Thursday, September 28, 2023


Using RV locks safely – and wisely

By Greg Illes
My RV has a LOT of locks. Cargo bay locks, water filler lock, two door locks, ignition lock. And then there’s the toad. At first blush, the way to be safe is to just lock everything up — right? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on where I am and what I am doing.

Personal safety is a delicate and contentious matter. That’s fine — everybody needs to manage their own safety. So I’ll state very clearly that these thoughts are MY considerations, and yours may vary. I’m not going to suggest that you do what I do, I’ll just describe my reasoning.

First, the door locks. There’s a handle lock and a deadbolt. I used to lock them both, while parked or traveling, but I’ve changed that plan.

I don’t lock the deadbolt when I’m parked and inside. Reason: If I have to get out in a hurry (sleepy emergency), I’ll forget about that extra lock for too long a delay. Parked and outside? I always lock ONLY the deadbolt. Reason: It requires a key to lock the deadbolt from the outside, so I’ll be very unlikely to lock myself out.

I don’t lock the door when I’m traveling. Reasons: I might have to get out in a hurry. Also, an accident or impact might jam the lock. Yes, there’s a risk that some evildoer might run alongside my RV and jump inside. I have decided to take that chance.

Cargo bays
I lock all the cargo bays except the ones (one on each side) with my “outdoor” fire extinguishers in them. No explanation needed. I do try to keep less-valuable items in those bays.

Ignition lock
I never leave the key in the ignition, even when I’m staying in the coach. Not for theft reasons (valid), but because it’s too easy to accidentally leave my ignition switch in the “accessory” position and drain the battery.

The toad
Four-down toads need to have the ignition key in and turned, to unlock the steering. I keep the toad alarm keyfob separate so that I can lock the toad with its ignition key in it. I lock the towbar to the hitch, because those things cost $1,000 and they’re way too easy to sell.

Spare keys
I have a full set of spare keys on the outside of the RV, in a really secret place. I’ve used them twice in three years, very gratefully.

I hope these ideas give you some food for thought. Be safe!

Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at



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3 years ago

Just to thwart those funsters who may think it funny to pull the pins on that tow bar, I never start down the road even after stopping for a minute without circling the entire rig checking on everything from tires to those pins holding everything together.
I carry extra pins just in case.
I also would never under any circumstance lock the Toad to the tow rig. If the dam thing catches fire I want to at least be able to quickly pull the pins and the safetys to save the toad if the restt is a goner.

The tip about not locking the compartment (s) containing the fire extinguisher (s) is valid and smart as well. This I didn’t consider and now will.

3 years ago

I have one suggestion to those of us that store our rigs away from home. Don’t hang the extra keys on a hook inside the rig. In a spot we kept our rv years ago some burglars broke into one rig with keys hanging inside. They attempted to use them breaking into several others parked nearby- doing a lot of damage. They tried getting into ours- creating scratches and dents everywhere.

3 years ago

Might your “really secret” hiding place for keys involve your black tank valves or hose?

3 years ago

Steering wheel locks are quite easy to disable simply by removing a small spring on the steering column, therefore the key in the ignition is not necessary.

3 years ago

I lock up most everything. It’s not that I don’t trust people, I just like to find things where I left them.

3 years ago

Not all four down toads require a key in the ignition. Our GC is keyless touch ignition and does not require a key to be left in the vehicle when towing. We lock it – and everything else – when traveling.

3 years ago

I appreciate Greg’s insight and enjoy his discussions. I have slightly different practices though:
1 I DO keep the people door deadbolted during travel for three reasons: to reduce chance accidental opening by passenger or sudden jarring or twisting of chassis while underway, to keep out unwanted visitors during stops in traffic or otherwise, and also to provide a security against a latch failure which might release spontaneously while underway on our bumpy, jarring highways.
2 In addition to locking the towbar to the hitch, I also lock the toad to the towbar, and to the baseplate to guard against tricksters who might think it’s fun to pull pins out when no one is looking.
3 changed all the factory basement locks to barrel locks, keyed alike.

Vincent Sadowski
3 years ago

Full time for over 17 years. The keys always stay in the ignition of the motorhome. The lower compartments have never been locked in the 600 or so rv parks I have stayed in. Nothing has ever been taken.
Sometimes I forget to lock the driver’s door and it stays unlocked for a week or more.
I enjoy watching a person come outside of their rv and unlock a compartment, retrieve what they want and then relock it. If they forgot everything they wanted they have to unlock and relock.
I never stay in Walmart parking lots or rest areas. There may be some correlation between where you stay and what you have to lock up.

3 years ago

Vincent, you are a very very lucky man. I spent over 40 years repairing the damage done by thieves and listening to hundreds of their stories (the victims) and I know from that boots on the ground evidence your lifestyle will sooner or later get your very personal thief a very fine reward, that is unless you have nothing worth stealing.
Like I said and I’m betting many others think so too – you have been unusually lucky.

3 years ago

Change all those dumb “751” keys with cyclinder type. Get them all keyed the same. No cheap Chinese made need apply.

3 years ago

We lock the door when fueling. We usually are both out of the coach doing different tasks, not able to see the door side, and have been approached by sketchy people, even in decent areas.

3 years ago
Reply to  Susan

Smart Susan. It is thought the elderly McCann couple from Edmonton who were murdered in their motor home and burned, a few years ago were overtaken by the guy who entered their unit undetected at a gas station. He likely gained entry via an unlocked side door hiding in the unit until they were on the road – spelling their doom.
I never leave the unit for second, without locking it up – just like you do.

Gary L Bloomfield
3 years ago

We also keep our toad locked while traveling but added another layer of security. We had a “dummy” key made up, one without the chip inside. Now the ignition will unlock and turn, but will not start the vehicle.

3 years ago

Never thought of that Gary. Having worked in a dealership I have always assumed you couldn’t unlock the ignition without the chip in place. I don’t doubt you but I’ll check this out, if it works on my rig (a 2011 HHR) it certainly will be a heightened level of security for us Toadies.

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