Welcome to RV Mishaps, a content series written by RVers about problems they’ve encountered on the road, how they solved them, and lessons learned. Have a mishap story of your own that you’d like to tell? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was supposed to be the perfectly planned RV trip. Weeks, if not months, had gone into planning our first visit to Washington, D.C., with our boys. We had the chance to visit many of the museums within the Smithsonian, the National Air and Space Museum, and the powerful National Museum of African American History and Culture.
We stayed at Cherry Hill RV Park, a massive campground with multiple pools, playgrounds, and plenty of space. Only five minutes from the Metro, it was a convenient home base.
The day before leaving the campground and heading back home, I packed up our outside gear and stowed it away in the basement compartments of the RV. With our “moving day“ checklist halfway done, I went to bed smiling at how smoothly the next day would go. I had no idea what was in store for us in the morning.
Since we’re typically prepared and ready to go on time when traveling, I was ready to finish up the final steps in our departure plan the next morning. While our kids were outside playing, my wife was securing the interior contents. Meanwhile, I went outside to pack up the sewer hoses to disconnect the water. The next step was to close the slides.
We have three different slide units, and two of them closed with no issues. But as my wife was closing the slides from the interior, she noticed that the bedroom slide wouldn’t close. Each slide is on an independent switch, so I asked her to try closing the slide again, but with no success. Then I tried it, with the same result.
As checkout time neared, I began to worry—there was no way we could drive with the bedroom slide out. Why would the other two slides close, but not the bedroom one? We had a few years of experience under our belt and never faced this issue before. So, I began to troubleshoot in my mind.
My initial thought was that maybe power wasn’t getting to that particular slide. I tried everything I could think of: I checked all the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) switches, inspected the main circuit breaker panel, and located the main fuse panel to check for blown fuses—all to no avail. After about an hour of troubleshooting, I called the RV park office to request an additional night at the campground. They were able to accommodate us, but only for one extra night, so we had to solve the problem in the next 24 hours.
The campground didn’t have an on-site RV technician available, but they referred me to a mobile provider who was able to come out right away because of a cancellation. There was a $75 fee just to come to the campground on top of an hourly rate of $125, with a $125 minimum. Since I didn’t have another choice, I made the appointment.
The first thing the technician did was shut off the power to the RV by unplugging the short course. He checked the transfer switch to make sure power was getting to the RV. He explained that sometimes a capacitor or electrical device might need to be reset, which can’t be done without power. We waited two minutes to let everything power down and recycle. No change. He re-checked the fuses just to be sure and found no problems.
He then asked if I had checked the slide controller. Puzzled, I said I didn’t know about that component. He informed me that in a motorized coach like ours, it’s not just a motor that you have to check, but there’s also a module that controls the function of the slides, and that our rig might have more than one, most likely in the basement.
I unpacked the basement compartments and we found the panel in the second cargo bay. One of the lights was off and the display showed “00.” The technician unplugged the data cords and waited a few minutes. He then plugged the cables back in and the lights flashed off and on. My wife tried closing the slide again, and this time it worked. I was relieved, excited, and also a little frustrated because the problem was solved in less than 10 minutes but cost $125.
RVers know that inevitably you’re going to have technical issues with your rig, and you have to learn to roll with the punches. My biggest takeaway from this experience was to realize that I want to know more about the workings of my RV. I have no desire to become an RV tech, but I do want to learn how to troubleshoot and fix the simple problems that we might encounter during our travels.
If you’re facing a situation where your slides won’t close or retract, here are a few quick things that you can check before you have to enlist the help of an RV technician.
- Reset the power to the RV by unplugging it from shore power. Wait a few minutes before plugging it back in.
- Check all of the fuses to make sure you haven’t tripped any. If you have, replace the blown fuse.
- Check the circuit breaker box even if no breakers are visually tripped; don’t be afraid to reset them all.
- Remember most RV slides work on 12-volt power, so check to make sure your batteries have enough power. If they are low, turn your generator on to recharge the house batteries. Once recharged, try to close the slides.
- If you have a slide controller, try to reset it by disconnecting its power and/or data cables.
- Remember to always wait for a few minutes after unplugging something to allow all power to dissipate before you plug it back in.
- If you’re still having trouble, it might be time to find a mobile RV tech.