Outside accessible storage space is a boon to the modern RVer. Unfortunately, it is also a boon to thieves because thieves Have the Keys to Your RV storage compartment doors as well.
Why clutter up your interior storage cabinets? Now you have outside accessible storage capacity that will eliminate the hassles and bothers of stowing all your necessary gear inside. This compartment is just the right size for that, and that compartment is just made for this. You can put your new golf clubs and bags in here...
So says the sales brochure...but...
Outside accessible storage space is also a boon to the many various "low-Lifes" and rip-off artists of our society. While thefts from your RV may not be an issue while parked in a crowded RV park, what about the times you are parked in a crowded Walmart parking lot? Who would question someone rooting around in a motorhome or trailer storage compartment in some supermarket parking lot? Would you?
Think about what you have stored in those compartments; that $300 fly rod that is too long to fit in the inside closet; that video camera with all the accessories, bags, and batteries; your camera, tripod, and flash; the new tool set you just bought; the new portable barbecue with the auto-igniter, spare tanks, and on and on...
Did you know that I have the keys to your storage compartments in my pocket? Take out your key ring, right now, and examine your compartment key. does it have a number stamped on it? And would that number be, say,CH751 or ES201? You know, with those keys, you could open your neighbors' compartments, the compartments in the trailer next to the line, and so on, to the end of the row.
And, speaking about keys, does your entry door have a locking mechanism with two places to lock the door (one to lock the handle and one to throw the dead bolt)? The one that locks the handle will be marked with a C or an E and is a universal type of lock. In other words, my C or E passkey will unlock your trailer if you use only this lock. Every RV salesman, technician or manufacturer has a passkey for this one lock. Any crook could obtain this key with little or no difficulty.
Not that I'm not saying that RV salespeople, technicians, or manufacturers are crooks, but the keys are out there and therefore are susceptible. Use your deadbolt lock, or better yet, install a quality aftermarket deadbolt lock.
I also have a key that will fit 90% of all the compartments on most RVs built since 1965. Most of the time, these older compartment locks could be opened with an ordinary screwdriver or a dime or any object small enough to insert into the keyway.
Now, if I were a thief, any possession that you have stored in those compartments could be mine in a matter of seconds. Also, consider that once I have access to the inside of that compartment, it is an easy matter to lift out the dinette cover, or tip up the sofa, or kick in a panel to gain access to the inside of the unit.
Take a good look at your trailer or motorhome and view it as if you had locked your keys inside somehow. How many ways can you see of gaining access to the interior? Now think of how many ways you could break into that RV if you were not concerned with destruction of any kind. How about that roof vent? It consists of a plastic lid that can easily be ripped off, a nylon screen that you could poke your finger through, and a 14" x 14" opening to shimmy through. And, you know, there is a convenient ladder right on the back of that trailer for a thief to use!
The compartment door is usually made of an aluminum frame with a skin of sheet aluminum on the exterior and possibly some kind of insulation sandwiched between an inner skin of aluminum. A good swift kick to any part of the door would be sufficient to cave in these defenses. The locking mechanism consists of a tab that slides into a corresponding groove on the frame when the key is turned. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a flat bar inserted between the frame and the door can pop this lock in seconds. Not exactly Fort Knox, is it?
You simply must take an active part in your own security. Make sure your valuables are inside and out of sight, preferably in a safe. They make those to put in the floors, you know. And you might start thinking about installing alarms at any points of entry, i.e., outside compartment doors, windows, etc. If you do, make sure they are L-O-U-D! Think about outside lighting, too. Motion sensors are good. Those crooks don't like light, and they sure don't like noise. Make it tough on them and they'll go elsewhere. Now...don't you feel better?
Les Doll - Certified RV Technician
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