Motor coaches and trailers are thin bodied vehicles. They do not stop bullets very well, and only the motorized RVs can have much hope in stopping impacts from other vehicles. So, from a physical security standpoint, they are very weak. Their main security benefit is that they are hard to get into when occupied.
When I titled this page “Security and Options”, I had in mind concerns other than what a prepper /survivalist might expect when presented with the topic. There are many ways to lock down an RV, and they become quite clear when you think of them as cabins on wheels. Site security then becomes the goal. No, what I am writing about is a variety of things that are important when mobile, traveling on the road and bivouacking en route.
- Use at least one locking lug on each wheel. If someone steals even one wheel, you will be compromised.
- Swap out the factory equipped storage locks and keys for a custom setup, or get them professionally re-keyed. Every RV owner on earth has the same key… the “CH751”. Don’t leave yourself exposed.
- Install a traditional door handle and deadbolt on all exterior doors
- Install an automotive car alarm – motion sensitive. Wire the hatches, doors, battery and propane compartments. If you have a portable generator, wire it up too, and chain it to the trailer’s frame when deployed.
- Replace cam locks with keyed locks on all hatches.
- For exposed external connections, install locking hatches.
- Use tongue or king pin locks, to prevent hook-up to a tow vehicle.
- Consider battery-powered, stand-alone home window alarms of the type found at Radio Shack. Use them on windows and doors for night time security.
- Perimeter alarms to detect intruders
- Infrared activated lights
- A dog (or two)
Malicious Activity and Vandalism
There are a number of things someone could do to make life difficult for an RV operator. The fresh water tank could be contaminated with foul water, urine, feces, chemicals, salt and more. The shore power line could be cut, spiked through or stolen. Under belly tanks might be punctured or tires slashed. Propane tanks and batteries could be stolen and lines and cables cut.
Hardening against these things is possible to some degree. Travel trailers are not equipped with “service bays”, but a lot of fifth-wheels are. These special compartments collect, into one place, the T-handle controls for the tank dumps, fresh water fill tube and city water connection, power outlets, satellite and TV connection, black water flush system and sometimes a shower. There will often be a light fixture to make service easier in the dark. Most of the external services enter this compartment via a hatch in its floor. Some travel trailers will have various service connections secured behind a hatch, but very few, and they are almost always sans the lock.
What you find on travel trailers is something like this. That fresh water connection was my first security concern. A quick twist of the cap and the vandal can pour something nasty into your water while you are away. We always carry fresh water in one gallon containers. This is for drinking and cooking. The “fresh tank” is for showers and some washing. Even so, I wouldn’t want to be covered in anything other than water. The answer is to install a locking hatch cover which can be found at most RV parts stores. For bug out operations where the fresh tank must be used for water meant for consumption, you should really work to secure the fill point.
I mentioned above that propane tanks and batteries can easily be stolen. This is because they are usually left out in the open in plastic enclosures. Travel trailers almost always situate them out front. It only takes a minute or two to remove the covers and disconnect the unit. Placing an alarm on them can spook thieves that are absolutely unaccustomed to having sirens go off on an RV. Fifth wheel trailers place their propane tanks behind hatches, but these are unlocked for safety reasons. You could install locks and leave them unlocked for normal times, but it might be illegal in your state. If your hatch is alarmed, you have an extra layer of security. the other secure option for propane tanks is to drill and padlock the securing brackets. If the thief can not turn the securing wing nut, he can’t remove the tanks. Battery containers can also be padlocked, with some ingenuity and brackets. If you add hinges to the top front, and locks to the rear, the thief might look elsewhere.
In the picture above, you’ll notice a tongue jack just in front of the propane tank cover. This unit is hand operated. Electric jacks are a very nice option, saving arms and time. They also serve a a way to prevent the trailer from being stolen. Along with locks that secure the tongue, or on a fifth wheel, the king pin, electric jacks will disable a unit if they themselves are disabled. If the jacks can not be stowed, the trailer can’t move. A power disconnect located inside will accomplish this.
Along with the front jack, there are stabilizers. Four on travel trailers, and two on fifth wheelers at the rear. C Channel jacks are common but don’t do as good a job of stabilizing as scissor jacks. Either can be manual or powered. Powered units with disconnects are a good theft deterrent. This next photos show a powered C Channel jack, and a manually operated scissor jack. The C Channel unit pictured is actually a dual unit, with a jack at each end. You can see the large channel that joins them. This is the best of the C Channel jack setups. RVs with individual “C”s are not very stable when people are moving about within them. The longer the trailer, the worse the motion. Traditional screw jacks can help this somewhat. Scissor jacks do a much better job at stabilizing. If the are angled outward from each corner, they work even better.
DO NOT ever use stabilizer jacks to assist in changing a flat tire. They are not designed to support the weight of a trailer, and WILL COLLAPSE. You can also bend the trailer frame prior to the collapse. Changing tires requires the trailer to be handled as specifically stated in the owner’s manual. READ IT. You can disable the unit if you screw up, and then what good is your BORV?
A lot of what is shown above makes for good optional equipment. Some trailers come standard with them. I like this following goodie quite a bit. Pull-out, under-bumper storage trays. They can hold a couple hundred pounds, and even serve as a place to kick back when camping. My personal favorite of all trailers is the “Cougar”, from Keystone. A lot of them come with this option. A few will mount the spare tire to the back of the platform.
Pulling out and re-stowing the shore power line isn’t too difficult, but any help with it is appreciated. A limited number of trailers come with power-assisted cable handlers, with motorized spools. This option makes taking down camp sooo much easier. I would also install a locking hatch over it. Some of the fifth wheel units with 50amp capacity have detachable cables. A solid clamp around the cable, with a steel security cable firmly affixed to the coach would be a good idea. Once the power cable is connected at the trailer’s plug, the locking cable can be padlocked to a bracket you install.
Anything to slow down or discourage the common thief is a good thing. Be creative, and don’t let the factory equipment limit your options.
In the picture above… the one with the battery and the covered propane tanks, I’d like you to take a closer look. The lone battery sits on a twin rail rack that has ample room for a second battery. This is the optimum situation, one where you may have two batteries. The best arrangement is for a pair of 6 volt RV or “marine” batteries, wired in series for 12 volts. The stored amperage in this configuration is larger and more reliable than if you were to wire two 12 volt batteries in parallel. Because the sides of the rack are open an exposed, you can also have a locking frame welded over them, to allow access only when the frame is unlocked and lifted off.