Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Better to leave keys in toad overnight or remove them?

Dear RV Shrink:rvshrink
We travel in a Class C motorhome and pull a small sedan. My husband is always paranoid that someone is going to steal the car. If we stop for the night at a Walmart or other stopover, he pulls the keys. I think we should leave them in the ignition in the correct position so that if we have to leave in the middle of the night we do not have to exit the motorhome. His arguments are that the battery can drain and someone might be tempted to steal the car when they see the keys. I say let them have the car. It would be more dangerous to go out in the middle of the night and fool with it.

Am I the one being paranoid? Do most people lock everything down at night? Should we both just “chill” and not worry so much? —Nervous Nelly in New Castle

Dear Nelly:
RV travel should first and foremost be relaxing and enjoyable. There is no guarantee you are not going to be a crime victim whether you are traveling or at home at the local mall. I have only met one couple that lost their toad. They stopped to shop at a Walmart in Mexico. That proves it can happen. I find most Walmarts that allow overnight camping very safe. They are well lit, have security cameras, and many even have security guards.

You make a good point about not having to exit the motorhome in the middle of the night if asked to leave a site. If someone were up to no good, they could easily decommission your vehicles some other way. If they are after your toad they are probably going to get it one way or another. My personal mode of operation is to leave the toad in the tow positions. That means the key is in the ignition. With a good battery you should be able to drive a few days without draining the battery, but a simple kill switch is cheap insurance. It not only insures you will not drain your battery, it is also another deterrent for a thief. You can make your own for about ten bucks or buy one for fifty.

I suggest you take all the precautions, then just relax. Make sure your storage doors are locked, your car is locked, don’t leave expensive electronic devices out in the open, and be alert to any situation that doesn’t feel right. We spend most months every year on the road and have never had an incident. We have stayed at many non-campground parking areas. We talk to other RVers every day. I seldom hear of any problems.

Again, life offers no guarantees, but don’t dwell on being a victim. If you find that you are not comfortable in these sites it might be easier on you to always find official camping sites. Our readers will most likely leave helpful remarks and their own experiences in the comments below. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-book: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.




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Ken (@guest_36258)
5 years ago

My toad is a F-150 and I discovered that although the computer (via the key fob or door pushbutton switch) will not allow me to lock the doors with the key in the ignition and in neutral, but I can still manually lock the doors the pre-computer way just by pushing the door locks down. The computer doesn’t seem to know the doors are locked! Beware, you’ll need either another key or (in my case) to remember the e-lock code to regain entry!

Bob (@guest_36222)
5 years ago

By the way, I have been camping 40+ years in an RV. Staying at truck stops, Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Roadside rest stops, shopping centers, and beach front in Key West. I have left early in the evening because area did not look safe, but I have never left in the middle of the night.

Bob (@guest_36221)
5 years ago

I also tow a Honda Fit. Previous owner installed a simple $10 battery kill switch under the hood, with a separate fused wire from battery to power the brake buddy. I leave the key, but lock the car with the fob. If the thief can figure all this out, to unhook the car and make it drivable, he can have it.

D. Mason (@guest_35950)
5 years ago

We tow a Honda Fit, base model. The battery is just enough to run the car & its systems, with little to spare. If we don’t use the car, we do pull the key. Experience taught us 2 days tiring without driving it means a dead battery. It’s a cute little battery, next size up from a motorcycle battery.

BuzzElectric (@guest_35561)
5 years ago

How often do you have to leave the campsite in the middle of the night. Don’t you sleep with your hookups connected? Why are you staying the night in a place that you have to leave in the middle of the night? I always do a walk around before I leave for safety reasons. I also always have reservations in safe places.

Marcia Liddiard (@guest_35547)
5 years ago

We leave the key in, turned on for towing. But my husband makes sure the car is at an angle behind the rv when we park at a Wal-Mart or other large parking lot. You can not disconnect the car when the tow bar is clocked at angle.

BuzzElectric (@guest_35558)
5 years ago

Dead rv means you can’t unhook the car if you leave it in an angle.

VietVet72 (@guest_35513)
5 years ago

We have a 2005 Jeep Liberty. To tow it you have to turn the key to the first detente to unlock the steering wheel. I got a key cut that doesn’t have any coding chip. It unlocks the steering and will start the car, but the engine dies right away, and the car can’t be driven with this key. I leave the key in it all the time while in toad position. Even if someone were to break into the Jeep they can’t drive away with it. They could tow it away, but they could do that with or without the key in it.

BuzzElectric (@guest_35559)
5 years ago
Reply to  VietVet72


Gary (@guest_36264)
5 years ago
Reply to  VietVet72

Great idea

Jeffrey Torsrud (@guest_35491)
5 years ago

I may be wrong, but I think they make a Brake Away Cable for your Tow Bar that is actually a Burglar Alarm! Seems I’ve seen it someplace. Might be worth time Searching for it!

Dave Telenko (@guest_35488)
5 years ago

We had the same problem of leaving or not leaving the ignition key in the toad! Our 2016 Subaru has a smart key with a chip in it & wont start without the chipped key. So I went & had a key duplicated at Home Depot without the chip. So I can leave it in the ignition, in the ready to tow mode. In the past I’ve forgotten to put the key back into the ignition, but it didn’t take long to figure out that the steering had locked & I needed to stop & put the dang key in. LOL

Camper (@guest_35565)
5 years ago
Reply to  Dave Telenko

Which Subaru are you towing?
I was under the impression it had to be manual transmission and those were not made any longer.

Nora Roseberry (@guest_35617)
5 years ago
Reply to  Camper

I just bought a 2019 Subaru Impreza and the Sport trim is offered in manual.

Dave (@guest_35478)
5 years ago

In some of the 2018 and up cars (ours is an 2018 Chevy Equinox), you can’t disconnect the battery. They have electric steering even when being towed

Jeannie (@guest_35471)
5 years ago

We never leave keys in any vehicle and never leave any unlocked. Why ask for problems?

Tommy Molnar (@guest_35469)
5 years ago

This is all new stuff to me, as we tow a trailer. Having grown up in Chicago, I never leave keys in anything. I even take the keys out of the car when it’s in our garage! I just can’t fathom going to bed at night (no matter where that is) knowing the keys are in the car. But, as I said, we don’t do the MH / toad thing. Didn’t know the keys in the ignition was part of the ‘experience’.

Bob Godfrey (@guest_35466)
5 years ago

Personally, we lock everything up every night and we never leave keys in the toad overnight.

Joe McMillen (@guest_35463)
5 years ago


We lock the TOAD with another set of keys and keep them in the MH. that way the TOAD stays in “ready to tow” mode and thus avoid a potential towing disaster.

Here is how: The car probably won’t lock using a FOB with the keys in the ignition and no one in the drivers seat, so use the regular key to lock the drivers door and again to open it when you need to remove the vehicle from the MH. We do it all the time.

If you husband is persistent, hang the keys on the MH steering wheel as a reminder that the TOAD needs to be prepared for towing.


Darrel (@guest_35444)
5 years ago

Lock the tow car to the tow bar. Lock the tow bar to the motorhome

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