Here is the long awaited review of the Vroom Slide System that I had installed this past week to replace the 3Trax Schwintek Slide System on my 2020 Magnitude SV34.
First a little history….
The SV34 full-wall slide is big and heavy. It's about 23’ long and contains theater seats, full kitchen with cabinets, residential fridge, furnace, Girard tankless water heater, bedroom wardrobe, vanity and 32” TV. The slide was always a little sluggish but seemed to function ok during the first year. While at the Thor Factory Service Center in Wakarusa to have the front cap separation addressed a year ago, they told me they had to replace the rear slide motor because it failed. I was a bit surprised but was glad it failed while they had it and they replaced the motor.
The coach sat all winter after coming back from Wakarusa and in the spring I started having problems with the rear motor almost immediately. I found the top cap and the encoder of the newly installed motor knocked off. It looked like a screw in the slide box was not seated properly during manufacturing and rubbing on the top of the motor. I fixed the bad screw and I replaced the motor. When I replaced the motor I noticed that it moves toward the slide box when retracting because of the tremendous torque required to move the slide. I wasn’t too surprised the motor moves around quite a bit since the motor is only held in place by a small retaining screw.
Then halfway through our recent 7-week western trip, the rear motor started acting up again. It started lifting and spinning. The retaining screw seemed to still be in place but the motor was still moving a lot. I ended up chaining the motor down to keep it in place so I could use the slide for the rest of the trip.
The more I looked at the design of the Schwintek slide mechanism design, the more I began to hate it. While it might be fine for a small and lightweight slide, it is a terrible solution for a large and heavy slide. Whether 2, 3 or 4 tracks, the two motors are under a tremendous amount of torque and the motors are not adequately secured with the single retaining screw. The v-rollers used on the bearing blocks also don't seem adequate enough for the amount weight rolling on them. It really is not a robust and reliable design for big slides.
Then m1noel (Mike) sent me a link to the Vroom Slide Systems and I started doing some research.
Vroom Engineering and Manufacturing has been in business since the mid-70’s. They have been designing and delivering solutions to a wide variety of industries including mining, astronomical, food processing, and textile processing. They also make industrial gearboxes for one of their clients. Having in-house Engineering, Fabrication, Machining and Mechanical Assembly departments as well as other specialty and technical services, enables them to deliver a finished turnkey solution anywhere in the world.
I found that the creator of the system (Brian Vroom) went through similar problems with two slides in his Tiffin Class A on a trip to Alaska. After talking to Tiffin and Schwintek and basically hearing that the slide mechanism “is what it is” he decided to take matters into his own hands. As a mechanical engineer and experience running a manufacturing and fabricating company, Brian understands how a robust and reliable system should be designed so he decided to build a better slide system himself.
I called Brian and spoke with him to learn more about his system. He is a great guy…. both easy going and very knowledgeable. He did extensive testing on his Tiffin Class A in the development of the Vroom Slide System. After speaking with Brian and feeling comfortable that his solution should be better than the Schwintek system, I made an appointment to have his system installed on October 4th at the end of our trip.
The first revision of the Vroom Slide System uses the existing LCI slide motors and controller. The motors are retrofitted with his gear reduction system and four-point motor mount. Brian has built a much beefier H-column with a larger and a stronger gear engagement mechanism as well. He uses a stronger shaft that turns on needle and roller bearings for less friction and smoother movement. The system was also designed to have the ability to loosen a 3/4” nut to disengage the motor should it fail with the slide out. Then the slide can either be pushed in or a 7/16” wrench can be used to turn the shaft to move the slide back in by hand. This can be done on the ground so a ladder is not needed.
Here are the key highlights of the Vroom Slide System:
- The drive motor is solidly bolted to the upper pinion gear housing as is done in all industrial motor gearbox applications.
- The patented pinion gear housing contains leading and trailing roller bearings facing upward that roll within a downward facing u-channel on the gear rack mounted to the side of the slideout. This design accomplishes three things: it maintains perfect gear alignment, counteracts the twisting force of the drive, and allows the pinion housings to move freely within the wall channel to follow movement of the slideout.
- The pinion housing is held captive to the gear rack mounted to the side of the slideout. This allows the slide box to move up and down on its rollers under the floor and fore and aft from vehicle accelerating and stopping while still maintaining drive alignment.
- Use of needle bearings in the pinion housings reduces friction and allows using a 300:1 motor for faster slide out travels.
- An important patented feature allows retracting a slide that has failed in the extended position to be retracted by hand using only a 3/4” wrench to disconnect the drive motor. The slide can then be pushed in by hand or wrenched in using a 7/16” wrench.
