RV Shrink: Ripped off RVers considering extra security, i.e., “locked and loaded”

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Dear RV Shrink:
We often spend the night parked at Walmart, or other inviting lots, while traveling back and forth to Florida. They are mostly free, offer an open invitation, have security cameras, and often fellow RVers are parked nearby. However, we recently had a problem and we don’t even know where it occurred.

We arrived in Florida this fall only to discover my husband’s toolbox missing from one of our storage compartments. It could have happened at any of a dozen locations, from commercial, state or city campgrounds to parking areas we frequent. We didn’t realize that all of our storage door locks were generic. It turns out the majority of RV owners all have the same key to the same locks. That obviously means the crooks have them also.

My husband wants to change all the locks on our motorhome, which seems reasonable but awfully expensive. Do you think this is necessary, or are we just the unfortunate couple that were in the wrong place at the wrong time? He also wants to buy a gun and a security system that includes outside floodlights. —Locked and Loaded in Lakeland

Dear Loaded:
A lock does give owners a false sense of security. I am sure a lot of owners have no clue that they are putting all their faith and goods into a space accessible to anyone with an RV key. Everyone has to make their own decision on just how important it is to have the extra security of a personalized lock on RV storage space. Most entrance doors have double locks, meaning the same generic key and a personalized entrance key. But just like older automotive keys, there are only a limited number of key combinations. This leaves everyone vulnerable to enterprising thieves.

Locks are more of a deterrent to keep people honest. Anyone wanting to break into the majority of RV basement storage can do so with a screwdriver. Most are nothing more than plastic latches easily viewed and breached.

An outside sensor light is probably more of a deterrent than a lock. Criminals, like all cockroaches, get nervous when you shine a light on them.

Putting a couple rounds in some pilferer scurrying across the parking lot with your toolbox will end up costing you more time and money than a brand-new box of tools.

Until RV break-ins become as common as porch pirate episodes, I prefer to keep my bins locked and hope for the best. Again, everyone has a different threshold for paranoia. In all of our years of travel, we have only lost a few things to thieves. If I were to do the math, all of those things combined would not add up to what I could have spent on cables, locks and other security measures. I had a good friend recently lose the expensive parts of his mountain bike. He had it securely locked to the back of his motorhome. The inventive thieves simply took the components that were not locked on.

We are all vulnerable to a degree. We are often traveling into unknown territory with no clue as to the local crime rate. You can let that thought make you crazy, or ignore the possibilities, take normal precautions, and write off any losses you may incur.

The freedom of the road is not always free, but to look at the world every day with a suspicious eye will only dampen your experience. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

[Editor: For more information on this topic, watch this 1-minute video from Gary Bunzer, the RV Doctor, on “How to make your RV compartments more secure,” here.]

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: 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.

##RVT932

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Jim Jarvis

If you go to the AMAZING 1 website they have all kind of items to deter any thief from even thinking about breaking in or coming close to your RV much less taking anything .
Once they have experienced your surprise they will not be back but try to find something less secure.

Kevin

We change the basement lock as it lead to our bedroom as you can push up our bed to get inside our camper

Walker

I replaced all of my basement storage factory locks with ring-style cylinder locks that have a common key to these particular locks but completely different style from factory locks. Cost was under $100 on Amazon. Time to convert was under an hour. Difficulty on a scale of 1-10 was 1. At least cuts down risk of so many others having the same type of key.

Roger

Shooting someone for property theft is just plain stupid, and in most states will land you in jail with a homicide charge. A gun in the hands of a well trained person who knows the local laws is a great thing. In the hands of an untrained hothead, it’s a prescription for tragedy and a long prison sentence. BTW, It’s preparedness and common sense – not paranoia.

Gray

Consider the flood of generic RV keys as a sort of “thank you” note of appreciation from the RV industry to its customer base through the years.

But the more basic problem is the flimsy nature of the outside locker doors, easy to pop or spring open with a pry tool. Many RV locks can be twisted open with a straight-blade screwdriver in the key slot.

Solution 1: don’t keep expensive items in the outside lockers. 2: consider the infrequent loss as a nuisance and don’t fret about it. 3: go defensive and replace or reinforce the flimsy doors with stronger upgrades, and install upper and lower padlock hasps and security padlocks.

As for external floodlights, I’m sure that would be insanely popular with campsite neighbors.

Weapons: be sure to invite the neighbors over for target practice sessions. They’ll be super impressed. Then show off the “Tim Taylor” super-charged genset with the afterburner boost feature and extended run-time fuel tanks. You’ll be voted “camper of the year” for sure.

TravelingMan

Is there a way to get off of the standard RV key system and replace the locks with a unique system? I’d be interested to know. Like one said, the basement doors are easy to just use a small pry bar to get into. Is there a better baggage lock that actually has a long bar that can prevent just a simple pry with a crow bar?