Rain clouds coming — should you put in your slide-out?

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

You have your rig settled down in a wonderful camping spot. Your camp chairs are set up, and music is softly rolling out the door. But, uh-oh – look out there. Here comes a nasty looking rain cloud. Do you immediately jump out of your camp chair, head inside and push the switch to roll in your slide-outs?

motorhome slide out
Bill Ward’s Brick Pile on flickr.com

Some RVers are puzzled why anyone would even ask such a question. Bring the slide-outs in because of a bit of rain? For others, it’s a hands-down automatic reaction: Rain means slides come in. One RVer even points to his coach’s owner’s manual. “Conditions such as high winds or heavy rain may cause damage to an extended slide-out.”

Slide-outs and weather could be put in the “great ongoing RV controversy” file. What makes the discussion all the more interesting are add-ons, like, “I have toppers (awnings) over my slide-outs. That ought to take care of any rain!”

Here are some things to think about.

First, it just seems that some slide-outs do leak in some conditions. They may be just fine with an average shower, or even fairly steep “Pacific Northwest gully washer.” But add a few straight-line winds to the mix and water can come into your RV slide-out unbidden. One RVer for a “test,” as he called it, left his slide-outs deployed while he had his rig in storage. He later paid $350 to repair carpet damage when his unit leaked.

Slide-out toppers can minimize some leakage. But, beware, basically all slide-out toppers, regardless of the material they’re made from, stretch over time. Add a puddle of rain to the fabric and the stretch factor can bloom quickly. Stretch enough and the fabric can actually be damaged. To keep rain from collecting in a saggy topper, RVers have a host of tricks. Some take styrofoam blocks and stuff them between the slide-out and the topper. Only trouble is, forget to remove the styro before you retract the slide-out and you can create a real mess. Others take a similar but less damaging approach by stuffing a few partially-inflated beach balls in the space. Forget to remove them and the worst damage suffered is by ruptured beach balls.

Most agree, if you’ve left your slide-out deployed and you do get some rain in your topper, it’s easiest to simply begin to retract the slide-out. As the topper reels back in, the excess water will dump itself out. Just give fair warning to anyone who might be in range of the unexpected “shower”!

A general agreement on weather conditions is this: Don’t leave your slide-out deployed in snowy conditions, especially if you plan on going anywhere soon. One RVer left his slides out on a snowy night and found there was no way to retract the slides the next morning. The snow partially melted and formed a perfect ice-block on his slide-out roof.

On our “big rig” trailer, we’ve left our slides out for extended periods. It doesn’t seem to contraindicate the manufacturer’s instructions, and so far, even with monsoonal rains, we’ve “gotten away with it.” But there’s always that first time for becoming a “sadder but wiser RVer.”


5 Thoughts to “Rain clouds coming — should you put in your slide-out?”

  1. Technobody

    We have a 2005 Artic Fox with two slides. We have been in numerous rainstorm and heavy thunderstorms with 60KM winds lasting several days. To date, we have never had a drop of water enter our slides..
    We owe our good fortune to a well built RV and the fact that I put seal conditioner on all my slide seals every six months which keep them very soft and flexible.
    So to that end I poo-poo the notion of bringing slides in at the appearance of a rain cloud.

  2. Marcel Ethier

    We have always left our slides out without any problem, even in torrential rain. We always have a bit of a tilt when set up for a long period of time. That way the water simply rolls of the slides.

  3. Leslie A-J

    We have a small slide-out (18“). Since we can`t get into the bathroom if it is in, I`d never have considered bringing it in during a rain. We don`t camp often, but have been in a few heavy rains and so far, so good.

  4. Clay Causey

    The comment regarding snow to ice also look out for rain during warmer daytime temps then night time freeze. The ice will force a slide out of position while retracting causing damage. I know, I’ve learned the hard (block ice) way!

  5. Electricbuzz

    Good reason to keep my old class A with no slide outs.

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