The second revision of the Vroom Slide System will include his own motor design with a better encoder, gear reduction system and the four-point mounting system. He will also have a more intelligent controller and heavy duty wiring harness for the motors to deal with movement and bending of the wiring harness as the slide is extended and retracted. The mechanical parts are made by Vroom and the controller is being manufactured in Canada with the motors built in Taiwan. Like other manufacturers he is dealing with supply chain issues at the moment but he hopes to be ready to start installing the his complete solution in February.
Brian also believes a 300:1 motor can be used for any slide with his system. The advantage of this is it will open and close much faster. My slide only extends about 22” but some slides extend 35” – 40” and are very slow to extend and retract with the 500:1 motor.
Brian does plan to have his team do installs in addition to designing and manufacturing the system. He is land-locked and doesn’t have the room to expand his current operation but he does have some land and building in the area to dedicate to installing his Vroom Slide System in the Tucson area. He is also working to recruit other companies around the country to install it as well. He is working with a company in Connecticut to install his system on the east coast.
Brian is getting busy now that the word is out about his better slide system. He told me that Tiffin is sending him a few of their owners to install his system to solve problems those customers are having with their Schwintek slides.
I would recommend waiting for Brian’s complete slide system after the first of the year; unless you are experiencing a failure and need it fixed now. I plan to take my SV34 back next September when we are out that way for the Balloon Festival to have him install his controller, motors and heavy duty wiring harness… even though he thinks it should work just fine using the LCI controller and motors.
You can reach Brian for more information or to schedule an appointment to have his system installed by e-maling him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Even if you plan to wait for his complete system early next year, you may want to get an appointment scheduled soon.
Brian’s lead installer is Joey, who seems very knowledgeable. He showed me all of the components and how they work and why they are better than the Schwintek components. Besides removing the Schwintek system and installing the Vroom system, Joey also checked the rollers to make sure they are adjusted properly and also that there was no debris hindering movement of the slide. Joey does very good work. He pays attention to detail and I give him high marks for his quality and workmanship.
Brian had me plan to leave the coach for three days but they had the work completed in two days. I decided to leave it overnight since the last steps was applying some sealant so I wanted that to have time to cure overnight.
I am very impressed with the Vroom Slide System; even using the LCI motors and controller. The slide is quieter and moves smoother and does not seem to struggle extending or retracting like it did. The installation is also very clean.... better than anything the factory would do.
I have extended and retracted the slide several times now over the past four days and it works much better than the Scwintek system ever did.
There were metal support brackets on the inside walls of the coach for the Schwintek H-column mount. I noticed when working on the rear slide motor that Thor used screws and some of the screws were missing. Vroom uses rivets so there is no chance that screws could loosen and cause an alignment issue. They also use rivets on the outside support bracket as well. While I first thought screws would be better to make it easier to change the wipe-seal, it is now clear that rivets will do a better job of securing the mechanism so it never loosens and potentially causes any alignment issues.
The nut to disengage the motor is also easier to access than I thought it would be as you will see from the picture below. There is one at the front and one at the rear below the bottom track under each shaft. If a motor fails, the 3/4” nut is loosened to allow the shaft to turn freely to push the slide in or to turn the shaft with a 7/16" wrench.
I do have a question into Brian asking what if a motor fails with the slide closed because the nut and shaft are not accessible with the slide closed. I still have my doubts the slide could be moved manually with the motor engaged; even if the wiring harness is disconnected from the controller. Based on my coach, it looks like I might be able to use a hole saw to open a hole under the coach to reach the nut with the slide closed but I need to look at that more closely.
Replacing a motor is more involved than with the Schwintek system. The slide has to be open and you would need to drill out the rivets on the outside bracket to remove the wipe seal and the outer mounting bracket in order to access the motor. It looks like you might also have to pull back the bulb seal on the inside of the coach or possibly even remove the upper support bracket on the inside in order to reach all of the bolts to remove the motor.
I think that is a reasonable trade-off given the very solid design of the system. The motors should last longer theoretically given they are mounted much better. The motors also should not be working as hard since there is less friction and the slide moves easier. So hopefully a motor change won't ever be necessary.
You will see in the pictures where the two upper Schwintek tracks were mounted at the top of the slde box. The Vroom top track is mounted higher than the original tracks. I will decide later if it is worth repainting the side of the slide box. Frankly, it does not look all that bad the way it is so we'll see what I decide to do after the winter.
Here are some pictures and links to a couple YouTube videos showing the slide extend and retract......
Video: Inside Coach - Slide Retracting
Video: Outside Coach - Slide Extending