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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 and 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. 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, 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.

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.

Comments

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on September 06, 2018:

tetetic65 - No idea what camper you have but I can say that these windows will generally have springs in the mount. You would normally, open the window half-way and the grasp it firmly and press it to the left (or right) and the other end could then be slid out ot the frame.

Try this.

DON

tetetlc65@gmail.com on September 06, 2018:

Do you know how to replace the glass in the back door window that has the swapping slide up and down window,in it? I don't see any removable screws anywhere and the fame around the glass has no play in the track what so ever?

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on August 25, 2018:

Considering the fact that you have already read this article and the assumption that you have already trie my suggestions in the article, you really do not have many options. I am also assuming you still have your key but cannot get into a window?

So, here is where I think you are;

1- pick one of your front side sliding windows and break the glass. Then once inside you can repair the door lock and take the sliding glass window frame to your local glass shop for repair.

2- I cannot think of a #2 option.

Good Luck,

DON

charles williams on August 25, 2018:

i am lock out of my rv how do i get in

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on August 06, 2018:

Irlene - The simplest thing to do is call a locksmith, of course. If you can read the number that is sometimes on the outside of the lock, you can contact the manufacturer's customer service for a replacement.

Good Luck,

DON

Irlene on August 05, 2018:

I lost my rc trailer master key how can I unlock my door with????

Dan Deardorff on July 13, 2018:

Success, I was able to gain access without any damage to the RV. Thank you for your help.

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on July 13, 2018:

Good Luck with your solution.

DON

Dan Deardorff on July 12, 2018:

Thank you, I do agree with you, cutting into the frame wouldn't be the best choice. What I was considering was to cut the post that the door latches to, only if that post is screwed into the frame. The windows that are in the motor home are crank out and slide. the slide windows are locked by pushing a locking lever into the pane that is solid. I believe i'll try to get a schematic for the door frame so I can see how the door post is installed. Thank you for your help.

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on July 12, 2018:

Cutting into your Rv frame is a little radical, it seems to me. If I had no other option, I would break one of the sliding windows (preferably the passenger side one. Then you could crawl into the window and open the door. And the sliding window frame could be taken to a glass shop for repair.

Try this, and until you fix the door lock, you should probably leave one of your windows unlocked, just in case.

Good Luck,

DON

Dan Deardorff on July 11, 2018:

Same issue with my RV, windows locked and door will not unlock. I contacted a lock smith and he was unable to gain access to the motor home. I was thinking about cutting the post that the door clamps onto but I'm not sure how the post is attached to the frame. do you have to pull the panel to gain access to the back of the post or is the post just screwed into the frame. Any help would be appreciated

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on June 30, 2018:

manicmndy - There is still hope! If you check your windows in your RV, often the latch is one that latches by turning the lever, and the end does not fit into a receiver hole in the window frame.

These can be opened by using a credit card or a thin piece of metal to force it open.

Otherwise, calling a locksmith may be your only safe way of getting into your RV.

I DO NOT recommend breaking a window because these are custom built windows, often double-pane, and a replacement window can run you several hundreds of dollars.

Believe me, I know from experience; a broken window (neighbor with a lawn mower throwing rocks??) cost me almost $500 on one of my motorhomes a few years back.

Good Luck,

DON

manicmndy@aol.com on June 29, 2018:

same problem but all windows were locked

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on May 01, 2018:

Alaskanj - First of all, one lock is for your normal door lock, and one is for your "Dead-Bolt" lock.

If your lock assembly is truly screwed up, then all the Fleetwood Customer Service number and they can get you the part number for a whole replacement assembly.

If you think your assembly is repairable then I would suggest contacting your nearest Camping World Service Center and ask if they thiink it an be repaired, and of course for how much. Then yu have a price to compare with a replacement.

Good Lik,

DON

Alaskanj on May 01, 2018:

I have a locking mechanism on my RV that looks exactly like the one in the top phot on this page. I am seeking a replacement but not having much luck. It is for a 2004 Fleetwood Storm.... a repair shop screwed up the one currently on the coach and only one of the keys now works.... any suggestions?

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on April 19, 2018:

Katherine - I was lucky enough to have left one of my windows open. Most RV windows just have a swivel-type latch on them and you can use a thin blade to slide it open.

Barring this, after discussing this with many other camper who had this problem, the last resort is to call a locksmith to unlock the door.

Good luck,

DON

Katherine on April 18, 2018:

I am locked outside of my rv; how do I get inside to u lock& then fix the door? Help please! (318) 210-2766

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on September 17, 2017:

Really glad I could help you.

DON

Anthony Sanchez on September 16, 2017:

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

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on September 16, 2017:

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

Ted on September 15, 2017:

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

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on July 23, 2017:

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

Mark Barnes on July 23, 2017:

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.

Rick Lucas on August 09, 2016:

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 (author) from Ruskin Florida on January 16, 2016:

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 from Northeast Ohio on January 16, 2016:

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!

Dianna Mendez on July 04, 2015:

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.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on June 23, 2015:

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 (author) from Ruskin Florida on June 22, 2015:

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

Old Poolman on June 21, 2015:

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 (author) from Ruskin Florida on June 21, 2015:

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 from Phoenix, Arizona on June 20, 2015:

But it worked great in the driveway.

Excellent, and one to remember!

Old Poolman on June 20, 2015:

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.