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RV slide-outs have given otherwise compact RVs more interior living space since their invention in 1915. They completely change the look and feel of your RV interior, providing more space for cooking, lounging, and entertaining guests.
But what do you do if your RV slide-outs don’t retract when you’re packing up camp?
Lubricating your slide regularly is one way to avoid this issue, but there is a way to operate RV slide-outs manually. The procedure varies based on the type of slide your RV is built with, so understanding that is your first step.
Types of RV Slide-outs
RV manufacturers use different slide-out manufacturers in their builds. While there are more than these three RV slide types, these are the most common:
- Cable-operated slides feature steel cables on all four corners of the slide (visible on the exterior sides of the slide).
- Schwintek system (worm gear) slides feature a “worm gear system.” The number of worm gears depends on the size of your slide.
- Rack and pinion (aka electric through-frame) slides feature arms underneath the slide box connected to an electric actuator motor to extend and retract the slide.
Check your RV owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with your RV’s slide type(s).
How to Operate Your Slide Manually
Most slides have a method of manual retraction. This is essential if your slide gets stuck fully out or halfway between full extension and complete retraction. The one potential exception is RVs with full-wall slide-outs that require a large motor capable of producing enough force to move a slide that weighs several thousand pounds.
If your slide is stuck and you can’t diagnose and remedy the issue, manually retracting it is your best bet, as it will allow you to drive safely to a service location for an expert diagnosis.
Pre-Checks Before Manual Slide Operation
Before you begin:
- Consult your owner’s manual for manual slide retraction recommendations.
- Check that nothing is in the way of your slide (interior and exterior).
- Find the hand tool, or appropriate tool attached to a portable drill, responsible for manually actuating your slide’s movement. The right tool for manually retracting your slide-out depends on your slide type.
Manual Operation for an Accu-Slide Cable-Operated Slide-out
If your RV is built with cable slides, you’ll need these tools to operate the slide manually:
- Portable drill
- 12-inch flexible extension
- Proper #3 square torque bit
The extension should come with your RV, but you’ll need them if you can’t locate yours. Consult your owner’s manual to ensure you have the proper drill adapter and extension.
With those tools accessible, here’s your manual retraction process:
1. Locate the slide-out motor.
The motor is best accessed from inside your RV or travel trailer. It’s usually located on top of the slide-out in the center with cables and pulleys attached. You may need to remove the interior fascia to gain access.
If you’re in warranty, remove the fascia; technicians will replace it once you take your RV to a service center. Or you can use that extension to try to operate the motor without removing the fascia.
2. Fit the square #3 bit into the end of the motor.
3. Connect the flexible extension to the square bit and secure the other end into your portable drill.
You’ll need to flex that extension up and over the fascia if you haven’t removed it.
4. Drive counterclockwise to bring your slide-out in.
Retract until the seal is flush with your RV’s exterior wall.
Manual Operation for a Schwintek (Worm Gear) Slide-out
The good news is that you’ll only need a standard writing pen for this slide type. If your RV is equipped with a Schwintek slide (also known as a worm gear slide), here’s your manual retraction process:
1. Locate the slide-out’s electronic control box.
It could be in an underneath storage compartment or inside your coach. When your slide-out is extending, the control box counts motor revolutions to keep the slide-out in timing and ensure that both ends extend equally and together.
2. Bypass the electronic control box.
Read the instructions on the control box and follow them. Instructions can be found in your owner’s manual as well.
Red and green lights should start flashing.
4. Depress the normal slide-out switch to test its function.
Your slide-out should come in so you can get to a dealer to figure out the issue with your electronic control box. There’s little to no risk in overriding this control box to retract your slide. It should not be done to extend your slide, however.
Manual Operation for a Rack and Pinion (Through-Frame with Electric Motor) Slide-out
If you’ve determined your RV features a rack and pinion slide-out, here’s how to manually retract an electric through-frame slide:
Version 1 – Slide-outs with an extension rod running from the motor through the I-beam
1. Locate the extension rod attached to the electric actuator motor.
2. Unhook the battery.
*This removes the potential for electric backfeed that could damage the slide-out system.
3. Connect the manual override crank tool to the extension rod.
4. Turn the crank handle clockwise to retract the slide-out.
5. Stop when you feel resistance and the slide is flush with the exterior RV wall.
*Don’t overcrank, as it can damage the slide-out.
Version 2 – Slides with the hex nut attached to the electric actuator motor
1. Locate the hex nut on our slide-out’s electric actuator motor.
You’ll need to slide underneath your RV to gain access. In the worst case, you may need to cut a hole in your RV’s underbelly to access the actuator motor.
2. Utilize ratchet with appropriately sized fitting for the hex nut.
3. Turn the ratchet clockwise to retract the slide.
RV slideouts are excellent amenities for increasing your RV’s interior space. But a stuck slide-out must be remedied ASAP. Use these manual retraction tips to secure your slide-out room before safely driving to a Camping World Service Center for a complete diagnosis.
Do you have any questions about manual slide operation or slide-out troubleshooting? Let us know in the comments below!
Tucker Ballister is a Technical Content Writer for Camping World and a lover of the open road. You can check out more of his adventures and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.