RV Locks & Trailer Hitch Locks: What You Need To Know

rv-locks-by-iluvcocacola.jpg Can you imagine what would go through your mind if, upon returning to your campsite, all you found was the paper tag posted that showed you paid for the site?  It does happen. 

The scenario: You unhitch your fifth wheel or travel trailer and head into town to see the sights.  As soon as you leave, someone backs up to your trailer with their pickup.  In a matter of minutes, they’ve hitched up and headed off with your RV and everything inside it.  They even picked up the lawn chairs and took the tablecloth off the picnic table.

How could they possibly do this without anyone paying attention?  Because they went through all of the same steps that most RVers go through when they’re packing up and leaving a site.  To onlookers, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Here’s what you need to know about RV locks, RV keys, and trailer hitch locks that will ultimately prevent thieves from driving away with your RV trailer or fifth wheel…



By buying a special tongue or pin lock system, you will greatly reduce the likelihood of thieves making off with your RV trailer. 


RV Travel Trailer Locks

For travel trailers, you have the option of putting a padlock through the hole on the hitch coupler.  If you choose this as your only protection, be sure to close the coupler and then put the padlock through the hole.  That way, any attempt to hitch up will be thwarted because the hitch won’t fit over a ball.

This is only a mediocre way to secure your RV trailer.  Someone could still drop the coupler over a smaller ball and, with care, they could still get it down the highway. 

A much better choice is a trailer hitch lock that is specifically designed to prevent theft. 

It clamps into the coupler in a way that stops the hitch from going over any ball, regardless of size.  There are a variety of trailer hitch locks on the market.  Be sure to get one that completely covers the coupler, so it can’t be lowered over a ball.

Fifth Wheel Hitch Locks

Fifth wheel trailers don’t come with any way to snap on a padlock to secure them. 

Fortunately, there are a number of specifically designed fifth wheel hitch locks available that will block anyone from snapping onto your RV and hauling it away. 

You can also make do with a length of hardened link chain.  Wrap it tightly around the pin and snap a padlock through it to secure it to the pin.  The chain must be tight around the pin with no slack.  Otherwise, the thieves will just unravel it, and off they go!

Multi-Purpose Locks For RVs 


With either style trailer, if it’s a tandem axle model with spoke style wheels there is another option. 

You can run a cable lock system through the  wheels on one side and lock them together.  If the wheels can’t turn, the trailer can’t be moved (or stolen). 

A length of hardened chain and a padlock will work, as well. 

Cable locks are also available  They are advertised as next to impossible to cut and would be a more secure method.  I use a cable lock system to secure my propane tanks to my trailer.

RV Locks & Keys

There’s more to worry about besides your whole RV disappearing though. 

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that the storage compartments on at least 75% of all travel trailers, fifth wheel trailers, and motorhomes are accessed by the same key.  If the key for your outside storage compartments has CH751 printed on it, then your storage areas can be accessed by almost every RVer on the road.

Sometimes when dealers get used RVs in on trade or purchased from auctions, they don’t get keys with them.  Almost all keys can be ordered at RV dealerships, including master keys that will open all doors of a specific brand lockset.  If the dealer doesn’t have the correct key when it comes time to sell a used RV, they will just give out master keys instead.  It’s quicker and cheaper than replacing the door locksets.   

So, you might want to think twice before you leave valuable items in your RV storage compartments.  It sure would be a shame if your fancy tailgating barbeque turned up missing one day.  Those matching outdoor recliners you have were probably pretty expensive too.  Those types of things are easy pickings when left in your RV storage compartment.  If you leave your RV trailer in public storage when you’re not using it, you might want to remove some of the more valuable accessories that you keep onboard.  

The point I’m trying to make is that a fresh-from-the-factory RV with all factory locks in place can be entered in less than a minute by anyone who is aware of the shortcuts that the factories take to save money.  Standardization is good for the factory, but doesn’t leave you with much security.  When you turn in for the night or leave your RV unattended, always lock the deadbolt!  

A common saying is that locks simply keep honest people honest. &n
bsp;If a thief really wants something, they will get it.  There’s only so much you can do to prevent theft.  Hopefully, if you throw a couple stumbling blocks in their way, they’ll go after the next guy who didn’t bother.



Curtis Carper

Curtis Carper

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

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  • Chris Trimble

    I was flushing out my water piping system, and my wife noticed water on the ground. I looked at my gray water tank and water was dripping around the tank and running down the driveway. Now I just purchased this camper and it was winterized. I don’t feel that I ran that much water to fill the entire tank until it overflowed, or maybe I did I’m not sure. Could their be another problem? Should I try draining the gray water tank? Are they designed to overflow when full?


