Are RV Slide Toppers Worth It? (Common Problems and Cost)

This depends on how much. You like cleaning all the debris, bird droppings, and other items out from your slide-out. You may not think they are worth it but those that do own slide toppers find that their workload decreases even though these toppers can be a bit difficult to install or replace.

Are RV slide toppers worth it? If you look at the positive side of things, then yes, they are worth it. Even though they can be expensive, some cost you $600 or more, they provide you with good service. That service overcomes some of the common problems of pooling water, a lack of tension, and so on.

To learn more about the worth of a slide topper just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to know about. Making an intelligent decision helps you protect your RV or travel trailer which is one of the main duties of a topper.

What is a Slide Topper on an RV?

If you know what awnings are, slide toppers are the same thing and act in the same manner. The only difference is that the slide topper attaches to your slide-outs and moves in and out when your slide does the same moves.

The slide topper is made from the same materials as a regular awning and can be very durable if you pick the right material. Plus, these toppers can come in a variety of colors making sure that you can match your RV or travel trailer color design with ease.

These slide toppers are a handy little accessory as they will cut down on your maintenance duties when installed properly. You can count on them to provide some protection for your slide out as well.

Are Slide Toppers Necessary?

This is up to your point of view. To some people, these accessories are very necessary as they help protect their slide-outs from damage and the elements. Plus, they save on work as the RV owner does not have to spend time cleaning out the slide-out area of debris, nests, leaves, and so on.

That time saved can be spent on more important activities like an afternoon nap, visiting a historical site, or shopping for supplies. Then these same people see slide toppers as an energy saver. It helps keep their interior cooler so their AC does not have to work so hard.

To other people, they are just an added expense and another accessory that can fail. They think that the mechanisms will break down quickly costing them more money than just the purchase price.

They may also enjoy the maintenance work but who knows. In the long run, they are necessary if you want your slide out to function normally for a long time.

How Much do Slide Toppers Cost?

The usual factors come into play when you are looking to purchase one of these accessories for your motorhome or trailer. The retail or wholesale outlet will have a wide range of prices for you to select from.

How much you pay will depend on the size of the topper and the materials you want to be included. For example, some of the smaller versions will sell for $150 while larger ones with better quality materials can sell for $450 or $600+.

Some 13-foot toppers have been known to go for that higher price. To get an exact cost you would have to measure your slide-out accurately. Then add in 5 inches for a 2 1/2 inch overhang on each side.

Then take those measurements to your topper dealer and talk to them. Installation may cost you a bit more unless you plan on doing it yourself.

Are Slide Toppers Worth It?

You may not see any initial or immediate benefits from purchasing a slide topper but over the long run, those benefits that make owning one of these devices a good idea will show themselves.

For example, your slide-out mechanisms get protection from the rain and sun helping them to work longer. Plus, you do not have to worry about debris getting inside and jamming the operation of the slide-out.

Those savings come in money not being spent on repairs or extra maintenance costs. When planning your budget make sure to read the following section so you get the full picture of what is involved with slide toppers.

Slide Topper Pros And Cons

  • Pros:

- protection from the sun- slide-out roofs are vulnerable to the aging effects of the sun. These toppers protect your slide-out so they do not wear out on you due to sun exposure. This protection includes keeping sealant and paints from drying out and cracking. Or vinyl and plastic parts from deteriorating.

- keeps debris out- this is a good thing as you do not have to spend time cleaning out the mechanism of that debris that can damage it.

- provides moisture protection- water damage is real and it can harm your slide-out, its mechanisms. The topper can prevent water from finding cracks to leak inside your RV, etc.

  • Cons:

- vulnerable to the wind- it is possible that the fabric can flap in high winds. This flapping can lead to damage to the fabric which means you would have to spend money replacing it

- the fabric can lose its tension- this is one maintenance chore that has to be done carefully

- water pooling- if you do not place the topper on a slight downward angle, the rainwater can remain on top of the topper. This can cause damage to the fabric if the water is left alone. or you have to spend time pushing the water off which means going up on a ladder.

- their cost can be higher than your budget allows

Do Slide Toppers Help With Heat?

