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.”
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.
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.
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.