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It’s the end of a long travel day. You’ve arrived at your destination and are finally ready to set up camp. After getting everything level and ready to go, you extend your slides. They make a weird popping and crackling sound as you extend them. This is a sign that you need to do some much needed maintenance on the seals of your slide outs.
RV slide-out seals need to be maintained regularly to keep them from causing leaks and damage to your RV’s interior. Make sure to clean them with soap and water, condition them with a specialty seal lubricant, and wipe them down with baby powder if you want to keep them looking, sounding, and performing like new.
This article will help you find your RV slide out seals, be able to identify when they are in need of maintenance, and the easy steps to maintaining them yourself.
What And Where Are the Slide Out Seals?
If you are newer to RVing or if you’ve never had an RV with slide outs before, then you may not know what slide out seals are, what they do, and where to locate them.
Every RV owner knows that there is a lot of maintenance that comes with the territory of RVing, and slide outs are no exception to that. Slide outs are a great way to get more square footage out of your RV, making it feel more like a home and making it more manageable for a family on the road. They do come with their own set of maintenance and headaches though.
Maintaining your slide out seals is a relatively easy task and worthwhile because it can extend their life by years.
So, what are the seals on your slide outs?
They are essentially giant rubber gaskets that surround your slide outs at the points where it joins with the main body of your RV. Think of it as similar to the rubber rim around your water bottle that helps create a good seal between the lid and mouth of the bottle.
The seal is actually made out of two parts, the inner seal and the outer seal. The inner seal is located on the interior of your RV and the outer is on the outside.
The inner seal keeps cold or hot air inside of the RV so that if you are running the air conditioner or heater you aren’t losing that air. The outer seal keeps rain and winds out of your RV. The outer seal will also act like a squeegee when your slide outs are retracted.
Both the inner and outer seals perform important tasks and if you fail to maintain them properly you will get leaks and cause damage to your RV.
How Can You Tell When Slide Out Seals Need Maintenance?
When your slide outs are extended, the rubber seals are exposed to the element, so they do go through a lot of wear and tear.
If they aren’t cleaned and conditioned regularly they tend to dry out.
One sign that your seals need maintenance is a popping or creaking sound when you open and shut your slide outs.
Having someone stand outside near your slide outs and listening for the crackling noise while they are being extended or retracted can help confirm if they are making sounds or not.
If you’ve left it for too long, then you may need to replace them entirely. This can be a pricy repair and to avoid it you should definitely be performing regular checks and maintenance on your seals.
You can perform visual checks of your inner and outer seals to help determine if they need maintenance or not.
Typically the seals should be black with a sheen to them. They should have a smooth surface without any cracks. If your seals are white or grey, you’ll want to look for yellowing of the white or lightening of the grey to help indicate if they are dry. Either way, there should be a sheen and a smooth surface.
An old or dry seal will have a dullness to it, and be discolored. It will have cracks and even folds or compressed sites in the rubber.
Older seals will also leave black marks or lines on the exterior of the RV when they are shut, this can be an indication that they have been out of use for some time so maintenance has not been performed.
Baby powder is used in regular maintenance, so a dull color can sometimes be deceiving. If you’re looking to purchase a used RV and want to check the seals, you should go beyond a visual check and make sure you fully extend and retract them, listening for those tell-tale pops and cracks.
How Often Should You Lubricate RV Slide Out Seals?
The slide out seals on your RV need regular maintenance and a large part of that maintenance is lubricating or conditioning the rubber so that it does not dry out and get cracked.
There is no exact formula to how often you should be performing maintenance on your slide out seals. The climate where you live and store your RV is going to be a big factor in how often you need to condition your seals.
At a minimum, I would recommend it twice a year. That’s at a minimum though, and should only really apply to you if you live in a humid climate and store your RV for most of the year. If you live in a dry, hot place then you will need to do this more often — every six weeks or so.
Ideally, I recommend conditioning your seals every three months.
A good conditioner or lubricant for your seals should clean the rubber, condition it, add water repellent and protect it against UV rays from the sun.
Regardless of where you live, you should be checking the condition of your seals often. It’s an easy thing to let go, but it can lead to some really costly repairs if they are left to deteriorate. The seals keep the weather from getting into your RV, so not maintaining them can result in leaks inside your RV which can cause a lot of damage in a short amount of time.