Yes, they do. The topper acts as a barrier between the sun and the slide-out. This barrier also keeps the roof of your slide-out from heating up. The blocking of this heat transfer can make a big difference inside your RV or trailer.

The indirect benefits would be that your AC unit will not work as hard to keep your interior cool. That lack of effort means you save on power consumption and your AC does not wear out as quickly.

You and your family are more comfortable inside and do not need to run fans or move to a cooler portion of the RV to enjoy their day. While you get some heat protection, just keep in mind that protection is for that portion of your RV or trailer only.

You would have to take other heat reducing measures for the rest of your trailer’s or RV’s roof

How Much Wind Can a Slide Topper Take?

This issue may be more of a wind direction than wind speed. If the wind comes from just the wrong direction, it can do damage to the topper no matter how fast it is going. Also, you have to make sure your topper is taut and has no sag in it.

When you have sag, then it is easier for the wind to get a hold of the fabric and flap it about or rip it off. But if you are looking for an exact speed measurement some people say 20 to 25 mph is enough to do damage to the topper.

Other owners have said that they have experienced heavy winds with no problems. Your results will also depend on the quality of the fabric and the hardware used to install the topper. If the installation was done poorly, that will be a factor in this issue as well.

Common Slide Topper Problems

Since there are few moving parts on a topper your common problems will be limited. In most cases, you will find that the mechanical parts may fail on you due to poor quality craftsmanship. or the installation was poor creating many issues that need to be fixed.

Another common problem will be the loss of tension in the fabric. This problem makes the fabric vulnerable to the wind and tearing. The latter is common when the fabric finally gets old and loses its strength.

Finally, water pooling is another common problem. This can come when the topper is installed perfectly level and has no angle to it. Or when the fabric loses its tension. All of these are easy fixes to do and should only take a little common sense to provide a remedy.

Slide Topper Fills With Water

This is a common problem when the spring tensions have lost their tightness. The fabric will sag allowing water to pool on top of it. Some owner’s manuals say to raise or lower one corner of your RV or trailer to let the water drain off.

This is a solution but it also may take several attempts to get all the water off the topper. Then some owners say to just go up on the roof of your RV or trailer and sweep the water off.

When it comes to the spring tension, you either have to adjust it or replace it to get the right tension in your fabric again. If you have more than one topper, this problem may not occur on both of them at the same time.

Slide Toppers in Snow

The weight of the snow is going to be your biggest worry. One owner left the snow on her topper for several days. The spring did not snap right away but it was weakened enough that it did finally snap a few months later.

It is important to clean the snow off as quickly as possible to avoid damaging your topper. Or if you are in a snowstorm bring those slides in so that no damage can take place to the topper. Then wait till the storm is over before extending the slides again.

If you leave the snow on till it melts you may be asking for water damage problems. The water can harm the fabric if given enough time.

Slide Topper Noise

The topper does not come with a motor, so you will not be experiencing any motor noise during the expansion or retraction of the slide-out. However, the noise will come with the wind and the fabric has lost its tension.

Some people have suggested using a beach ball to make the fabric taut to the point it does not make noise when the wind blows. Other people have suggested that instead of having a soft fabric in the topper you buy a hard shell option.

If you are camping in windy areas, this may be the best solution. These are rare but they do exist. It keeps the wind from flapping the topper and you can get a good night’s rest.

How To Keep Slide Toppers From Flapping

The most common solution is to place a beach ball or a kickball underneath the fabric. Once you get it in place, the fabric will have a slope that will provide the right amount of tension that stops the flapping.

Or as we just mentioned, you can replace your fabric topper with a hard shell one. That harder shell will not flap in the breeze. Of course, you would have to check to see what wind capacity these hard shells can endure before they are damaged.

A final solution would be to adjust the spring mechanism so that the fabric has the right amount of tension on it. Or just remove the topper and leave your slide-out unprotected.

Some Final Words

If you make a careful analysis of toppers, you should see that the benefits outweigh the negative aspects. They are handy accessories to have and these toppers will make your RV life a little easier with the lower maintenance requirements.

Check them out, do some more research and see how these toppers can contribute to your RV lifestyle.

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