Your RV Door can lock you out, here's how to cure the problem.
Outside Door Handle assembly for a typical RV
RV Problem with Door Locks
You can run into a lot of strange problems when you own an RV.
And it often seems that the more luxury items and technical devices you have on your RV, the more opportunities you have for these strange problems to occur to yours.
I’m going to show you how to repair what I have found to be a problem that occurs more often than you might think, with some RVs.
The problem I had was a disfunction with my RV door lock mechanism.
My RV Door Locked me out of the RV
It was the last day before we left on our camping trip and we had gone through all of our regular check out procedures of the RV. We had even loaded the RV with our food supplies, clothes and other “might need” luxuries for our month-long stay at a campground in another state.
We were ready to go!
I had even pulled the RV over to our house and made sure; the fridge was running properly on Propane, our TOAD (that’s Tow Car to the novice) was hooked up, and then my wife and I tried to open the door for one more "walk through".
But ..... the Door was LOCKED.
Shaking my head in frustration, I thought; No problem, right?
I took out my key and unlocked the door, or so I thought. It had made that nice “click” sound, so I tugged confidently on the handle.
Well, the handle moved halfway and nothing else happened, and the door was still firmly locked.
Now I had a problem, I thought to myself. After I had made several more attempts to unlock the door, I began to panic, just a little.
Finally, frustrated and cursing the whole world of RV's, I grabbed my extendable ladder out of my RV storage, opened the passenger window and after cajoling my wife, she made a very un-graceful , but successful, entry through the window.
She walked over, lifted the inside door lever and the door opened smoothly.
Wondering what had happened, I spent the next fifteen minutes; closing, locking, unlocking and opening the door. I closed it easily and I closed it with a slam. I opened it with a light tug on the outside handle and I did this with a wild jerk on the handle. It worked perfectly every time.
Eventually, with a strange feeling of foreboding, I finally gave up on recreating the problem and we locked the door, went inside back our house and got a good nights sleep, so that we would be ready for our trip the next day.
But, I kept waking up thinking about what might have happened to cause the door to lock itself in the first place and, of course, when it might occur again.
The Problem Progresses, deviously!
Our trip to Virginia is a relatively long one and we stopped for the night in an Encore campground called The Oaks in Yemassee,South Carolina.
The Campground is almost exactly halfway for us and being a Thousand Trails member, I also get to stay there for free.
Anyway, after our six hours of driving and rest stops, we were all a little stiff. So, after hooking up to the campsite utilities, we decided to pour ourselves a glass of wine and walk around the campground to loosen up .
We do this regularly because we often meet other campers and we also get to see all of the amenities of the campground for later use or just for future reference.
We got out, locked the door, and then we spent the next hour wandering around talking to other campers and basically, just relaxing and clearing our heads.
Eventually though, we went back at our RV, and I inserted the key to unlock the door. I heard the comforting sound of that “click” that signaled the lock was working and then I pulled on the door handle.
It was LOCKED! Again!
After I spent my obligatory five minutes of ranting, my wife calmed me down and we had to get the ladder out and use our new way of entering the RV, through the *&^$&%$ window.
Of course, the door unlocked from the inside perfectly, and I spent another ten minutes trying to get the problem to repeat itself, to no avail. It worked perfectly every time.
So, we had out dinner, got a good nights sleep and drove the second leg of our trip to Virginia, the next day,
Once we were in our campsite at the Moose Club, we forgot about the weird lock problem. At least we forgot for a couple of days, and then, it happened again; we got locked out.
To make this story a little shorter, the problem kept getting worse and by the time we were ready to leave Virginia, the door locked itself, without a key being used; the door just had to be closed, and it would be locked.
Arrogance will get you every time
It was a very frustrating problem to have, I know, but my RV Door began arbitrarily locking me out of my RV.
We had owned our 2006 Fleetwood Bounder model 35E for about five months and we had racked up several hundred miles on it, as we camped around Florida.
Understand that this is the sixth RV we have owned over just the past dozen years, so we have picked up a few tricks about camping that a novice may not know.
And, I’m not bragging, but we have experienced enough strange things in our RV travels that we feel we have pretty much seen it all.
I guess that’s the first mistake you make when you are dealing with FATE. Fate is going to bite you in the Butt every time, when you get too arrogant. And it did attack me with this problem.
We were going on a trip to Virginia, at the time, where we would be staying for over a month in a nice campground that has a a number of very nice campsites and the campground itself is very clean and secure.
RV Inner Door Lock view
The Search for a Solution
I got out that big briefcase full of manuals that they give you with every RV you buy. I rooted through every on of them, from the generic Fleetwood owners manual to each and every one of the technical manuals on all of the appliances in our RV.
You see, I was desperate and I was not going to miss anything that might help me make this problem go away.
At this point, in my mind, the door lock was the tool of a devil, out to thwart my goal of a happy camping experience. And I had to find the magic spell that would make everything good again.
Eventually, after several hours of reading, I realized that RV door locks are not something the manufacturers are not very concerned about how much the RV owner knows about their lock assemblies.
I had only limited access to the web through my Smartphone HotSpot function in the campground, so my searches were quick, and sad to say, did not give me any useful information on RV door locks.
So, we worked around this devilish self-locking door by only partially closing it whenever we left the RV. It wasn’t a great solution, but I was in a private campground where everyone looks out for each others camper and campsite.
You can leave pretty much anything outside for days and no one will go near it.
Long story short, we eventually got home, unloaded the RV and I parked it in my storage site; with the cursed door automatically locking itself, of course.
Inside View of Door with inner assembly swung out of the way.
Getting Help from my Peers
Once I was home, I knew just the place to get help. I use a great web site run by RVers for RVers called IRV2.
This site has dozens of forums where other campers ask for and share advice on pretty much anything you can think of.
There are; manufacturer specific forums, model specific forums, maintenance forums, service forums, parts forums, travel forums, and just general discussion forums.
I didn’t go to this site while on the road because, often, if you have a unique and uncommon problem, it can take days before someone who has experienced the problem, or has some knowledge if it, actually sees your request for help.
Well, I described my problem, in detail, and less than 48-hours later I had two very good suggestions from two different fellow campers who had experienced the very same problem.
Now, armed with this great information, I went back to my RV, intent on taking care of this problem , once and for all.
The Heart of my RV Door lock Problem
One of my fellow campers and an IRV2 member (I won’t mention his name, here of course) described the cause of my problem to me and what to do in order to fix it.
It seems that the outer door handle of the RV door that you can see in the picture, moves an internal lever, that in turn pushes the “internal locking lever” to OPEN.
The real problem is that this lever can easily be bent slightly down and then it will not mate properly to the internal locking lever and the door will stay locked when the lock is turned or the handle is pulled.
It turns out this is a simple problem with a simple solution; and that solution is to get inside the assembly and bend the door handle lever back upwards so that it mates properly with the internal locking lever.
Bent Lever on RV Door Lock
The Repair Process
You can see from the pictures that the repair process is simple and only requires two tools.
One is a “Star-Bit” screwdriver needed to remove the three screws that hold the outer and inner assemblies together. The other is a pair of pliers.
- First you remove the three screws on the inside of the door lock assembly with the special screwdriver.
- Then you swing the whole inside assembly out of the way, It will swivel on the inside door handle shaft.
- And then you use the other tool, a pair of Pliers, to bend the bent lever back up and into the proper position.
- Once this is done, put the inner and outer assemblies into place, align them properly and replace the three screws.
Then, if you did bend the lever properly, VOILA, you have a functional door locking assembly that will no longer lock you out of your RV.
© 2015 Don Bobbitt