One of those things which is never supposed to happen. There’s even an ignition safety switch specifically meant to keep the slide out from engaging when the engine is running.
But, it happened.
We had just spent a few nights in a park in the vicinity of The Villages in central Florida. One of the nights we were there, it got pretty cold (at least by Florida standards).
I only mention that because one of my theories is that the cold temperatures did something to the relay switches on my slide out control board and perhaps led to the issue.
When we left that park to head over for a night at my father’s place, the slide outs wouldn’t work. Not knowing what else to do, I turned on the engine for a few minutes then turned it back off. Retried the slides and was able to retract.
Fast forward to my dad’s driveway, setting up to camp there for one night…
The slide outs work, but…
The switches were mixed up. We have two slide outs – hence, two switches. But, in that case, both switches were controlling the SAME SLIDE OUT. Clearly there was some weird mixup in the electrical. The rear slide out wouldn’t extend because the switch for it was moving the main slide out.
After some trial and error, I found the slide out control board which is conveniently mounted in the basement compartment which contains the house battery. I unplugged the control board and then re-connected it. This seemed to allow the rear slide out to extend and we were set for the night.
So, we went about our business, me thinking about and hoping that I would be able to get the slides back in before I head home.
The day to return home… and the slide outs retract without incident.
But, fast forward to heading south on I-75.
I’m driving along when suddenly my driver chair begins to shift. WTF?!
It take me a couple seconds to wrap my wits around what is happening, but I figure it out.
When my driver chair is sitting back in driver position, the decorative trim on the main slide out will catch the chair when extending. It is one of those things I have to keep on my mental checklist every time I extend the slide. I have to shift the back of my captain’s chair forward to avoid a problem.
Only this time, the slide out was extending on it’s own. It was catching my captain’s chair and dangerously tipping the chair sideways while I’m driving!
My wife is freaking out. My daughter was sitting on the couch and freaks out as well. Funnily, my son was sleeping like a baby in the back and had no idea anything was happening. 🙂
But, that damn slide out motor… nothing will stop it. The decorative panel was ripped off the slide out as it kept opening, fully extended, while I’m driving 60MPH down the interstate!
Luckily, I was in the right lane because I don’t drive all that fast with our RV. So, I quickly maneuver the rig into the emergency lane and begin slowing down. I’m careful to pull over far enough to accommodate the extended slide out so that trucks won’t bash it.
I get out to scope out the situation.
I immediately go to the battery compartment to open it, since I know the slide out control board is in there.
What I find is a house battery which is bulging and smoking! Not good!
So, I’m there on the side of the interstate trying to figure out what to do. How do I get the slide back in? Come to find out, even the rear slide out opened a couple inches (not fully). But, I clearly couldn’t drive like this.
Here’s where my good karma kicked in…
A mobile mechanic just happened to be driving down the interstate and was nice enough to pull over to see if he could assist. He didn’t work much on RVs, but what he DID have on him was a spare battery.
So, we carefully disconnected the house battery and carried it over to the side of the interstate. It was bulging and didn’t know if it was going to pop. He connected the spare battery and….
I was able to retract the slide outs. Thank God!
Now, I still had 20 miles or so to get home. Clearly, the electrical related to the slides was completely screwed up. I didn’t want anything to happen.
So, I completely disconnected the slide out control board so that it had no juice. Nothing could move these slides.
The mobile mechanic took out his battery. I thanked him because I honestly don’t know how I would have handled that without him. Disconnect the engine battery and try? Have to figure out a manual retraction of the slide? Call somebody to come assist?
I offered to pay him, but he refused. He took off. I was quite appreciative.
I didn’t want to leave a bum battery on the side of the road, so after it seemed to cool off a bit, I put it back in the compartment (disconnected from everything, of course) so I could take it home and properly dispose of it.
Got back in the driver seat, pulled back into traffic, and went home without further incident.
The fix was pretty simple.
I obviously replaced the battery. Luckily, it was under warranty and I could replace it for free. I don’t know for sure, but I’m suspecting perhaps one of the battery plates inside was defective and the cells were coming together and shorting it out. But, I’m no battery expert.
Next, I bought and replaced the slide out control board. Once I found the right part, it was super easy. Literally a 3 minute repair.
How can we avoid this in the future?
I mean, it seems like not much of a safety feature when the ignition safety can so easily malfunction like that. I looked into using slide out safety bars, but those are only designed to keep the slide from creeping. If it turns into a battle of those safety bars versus my slide out motor pushing on them, the result will be a lot of damage.
I’m going to assume this won’t happen again, but the only safety I can think of would be to unplug the control board. Which is annoying.
I’m very thankful this incident didn’t end up worse.
I’m thankful that I’ve got a cool head on my shoulders and was able to maintain control over things.
I’m thankful that mobile mechanic was nearby and stopped to help.
I’m thankful my battery didn’t pop.
I’m thankful I wasn’t towing my car on the back at the time, which would have made quick maneuvers potentially more dangerous.
It kinda worked out. And gave me a story to tell! 😉