Mod #76: RV Door and Storage Locks

Mod #76: RV Door and Storage Locks

Submitted on: 03/18/09

     Category: exterior, miscellaneous
Mod Rating: 12345

(33 ratings)

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Mod Description:

There is nothing like that terrible feeling of returning to your RV from a great day outdoors only to find that it has been broken in to or even stolen. Sadly, this is happening more and more frequently as RVs are getting the latest high tech entertainment gadgets and gizmos installed straight from the factory. Ironically, a security system doesn’t appear to be high on the list of the manufacturers save for the high end motorhomes. But there are some basic things you can mod your RV with to deter all but the most tenacious of thieves.

Mod Difficulty:

One of the simplest mods you can quickly do to secure your RV is to change the factory door and CH751 storage compartment locks. Almost every door lock used in an RV has a master key. This makes it easy for an RV salesperson to not have to carry around every key for every RV on the lot while showing units to customers. And it helps to keep costs down for the manufacturer since only a few lock combinations need to be made. But if anyone else less trustworthy were to get their hands on this master key, they could easily duplicate it and have access to your RV.

And even worse, the key and lock set used for most RV storage doors is the same one everyone gets. It’s the infamous CH751 set. Go look on your storage door key right now. Chances are that it’s has CH751 stamped on it. This means that you can wait until your campground neighbor is away and then “borrow” something from his storage bays. Or maybe he’s thinking the same as you! The key will work in any case.

Fortunately, having the door and storage locks re-keyed or replaced is easy. To re-key the door latch, it should be removed and taken to a locksmith, unless you want to pay for an onsite visit. Removing most common door latches entails removing 4 screws from the inside flange of the latch, and removing 2 screws from the striker plate. The latch assembly will literally fall out so hang on to it when removing the last screw. Have both locks re-keyed since the assembly will need to be taken apart anyway. This ensures that no one but you has unique door lock keys.

The storage door locks are very simple to replace and it is probably easier and less costly than to rekey. There are a few options you can mod your storage doors with: tubular cam locks and combination cam locks. The tubular locks offer a more secure key entrance than standard locks. The key shank is circular with a nub on the end. The prevents the old “screwdriver-in-the-lock” trick, twisting the lock until it breaks. The other type uses a 3-digit combination to open the lock instead of a key. They are a little more costly but the mod coolness factor is definitely up there.

To replace the storage door locks, all you have to do is remove the screw that holds the cam to the back of the lock cylinder, and with a 7/8″ wrench or socket, unscrew the nut holding the cam lock to the door. The lock just slides out of the storage door mounting hole. Reverse the procedure with your new cam lock, taking care to ensure you install the cam in the correct direction. The “S” bend in the cam should face away from the storage door when attached to the lock cylinder. Otherwise, the door will not latch properly.

TipAlthough this mod covered only door locks, there are a multitude of other security measures you can mod your RV with such as window locks, tongue lock (for a TT), motion or scare lights, and even a full-blown alarm system with motion sensors and cameras. What measures you take really depends on how you value your RV. All the memories are hard to replace to secure accordingly!


ModMyRV recommends these parts for this mod:
FRANK J MARTIN COMPANY 7850-S COMBI CAM 5/8″ CYLINDER

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28 Comments For This Mod

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  1. Bob Vaughn

    I have added some locks to my compartments that did not have locks but none as fancy as the combo lock….I think I will do those when my rich uncle gets out of the poor house…..
    Years ago with the camper before the one we have now we were leaving a campground headed for a family reunion and the door of the camper got locked then shut with the keys inside….we stopped by an RV dealer with camper in tow and a tech brought a key ring out with a hundred or so master keys..after a half an hour of trying keys he ran out of keys to try….I figured the owner before us had the locks re-keyed…We went to the reunion in our camping clothes then drove on home……Our newer camper can not be locked from the inside then shut the door…it has to be locked with the key…no more getting locked out….

  2. ModMyRV

    Hey Bob, don’t forget to “Do This Mod!”

  3. rvoutreach

    I did this mod and I feel a little safer now. Very easy to do, took about 5 minutes to complete. Here’s a link to the combi-cam locks at Amazon…
    Combi-cam Combination cam lock 7/8″ cylinder length

  4. John Adams

    The link for the combi locks from the companies home page is dead (404).
    http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=11231&filter=locks sells what appears to be the same lock and has 3 sizes available based on thickness of door. $15.99@. They also have a brown plastic keyed lock for $3.99 which I have used to secure wood file cabinet doors and cabinet doors in my shop to keep kids out. I don’t know how the $15.99 price matches the combi-cam.

