Frame of Your RV?
This is an answer that could get pretty complicated. A mechanical engineer with a pencil and paper could probably write a dissertation on how the load varies depending on a million specific factors. However, I’m not a mechanical engineer.
Based on research, RV slides generally sit on a small frame and are deployed by rack-and-pinion systems, hydraulics, pulleys, or another similar mechanism. The RV slides themselves do have a certain amount of weight in them, plus any extra items you’ve stashed in the camper.
When RV slides are deployed, the load of the slide and cargo in it is mainly borne by the outer edges and sides of the RV’s frame. However, when the slides are stowed, the load is supported by the main frame rails underneath the RV.
Storing your RV with the slides out applies continuous pressure to the slide mechanisms. Therefore, if your RV is not perfectly leveled or balanced, the load from the RV slide can travel to non-structural components.
It’s not uncommon to hear of cracks appearing in the siding or walls of slides that have been deployed for extended periods of time, especially if a lot of weight is borne by the slides.
What does all this mean? In short: stowed slides tend to keep the load balanced over stronger parts of the RV’s frame; deployed slides move the load to different sections of the frame.
To be clear, RVs are definitely designed to be used with the slides out. Many are designed for long-term camping. It’s not likely that your slide is going to detach from the frame, cause massive structural damage, or otherwise suffer a catastrophic failure from being stowed with the slides deployed. However, based on my research, I believe it’s the best practice to store your RV with the slides stowed to avoid overstressing your vehicle.
Van Camping Life Tip: You should perform a visual inspection of your slides twice a year, being sure to check the weather stripping, the roof and roof topper, and the slide mechanism. A little lubrication and treatment on moving parts and seals help extend the life of your RV.
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Does Extended Storage with Slides Out Cause Damage to Slide Walls, Weatherstripping, or Slide Toppers?
RV slides are built with weatherstripping to keep water and air from coming in through the juncture of the slide and the RV body. Many RVs also include slide toppers, which are small awnings designed to keep water and debris off the roof of the slide. But, can these components be damaged by extended storage in the deployed position? In short, yes.
When you’re living or camping in your RV, chances are you’ll be able to notice any issues with the weatherstripping or the slide topper. However, when you’re not actively in your RV, any minor defects in these components will not be detected and can evolve to become significant problems.
For RVers who live in cold-weather states, the dry and frigid winter air can cause the weatherstripping to crack or otherwise break down. In addition, the stripping is more exposed to the elements when the slides are deployed – meaning that storing your RV with the slides deployed is likely to wear down your weatherstripping. Similarly, slide toppers can become waterlogged or clogged with debris and potentially damage the roof of your slide if not kept clear and free of any pooled water.
Finally, slide walls are thinner than the other walls of the RV. This factor is mostly due to weight concerns. However, the slide walls being thinner means that there’s an increased likelihood of adverse climate conditions getting into your RV and affecting the interior if you store your RV with the slides deployed.
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Does Storing Your RV with the Slides Out Increase the Likelihood of Mice, Spiders, or Snakes Nesting Under Your RV?
Most people don’t really like mice, insects, and reptiles that much. Some people might appreciate them in nature, but nobody wants to have a snake or a spider inside their RV. So is storing your RV with the slides out a risk for getting creepy-crawlies inside your vehicle?
While the other arguments for storing your RV with the slides in are pretty concrete, this one is open for interpretation. Essentially, some people feel that the overhang and the various elements of the slide that are accessible when deployed make tempting habitats for spiders and snakes. I haven’t found specific research on this question one way or another, but I know two things:
- Slides open changes the configuration of the RV and may provide new access points around the weatherstripping or the join with the main RV frame;
- Spiders, mice, and snakes are really good at getting into small spaces.
And let me tell you from experience, I have had mice get into multiple vehicles, so apparently, they are really good at getting through small spaces.
At the end of the day, I feel like keeping your RV slides in minimizes the likelihood of snakes, mice, or spiders finding an extra opening. Of course, the best way to keep these critters out is to keep a clean RV and never store food if you’re not living in the unit; but minimizing the number of available entry points by stowing the slide will help keep your RV free of unwanted guests.
Can Accumulated Snow or Debris Damage the Slides on Your RV?
If storing your RV with the slides out, you risk having an accumulation of debris, snow, water, or other gunk on the roof of your slide. Snow, water, and leaf litter can be very heavy. The additional weight on the top of your slide could overstress the slide or cause issues with balance.
Snow and water are wet (obviously). Prolonged exposure to moisture or water can cause damage to the roof of your slide or potentially cause leaks into the inside of your RV, which is never good. Storing your RV with the slides deployed increases the risk of structural damage or water damage.
How Much Weight Can an RV Slide Out Hold?
Specific weight capacity varies by the make and model of your RV and even the specific slide on your camper. In general, RV slides can hold between 600 and 1,400 pounds. If you have a higher-end RV, your slides might be able to hold more weight than this. Check your owners’ manual or check with the RV manufacturer for specific guidance.
Do You Level Your RV with the Slides Out?
You should always level your RV with the slides in. Leveling jacks are not designed to work with the RV slides deployed, and the way that the load is borne with the slides out can have an adverse impact on your leveling jacks. Leveling with the slides in also creates a level platform for your slide mechanism to work with, minimizing wear on the slides and the jacks.
Do RV Slide Outs Need Support?
There are two answers to this question. First: you don’t need slide out supports to use the RV. The slides are designed to carry the weight of their furnishings plus their human users and a little cargo.
Second: you probably want to use slide out supports. Unsupported slides may cause a little sway or feel a little hinky when being used. Many experienced RVers will use slide supports just to add a little stability to the RV and for peace of mind.
Slide in to be Safe!
Many modern RVs come with slides that help expand the space of the RV to make your camping trip more enjoyable. Slides are an excellent innovation, but they should always be in the stowed position when you store your RV. Keeping the slides in help minimize the likelihood of damage to or problems with your RV. Proper storage and good maintenance will help keep your RV running for all of your adventures on the road.