2 Things You Need To Know About RV Door Locks
The RV entry door lock shown above has probably been installed in hundreds of thousands of travel trailers, fifth wheels, and truck campers over the years.
In this article, I want to share a couple of tips that could very well save you from aggravation during your travels.
1. How do you know if your door will unlock with a passkey?
For decades, the main latch/knob of RV door locks have been keyed with master keys, also known as passkeys.
Look for a small letter (C, D, E, etc) next to the keyhole. If you see a letter, this indicates which lettered passkey will unlock it. The reason for passkeys is the convenience for RV manufacturers, transport drivers, and RV dealers.
It is much easier for someone in the industry to carry around a few master keys than a key to every RV in their inventory. What this means to you is anyone with the corresponding lettered passkey can open the latched handle of your RV entry door (or knobbed handles on older RVs).
To counter this, most RVers (myself included) only use the deadbolt on the RV entry door. Deadbolts are uniquely keyed and, under normal circumstances, you control the only set of keys.
2. How do you fix the deadbolt if it wears out?
Those of you that follow this blog know that I travel a lot and go to a lot of different places, some which are a little off the beaten path, which equates to many miles on my RV. In fact, it is safe to say, my 2010 model travel trailer probably has 3 to 4 times the mileage of most RVs of similar age.
Therefore, when my deadbolt started acting up, I figured it was worn out and ordered a new lock assembly. Upon removing the lock from the trailer door, I discover the screws holding the rear plate of the lock had vibrated partway out.
This allowed the rear plate of the lock to come loose, which in turn allowed the linkage that connects the deadbolt tumbler to the deadbolt to drop out of the cast holes that allow it to work.
Fixing the lock was just a matter of dropping the linkage back in the hole and screwing the rear plate back on tight, as the plate is the only thing that keeps the linkage from falling out of the hole.
Putting a little Loctite on the screws assures this won’t happen again. Fortunately for me, the linkage fell off when the deadbolt was retracted.
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Be sure to keep track of all your RV maintenance with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all your maintenance records and documents in one place, you’ll receive timely reminders via email when maintenance is due and potentially avoid a costly repair or serious accident.
Hopefully by sharing this information, I have informed some about the dangers of passkeys and the pending failure of your deadbolt as the miles add up. Take corrective action before you find yourself locked out of your RV.
Being locked out of your RV in the middle of nowhere is an adventure in RVing no one wants to experience.
See also: Keyless RV Door Locks: Are They Worth It?
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Very good info to have. Thanks for sharing!
Tom Griffin WBCCI 5038 says
A strange thing that happens with Airstream door locks. If it happens you know about, if it hasent it will. The lock set has this ablity to lock it self. This seams to only happen when you don’t have the key. It all starts with the closing of the door. The latch on the inside of the door in the open position rest closer to the hinge side of the door. When the door swings closed this can generate enough force to cause the locking lever to move into the locked position. You are outside the key is inside. Your only remidy is to go through a unlocked window if one exists. THE FIX before it happnes and it will! The locking lever on the inside must be deactivated. With the Lever in the unlocked position loop a wire around it secured by a screw holding it in that position.
Never a unplaned lock out. So always use the dead bolt to lock your door.
If the same key opens both locks, how is the deadbolt key unique?
The same key does not open both locks. It says above… “To counter this, most RVers (myself included) only use the deadbolt on the RV entry door. Deadbolts are uniquely keyed and, under normal circumstances, you control the only set of keys.”
We have two doors on our TT, 4 locks, 4 different keys.
Both the handle and deadbolt use the same key in my trailer.
Rick S says
Same here. I have a 2012 Laredo 5th wheel and one key opens both locks.
You can have the same key open two different locks, but only one of the locks open with a master. I have a similar setup in my home and shop. My key will open both locks. The shop key will only open the shop lock.