  5. ModMyRV

    @John: Which link? I just tested the one in the comments and the one in the article and both work fine. Thanks for your link though. Looks like a good resource!

  6. wa8cxi

    I bought a used 1993 fleetwood no keys for the basement door locks
    I decided to see just how these locked worked.
    what i did was to take another key that I had and put it into one of the locks well all but 3 tumblers went down which allow the lock to rotate with the key in the lock I went to my grinder and ground
    off the 3 tumblers allowing the key to open the lock and when the key
    was taken out the remaining tumblers came out to lock the lock
    I did this to all my locks… no key problem solved… no expense
    to change 11 locks
    Gary

  7. ModMyRV

    That a cool idea Gary! If you have the equipment and the know-how, this little trick can save quite a bit of money. Thanks for the tip!

  8. BillyRay

    I have been selling RV’s for 15years. While it is true about the RV compartment locks being “universal”, the door lock change would be a waste of money. Us salespeople have a pass key to only part of your lock. The dead bolt part only your specific key can lock or unlock. So lock both parts of your door lock and the I or we cannot get in. The locks sold off the self and ordered I still have a pass key for, so if you change the door lock you will be replacing it with the same thing, a passed keyed door lock and a deadbolt I can’t turn with my key. Hope this saves ya’all a bit of Cha-ching — Happy camping.

  9. ModMyRV

    @BillyRay: That’s interesting information. Thanks. In my article, I mentioned having the door latch re-keyed rather than replaced. I suppose you could end up where you started if you simply replaced the door latch though.

    So how many of you folks out there only lock your latch and not your deadbolt? :)

  10. w6pea

    Very good information about the locks and ow to change them.

  11. Fiddy

    My dealer also said that about the entrance door lock. They do NOT have access to that lock. Their master key is only for the lock on the door latch and not the deadbolt - typically the bottom lock.

    I have been thinking that the combi-lock is the way to go and then put a set of keys in there for the entrance door. That way, if we ever forget one set of keys, there is another set available.

  12. Mark Silver

    It turns out that the rumors we have all been hearing about the CH751 locks and keys are true. If you’re not familiar with the rumors, well, allow us to get you up to speed. These locks and keys have been in use for the past 10 years or longer, and a large percentage of the travel trailers, fifth wheels, campers and, yes, some motor homes manufactured during that time have been produced and marketed with the same keys (CH751) for their storage compartments. The RV manufacturers have keyed the storage compartments alike mainly for inventory control at their factories and dealerships, and on that basis it makes sense to do so. Many manufacturers purchase their storage-compartment doors as completed component-frames, with weather striping, lock and door pre-assembled from outside vendors. For some models, there could be several different sizes of the storage-compartment doors, which would make inventory control a nightmare. As for a dealership, imagine the amount of work it would be to keep track of hundreds of travel-trailer keys.

    So what is the problem? Picture a neighborhood where everyone has the same keys, and everyone works in each others’ garage. Now picture a town or city where 70 percent of all of the garages are keyed alike. You don’t have to be a genius to appreciate that picture–it’s clear that a burglary is going to happen sooner rather than later. The truth is RV burglaries are on the rise. Remember, we are not speaking about break-ins; nothing is broken. The burglars are using keys to open the unit–the same key you use.

    So what’s an RV owner to do? There are three conventional options:

    1. 1. Do nothing. This option is actually not a bad one if your RV is seldom used, or you use the storage compartments to keep odds and ends–nothing of value. Keep in mind that your peace of mind has a price. What is the price for peace of mind? Clearly it’s different for everyone.

    1. 2. Re-key the storage compartment. This option is certainly valid, and it should be considered. In terms of cost,re-keying is far less expensive than purchasing replacement locks. However, some of the CH751 locks were not made to be taken apart, and even the most experienced locksmith will not be able to help you. Keep this in mind as well: The locks you are re-keying most likely cost less than $2, and the cost of the locksmith would probably be $5-plus per lock.

    1. 3. Purchase new locks and replace them yourself, or have someone install them for you. On the surface this alternative seems to be the easiest way to go. But all that glimmers is not gold. First you have to decide on what type of lock you want to replace the CH751 locks with. There are a dozen or more manufacturers and importers of RV locks in the marketplace today, not to mention locksmiths, hardware stores, internet companies and the RV dealers’ service and parts departments. So, before you replace the CH751 locks, it’s best to do a little homework. This might seem a bit intimidating, but it’s really easy.

