Can you do the hydraulic slide?…

So just a little bit of background for you…. beulah_il_beach_parkRVs often have “slide-outs” which I just call “slides.”  Some campers don’t have them, and then however wide they are is how wide they stay (typically 8 feet or so).   The slides extend outwards on the sides of the camper to increase the interior space.  In pop-up campers, these are typically just screened areas for sleeping.  But for larger RVs, the slides are solid and a literal extension of living space.  Some campers have 1, and I’ve seen as many as 4 (though I am sure there must be some with even more than that).

We have 3: a long one that houses the dining table and sofa (so extends out from both the kitchen and living room); another one that extends out from the living room and houses Dave’s office area, complete with desk and ample built-in cabinet storage; and one that extends in the bedroom to bring the bed out and allow some floor space between the foot of the bed and the dresser.

towing_memorial_wknd_2015When you are towing your camper, all the slides are “in.”  They slide into the interior of the camper and fit snugly.  Clear the floor space and they basically fill most of the dead space of the camper.  When you are parked at your camp site, you bring the slides “out.”  Side Note: If you are thinking about getting a camper with slides, consider whether or not you have access to the kitchen, bathroom, and bed when the slides are in.  Basic needs here: can you pee, eat, and sleep?  Our camper rules, so we can do it all even when the slides are in.

The slides are on a hydraulic system.  You flip a switch and out/in they go.  3 slides, 3 buttons.

So I want you to picture this…  We are finishing our first weekend out with the camper at Illinois Beach State Park (beautiful by the way) Memorial Day weekend.  Check out is about 3pm.  It’s about 1:45pm.  We clear the floor space, bring in all the lawn chairs, clear out the fridge.  Dave is doing his strong-person things outside and I am doing my what-can-I-get-done-with-one-free-hand-while-carrying-a-baby things.

I push the button to bring in the first slide.  Nothing.

I push the button to bring in (hopefully) the second slide.  Nothing

You know where this is going…

“Dave?….” I fearfully call out.  My mind is racing… If we can’t leave by 3 will we get into trouble?  The campground is practically empty – surely, they won’t be unreasonable, right? How will we get this thing home if we can’t get the slides in? How long will it take to fix this?  How expensive will it be? It’s a holiday – no one will be open! And if they are they will charge a small fortune to help us!  Can we even be helped?  Maybe the camper is just toast.

We foolishly attempt to push them in.  Like that’s gonna happen.  They only weigh, like, a friggin’ ton.

I internally prepare myself for the worst but externally try to appear trusting and calm.  “We will figure it out,” I calmly utter.

Dave opens up a small (think Alice in Wonderland) door on the outside of the camper, revealing what appears (to me) to be a chemistry project gone apocalyptic.  There’s a plastic and metal vessel connected to various wires.  Colorful rubber tubes are entering and exiting every which way, extending up into unreachable nooks and crannies of the camper.  You can get 2 hands in there if you scrunch.  I panic even more.  Somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that this system might be complicated.

Dave looks and pokes around a bit and says something like, “Wah wah wah wah… Wah, wah WAH wah wah.”  I know he is using real words, but I’m pretty sure I have never heard any of them before.  Side Note: If you are thinking about getting a camper, you might want to consider buying one with someone who knows things about things I know nothing about (Hudsucker nod).

What I do understand about what Dave is saying is that he is going to the store to buy something he hopes will fix this problem of the slides not sliding, and that if it doesn’t fix this problem we’re basically screwed.  Very comforting, as you can imagine.

About 30 minutes later he shows up with a very small paper bag.  Inside the paper bag are 2 bottles of pink fluid (for those of you that care, this is automatic transmission fluid). He pours them into the apocalyptic apparatus. [Dave’s note – minor correction: I did NOT pour 2 quarts of ATF into the hydraulic slide tank. I poured in one quart, and saved the other for future use] “That’s it,” I’m thinking? Apparently, that’s it.

The moment of truth.

I go back into the camper, open up the cabinet and stare anxiously at the slide controls.  I don’t even want to try because I don’t want to find out we’re screwed.  But I have to do it, of course.

I hesitantly reach up and push the first button.  Music to my ears and dancing to my eyes!!! Like a miracle the slide comes in and wedges itself into its snug spot.  The second button: Hurray!  The third, another success!

My nerves start to unwind and I feel like a snail outside of its shell.  What would I do without Dave?…. Seriously.  I start to see the expansive horizon of things I do not understand, identifying that they are probably quite simple but impossibly complicated when you don’t know the first thing about them.

I’ve had lots of experiences like this since meeting Dave.  I remember the first time I caught him programming and saw a colorful screen of letters and numbers arranged in what looked like something either a robot developed or a toddler smacked randomly.  Snail outside her shell.

Or the many times Dave has finished an electical project and tried to involve me in his accomplishments, explaining the watts and volts or whatever the heck and again the “wah wah wah” rings in my ears no matter how hard I try to really take it all in.

There was a time when I worried about this.  Can 2 people who know so little about one another’s professions really successfully couple?  The short answer is: yes.

SO back to the camper.

You’d think the story was over, but no.  We got home safely and parked the camper back at its storage lot.  A few weeks later we come back and low and behold the pink fluid has made its way out of the apocalyptic contraption and spread lovingly all over the Alice in Wonderland compartment.


The good news: Dave pretty much knows what the problem is.  There’s a leak in the tiny tank.

The bad news: Where the f*+k is it?….

Repeatedly refilling a tank that will continue to lovingly spread its oily contents all over the compartment is hardly a solution.

So we (Dave Sr., Dave Jr) tighten this bolt and that tube, awkwardly crawling in and out of compartments to try and get a better look at this poorly placed contraption.  It really seems like they put it there just so no one could ever effectively get to it.

We actually still, 4 months later, haven’t exactly found the leak.  After the boys twice tried to patch things up which slowed the leaking but did not elimiate it, I finally snuck in there with smaller hands and a smaller head to see if I could find something new.  And alas, I could “see” where the leak was.  Now it’s a question of finding the parts to create a better seal on the tank.  Once we do that, the apocalyptic chemistry project should be working much better.

Hydraulics, man…. Who knew?…

A camper is not just a camper.  It’s a machine! Duh, right?… Well, to this city girl it’s a wake up call.

You gotta know it.  It’s hydraulic!  Boogie woogie woogie! And you can’t hold it. It’s hydraulic!  Boogie woogie woogie! And you know it’s there.  Yeah here there everywhere….  I’ve got to move.  I’ll take you on a party ride.  And I’ll teach you, teach you, teach you… I’ll teach you the hydraulic slide.

[Dave’s note – for those having issues with their own hydraulic slides, I do NOT recommend pouring a full quart of ATF into a tank when the slides are already extended. In fact, I’m pretty sure the owner’s manual explicitly said to only add fluid AFTER the slides are already in.  Suffice it to say, between the tank leak and me overfilling the tank, I’ve had to clean up a lot of messy red fluid.]

One Response to Can you do the hydraulic slide?…

  1. John Flannery

    Great post and writing style! I felt like I was right there covered in hydraulic fluid with you. I’m excited to start following this blog as you traverse the country. We’re going to miss having Dave in the office- please make sure he gets back in one piece!

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