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RV Slide Locks: What Are They & Does My RV Need Them?

RV Slide Locks: What Are They & Does My RV Need Them?

We recently published a complete guide to the RV slide-out. We covered the pros and cons of slides in general. But one of our readers pointed out that our post didn’t mention anything about RV slide locks. (Thanks, Michael!)

In his comment, Michael mentioned that slide-out locks seem to be a controversial topic, and he’s right about that. Some RV owners feel they’re essential, while others think they’re completely unnecessary.

We fall somewhere in the middle, and we decided that the topic deserved its own post.

What is an RV Slide Lock?

Slide locks (also known as lock arms or travel locks) are designed for use on a slide-out room, primarily to help keep it fully retracted during travel.

The purpose of RV slide locks is actually two-fold. While Their primary function is to prevent an RV’s slide room from being able to extend while you’re driving or towing the RV down the road, they also help maintain a tight seal between the slide-out and the side of the RV.

A travel lock/slide lock essentially allows you to drive to your destination with confidence, knowing that your slide-out rooms are fully and tightly secured as you move down the road.

Protecting the slide with a lock maintains the integrity of the external water and dust seal on your slide, ensuring that your RV will be clean and dry on arrival at the campground.

For example, if you were on a long road trip and your slide popped out, even very slightly, (to the point where you might not even notice it), not only could the slide be damaged from flexing, but dust and water could enter your RV. It’s important to maintain the external water and dust seal, and the locks help do that.

Are There Different Types of RV Slide Locks?

RV slide locks are generally either manually operated or automatic.

Manual

Manual slide locks are typically bars that are extended/locked between the inside of the outer RV wall and the inner edge of the lip surrounding the slide-out.

The following examples of manual slide locks wedge between the inside of the RV wall and the inside lip of the slide-out while the slide is retracted.

To use this type of slide lock, you’d rotate the shaft clockwise to tighten it and counterclockwise to loosen it. This allows you to adjust the lock to the appropriate length for your rig’s slide-out.

When you reach your destination, you simply remove the locks from each side of a slide-out (two per slide-out – one on each end) and extend the slide. The locks can be stored away until you prepare to hit the road again.

AM.TECH COMP American Technology SL24441C 24" x 44" Slidelock
  • Item Category: Auto Accessory
  • Item Trademark: AMERICAN TECHNOLOGY
RecPro RV Slideout Lock | RV Slide Lock Prevents Slideout from Opening in Transit (13-23") Gray
  • KEEP YOUR SLIDE-OUT LOCKED - During travel, use the RecPro Slide Lock to help maintain the integrity of your slide-out's external water and dust seal....
  • PROTECT AGAINST WATER & DUST - The RecPro Slide Lock helps protect your RV against the elements by keeping your slide-out locked during travel. The...

Automatic

Automatic slide locks mechanically or electrically extend to perform the same task, ensuring that the slide-out doesn’t come out when it shouldn’t.

The lock arms on our RV’s slide-outs are automatic. Since we have four slide-outs, we have 8 automatic lock arms (again, one on each side/end of each slide.

Automatic power slide-out locks generally come pre-installed on an RV as they did on our motorhome.

A power slide lock arm on our motorhome

We’re often asked what these black rectangles are on our slides. They’re factory-installed power slide lock arms. When the slide is retracted, the paddles swing out automatically, securely locking the slide-out in place for travel. Newmar’s newer design is on top of the slide rather than the side, and they’re mechanical, not electric.

Do My RV Slides Need Slide Locks?

Well, most RVs don’t come with slide locks, and for the most part, they seem to fare just fine without them.

If you ensure that you’ve properly and completely retracted the slide room before driving/moving, you’ll likely be just fine as you travel.

However, slide locks are helpful to ensure that the slide is, and stays, 100% retracted. And as noted above, they also help to create a tighter seal against the elements when the rig is being driven/towed.

While we’d be hard-pressed to suggest that all rigs with slide-outs “need” slide locks, we’ve read about RVers whose slide mechanism failed, allowing the room to extend during travel. Slide locks are a backup safety system to prevent that from happening.

How to Use a Slide Lock

A slide lock/travel lock needs to be sized for the depth of your particular slide-out.

A diagram of how a manual slide lock works

This shows how a manual slide lock holds the slide in place during travel by preventing it from moving at all.

To obtain the proper dimensions, you’ll need to measure the depth of your slide-out, which is best done when the slide is retracted.

Measure the distance from the inside of the outer RV wall to the inside edge of the slide room lip that seals against the outer wall when the room is extended.

Important:

Be absolutely sure to remove or retract your slide locks before extending your slide.

Failure to do this could damage the lock, the slide, your RV’s walls, and/or the slide mechanism.

Does Your Rig Have Slide Locks?

Did your rig come with slide locks (manual or automatic)? If not, have you bought manual locks to protect your slides as you travel? Have you (gulp) ever had a slide-out extend while driving?!

We’d love to hear where you stand on the slide-lock issue. Drop us a comment below.

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Steven

Friday 3rd of May 2024

Our rig had automatic slide locks on the full-wall slide. The previous owner must have had issues and had them removed. We have not replaced them and have not (to date-4 years) had an issue with wall migration while traveling.

David Stainton

Friday 3rd of May 2024

Our rear bedroom slide came out traveling down into Salt Lake City, I don't think the downhill curves on the I-80 there helped. Always use a manual lock on the slides now. I also use a red clip (a ribbon would work as well) on them that way if the red clips are not at the front or in hand when extending I know the slide locks are still in place and not to extend the slide. Better safe than sorry.

Scott Floyd

Saturday 6th of May 2023

My 2002 Diplomat 38 has electric gear driven slide outs. I am buying locking bars just as an emergency backup in case I have a slideout gear shear pin break and want to be positive the slides will not creep out in transit. I will just put a small tag over the slide switches to ensure I remember to remove the locking bars before operating the slides.

Mike

Saturday 6th of May 2023

I'm dubious. It seems unnecessary and I could see myself forgetting about them when trying to open the slides. I'm going to put this into the "One More Thing That Could Go Wrong" file...

TheRVgeeks

Tuesday 9th of May 2023

Hi Mike... it's one of those things that seems "unnecessary"... until it's ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY! Most people who have manual slide locks will do something like put a tag or note next to their slide switches so they remember to unlock them before extending their slides. Can they forget? Sure. But there's LOTS of other things you could forget about on an RV and end up having a problem with.

chris crawqford

Friday 5th of May 2023

I have a 2022 Tiffin Super C with a Lippert slide failure...the slide will creep out due to faulty hydraulic seals...I bought rec-pros to use on that slide for security until I can get to Red Bay for full repair!!!

Kenneth Megan

Friday 3rd of May 2024

@chris crawqford, Hi Chris--I have the same problem with my 2024 Tiffin Super C--you would have thought they would fix the problem by now-I bought slide locks, but they didn't seem to work--I positioned them in the middle, and the slide still creeped out on the bottom, but not the top--i was worried the slide would get mis aligned, but it seems to be OK--maybe if I put the lock on the bottom it would work--did you get the problem solved?

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