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Locked out of Your RV? Here's What You Need to Do to Get Back Inside

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life. He shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.

A common RV problem, damaged entrance Door Locks

You can run into a lot of strange problems when you own an RV. And as an RV ages your chances for an unusual failure can become more common.

As a general rule, the more luxury items and technical devices you have in your RV, 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, and luckily, I took the time to tear into the lock assembly and discover the real problem.

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 Locked Door 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.

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The handle and lock on the door of my RV.

The handle and lock on the door of my RV.

The Door Lock didn't work all of the time.

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.

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.

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How did you get the window open?

Answer: Most RV windows are either slide-type or crank-type windows. The driver's area windows are usually slide-type windows with a latch for security.

Question: How do I get a locked motor window open?

Answer: If you are saying that your RV has power windows, then I hate to tell you that I know of no way for you to easily open one of these windows.

If you're saying that your power window has been "locked" by you, but now it will not "unlock"?

Well, I would disconnect my engine battery for a minute or so, and then reconnect it. This might allow the RV's memory to reset and allow the window to be "unlocked."

It's worth a try!

If this doesn't work, then you should contact your RV's Customer Service people and get their advice on what to do. Often there are special, unadvertised button combinations that can reset things in your RV.

Question: My key is locked in the MH all the windows are locked and my key fab will not unlock the door for me to get in. What do I do?

Answer: Assuming that you mean that your Keyless remote will not unlock your door, then the first thing I would do is change the battery in the remote.

If it still will not unlock the door, then the next thing I would do is call a locksmith, in the hope that the key-lock will still operate the door lock properly. A locksmith is not cheap, but it is cheaper than the next option which is to either break one of the windows of your motorhome, or use a screwdriver and possibly wedge the interior lock lever to open.

If the third option is necessary then remember my article and you should make sure you fix the problem with the mechanics of your door lock mechanism.

Question: Where can I get repair panels for an RV cargo door?

Answer: On the newer RV's you can contact the manufacturer's customer service for help.

On the older ones where the manufacturer is no longer in business, you can search the web for Old RV graveyards. In the past, I have found a few of those who have hundreds of old, sometimes wrecked RV's and they salvage the parts for resale. I don't remember the names of any now, but they are out there.

Question: I have a 2012 Coleman travel trailer and it has two locks on the entrance door. The first is the latch for the handle that opens the door the other is the safety lock. The same key opens both locks. The handle side works fine but the key will only go in about half way in the safety lock. Can you give me an idea?

Answer: Actually, my Bounder motorhome uses two different keys for these tow locks. What you call the Safety Lock is usually referred to as the "Dead Bolt Lock" on RV doors.

Coleman has a great customer Service web service and call center. I would call them and make sure that your two locks use the same key before I did anything else.

If thy do sue the same key then get a small flashlight and look to see if there is anything jammed into the lock opening. I have heard of kids sticking things into locks and I have heard of some insects nesting in them if the camper sits in storage for a while. I would check these things before I called a locksmith.

Question: I have A 2004 American tradition motorcoach. I cannot unlock it from the outside nor the inside. I climbed in a side window, started it up, but it won't open manually or with air power lock. Now what?

Answer: Your door should have a removable panel on the inside of the door lock mechanism.

If you remove the mounting screws, you should be able to push the panel aside far enough that you can manually turn the lock lever and open the door.

Once you have it open, you should be able to troubleshoot for your problem.

If it has an air power lock, then that mechanism would be mounted on the inside of the door frame, and it may be stuck and just need cleaning and adjusting.

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