Yours seems to be the only response that says the master key will only open the top lock. Where did you get this info? I sure hope it’s true. How easy is it to change the locks and avoid this problem?
locked out of my traivel travel..lost keys. Help
Howard Johnson says
Exactly!!! Mine also 1 key both locks.
Greg Thompson says
Both the handle and deadbolt on my 2014 Wildcat fifth wheel use the same key as well.
Anthony J Verhagen says
Mine requires 2 different keys for the 2 locks
Me too…1 key for front 2 locks and 1 key for back 2 locks. I always thought it was weird.
Mi Sandpiper 3550 FLS is one key for both. In fact my co worker has the same situation. So both being keyed different must be a manufacturer choice or option.
Terry Hennessy says
You can key a lock to an individual key without keying it to the Passkey.
a split locking “pin” in the master, this way two different keys can open ANY key style lock.
as a key goes into the tumbler slot it lifts up a number of pins (4-5 most locks), this allows the key to turn the core to open the lock, with split pins your key cut and one other cut will open it.
easy to re-key any of these locks. easy to pick a key lock.
a good lock pick can open most keyed locks faster than you can using your key.
aka: master makes a very good pad-lock body, but there cores are all the same cheep junk.
do not believe me, search lock picking.
Lock cylinders that yield to a master key usually have split pins and open for a master as well as the non-master key. The deadbolt would then not have split pins and only open for the matching, non-master key.
I only have two basic questions. Number one is it possible to replace only the deadbolt? Number two where would I get one of these?
Bill Payne says
89 345LE Airstream, had it about 6 months. Working on it in the storage lot, came back after a few days, couldn’t get in. Driver’s window was unlocked fortunately, but it’s a tight fit!
Gary D says
Did you find parts for your deadbolt ? Need the same parts
Have a SPARE key in the tow vehicle—–simple
On my Arctic Fox 5th wheel, both the deadbolt and handle lock use the same key, which has a master key letter designation on the handle lock…..
Both locks use the same key on our Nomad.
Doug Leppard says
My 2016 thor 4 winds has different keys. Good info.
Mark W. says
These locks are extremely flimsy…. and don’t work that well. I had some one of these on my old teardrop trailer…. Also the accompanying article about the electronic locks to replace these are just as bad…the batteries fail from heat and are very problematic…..
Doug Groening says
You have the same problem with your keyed cargo doors. My garage doors have new key locks on them and I have new doors on added storage areas. These locks have keys that can be picked up at any RV store. Good luck!
Randall Jackson says
Our 2018 Coachman Freedom Express has one key for both door locks. I was hoping the OP was going to provide options to the standard door locks.
If anyone has workable options to replace the standard door locks, please continue this thread or start a new thread same topic.
Thanks for the great information that just sparked more questions for me.
I have one key that opens both locks on our 5th wheel but it is a “master” key for those locks. When I take the trailer to the RV shop I either have to leave the deadbolt unlocked or leave my key with them. They can only unlock the handle lock. One time I locked the deadbolt by accident and didn’t leave my key. I had to go up and unlock the door so they could get into it to do a repair.
I had the same thing when I was in charge of security at a plant – I had one “master” key that would open about 50 doors but a key for a single door would only open that door, no others.
This should not be a problem.
This happen to our deadbolt while we were in the camper we couldn’t get it to unlocked. Thank goodness I had decided to keep a small container with few tools inside the camper. My husband remember they were in there while I was panicking just a little with the thought I was going to have to climb out the window and that was not going to be a pretty site. He now checks the screws every spring to make sure they are tight.
Not So Free says
You can add a separate deadbolt to the door. You would have to drill holes, etc.
Even so, the door and frame are not very sturdy.
I have seen what looked like house deadbolts on some older trailers that looked factory.
As has been said for many years; locks are for honest people. If they want in, they will get in.
