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
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.]
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