The One Upgrade Campground Thieves Don’t Want You to Know About

Giving up our “stick and bricks” home to live full-time in our RV meant some major downsizing. Everything we own is an arm’s reach away. Every week is a new campsite in a new town.

Thankfully, we’ve been overwhelmed with kindness as we make our way across the country. Fishermen have let my kids reel in their fish, probably because I can’t catch anything (I guess it would be weird to let me reel it in, but I wouldn’t say no.) We had the sweetest couple invite us to church and onto their motor boat. Although when they let my son take the helm, I quickly wrapped myself in a life vest.

However, as a father of four, I can’t always let my guard down. There are thieves and knaves around RVs and campers, too.

But don’t fret! There are measures you can take to safeguard your loved ones and your valuables while enjoying the great outdoors.

I upgraded my RV door lock. This is a common RV modification. You’ll find out why later. In this article, I’ll show you how I replaced my factory door lock, why it’s really not that safe, and what else is out there.

Travel trailer deployed outdoor kitchen

Should I Be Worried About RV Theft?

Yes, RV campground crime is a real thing. In fact, it’s been on the rise for several years. In the 2018 Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service, the NPS reported almost 600 total crime cases. Of those, almost one out of five were property crimes.

But before I dive into my RV lock upgrade, here are my 3 K.I.S.S. Commandments of RV Door Security. Follow these basic rules, and you’re 50% of the way to a safe RV already!

By the way, this article is really about how to keep people out of your RV. If you’re more concerned about thieves stealing the whole R – lock, stock and barrel – then here’s my article on total RV security called 11 Ways to Stop Thieves from Stealing Your Camper!

RV Security: 3 Newbie Commandments

1) Pick a Safe Campsite

Since we have young children, safety is a priority. We want privacy, but ultimately safety comes first.

My wife and I have an agreement. If at any time, her mamma bear sense goes off and she feels unsafe at a campground, we will pack up and go. Even if I already lit the campfire. 

Here’s what we look for in a safe campground:

  • Is there a gate at the entrance? Is someone monitoring who is coming in and out of the campground?
  • Is the campsite easily accessible for potential thieves?
  • Are the common areas well lit?
  • Is the campsite patrolled?
  • Campground reviews. In addition to getting intel on the safety of your next campsite, these can be a great source of entertainment.

2) Lock Up When You Leave

This means everything: your trailer, 5th wheel, toad and your tow vehicle. Here are my recommendations for coupler and wheel locks.

And this doesn’t just include your campsite! If you leave your RV at a storage facility, lock up everything there, too!

Open and unlocked doors are an invitation to criminals. They could sneak in and grab valuables and you’d be none the wiser. I know it sounds basic. But we all know someone who hasn’t locked up their stuff and lost that gamble.

This is Andy, here. I, um, well, I’ve “donated” three mountain bikes (and counting) because I trusted in the goodness of society / I was too lazy to use a bike lock. Listen to Michael! I wish I would have … 

Also, having a locked car could make it easier to file an insurance claim for stolen belongings with your homeowners insurance policy!

Keep your storage compartments closed and locked when not in use. Having your cargo compartments and toy hauler garages open puts your hard-earned goods on display. Plus, our beer fridge is out there!

3) See Something, Say Something

I’ve found the RV community is one that looks out for each other. “See something, say something” is a phrase I learned from my time in the corporate world. I’d rather be overly cautious and warn someone a out suspicious activity than allow someone to get robbed or hurt. A lot of people are like me.

In fact, strangers have even asked me to watch their sites. This leaves me flattered and surprised since clean cut and shaven is a rarity these days. If you leave your campsite unattended, let someone know. If you’ll be gone overnight, alert the campground host. They’ll help keep an eye on your stuff.

Speaking of your stuff, pick up your outdoor areas while you’re gone. You want to eliminate those temptations. 

Bonus Tip: Act Like Your Home!

The simplest and most effective advice to prevent RV theft is to act like you’re always home! Leave on the radio or an inside light to make it look like you’re still home.*

Bonus points if you can top this:

When I was in High School, I was able to procure a life-size cardboard cutout of Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher from the local video store. Nobody dared approach my sweet 1986 Bonneville Station Wagon with Dolph riding shotgun.

Why Should You Upgrade Your RV Door Lock?

Let’s start with a basic question: Why would you need to upgrade your RV door lock?

Did you know most RVs come with a near-universal lock? This is great if you get locked out and need to find a key. You can order them online, get them at the hardware store or ask the person next to you if you can borrow theirs. Not so great if you want to be safe.

Here’s what Andy has to add:

“Most RV manufacturers seem to use one of two key code cycles. Smaller manufacturers might use the same key and cylinder for an entire model year. Larger manufacturers have have 6-7 key and cylinder combos, alternating pairings every other camper. There is no guarantee that Manufacturer A’s keys are any different from Manufacturer B’s. So your key and cylinder may be used on a dozen different RV models!”