You may have a key that opens two locks on the same door but a passkey will only open one, usually the top lock. The deadbolt will not be opened by a standard passkey because certain tumblers in the lock are different or contain spit tumblers, which allows two unlock positions in the cylinder. If you bring your unit in to the dealer he will often have you drop the unit and lock it using the non-dead bolt lock. The dealer will have a key to open the door to work on a problem or upgrade but the door would be locked to anyone wandering around and trying doors. If you were to lock the deadbolt the dealer would not have access and you would likely be called back to open the door. RV locks are not as high security as most home door locks but they are typically good enough, just make it a habit to lock the dead bolt for the best security. After market locksets are available if you desire higher security.
Phil Hartman says
I have a 38′ Damen Challenger, same key for both the handle lock and the dead bolt.
GREG A says
Many are missing the issue about this type of lock. My unit had the stardard lock. I had both handle flap and deadbolt locked. Fortunately. Theives use a scredriver to “pop” the flimsy handle flap to gain entrance. Everyone who just locked with the handle flap had many articles stolen. They cannot get into unit unless they use a crowbar.
Patti Ziegler says
We also found that the keys to the storage hatches are generic and sold at most RV supply stores.
Lisa miller says
What kind do u get if locked out of RV my safety deposit box key fit but would not turn
True about my Keystome Cougar fiver – 2 doors, 2 keys for 4 locks, so we always use the deadbolt – will have to check on the screws getting loose.
The bad news if you have a Motor Coach, which we just upgraded to is not being able to duplicate keys? Freightliner ignition, 2 different door keys latch and deadbolt , Outside TV and compartments (all same key)- can’t find blanks for the doors, compartments, Outside TV or ignition – found a great guy at ACE Hardware who could cut a key if I could get the blanks – found 2 on Amazon for the deadbolt, I got Youngblood RV in Mayfield KY to cut compartment and ignition key, but only had limited blanks – I guess these blanks are like gold nuggets!
Michael Burnett says
Whem my GD Reflections was at a RV repair shop the shop was broken into on a long four day weekend and the key cabinet ended up having some trailer keys stolen, mine included.
I went through a GD dealership and they agreed to order a new door locking system. However, it turned out to be keyed with the same keys that were stolen.
Are all door locks of a particular trailer model (ie, mine is a Grand Design Reflections Model 337RLS) keyed alike or do they have locks with different keys for the dead bolt?
Sienna Miller says
Amazing tips! Thanks for sharing and keep up the wonderful work.
Donna Bass says
I have the same key for both handle and deadbolt locks. However, the handle lock doesn’t work any more so I only use the deadbolt lock. Good thing it wasn’t the other way around!
On my Fleetwood Providence, the door handle was difficult to open the door for some folks. I learned and was used to just lifting and pulling at the same time. After too many complaints, I squirted some lithium spray lube into the side at the latch opening and it lubed the mechanism and it has worked fine, no more complaints. It also made the lock mechanism operate more freely.
We left one nite to go get supplies and when we returned the lock would not budge. Everything was locked up, but good thing I had the padlock key for our ramp and came in the back and then took the thing apart from the inside. Worked just right till it didn’t…
James Ward says
I have the lock as pictured above. One night I left the camper for a walk and licked the deadbolt. When I came back, the key would not go all the way in and the lock would turn. I had to enter the camper from another access point. I attempted to disassemble the lock from inside to no avail, even though it was disassembled as far a possible. I had to take it to a dealer who replaced the lock. This could happen to you!
Have had the same issues with 3 of these locks. I’ve learned to replace them myself but at ~$100 a pop, it’s expensive. They are cheaply made in China.
Electonic door locks nothing but a gimmick. Stay away.
Steve Scott says
After you’ve driven a few hours to your camp site and don’t find your camper keys in your pocket, an electronic lock seems like a very nice addition. BTW, I found my camper keys next to where we park our car at home. Apparently they fell out of my pocket.
Why do you say that? I installed an electronic door lock on my fiver and love it. I’ve had it for over a year now with no problems. It’s so convenient because I don’t have to have my keys with me when I leave to go for a walk.