    Before purchasing new locks from any vendor, consider the following:

    Are all the locks that you purchase going to be keyed alike? You really don’t want to end up with a key ring full of storage-compartment keys. And if you need to order additional locks or keys, can you get them with the same code at a later date?

    When ordering, make sure that the locks are the correct size. Even though the RVs use the same key code, there are 6 different lock sizes that are generally used, and countless variations of the cam (locking arm). If you don’t order correctly, you are going to be turning a 3- to 5-minute DIY project into a frustrating experience.

    Ask if you will be the only one who has that key code. Let’s face it, there’s no point in buying new locks if the company that you purchase them from gives the same key to everyone.

    Ask what kind of locks they are. Not all locks were designed for outdoor use. Remember, your storage-compartment lock is set low to the ground in most cases. Road grime and weather conditions can and will affect your locks.

    You might also ask where the locks were made. A lot of locks today are made overseas. Not to say that overseas manufacturers are bad, but let’s try to support our American manufacturers. In these times, they can use our support. Also, try to support the companies that advertise and work in the RV industry. These companies are much more likely to understand your requirements and are certainly more knowledgeable of the recreation vehicle industry in general. Working with folks who understand where you’re coming from is always a plus.

  13. Matt VH

    Re: RV locks -

    I have been the victim of a break in of our Travel Trailer. It was in a lighted, secured storage facility. I was completely brought down to earth by just how easy it is to break into both the storage compartments and the entry door.

    On the entry door - One large screwdriver was enough to bend the aluminum door frame where the deadbolt could be defeated and the door opened. The frame was pried open in several places away from the door lock until the bolt could pass. It might have taken 15 minutes for me to do… I would assume it took much less for the thief.

    On the storage compartment doors - These took less than 10 seconds to open. No one used a 751 key. A flat head screw driver inserted into the gap between the door and door frame was enough leverage to pry the door until the cam on the lock bent over and was defeated. These doors are not secure. The cam lock is VERY EASILY defeated. I would not put faith in 751 locks, other keyed locks, combo locks, etc.

    I do not have any better suggestions… but I do know from personal experience that rekeying the existing lock configurations would do nothing to deter a thief from breaking in, they just probably keep honest people honest.

  14. chrisser

    This is probably not true of every RV and every compartment, but both of my storage compartments are acessible from inside.

    Seems a simple deadbolt-type lock from one of the home centers could be utilized to make forcing open the door a lot more difficult. It would, however, add a bit of inconvenience if you forget to unlock it, but for storage or when you’re away for awhile, it could be worth it. It’s a deterrent, anyway.

    That doesn’t matter if the entry door can be forced open, which appears to be pretty easy to do.

    Of course, the reality is that anyone with a about $10 worth of common hand tools can cut their way through most RV walls in a matter of minutes, if they really want to get in. Probably won’t happen in a campground, but in storage…

  15. JohnDar

    I did part of this mod, in that I changed the compartment CH751 locks to tubular cam locks (keyed alike). Even put one on the propane cabinet door since we leave the rig on a seasonal site and are not always there. But reading about the door lock “master” only operating the latch and not the deadbolt, I wonder. My door key operates both locks, but is there actually a difference between the locks as stated? And I always lock the deadbolt when we leave the rig or go to bed.

  16. blacknugget

    Does anyone know where to get the upgraded door handles for the storage compartments to replace the cam locks? Some of the higher end units come with handles that click closed when they shut, and have locks built in. I would like to upgrade my storage doors with this handles, instead of just the cam locks.

    Thanks….

  17. JohnDar

    I think the latches you are referring to are called “slam door latches.” From what I’ve read on another forum, they can’t be retrofitted to older style doors for some reason. Seems it’s not just the door latch, but the opening for the door (where the latch catches) that are different.

  18. blacknugget

    That sort of makes sense. Thanks for the feedback. Guess it would turn into an entire door retrofit, which would likely be too costly.

  19. ON-A-ROAD

    What about the propane storage door? Is it a safety reason why very few of these doors have locks? We have owned 4 Rv nows and not one of them had locking propane storage doors. I have long since changed all the storage door locks but left the propane one as is.. Now with the price of propane and the bottles, I wonder if I should. Has anyone one else put locks on their propane storage doors?

