Many campers, or most I know of, have gotten locked out of their camper. Personally, I’ve lost my camper key after a day in the wild.
And this got me thinking, how do you access your camper without a key? Is it even possible?
Yes, you can still unlock your camper door without a key, but unfortunately, it’s no mean feat. RVs are designed that way.
You’ve three main options. Break the lock. Call a locksmith. The final option is to break through other RV entrance points such as windows, vents and hatches.
Of course, I know locking yourself can be quite embarrassing, but it’s also quite normal. Sometimes, my camper door gets jammed for no reason!
But whatever the case, it’s vital you know to unlock a travel trailer door without a key.
And in the section below, I’ll take you through a guide to help unlock your camper.
Camper Door Lock Design
Before I share the tips of opening a locked camper door, it’s prudent that you first have a rudimentary understanding of how a camper door looks like and operates.
Understanding the RV locks will give you a better idea of how to unlock one if it gets stuck or you lose your camper keys.
Generally, most RVs feature a standard locking mechanism/ standard lock. But the exterior/outside lock system differs from that of the inside.
The outside locking system consists of a simple lock, a key, and a handle. The outside lock is used for locking or unlocking the trailer from the outside.
To lock or unlock, you simply need to twist the key in a clockwise or anti-clockwise motion, respectively.
Meanwhile, the handle on the outside lock is sturdy. It comes either in plastic or metal, like a van or a large vehicle door lock.
On the other hand, the interior lock of your camper is designed to imitate that of your home. In fact, it looks much like that of your regular home.
A great distinction between the outside lock and the inside one is the latter lacks a keyhole. Instead, it consists of single or multiple levers for switching the locking positions from open or closed.
A great benefit of this locking system is that it actually keeps you locked inside while at the same time preventing outsiders from locking you from outside.
It’s also quite handy in emergencies because the lock will always allow you to unlock the door and access it outside, even when you don’t have a key. You don’t require a key to get out.
Getting Locked in an RV
Two main reasons camper lose access to your camper are:
1) Losing a key
Lost camper keys are probably the main reason campers get locked out of their RVs. Without a key, it’s challenging to gain access to your space.
2) Jammed lock
The other reason is when your door inadvertently locks you out or gets jammed.
While these lockout scenarios are quite different, the outcome is quite similar, depriving you of access to your camper.
Either way, as I mentioned earlier, the task of accessing your RV when locked is still manageable.
And in the section below, I’ll share some of the tips or rather steps you need to take care of in case you get locked out.
Lost RV Keys
I’ve a habit of losing my RV keys, so I’ve given out my spare key to a trusted friend to hold it for me for a rainy day.
But assuming you didn’t give out your spare keys, and the whole bunch gets lost, the next step would be searching for them.
I’ve lost my RV keys severally, and my first step is usually retracing back my steps. I might have misplaced or simply left the keys unattended.
If that fails, asking around for help is my next option. I usually ask my neighbors to see if they’ve come across a bunch of RV keys.
If that doesn’t bear any fruits either, I usually consider visiting the campground offices to ask for help. Of course, this will only apply if I’m camping in a regulated zone.
At the campground offices, I inquire whether anyone has returned a bunch of lost keys from the campground staff. Some are even quite helpful and may help with the search.
After everything fails, the final step I take is to consider using a generic key on my lock.
I check on the type of lock-in in my RV. I’m usually lucky because I’ve a factory-installed lock, so other campers might just unlock my camper with the same lock design.
While it may sound alarming, it’s quite normal for RVs to have a universal lock. The CH751 is the most common type of lock on RV and will also work on boats, storage lockers, t-handles, toolboxes, and so much more.
Lock Gets Jammed
The next scenario is when your lock gets jammed.
New RV owners, especially with travel trailers with Global Lock/Global lockset, usually have their doors jamming quite a lot.
The good news is unlocking a jammed door is quite easy. In most cases, it’s caused by a small section of the lock getting stuck on the lock mechanism.
So, a simple push of the door while wiggling the key inside the lock mechanism is sufficient to open camper door.
Wear and tear can also cause locks jamming, which is common in aged campers.
Use the previous solution of pushing and wiggling the keys in the locking mechanism to get the door working.
Unlocking your RV Door Without a Key
Assuming you’re still unable to access your camper, it’s time to elevate the stakes.
I’ve outlined a few more other tricks you may use.
1) Pick the lock
The art of picking locks can be challenging and equally simple at the same time. It depends on who you ask.
Also, depending on the type of lock and pin combinations, you might find some locks are easier to pick than others.
That said, it wouldn’t cost to pick your RV lock, even if you haven’t developed the skill and sense of doing it. But you need a little patience.
Generally, professional lock pickers have a lock-picking kit, but unless you’re one, I’m guessing you wouldn’t have one at your disposal in the wild.
The good news is you can still pick your motorhome lock with everyday items such as metal wires, bobby pin, or paper clip/paper clips.
