Read Part II HERE.

Owing to inexperience nurtured by ignorance multiple slide leaks went undetected which led to floor damage, trim damage, stained moldings, veneer separation from wood, soppy rugs, floor stains, tile loosening and electrical wiring problems. All of this could have been avoided by knowing ahead of time to expect chronic leaking of supposedly properly sealed slide joints. Perhaps the information presented here will help a few folks avoid the problems I faced. I'll add that better design, materials and sealing at the factory would also have eliminated the nuisance leaks. As of this writing, the burden to correct these problems lies with the end user. Luckily there are some simple things you can do to avoid expensive water damage.

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Uninvited water can cause significant damage. This was a fun time!

Slides are well known trouble areas on most vehicles that have them. This is especially true for the Country Coach Allure (4 slides) which I've had first hand experience with. The caulk existing in any vertical or horizontal slide joint is suspect, however some are more prone to what I call nuisance leaks. There are 7 joints per slide exposed directly to weather and 3 joints per slide partially shielded (those under the awning topper). Joints facing up are the most likely ones to leak (see Part II). What's more is the awning topper fabric itself leaks as does the track that holds it to the side of the vehicle. I've also had the slide gaskets (4 per slide) pass water under certain circumstances. This makes a total of 16 areas (an area being defined as the straight run which includes some form of water barrier) per slide that potentially will leak. Once past the barrier, water will find its way into walls, wood, rugs, wiring, flooring, moldings and ceiling only to do damage at some level. The slow drips that go undetected are the real killers given they can leave areas constantly wet for long periods of time. Mold is very difficult to get rid off. Given the scope of this article I'll break it up into more digestible Parts I and II. Part I deals with the awning toppers and slide tops while Part II deals more with the caulked and sealed joints.


On our Allure, Carefree of Colorado was the OEM supplier for the awning topper systems which include acrylic fabric, tracks, mounting brackets and retracting drum mechanism. An optional batten support made from aluminum extrusions may be included to lift the fabric into a tent. The battens are an ill conceived idea that's supposed to help remove standing water from the awning. It actually creates more puddling and encourages water to run against the vehicle. What's more is the sharp mounting brackets wear holes in the fabric. I removed this system, cut up the parts and threw them all in a dumpster. As for the fabric used, it's anything but "care free" because it's porous and requires constant sealing with a waterproofing agent. Problem #1 is the acrylic fabric can't be made entirely water tight if it is to lie in a horizontal plane. When water puddles (as it always does) it then bleeds through the fabric which collects on your slide top. Gallons of water can get through the fabric as slow drips over time. Even though the slide top is pitched to the back outside corner the plastic material on top isn't always flat (problem #2). Bubbles and puckers in the plastic can exceed the drain pitch and cause water to run under the slide gasket and into the living space. If Country Coach attached the fabric higher up on the vehicle the increased pitch would have allowed water to run off the awning topper. As of 2005/2006 no one thought of doing this. Water getting on your slide top is exacerbated by strong rains in windy conditions. Water pouring off the awning gets blown back under the awning topper and onto the slide top because there isn't enough overhang (problem #3). Gallons of water can get blown in which puddles against sealed joints and violates gaskets. Problem #4 is the space between the awning topper and slide top allows the elements to blow right in. It's important to observe how water is entering, where it's collecting and by what paths it drains. Although this isn't a solution to the problem, standing water should be removed quickly with a squeegee and towel to keep the slide top dry. If you have poorly sealed joints water damming up against them will seep in. As water lays around, even the smallest caulk/seal/gasket leaks will cause you damage and headaches. If you are dealing with a freezing and thawing cycle things get much worse. The bursting effects of freezing water can convert small cracks into full blown leaks.

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Fabric track leaks too.

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Puddles bleed through OEM fabric wetting the slide top.

As for our awning toppers I purchased a small one (back slide on driver's side) from Carefree of Colorado for $175 to fix a small tear I had. The new awning material wasn't even sealed with fabric guard properly and bled water through immediately. This, in my opinion, is an outrage!! That frustration sent me searching for better material which I quickly located in a boat cover shop. I've since replaced all the awning toppers with Sea Mark fabric which is an acrylic fabric impregnated with vinyl on the underside. It is absolutely water tight and also $60 per square yard. I increased the width of the topper an inch (maxed out the drum width) on each side which has helped draining water clear the slide. On the windy side I've installed two cinch down straps which draw down the awning topper fabric. This has helped reduce water blowing in and keeps the awnings quiet in high winds. It also avoid having the drum springs take a beating. Very small amounts of water and snow can still blow in under the fabric, however. When that happens I need to deal with it using a ladder and elbow grease. Instead of gallons of water needing to be drained, I see about 2 cups worth. So far we've been running tight and have remained dry through some pretty bad storms and weather. Puddles now don't bleed through the fabric but instead blow off and evaporate.

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Leaks here are almost impossible to spot. (slide top caulking)

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Too much space allows the elements to blow in.

The ideal awning topper system would include watertight fabric, ample width beyond the slide edges, no spaces for water to blow in, good drainage pitch away from the vehicle and be stretched tight enough to avoid puddles. All of these requirements can't be met in a single system, however. I've had good luck with watertight fabric, 1" of increased overhang and cinch down straps. These three improvements keep out almost all the weather. If your slide top caulking is good, small puddles will harmlessly evaporate. Keep in mind the outside edge of the slide (still under the awning) includes a SS structural angle piece. The OEM sealant doesn't stick to this particularly well so puddles can run up and over the sealant and get into this angle run. From there it can run along anywhere and enter the interior. It's tough to identify a specific spot where the leak is. Sealant beads that look good could very well be leaking. It's almost impossible to spot leaks. That said, I removed all awning toppers and resealed all these poorly bonded areas over their complete length. It was quite an undertaking but needed to be done. Given all the factors we're as tight as can be expected which has turned out to be fine. I still keep a close eye on my slide tops and water owing to the damage it can cause.

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2" cinch strap, watertight fabric and reduced gap really help improve performance.

Even with watertight fabric I did notice dripping along the track that secures the fabric to the vehicle. With some experimentation I was able to identify the path water takes through the track and correct the leak with tape. For further information on this project go HERE.

Slide show HERE. (7 frames)

Evolve and simplify!
Scott Bridgman, Why not join and post your own comments?? (email me)