When it comes to the security and safety of your RV storage compartments, I have mixed feelings about sharing the following information on RV cam locks. On the one hand, I want to inform every RV owner about the security risk, on the other, I don’t want to let thieves know how vulnerable RV storage bays are.
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The truth is, when motor homes, fifth wheels, travel trailers and campers are built, the manufacturers tend to use the same cam locks to keep prices down. Honestly, as customers, we’re partly to blame for this since we’re always willing to pay a little less RV money for a little less quality.
The problem with all these similar RV locks being used is that there are thousands of cam locks that can be opened with the same key. Yes, someone can wander through a typical RV park and probably open half the storage compartments with one key.
Who has your RV key?
Although there are others, one of the most infamously common cam locks for RV storage compartments and accessory panels is the CH751. If you own an RV, especially an older model, check your keys right now – the number will be stamped on them. If your key has CH751 on it, you can open a number of different storage compartments, and a number of people can open yours.
I know a few people that leave their storage compartments unlocked all the time, because they don’t want someone damaging the door by prying it open – this article won’t interest them. While it’s true that RV compartment doors and accessory panels are flimsy, and the hard-core thief is able to rip them open, most dishonest people want quick and easy access… not noisy and time-consuming approaches. You might not pay attention to someone opening up the storage compartments of the RV next to yours with a key, but you’d probably raise an eyebrow – and hopefully an alarm – if you saw them using a crowbar. So a good RV cam lock can deter common thieves, and keep honest (but nosy) people out of your stuff.
Fortunately, the solution is relatively easy and affordable. Replace all the cam locks on your RV. Cam locks are available from many sources, including building centres, woodworking outlets, many RV dealers and, of course, the Internet. If you buy a replacement cam lock from any of these places, you’ve already increased your RV security immensely. However, wherever you buy locks from, bear in mind that there are only so many possible key combinations so technically there will be duplicates. But rest easy. If your locks have four pins and each pin is set for one of five possible positions, that’s 625 possible keys (and I’m using low numbers in this example). If a would-be thief wants to be able to open the locks from just five different manufacturers, he or she is going to need at least 3125 keys on hand.
If you choose to replace your RV keyed cam locks with new keyed cam locks, make sure you get them all keyed alike. That way you only need one key to open all the storage compartment and panels on your RV. Or, if you want to trade extra security for convenience, you can have all the locks using different keys – so if a dishonest person finds one key, they don’t have access to your entire RV.
We’d also like to suggest an even better option than RV cam locks with keys. RV locks with combinations.
RV Combination Storage Locks
Before we go further, we’d like to point something out though. At RVTipster.com, we do make a few cents by allowing ads from the big Goo to appear on our pages – which is why we appreciate you turning off any adblockers temporarily. However, to keep things as impartial as possible, we don’t collect commissions on any specific products we might mention. The people at http://www.combi-cam.com have allowed us to use photos and facts from their website to illustrate the RV storage combination lock option. If you’d like to thank them by visiting their site, that would be great – but don’t feel obligated to do so and, again, RVTipster is not affiliated with them in any way and makes no money from their products.
So why would you want to put combination locks on your RV? Security and convenience. Let’s start with security. If you pick a combination lock with just three dials and 0 to 9 on each dial, that gives you 1000 possible combinations for a thieves to work their way through. If you move up to 4 dials, it’s 10,000 possible combinations. If it takes four seconds to try a combination, and they hit the right combination halfway through all the possibilities, that’s a five and a half hour effort.
Now, let’s say you loan out your RV to friends or family, or rent it out when you’re not using it. On locks like the ones from Combi-Cam, you can easily change the combination. That means they get their own combination when using the RV, but you can reset it back to yours when you travel with it. Or maybe you want to give access to someone when you’re RV is in for service, winterizing, or storage.
Another thing we’ve discovered with combination RV cam locks is you can easily increase the security of every storage compartment, with one little trick. The secret is to use the same numbers on two of the dial for all of your compartments, but a have a different number for each compartment on one of the dials. For example, let’s say you always have 3 on the first dial and 8 on the last dial. Your combination for the compartment closest to the door (think of it as number one) could be 3-1-8. The combination for the next storage locker would then be 3-2-8. Then 3-3-8, 3-4-8, and so on. That way if someone stumbles on the correct combination for one door (or you accidentally leave it to the “open” combination) they won’t be able to access all the others. We recommend not using the last dial as your changing one, since that’s a little too obvious.
RV Lock Installation
So know you may be asking yourself how difficult it is to change the locks on your RV storage and if it’s worth the effort. The truth is, replacement locks – even the combination varieties – are simple to install.
When removing the existing cam lock in your RV storage compartment, you’ll have to access the inside/backside of the door or panel. When you do, you’ll see a large retaining nut or ring on the threaded shaft of the cam lock. by the way — that flat piece of metal? That’s the cam that gives the lock it’s name. Thanks again to Combi-Cam.com for lending us the photos. Using a wrench, crescent wrench, or pair of pliers, unthread the retaining ring from the shaft. Depending on the size of the cam and the thickness of your RV’s door or panel, you might be able to slip the retaining ring around and off the shaft and cam — and then pop the lock out of the hole. More than likely though, you’ll also have to remove the cam from the lock and then slide it out of the hole.
Now you need to slip your RV’s new cam lock into the existing hole — from the front/outside — whether it’s a keyed cam lock or combination variety.
The threaded part of the shaft will protrude on the inside.
Thread the retaining ring onto the threaded part of the shaft to hold everything in place.
For most keyed cam locks, the locking mechanism will probably already by inserted into the lock shaft at the manufacturer. For this variety of RV combination lock, the mechanism is inserted from the front after the lock ring/retaining nut is in place.
The photo below is to remind people installing a Combi-Cam to line up the reset pin with the bottom of the lock. We’re including it here out of respect for them providing all the other photos.
Many cam locks come with spacers to ensure a snug fit for your RV and/or as in the photo below a mechanism to control whether the lock opens clockwise or counter-clockwise.
Finally, place the actual cam on the shaft. Many locks come with a variety of shapes and sizes of cams to suit a variety of RV’s.
Finally, fasten the cam by whatever means provided. A simple screw, as below, is the usual way, since it’s inside the RV compartment and inaccessible when the door is closed. Some locks will have a spring clip or nut as the fastener.
And now your RV storage compartments are safe and secure!