  20. kus

    Hi- read with interest about the locks. If you have a compartment lock, insert flat blade screwdriver and turn, voila, the door is open! You don’t need that oh so common key!! You may do a bit of damage but it works everytime. The question is: is the stuff in the storage lockers more valuable than the price tag on your probably irreplaceable fiberglass basement doors like on mine? Winnebago ‘89 vintage A-class figerglass. Hell, I’d rather leave everything open than have some drug schmuck pry things open!! The Class A cabin affords a bit better protection with an electric step retracted it is tough without some height to gain lock or even window access. For the roof storage I use a 4′ removable (&foldable) waterski/swim grid ladder I hook over the back when needed, very tough to climb up without one, 13′ off the ground. Course the first steps are trailer hitch, bumper and rear doorsill, makes it tough for the old timers.
    It is the casual, quick in and out guy u usually want to defeat…..hell, let them have your used old BBQ, the badminton set or the tire jack, who cares? That probably way too expensive combo lock ain’t gonna stop anyone with a screwdriver. Steel plate & even hasp over the cabin doorlock’s a far better idea!

  21. daveinwa

    I have installed the combi-Cam locks on ours, though I do need my reading glasses to open it now. I like the locks, and only had to shim them out a bit, so they cleared the edge trim. I’m happy with the mod. I still need to have the door lock re-keyed.
    It’s easy to see a really bad guy will get into anything.

  22. Ryanallie1

    Hi All.

    Well, to be honest, I didn’t replace any of our Compartment Locks. Nor did I replace the Door Lock either. But when we bought out Motorhome. Our entry door lock did not work at all. So I thought that I would check it out, and remove it from the door. What I found was a spring that came off the slidder. That and a whole lot of dirt and dust build-up that keep the lock from working. Being the Handyman type that I am, I would rather fix something than to just replace it. I need to know why something doesn’t work. After I replaced the spring on the slidder, and did a good job of cleaning the whole inside of the lock out, I then used Dry-Lube Spray to get everything working nice and smoothly again. I put the door lock back together. It is now working as good as a Brand New Lock. I love to Tinker all the time in the Motorhome. I always just seem to find just one more Mod to do, and another and another. Like there is no end to them. Seems I just have to many things that I want to do. Being Retired, I have all the time in the workd to keep our Motorhome extreamly very well maintained, when it is not in use. We also have a Real Covered RV Port at home to keep our Motorhome in. Sure makes it a lot easier to work on it, even if the weather isn’t so helpful. Good Luck. Happy Travels to All. Dan & Jill

  23. Ken B,

    We replaced the locks on all the compartment doors with the combi-cams. Very simple mod. However, the “knob” diameter interfered with the door edge trim. The original locks had a plastic washer under the 7/8″ nut. Used these washers on the outside of the door to use as a spacer. Replaced the plastic washer with the supplied metal washers after peening the washer’s teeth smooth. We like not having several keys to keep fumbling with.

  24. Scott.S

    I have a 96 fleetwood some of the storeg door latches are broken I can not figer how to chang them without tering the hole door apart is there a trick on geting them out or do you have to brake the door down too remove them?

  25. mikeintn

    I changed my deadbolt out on my mh with one I picked up at WalMart that is for a house. On the CH751 key, we call them file cabinet keys here at work. LOTS of those keys laying around. They have fit all sorts of cabinets in the office setting for years, and truck topper covers too, not just used the RV world so there is very likely millions of CH751 keys on peoples key rings right now.

  26. okie-dokie

    In response to “on-the-road” comment about propane doors not having a lock on them. There is a DOT law that prohibts Mfg. from installing door locks on propane inclosures. The reason is in case of fire to the unit, etc. There needs to be a way of turning off the propane valve to the tank.

  27. Kenny Mack

    In response to the propane doors, lock em. Do you really think us firefighters are going to even slow down when whe get to the door. If its locked, a haligan will open it in 1 strike I promise. I would rather the door be locked than the strap. We like to remove the tanks to prevent a BLEVE ( boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion ). My doors have a lock on them now. I swapped all my ch751 to round cams and had my door lock rekeyed by a locksmith for $30. I also installed an automotive car alarm on my girl too. I also encourage 5er owners to spend money at a truckstop on a king pin lock.

  28. armex

    Amazon.com has several types including combi and round cams. Decent price as well.

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. RV Security Improvements - Change Those Locks! : blog.rv.net: RV and Camping News and Information

    [...] http://www.modmyrv.com/2009/03/18/rv-door-storage-locks [...]

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