Drew Mueller says
I’ll check the lock on my daughter’s trailer- it’s just like the one pictured…thanks.
Emma H says
If I am on the road, I am lose my key, so what should I do?
Connie Orman says
We purchased a 2011 Primetime Mfg LaCrossse bunkhouse travel trailer. The back door top and bottom opens with the same key and I was able to order extra keys. The front door is a problem. The top lock and the deadbolt are different. We were provided with only one key to the top lock and no key for the deadbolt. The sticker on the lock says it is “key code 332”. But so far I have been unable to find one that will fit. There is a small remote key fob that I think is supposed to work with this lock although we have been unable to get it to work.. How do I find the key code to the dead bolt??? Is the lock Bauer, Global Link, ??????
Margart Hutcheson says
Thanks for sharing the tips on fixing deadbolt door lock.
I have been looking for this tip and finally got it here. Thought that I have to buy a new lock system for my RV but you save my cash.
James Springate says
In my case, the entire lock assembly dropped a quarter inch. I took it apart and what I saw didn’t match this picture. But I figured out if I simply pushed the entire assembly UP, tightened everything up, the bolt would clear. I think it solved my door problem too. Thanks!
Larry Gray says
As a Realtor during the height of the foreclosure, banks I worked with, as they acquired access to the foreclosed home called me to 1) change locks, and 2) send photos of condition at acquisition. Had one across town where my normal locksmith wasn’t available and was totally ripped off by the locksmith. As a result I saw how easy it was to pick locks – enhanced with Youtube learning – and acquired the skill with access and lock change becoming a DIY project. Most were the ripout and replace standard residential doorknobs and if picking didn’t work…a drill did. On unique locks – RV locks would fall into this category – such as mortise (square box that slides into the door from the side with only the key hole visible) or the occasional garage door, I would remove just the lock cylinder and take it to a locksmith’s physical shop for re-pinning and key cut. For an RV, may want to consider the same. Remove the door lock unit. Rather than removing the cylinders, take the entire unit to a locksmith and they will re-pin the cylinders for a custom key they will cut, then re-install the lock unit. Obviously could not do this on the road, but an area where comfortable to leave RV unsecure, or family staying behind during locksmith trip. Also, a tip for non-full timers when leaving residence for a trip, create a deadbolt for your residential garage door, slide a large screwdriver through a wheel track (or tie with coat hanger wire) so the door won’t open if someone trips the dooropener latch from the outside (also on YouTube).
Back to the RV, you may also be able to key the storage bins to match your new entry key. A lot would depend on the cylinder and if they had the same number of pins. Ridges on your original keys will answer that.
Lyn Clarke says
In an aside, my husband changed the locks on his access doors. It is his understanding that every RV has the same access door lock and key. I am not saying this is the Gospell — but an RV mechanic told him that little tidbit.
Rachel Scott says
I have had problems with the locks on both my T@G teardrop and Riverside Whitewater Retro. It was possible to order new keys for the T@G for both the side doors and the trunk. Vibration causes screws to come loose. Glueing them in place is a great suggestion. I’ve had Tons of issues with the Riverside. Yes, the cylinder fell out! Replacement lock has locked itself; requiring a locksmith & trip to a shop, But currently the lock won’t work at all. I’m going to try an American-manufactured lock; but because of vibration issues, I’m going to remain skeptical! Thanks for the post! Very helpful.
Glen Taylor says
If your lock has been in use for a long time, re-keying is a great way to increase security.
Dalton Bourne says
Learning how to rekey RV locks gives you the chance to improve your vehicle’s security while ensuring convenience. Not all of us like to have many keys dangling on our belt loop or jingling in our pockets. Rekeying a lock can also give you a sense of security. You must know by now that RVs often come with the same locks. One can use the key of one motorhome to open the locks of another RV. This situation can pose a security threat to RV owners.
I too have a new 2022 Grand design trailer that has one key to open both locks on door.