    • Curtis

      Chris Trimble, No, gray water tanks aren’t designed to overflow.  They usually back up into the shower when the tank is over filled because the shower is the lowest opening for the water to come out.  I suspect  you have something broken, maybe even a cracked gray water tank.

  • george

    I want to stay overnight and use the slide of my travel trailer without unhitching the ball.
    will the trailer be stabile enough with the slide out?

    • Curtis

      George, Probably, but to be sure you can put down the corner stabilizer jacks. Then it won’t make any difference if it’s hitched to the tow vehicle. Just don’t forget and drive off with them down!

  • wagrn

    My post is not intended to be insulting etc. However, based on personal experience, putting any kind of padlock, i.e. the regular old kind that your Dad use to put on his tool box to keep you from borrowing his tools and losing them somewhere, as well as the kind that are specifically made to lock a trailer tongue’s lever for locking it down to the ball with the very minimum shank being shown, if a shank can be seen at all, are NOT even “mediocre” means of protecting your high dollar investment. Those types of locks can be snapped right off your trailer in a blink of an eye using bolt cutters, with zero to minimal noise to alert someone that their travel trailer or welding machine etc are being stolen.

    Oh, those types of locks may prevent someone without a set of bolt cutters from stealing your travel trailer, but those types of locks will NOT prevent the guys out there stealing for a living or to supplement their income in an illegal way from taking it. Once its gone, its gone. You ain’t gonna get it back; if by some stroke of pure dumb luck you do find your stolen trailer, it wont be usable.
    My personal experience:

    I did not want to store my new travel trailer in my back yard because my “Purdy” lawn died where it sat, so, I moved it to a lock up area located less than a quarter of a mile from my housing sub division. (Here is where I would like to start using curse words but I will refrain.) The lock up area had strategically located many video cameras throughout.

    The guy that stole my travel trailer knew where each and every one of them were located and he knew just exactly how stay clear of most of those cameras so that those that he did not bother to cover with a rag/cloth would not provide a clear picture of him or his vehicle. He also knew the best route to take after he had broken into the yard area so that the video would not film his license plates.

    He covered two of the cameras, backed up to my new travel trailer (I had not had the chance to use even once) pulled out his bolt cutters and snipped my lock in less than ten seconds, hooked up and drove away. From the time he broke into the lock up area to the time that he hooked up to my trailer and drove away took way less than ten minutes.

    I did not recover the entire cost of my travel trailer via insurance, but getting a little back eased some of the pain. This was two years ago and I am still steaming over it.

    The ONLY way anyone can discourage a thief like that, the kind that steal travel trailers on a regular and recurring basis…and there are more out there than anyone wants to believe, is to buy wheel lug nut locks for every tire/wheel, then run a heavy duty chain through your trailer tires and lock the chain together with a lock that exposes very little, if any, of the shank on the lock. IN ADDITION, put a wheel boot on one of the wheels, THEN put something that completely encases and locks on the coupler on the tongue of your travel trailer. THEN, buy one of those tracking devices (low jack?) or something similar and stick it somewhere on the trailer inconspicuous and store the trailer in your back yard behind a locked gate.

    Sounds like overkill, don’t it? its not. believe me. There are cases in this part of the USA where thieves have backed up to trailers and even 5th wheels parked next to someone’s house out front or in their driveway and made away with it.

    Sorry for the bad news, and as stated, not intended to be condescending or insulting; my advice is based on experience and a lot of research. Whether you want to believe it or not, SOMEONE is watching your house ALL the time. They know your routine as well as you do, if not better.
    A second example:

    My elderly neighbor had to go into a nursing home for 20 days to recover after a surgery. His wife was home, but he was not. During that period of time, someone noticed he was not at home as much as he usually is, “they/he/it” broke into my neighbor’s workshop and stole his riding lawnmower and as many of his tools as they/he/it could haul off in one visit.

    You should probably add a 12 gauge home defense shotgun to your theft preventive arsenal. Be sure that everyone in your home take a safety and handling course or two and know how to shoot the thing and make sure every one knows to be sure of their target (that it really is a thief or someone else up to no good and on your property) before pulling the trigger.

  • Paul

    I have a smarter ball ball that attaches to the safety chain with that latch lock this ball will plug socket so it would save time and money looking or buying a second lock mechanizim