Upgrading your RV door lock is a simple step make your RV less attractive to thieves. They know it’ll take some work, maybe even actual breaking and entering.

I hate to say it, but locking up your camper is like surviving the zombie apocalypse: You just have to be a little better protected than the next guy.

Did you know many RV doors are face-mounted? That means the door can be completely installed – and removed, unfortunately – just from the outside of the camper. All you have to do is remove the mounting flange screws. A practiced thief with an impact driver could have your door off in 5-10 minutes. 

Make life harder for them. Considering replacing some or all of your door mounting screws with tamper-resistant screws, such as a star pin-in pan head self-drilling screw.

How to Install the RVLOCK Entry Handle

So, I didn’t like the idea of the standard key.

I upgraded to an RVLOCK V4 keypad keyless lock. The compact RVLOCk V4 has a keyless entry pad and two keyed cylinders (one dead bolt). It also comes with a remote key fob (you can order more separately).

In addition, I was able to work with RVLOCK to have three cam locks keyed all the same as my front door. One key to rule them all!

Here’s the skinny on my camper door lock installation mod. 

STEP 1: Remove OEM Door Lock

Use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding the lock housing to the door. These will likely be flat head machine screws or pan head shoulder bolts with a Phillips No. 2 or Square No. 2 drive.

You may need to remove the striker plate as well. I did. This will loosen up the lock and allow you to remove the assembly from the door. There may be cap sealant around the exterior or butyl tape underneath. Clean and remove the sealant before continuing the install.

Confirm that the hole size is compatible with your new lock. If not, you can most likely use a jig saw to enlarge the hole for your replacement lock.

When I installed my compact right-hand RVLOCK keyless entry handle, the proper opening size was 2.75″ wide, 3.75″ tall. 

This has the same fit and function as all RVLOCK V4 models.

Photo Credit:

STEP 2: Install RVLOCK Entry Handle

The install was relatively easy. 7 steps and you’re done! 

I think after I did a few more installs, I could hit the 10-minute install time RVLOCK promises. It did take a bit of force to get the lock to seat properly in my door.

In addition, the installation exacerbated a previous issue I had with my RV door not latching properly. This is a fairly common issue. Even after pulling the strike plate as far forward (towards the outside) as possible the door was not latching without force.

(Keep reading for the solution!)

Here’s the PDF Installation Instruction for the RVLOCK V4.

In addition, the installation exacerbated a previous issue I had with my RV door not latching properly. This is a fairly common issue. Even after pulling the strike plate as far forward (towards the outside) as possible the door was not latching without force.

(Keep reading for the solution!)

Here’s the PDF Installation Instruction for the RVLOCK V4.

I contacted RVLOCK twice for product questions and both times they were helpful and quick to respond.

I purchased my RVLOCK from Amazon. When I decided to replace my RV storage compartment locks, I had to order directly from RVLOCK to have all the locks keyed the same. I contacted RVLOCK via email and provided the key code from my door lock and they were able match the locks to my RV door. Awesome!

When I was at my wits end on the door not latching properly, I took a shot and emailed RVLOCK. I provided a detailed explanation of the issue with my RV door not latching properly.

RVLOCK responded the same day and told me I needed to file back the slot that held the strike plate. I filed that back and also repositioned the strike plate further forward in case I needed to file this back more down the road.

What I Love About the RVLOCK Upgrade

Easy Install –

The 7-step install was pretty easy, and I don’t exactly run a pit crew. Programming the key codes wasn’t too bad, either. The handle has over a million permutations!

Security –

The fact that my lock is not keyed the same as everyone else gives me peace of mind. In addition, the lock is more robust than the standard RV door lock.

Convenience –

If we are running down to the beach or park, we can lock our RV without having to tote keys. You can easily change the code each time your child yells it out to the entire campground.

Customer Service –

RVLOCK was front, prompt and helpful. They even helped me key all my cargo and entry door locks the same!

Customer service: Check!

This is the RVLOCK V4 door entry handle. They also make baggage handles, mechanical entry (key-only) handles, hasp latches, and thumb latches. Good company! And you keep your RV safer!

Bonus: One More Additional Security Measure

My dog greets everyone she sees by shaking her little nub of a tail. Thieves would get a different greeting if they tried breaking into our trailer. You don’t need to have a Doberman either. Attackers or yappers all serve as a warning for thieves to stay away.

Michael Huff: Full-time RVer, husband, father, son, brother, friend and dreamer. I am officially “living the dream:” traveling the country with my amazing wife, four awesome kids, and beloved boxer in our 150-sf RV. Each day we are learning, laughing, (maybe a little yelling) and finding the good in this world.

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