Read Part I HERE
Moving away from the awning topper issues covered in Part I, Part II deals with problematic slide joints. As for the painted vertical and horizontal seams they are all suspect. You'll see evidence of water by looking for bleeding rust coming from under the screw heads (vertical runs). On the horizontal seams you can push on the molding and sometimes see water oozing out. I drilled small weep holes on the bottom faces (under the slide) to allow water to drain out. I took several gallons out of the D/S bedroom slide.
A small weep hole acts as drain and sentinel.
Forces and stress coming from running the slides in and out break the sealant beads. Freezing water trapped inside pockets caused by poorly formed sealant beads will burst seams open. Deterioration of caulk and lost adhesion will cause leaks too. Upward facing seams act as catch basins for water. Keep in mind that every caulked joint is a potential leak and it's likely each slide will have multiple instances of leaky joints. At least this is what I faced trying to tighten things up.
It's my theory that the present slide/joint design can't be sealed properly in a relatively maintenance free fashion. It would be nice, for example, to achieve the reliability of your car's windshield that very rarely leaks. Not going to happen! In an attempt to understand slide joints better I partially removed one of the painted horizontal angles (front D/S slide front facing bottom edge). The bead of OEM sealant I observed was inconsistent which I gather traces back to sloppy work at the factory. Perhaps a Friday afternoon job. The poor coverage of the sealant allowed water to enter which proceeded to soak and rot the wooden flooring. It would have been nice if Country Coach used exterior grade plywood whose glue is designed for moisture. But that wasn't the case. Metal frame parts in the vicinity were also rusted but not compromised. In short the leak created a BIG mess and an awkward repair job for me.
Looks tight? Think again.
On the bottom angles, joints face up making them prime candidates for water collection as water runs down the vertical slide and over the joint. It appears that 18-20 gauge metal was used for the bottom angles with a conversion coating. The cross sectional area is just too small to provide enough contact area for the caulk. The area between the angle's interior face and the bus panels is the best place for caulk. In my case, the factory did a crappy job of applying the caulk here which led to catastrophic leaking. The "beauty" caulking on top was fine creating the illusion of a tight joint. Unless you rip off the angles, you can't inspect them and/or properly re-caulk the joints. Proper caulking would require completely cleaning out the old caulk and cleaning all the surfaces. In 8 places the effort to do this shouldn't be taken lightly. On the main D/S slide, the bottom angles include a radius that works with the ramping action of the slide mechanism. This makes removing those angles difficult. The conversion coating used on that metal is also very smooth and doesn't provide for good adhesion surface. If you sand it, then you damage the conversion coating which means rusted metal.
A closer inspection of all the metal joint slide parts (angles, trim, plates, etc.) will reveal yet more gaps and small crevices. These will leak too as pelting rain and water flows over them. Finally, the slide leaking situation has been perhaps the most frustrating of design issues I've dealt with. I'd wager it has caused thousands of dollars of damage. And the really frustrating part of it all is some $20 worth of 3M tape would have avoided all of it. If only I had known about this beforehand.
This joint was leaking badly. Shown here, it still isn't tight.Using Tape:
As mentioned, I used 3M vinyl electrician's tape to waterproof suspect joints, seams, gaps and cracks. It has worked well. The tape is available in multiple colors, is weather proof and has a good grade of adhesive. With care, you can make a reasonably clean installation that will last many years. Other taping options exist to include 3M's clear paint protection film and sign vinyl. Sign vinyl can be precisely cut and printed in any color. My simple, easy and inexpensive tape has worked well so I've not pursued the other options. If someone else has experience beyond the tape I'd love to hear about your approach and results. It's all about keeping out the water and multiple options exist.
This was the worst joint. 5 minutes and some tape would have avoided the water damage.
Multiple tape runs can increase coverage as shown here with a vertical joint.
Vinyl tape is elastic meaning it stretches when unrolled and applied. It's best to avoid this situation, however. Stretched tape can pull away from the surface it's adhered to which means it no longer seals well. Let the tape relax completely before pressing it into position. Obviously remember to clean all surfaces first so the adhesive is at its best. The sense of over lapping horizontal runs is to face the tape/tape joint away from water flow. Think of shingles on a roof. The tape has weathered well for two plus years now and is in good shape. We fulltime so that includes two full winters with icicles, snow, freeze ups and melting. All the treated slide joints have remained tight. I inspect them often.Summary And Conclusions:
Slides allow us to meet DOT width requirements while providing increased living space when parked. As a fulltimer, I wouldn't be without four of them. This flexible addition of space comes with a maintenance overhead. Slide mechanisms, gaskets, tracks, hydraulic systems, gear motors, wiring, hoses, awnings and exposed joints are all potential problems. It's a good idea to understand what the issues are and how to deal with them. Designers and builders of slides need to provide tight reliable products that can survive mechanical stresses and constant exposure to the elements. I think Country Coach needs to do a better job of addressing this. Until they do, the end user deals with the headaches, damage, repair efforts and bills.
Leaking slides are a real problem and the resultant water damage is expensive to fix. It's much easier to fix the leaks before the joints, seams, gaps and cracks break down under the effects of mechanical stresses and the elements. I was ignorant to these leaks and thus paid the price for not fixing them early. If you are planning on having things re-caulked remember you aren't really fixing the problem just delaying the next repair. If you don't see much water and avoid winters chances are good a superficial caulk job will get you by. This wouldn't be an option for us, however.
Weep holes are a good idea in that they will drain water before large volumes of it builds up in inaccessible places. It also offers an easy way to spot leaks. Ideally, weep holes should remain dry if everything is tight. An 1/8" hole is plenty large enough for a drain. A small piece of black tape can take the hole(s) out of service if required.
Vinyl tape works well as a sealing media. It's cheap, quick and easy to install. Only certain joints may need tape. Make sure tape is relaxed before applying it to avoid it from pulling away. Inspect tape regularly to ensure it's sticking properly. DON'T USE CHEAP TAPE!
A cinch down strap helps awning toppers work better. It keeps fabric close to the slide top and reduces the size gaps. A strap avoids noise, banging and damage in high winds. Make sure awning material extends over the slide so water drains off properly. Adjust strap tightness to avoid fabric from pulling back behind the slide's edge. If this happens, water will drain onto the slide top. Use a watertight fabric like Sea Mark for your awning toppers. Porous fabrics are a headache waiting to happen. Inspect for track leaks and fix them as required. Remove any water from slide tops quickly. Make sure your sealant beads are all tight on your slide top. Joints looking tight may still leak water.
I hope this information helps a few folks avoid the hassles we went through with our leaking slides. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to contact me.
Slide show HERE
. (7 frames)