Thursday, November 30, 2023


New coupler lock keeps your travel/utility trailer safe from crooks

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

In recent weeks, we’ve seen reports of several travel trailer thefts. Typically, the owner parks his rig at a supposedly “safe” storage location and goes away. On the next visit, Hey Presto! the trailer is gone. Security camera footage often shows somebody rolled in with a pickup truck, hitched up the travel trailer, and vanished into the night – and at times even into broad daylight. Some rigs are found again, some not, but sadly the ones that are found may have been trashed and contents gone with the wind. Storage lots aren’t the only points of purloin. Looking out the window of their own homes, reports show trailers are even stolen when parked “right out front.”

Bolt Coupler Lock
Strap keeps release lever locked; red base plate holds ball in place. Hitch pin lock keeps it all together. (Click to enlarge)

Is it a crime of opportunity? In many cases, it seems that way. Somebody with bad intent and a trailer hitch on their pickup spots a trailer, rolls up, hitches up and hurries off. Taking a few minutes and a less-than-$100 investment may spare you the loss of your trailer. We’ve installed a Bolt brand Off Vehicle Coupler, and while, yes, somebody with persistence, time and a die grinder might be able to remove our coupler, the average crook in a hurry is likely to go looking for easier pickin’s when he examines our trailer security system. Bolt provided our test unit.

Bolt’s Off Vehicle Coupler is a simple enough device. A fitting on the device takes the place of a trailer hitch ball. There are a variety of sizes included with the system; you’ll find one to fit your trailer. This “ball” securely bolts onto a large, heavy plate. Slide the “ball” into your trailer coupler, flip down the locking lever and the hitch ball on a would-be thief’s rig has no place to go. By the way, that big plate is powder coated in fire-engine red – easily visible to the passerby, warning the bad guys they need to go elsewhere.

Bolt Hitch Coupler Lock
Click to enlarge. R&T De Maris photo

To keep the security ball in place in your coupler, a U-shaped heavy steel strap slides over the top of your coupler’s locking lever, preventing it from being opened to release the “ball.” The bottom edges of the strap slide through slots in the plate. Keeping the strap and the plate together is a sturdy stainless steel hitch pin.

With the ball and plate securely locked into your hitch coupler, the strap preventing the lever from being opened, and the hitch pin in place, the final part of the system comes into play. It’s a strong, tubular-shaped lock that securely clamps onto the end of the hitch pin. The six-plate lock tumbler will most decidedly keep the lock from being “picked” or “bumped” open. And making it all the more easy, the lock automatically “learns” your truck’s ignition key. No need for more keys on your key ring! Keep reading to see if this will work with your rig’s key.

Bolt Hitch Coupler Lock
R&T De Maris photo

The initial setup might take you five minutes. You’ll choose the correct “ball,” then cinch a bolt through the ball into the plate. Open the coupler, insert the ball, then close the coupler lever. Slide the U-strap down until it securely covers the coupler lever. You’ll have two choices as to which way to orient the plate – and it’ll be obvious which way it goes – the way that the strap prevents the lever from being opened. Line up the strap holes with the holes in the base plate, slip the hitch pin through, and click the lock in place. Well, hang on, first you’ve got to educate the lock to your key. Insert your vehicle key in the lock, give it a full turn, and your key and lock are now married. If you need a “divorce” later, you’ll need to contact Bolt to obtain a new, appropriate lock, as once taught, the lock will not “learn” any other key.

Reverse order for removal: Simply use your ignition key to unlock the lock, pull it off the hitch pin, pull the hitch pin loose, pull the strap out of the base plate, and you’ll then be able to open the coupler lever and remove the ball. We stow our coupler lock in a nearby basement storage compartment when not in use.

We like the Bolt system because in addition to the off-vehicle coupler lock, they make other “train to your truck key” security systems. Our hitch coupler “stinger” is locked to our truck hitch with a locking hitch pin. Our battery boxes are secured with a Bolt padlock. And if you’re concerned about somebody separating your trailer from your tow vehicle, Bolt also produces a trailer coupler pin that locks your coupler lever closed when hitched up to your truck.

Bolt’s Off Vehicle Coupler is a $70 purchase on Amazon  Amazon that’ll give you more peace of mind when you’re away from your trailer. It includes “balls” for 1 7/8″, 2″, and 2 5/16″ hitches. Separate systems will “learn” keys for GM center cut and early and late model GM, Dodge and Jeep, Ford side cut and standard cut, as well as Lincoln and Mercury, Nissan and Toyota.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Bob p (@guest_81588)
3 years ago

Without seeing the pin details I won’t go there, but it probably is designed much like most locking hitch pins which means someone with a 3’ length of pipe can slip it over he lock and bending it until it beaks at the thinnest point. I own a battery powered cutoff grinder that would go through the strap or locking pin in 20 seconds and as someone else commented simply wrapping your safety chains around the hitch ball will get you far enough down the road to not be bothered by the law, so you better do something with your safety chains. The article doesn’t mention anything about the material used. The slots in the material where the 90 degree bend is is just weak points and easy places or a cutoff wheel to get into. This looks like you might find this in the dollar store very cheap looking.

mdstudey (@guest_81565)
3 years ago

I like the fact that it does not require the extra key and learns your truck key, but I just don’t like the fact that pin. Maybe if it was more like a bolt end instead of a long piece of metal hanging down. I have just recently started researching locks. I don’t feel comfortable leaving while boondocking. While it is probably safer out in the boonies, you just don’t know about people these days.

Herb Lapp (@guest_81553)
3 years ago

It’s great you are focusing on trailer security. But you missed covering what l recently purchased to protect mine. I have a meager $10,000 investment in my cargo trailer rv but l plan to boondock. After lots of research l selected a hitch lock from Ft. Knox Locks. I saw their YouTube vids on their attempts to defeat their own lock. That convinced me to purchase one. It cost me about $230 but that’s a steal (pun intended) compared to my measely $10k investment. Try their locks out. I don’t know the ability of the lock you showed here to prevent theft. But l suspect looking at it’s beefiness compared to my Ft. Knox lock it wouldn’t resist theft as well.

Thomas Becher (@guest_52810)
4 years ago

I use a Master Lock product. You can’t grind anything on it. I think with a cordless grinder I could grind off the locking pin in a minute or so.
Anything can be stolen by a persistent thief. Just a deterrent

Irv (@guest_52728)
4 years ago


I can quickly defeat any hitch lock by towing your vehicle away using your safety chains. For long distance towing, I’d use my own shorter chains with hooks to hold your trailer closer to my tow vehicle.

Michael (@guest_52801)
4 years ago
Reply to  Irv

Easily defeated hiding in plain sight.

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