I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
I wrote an article awhile back about the problems and dangers that RV slide rooms create. At that time, I had heard that manufacturers were starting to add an extra slide to the four that were already popular.
The excuse was, and always has been, that this is what people want and providing it will make them happy. It will also make the RV manufacturers rich. So, if four is good and five is better, why not add another one?!
This is exactly what several RV manufacturers, Heartland and Keystone to name a few, are now doing. So, now people will find themselves dealing with the problems associated with six slide rooms, if they're not careful!
Yes or No?
I’m sure that many consumers will hail this new innovation as being wonderful, and will flock to dealerships to buy these fifth wheels.
However, before you grab your wallet and drive to your nearest seller, you might want to take a look at the pros and cons of buying a travel unit that has so many slide rooms.
- The truth is that adding an extra slide will provide even more living space than before. Because of this, travelers will feel more comfortable.
- Also, the extra room will be really great for full timers to have, especially those who remain in one spot for long periods of time.
- There will be more privacy, more room to entertain guests and more spaces where children and pets can play.
- The added space will give people more of a feeling that they are living in a small home than they had with fewer slide rooms, and that is a big plus.
However, people should be thinking about more than comfort before they decide to purchase such a coach that has so many slide rooms.
In a previous article, "What You Need to Know About RV Slide Rooms," I discussed the problems that go along with owning recreational vehicles with slides, so I won’t repeat them here.
Except for one: the structural integrity of a coach.
If you go to the Heartland site and look at the floor plans of their 2017 six slide fifth wheels, notice the ratio of wall to total RV length. There isn’t much.
Since those walls are what hold the slides in place, if the wall space is minimal, there’s not much there to sustain the slides. Some will argue that it is not the walls that secure the slides, but rather the underpinnings.
However, I personally cannot wrap my head around the fact that something that is beneath a floor could, by itself, possibly hold what is basically a big, bulky and heavy room in place. Road vibration and normal wear and tear weaken slides. If walls are not sound enough to sustain them, all sorts of problems can result.
Since the average slide can weigh upwards of 4,000 pounds, the weight that is added to the structure of a coach becomes increasingly significant. Common sense tells you that walls that are only three inches thick, regardless of what manufacturers say, cannot possibly safely sustain multiple slide rooms without having serious problems at some point.
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Do the Math
The easiest way to support the above conclusion is to look at the floor plan of a coach that has six slides.
If you have a 40 foot long motor home and 26 feet of it are taken up with sidewall slides and the rear wall 8.5 feet wide is a full wall slide, this means that only 14 feet of the sides are solid wall and none of the rear wall is solid wall.
Manufacturers can argue all they want that the new construction methods eliminate the types of problems caused by slides, but when you lose 65% of your solid sidewall construction to slides and then lose another 50% of your front and rear wall construction to one more, this does not make for a very solid or safe travel unit.
Listen to the Right People
If you go onto RV Forums you will find all sorts of opinions rendered by people who own recreational vehicles with slides.
Most will vouch for them, but few ever say how often they use their coaches for travel or how often they open and close their slide rooms.
The truth is that most people only travel for relatively short periods of time every year, and a fair number simply live in their units and rarely use them for vacations.
Thus, depending on who is giving advice, a person could state that he’s had his unit for five years and has had no problems, but it is very possible that he also
- only travels for one month each year
- doesn’t drive far when he does travel or
- doesn’t travel at all.
In the first scenario, the person who has owned his coach for five years hasn’t even used it for five total months!
In the second one, the miles traveled after five years might only add up to 5,000.
In the third, the number of slides on a coach would have no impact whatsoever in terms of affecting side or front wall integrity.
Furthermore, you have no way of knowing where people drive their units. There’s a big difference between road conditions on Interstate 10 in Florida and Interstate 10 in Louisiana. The one road is smooth and well maintained, while the other is one of the worst highways in the nation and has needed major repairs for years.
The point here is that when you read online information about RV slide rooms, you never know who is providing it or what the basis is for their advice.
So, where is the best place to get your information?
Spend Some Time Talking to RV Mechanics
If you really want to learn about slide room stability and safety, take the time to visit the repair area of any big RV dealership and try to get the information you want from a mechanic who works on travel units.
I’ve done this several times, and the response has always been the same.
“Stay away from slide rooms if at all possible.”
I have consistently been told that the majority of the repair work these guys do is on slides, and it’s expensive.
In many cases, warranties don’t cover the cost.
This being the case, it should be obvious that the more slide rooms you have on a coach, the more problems you will have.
This means you will not only pay more to buy a coach that has more of them, you will pay more to maintain and repair them.
What Do You Think?
You may have the attitude that it doesn’t matter how many slide rooms an RV has, but the truth is that it really does.
The general public clearly does not understand the inherent dangers of having even just one slide room and obviously feels that the bigger and more spacious a travel unit, the better.
However, this is more than just a matter of individual opinion because road safety and structural soundness are extremely important issues that cannot be ignored.
Remember that before you buy an RV with multiple slide rooms, especially one that has six of them.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do all six-slide out RVs leak even if you maintain them? We live in ours full time, but we don't do a lot traveling in it.
Answer: All RVs will leak, regardless of whether they have slides or not. However, good maintenance and careful upkeep can protect a coach from having this problem. Just make sure you know what you are supposed to do to maintain slides.
© 2016 Sondra Rochelle