What Do You Need To Maintain RV Slide Out Seals?
In order to maintain your seals you do need a few things, but the list isn’t long or pricey.
We’ve already established that you need a lubricant or conditioner for your seals. You want to ensure that you are buying a lubricant made for this specific purpose and one that will do the job well. There are tons of lubricants for sale so we ranked the ten best ones on the market to make picking one easier. A good lubricant will clean, condition, and protect your rubber seals.
You also need a spray bottle that is full of water. You’ll need dish soap, baby powder, an old sock, and some rags.
Aside from the conditioner, you probably have everything on hand already, making the maintenance of your seals even easier.
How Do You Lubricate RV Slide Out Seals?
We’ve gone over the where, the when, and the what, so what about the how? How do you actually perform the necessary maintenance on your slide out seals?
You’ll need to do maintenance on both the inner and the outer seals. The inner seals will take you about five to ten minutes per slide out and the outer seals will take about ten to fifteen minutes per slide out. It might take a bit longer the first couple of times while you’re still learning and getting used to the job, but it will definitely get easier over time.
On both the interior and exterior seals make sure to inspect them visually and with your fingers for any damage. If you find any tears or cracks you’ll likely need to replace the entire gasket.
I recommend starting from the inside and working your way out.
To start the process, retract your slide outs fully. Gather your materials and move to the interior slides of your travel trailer or RV.
Each slide out seal will be hidden behind trims on the inside of your RV. This keeps them from being an eyesore but still allows you to access them when needed. Feel behind the trim and you should feel the rubber of the seal around the sides and top of the opening.
If you can, spray the conditioner directly onto the seals following the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you are worried about getting the conditioner on your furniture or don’t have easy access to the rubber, then you can spray the conditioner onto a rag and wipe it onto the seal.
Make sure that you are thorough and get the conditioner on all sides of the seal.
Wait a few minutes to allow them to dry. If they are not dry after a few minutes, then you can use a dry rag to pick up any excess conditioner if you accidentally applied too much.
The final step is to apply baby powder and this is where the sock comes in handy. Fill the sock with a couple of inches of baby powder and tie off the top. Squeeze and rub the sock until you feel the baby powder come through the fabric. It’s at this point that you should rub the sock along the rubber.
The baby powder will keep the seals from sticking to the RV when they are shut and they will stop those popping sounds when you open the slide outs.
The exterior seals on your slide outs tend to go through a bit more wear and tear than the interior seals. By virtue of being left exposed to the elements, they may have dirt on them and even sap depending on where you have been camping. Both of these can lead to difficulty when trying to operate your slide outs smoothly.
To start this maintenance, extend your slide outs fully.
You’ll want to clean the side panels of your slide outs at this stage too. Dirt and sap will accumulate on the panels as well and will also make it hard to operate your slide outs.
The first step is to rid your seals of debris, dirt, and sap. Any larger debris, like leaves or even small sticks you can remove with your hands. To clean off the dirt and sap, you’ll want to dip a rag in a mix of water and dish soap.
The seals on the exterior will go around the sides, across the top, and the bottom of the slide out.
After cleaning, you should apply the conditioner according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some will state not to wipe the conditioner and others will tell you to rub it into the seal, just follow the directions accordingly.
Repeat this on each side of the seal. Make sure that you let it sit for a few minutes before applying the baby powder coating.
The top of your seals might be hard to access, especially if you have a slide topper, which is a short awning that covers the top of the slide. To access the top of your seal, you can use a ladder and a grabber pole. Put a rag on the grabber pole and that should give you the right amount of reach.
A lot of RVers will take this as an opportunity to perform other necessary maintenance to the slide outs like cleaning and adding lubricant to the tracks that move the slide outs in and out. This is not a task that needs to be done as often as the conditioning of the seals but should be done at least twice a year.
If you aren’t sure of the steps as I’ve laid them out, the video below gives excellent visual instructions on how to maintain your seals.
There is a lot of maintenance required when you have an RV. It’s the trade-off for having the freedom of the roads. RVs are not inexpensive and performing regular maintenance will keep your RV running longer and better as well as save you money by preventing costly repairs.
Slide outs are an excellent way to get more space out of your RV, but they come with additional maintenance. The seals on your slide outs should be conditioned regularly, but the good news is the task will take you maybe an hour and uses almost entirely household items with the expectation of a conditioner.