A slide out, sometimes called a glide or bump-out, is a box that extends out from an RV room to increase the interior space. Slide outs have long been available for RV side walls, but are becoming more common at the front and rear ends. A slide out is usually no more than 12 feet in length and can extend outward up to 3 feet. Approximately three-quarters of all new RVs are manufactured with at least one slide out, and there are companies that specialise in retrofitting older RVs with slide outs. The project is enormously complex and daunting and should only be undertaken by those with advanced engineering design skills, good welding skills and a practised ability in plumbing, carpentry and electrical work.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Metal fabrication equipment
- Carpentry toolkit
- Electrical toolkit
- Plumbing toolkit
- Metal tubing
- Composite wall panels
- Windows in frames
- Drive and actuating assemblies
Design the slide out addition so the structure of the RV will not be weakened. You will need to weld new vertical hoops and horizontal support beams around the hole in the RV side so strength is added to the vehicle, not subtracted. While thinking about the side walls, consider how to insulate them and how to seal the edges of the new slide out, both when deployed and retracted, so moisture cannot enter and cooled or heated air cannot escape. If you want windows in the addition, think about how to install and seal them.
Determine whether the addition will need pipework to supply propane gas and water, or wiring harnesses for 12- and 120-volt electricity to sockets, lights and appliances. If the new slide out is to accommodate a galley area, all will be necessary. If the new slide out will only be accommodating a sofa or a bed, the project will be simplified.
Consult with industry specialists concerning the purchase of your drive mechanisms. The system should have positive locks that act on the gears to arrest "drift" when the slide out is deployed, yet must be capable of the small adjustments necessary to create watertight seals when the slide out is both extended and retracted. The drive mechanisms will be electrically operated, so at its most simple the system will require a rocker switch to engage the drives. More complex one-touch switching is available that senses when the slide out has sealed and arrests the drives automatically.
Determine whether you require rack/gearing or hydraulic drive mechanisms. An hydraulic system can use two or four drive cylinders and must incorporate an equalising device to distribute pressure equally between the cylinders. The actuation systems can be located beneath the RV floor and use through-frame connectors, or above the floor, where they will need to be shielded from view when the slide out is extended and retracted. Both systems will require a great deal of welding, so any tanks slung below the chassis will have to be removed, rerouted and replaced, as will wiring harnesses and runs of pipe.
Remove all the RV furniture that could obstruct the project. Cut away a carefully marked section of wall, and keep the panel safe so that it can be repurposed as the external wall of the slide out.
Use metal tubing to fabricate a reinforcing fame structure to brace the hole and a slide out box. Use a composite material manufactured specifically to skin RVs to panel the box, install seals all around it, then install and connect the drive systems. Fit the slide out box in place and install the awning which protects its top from rain. Equip the slide out with all the necessary pipe runs, wiring harnesses and furniture.
Tips and warnings
- This kind of massive alteration, carried out by persons with no certification and no professional warranties or bonds, will lessen the resale value of your RV, not add to it.
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