But you’ll need a pair of each item—one for picking and the other one to act as a lever.
Here’s how to pick your camper lock:
- Insert the lever
Bend the wire on one end, and push it deep in the lock’s keyhole (lower section). Push its bent side until you feel the pins, and turn it as you would with a key inside.
While at it, remain gentle to avoid damaging the internal components.
Also, if your turn feels stiff, you’re turning in the wrong direction. Try the other direction. A clicking sound is a simple way to identify whether you’re doing it wrong.
- Use a picking wire
While keeping the lever in position, insert a picking wire with the handle facing up. Gently strike the pins out of the way in an upward-downward motion.
Repeat the strike motion until all the pins are lifted from the barrel.
It is easy to recognize when all the pins are picked because the lock gives a clicking sound, similar to when using a key.
- Open the door
Once all the pins are removed, use the lever to turn the barrel until the door opens.
Verdict: I’m not a big fan of this method. It requires some extra skills, and unless you’ve the right instructions, it won’t guarantee the door will open.
2) Using emergency openings
This is usually my go-to solution when I lose my camper key.
But before I consider using the emergency window, I usually double-check on all the available entrances.
Chances are, I might have accidentally left one of them open. It’s not surprising to find some of the hatches, vents and windows open, especially during summer, and I had opened them for ventilation.
But if there’re no open entrances, I simply break the emergency window.
Usually, the emergency window is designed for opening from inside; it’s possible to access your RV from outside if you’ve the right tools.
3) Call a locksmith
If you’re not a DIY enthusiast or simply feel you don’t have the resources to unlock a camper door without a key, you can consider hiring a professional to do it for you.
Most locksmiths will do a professional job unlocking your camper with minimal damages.
4) Get rid of the lock
Breaking the lock isn’t a popular option for two main reasons.
As with picking RV door locks, you’ll need tools.
Second, it requires some expertise and resources. A wrong way of removing locks may result in further damage and costly fixes, including damage to the entire door.
Finally, if everything fails, I would recommend calling for roadside assistance.
How Do I Prevent Locking Myself from my Camper?
The best way to avoid the need for breaking in your camper is to take on preventative measures.
Exercising these precautionary measures will help you avoid the pain that comes with locking out yourself from a camper.
1) Consider an RV with two doors
Most motorhomes hardly have two doors, but it’s still possible to find RVs with two.
While a two-door RV won’t save you from a lost key scenario, it can come in handy when one of the doors gets jammed.
You’ll hardly find both doors jamming at the same time. Having one open will cut the chances of getting locked out because of door jamming.
2) Consider door lock maintenance
Door jamming, especially on the older model camper, is usually caused by age and wear.
A good way to stop the effects of wear and tear is through maintenance.
Regular lubrication and cleaning your locks is a good way to extend the normal functionality of your RV locks while preventing instances of jamming.
WD40 is a nice lubricant for oiling the door hinges and locks.
3) Use a coded lock
If losing an RV key is your greatest bane, I’d suggest you replace the key lock with a codeless locking system.
Codeless locking systems are keyless and usually rely on battery power. So, you only need to carry an extra pack of batteries.
The good thing with the codeless lock is they come with a fob, so it’s easy to lock or open your RV when in range.
4) Consider a lockbox
Again, if you often misplace your key, invest in a lockbox. It’s a good and safe way of keeping the spare key/back up key.
Find a nice and secure place to store your lockbox, preferably on the outside compartments of your RV, for easy access even when you’re off-grid and away from home.
5) Attach the keys to your body
An old-school way of preserving your keys and keeping them from getting lost is attaching them to your body.
For example, consider using a lanyard to attach them to your garment or even attach them to your necklace.
Don’t Forget your Ignition Key
Our guide has focused on avoiding getting locked out and preserving the locking keys.
But an ignition key is equally as important, perhaps more important than the door locking key. So, you shouldn’t lose it at all costs!
Treat it with the same importance or even more as the trailer door lock keys.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Are travel trailer locking systems universal?
A: Yes, many travel trailers have universal locks.
The CH751 keys are compatible with a range of RV door locks and are usually used by sales assistants to avoid the need for multiple keys.
So, if you’ve just purchased your RV, consider switching the generic keys to something unique.
Of course, this also means you’ll struggle a lot to open the camper door. But you can always use the other methods to unlock the deadbolt lock and a locked door.
Weigh the inconvenience of breaking into your camper versus that of the safety of your items and RV to see whether you need to switch.
You now have an idea of how to unlock a camper door without a key.
Our guide has detailed these steps, so you shouldn’t worry about it anymore.
I’ve also shared some preventive measures, which I insist on following if you don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of breaking into your RV.
But remember, if you choose to handle the fixes yourself, you may compromise your RV Owner Toolkit Insurance. It’s a good idea to consult the manufacturer first.
More importantly, I’d also suggest you take special care of your ignition key as much as you do your RV door locks.