Locked Out of Your RV? Here's How to Get Back Inside

Updated on January 2, 2018
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life.

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You can run into a lot of strange problems when you own an RV. As a general rule, the more luxury items and technical devices you have, the more opportunities there are for things to break or fail. In this article, I’m going to show you how to repair a problem that occurs more often than you might think.

Many RV owners have experienced trouble with dysfunctional door lock mechanisms. When they try to get into their RV, the door has mysteriously locked itself, and when they go to unlock it with the key, the door still will not open. I had this experience recently when preparing for a trip.

How to Repair an Automatically Locking Door

The most common cause of an automatically locking door is a bent interior lever. The exterior handle moves a lever that locks and unlocks the door. After heavy use, the lever can bend, causing the door to lock automatically. To fix this:

  1. Remove the three screws securing the interior door lock assembly with a star-bit screwdriver.
  2. Swing the interior door lock assembly out of the way. It will swivel on the inside door handle shaft.
  3. Use a pair of pliers to bend the bent lever up into the proper position.
  4. Put the inner and outer assemblies back in place, and replace the three screws.

Continue reading for a more in depth explanation of this process, as well as my experience with an automatically locking RV door.

My Experience

I pulled my RV in front of my house check that I had everything before embarking on a trip to Virginia with my family. Starting with the exterior, I confirmed that the fridge was running properly on propane, and our TOAD (that’s a tow car, for novices) was hooked up. Everything seemed to be fine. But when my wife tried to open the door for a final walkthrough of the interior, the door was locked.

I took out my key and unlocked the door, or so I thought. It made a nice “click” sound, so I tugged confidently on the handle. The door was still firmly locked. I realized I had a problem.

Frustrated and cursing my RV, I grabbed a ladder, opened the passenger window, and watched my wife make a very ungraceful entrance through the window. She unlocked the door from the inside, but I was still perplexed by the self-locking door.

I spent the next fifteen minutes closing, locking, and unlocking the door. It worked fine. I let it be and went inside for a good night's sleep before leaving for our trip in the morning.

The handle and lock on the door of my RV.
The handle and lock on the door of my RV. | Source

Halfway through our drive and after six hours of driving, we stopped for the night at a campground in South Carolina for one night. We got out, locked the door, and spent the next hour wandering around and talking to other campers–just relaxing and clearing our heads.

When we went back to our RV, I inserted the key to unlock the door. I heard the comforting “click” and pulled on the door handle. It was locked, again!

My wife finessed her way into the window, this time much more gracefully, and let us in from the inside. For a while after the lock worked perfectly, but shortly after it got so bad that we didn't even need to use the key anymore. Whenever the door closed it would lock automatically, and whenever we needed to get inside my wife performed her daily gymnastics.

Interior view of my RV's door lock assembly.
Interior view of my RV's door lock assembly. | Source

Finding a Solution

Once home, I consulted other RV owners on the forum IRV2. I described my problem and, in less than 48 hours, had two very good suggestions.

The outer door handle moves an internal lever that, in turn, pushes the internal locking lever to the open position.

This lever can be easily bent, causing it to miss the internal locking lever, which keeps the door locked.

As it turns out, what I thought was a big problem had a very simple solution. All I needed to do was get inside the assembly and bend the door handle lever so it would mate properly with the internal locking lever.

Interior door lock with the cover removed.
Interior door lock with the cover removed. | Source

How to Repair a Broken Door Lock

This repair only requires two tools.

  • Star-bit screwdriver
  • Pliers

The screwdriver is needed to remove the three screws that hold the outer and inner assemblies together. The pliers are used to bend the lever. To fix the a broken door lock:

  1. Remove the three screws securing the interior door lock assembly with a star-bit screwdriver.
  2. Swing the interior door lock assembly out of the way. It will swivel on the inside door handle shaft.
  3. Use a pair of pliers to bend the bent lever up into the proper position.
  4. Put the inner and outer assemblies back in place, and replace the three screws.

Voila! You should now have a functional door that will no longer lock you out.

Interior view of the outside handle lever that needed repairing.
Interior view of the outside handle lever that needed repairing. | Source

© 2015 Don Bobbitt

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    • Don Bobbitt profile image
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      Don Bobbitt 4 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Really glad I could help you.

      DON

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      Anthony Sanchez 4 months ago

      Thank You so much - this was exactly the problem and with this info was able to fix the door.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
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      Don Bobbitt 4 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Ted - I hope you get it fixed. It really is a simple fix. Good luck! DON

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      Ted 4 months ago

      I am having the exact same problem. I will be taking it apart tomorrow and hopefully fixing the problem.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
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      Don Bobbitt 5 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Mark Barnes - I am so glad that my article was of some help to you when you encountered this problem with the RV entrance door. I don't know why the manufacturer didn't fix this design problem years ago, but there are a lot of Rv's out there waiting for this problem to occur.

      Anyway, Thanks for the kind words,

      DON

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      Mark Barnes 5 months ago

      Thank you so much! I had the exact same thing happen with my door--also the day before my family of 6 were leaving for a 2 week RV trip! I was up until 1:00am messing with the door and then found your post, and it worked perfectly! Awesome help.

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      Rick Lucas 17 months ago

      We recently bought a 1994 Fleetwood Bounder with the same lock issue you described. In fact, I had to be hoisted through the passenger window and once through the driver window just to get into the darn RV.

      I am going to try this as the symptoms are the exact ones you described...thanks for the tip. (It is our first RV.)

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
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      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Kristen Howe - Thanks so much for the read and the Comment.

      I try to share things for my fellow RV owners that I have learned the hard way. An RV is a complicated machine with so many things that might go bad while you travel, so we all need such tips.

      Thanks again,

      DON

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Don, great tips on how to get out of a jam, when you're stuck in your RV. Very useful to those who own a RV. Thanks for sharing your story in this lens. Congrats on HOTD!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I enjoyed your story. Such a simple solution to a frustrating problem! I was once locked inside a bathroom aboard a ship -- was not fun.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      The solution can be simple, but it can still take ages and much frustration to work out what to do. I had a similar problem with my car recently. It locked me in! Had to ring for help. These modern contraptions! Although I'd probably still be there if it wasn't for my mobile phone.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
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      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      WillStarr- Yeah, it worked great in the driveway. Doesn't everything? LOL!

      If I had the time, I would write a short book on "RV Repairs for On the Road". You know what I mean, How to fix your motorhome with a roll of Duct Tape and a screwdriver. LOL!

      Thanks for the read and comment.

      DON

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      Old Poolman 2 years ago

      Don - To me any website that deals with specific how-to information is a highly valuable resource that can save hours of time and much frustration. That one guy or gal who has been there and done that is worth their weight in gold when it comes to solving problems.

      This hub was a great example especially with the pictures you included. You probably have helped others who were suffering from the exact same problem.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image
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      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Old Poolman- I'm glad my predicament and my search for a solution was of interest to you. I especially appreciate that you think it might be of interest to others.

      Thanks for the read and the comment,

      DON

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      But it worked great in the driveway.

      Excellent, and one to remember!

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      Old Poolman 2 years ago

      Nice hub with great fix-it suggestions. I have been able to fix a few things I thought I would have to just throw away from advice on the various forums. If nothing else, there is often a youtube video that shows you exactly how to repair something. You make RV'ing sound like great fun.

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