Locked When Loaded - RV Enthusiast Magazine

Locked When Loaded

by | Oct 27, 2021 | Repairs and Upkeep, RV/Motorhome, Safety

Installing entry-door and storage-compartment locks from Creative Products Group takes advantage of keyless security and keyed-alike convenience.
All RVs have an entry door or two and exterior storage compartments, which means there must be mechanisms to keep them closed securely and locked to prevent unwanted visitations. While this may seem like an over-simplification, not so fast: There are a number of considerations when it comes to locking up an RV. Beyond the painful experience when a lockset fails, the RV industry’s use of certain hardware that helps dealers control key inventory and keep manufacturing costs down has created a situation that owners may not be aware of.

There are two locking features for just about all entry doors: one that locks the handle and the other that engages a deadbolt for maximum security. However, many of these handle locks are stamped with an “M” — which means dealer personnel (and others) can use a master key to open them. At first blush, this seems like a sound idea; it allows dealership employees to quickly open and close inventory for potential buyers without handling separate keys for each model. Unfortunately, master keys aren’t all that difficult to obtain. Literally thousands of sales and service departments have them — heck, so do most transport companies, for that matter. They are really a necessity for many people to get their jobs done. That said, their prevalence is just one more reason why owners should always use the deadbolt along with the handle lock when securing their RVs; master keys — which also are compatible with some aftermarket door locks — will not open the deadbolt portion of the lockset.

And then, of course, there is the infamous CH751. Overwhelmingly, the RV industry supplies locks that use the same key, CH751, to “lock” baggage doors. However, they have been around for 50 years, and just about everyone has one. If you want your baggage door lock to offer more protection than simply preventing things from falling out, these definitely need to be upgraded.

removing the screws
Removing the original entry-door lockset starts from the inside, where the screws that hold the housing are removed.
Fortunately, there are a number of quality replacement locks available for RV applications. RVLock (rvlock.com) is a keyless entry lock with an integrated keypad and fob; the company’s latest iteration, V4, carries a solid 4.8 rating on Amazon (with 3,547 people weighing in as of mid-September). Bauer Products (bauerproducts.com) is another company that has made RV security a focus. It’s newest lock, the Bauer NE Bluetooth, is an entrance door handle with “close field technology” — meaning it allows the lock to be activated by having a paired device (smartphone) in close proximity. It also keeps track of locking/unlocking history and, according to the company, offers “bank-grade” encryption. And there are others.

RVLocksandMore.com, the retail segment for Global Link, which produces locks for RVs under the Creative Products Group (CPG) branding, offers a variety of locks for RV manufacturers and consumers via aftermarket distribution. What got our attention was the ability to key alike the entryway and all compartment locks among its keyless options.

removing screws from the faceplate
removing the handle
Two screws must be removed from the faceplate on the edge of door before the lockset can be pushed out. Once the screws are removed from inside the door and faceplate, the lockset can be pushed out. You’ll have to hold on to the parts on both sides of the door to prevent dropping parts on the ground.

An even better solution is the company’s Ultra E Pro Electronic Lock ($185) keyless lockset for entry doors. By using a four-digit code, owners can rest assured that the deadbolt will always be engaged and not accessible to master keys. Dealers can still use a master key or set their own code for use on sales lots with units so equipped, but once the owners change the code, access by unauthorized individuals is no longer possible. The deadbolt works differently than the standard lockset used by the majority of RV manufacturers in that it doesn’t throw a metal rod or square “bolt” into a strike plate; the GPC model uses a mechanism that locks the door internally. Personal codes are entered on the LED keyboard built into the lockset housing and the mechanism is powered by a single C123 lithium battery. The lockset is covered by a one-year warranty.

Once you experience the convenience of a keyless entry, you’ll never look back at physical keys

A subsequent introduction since our installation is the Ultra ES Pro Smart Lock, which adds a secure encrypted connection to a smartphone or tablet to control the lock. The smartphone can lock or unlock the door, has a provision for changing the passcode and informs the owner of battery life — all within a 120-foot range, according to the company. Up to eight users can program their smartphones to control multiple locksets.

Once you experience the convenience of a keyless entry, you’ll never look back at physical keys, except to hide one somewhere in the RV in case of a failure (which is most often caused by a dead battery). The Smart Lock feature adds the Bluetooth element to the process, and just about everyone these days has a smartphone.

Entry-way locksets from the company are also available without the keyless option, and for both products the handle has a unique mechanism that allows the user to pull the door at the same time as releasing the latch bolt, providing a more secure grip when opening the door. This configuration works well, once the user gets the knack of how it works — only one side of the handle pulls out at an angle. Acclimation does come quickly, but you’ll have to instruct visitors not familiar with the mechanism how to use it to prevent adverse strain on the lockset.

For our purposes, we installed the Ultra E Pro keyless version on the main door leading into the living area of a fifth wheel and a second, standard Ultra M Pro Lock model on the entry door into the rear bedroom. And, since the main exterior storage compartments were fitted with slam-latch handles and another with cam locks, we changed all the hardware to accommodate a keyed-alike system.

Installing both locksets should be an easy project by anyone using basic hand tools, especially since the chances are good that the opening (once the old lockset is removed) will be compatible without modifications. In our case, the opening was a little tight to allow the mechanism to operate freely, so we simply employed a razor knife to cut away some of the polystyrene insulation and increase the opening tolerances, which only took a few minutes.

the inside of the new Ultra E Pro Electronic Lock
Components of the new Ultra E Pro Electronic Lock are assembled before being pre-fit into the hole vacated by the factory lockset.

Slam Shut Case
Most fifth wheels these days use slam-latch paddle locks on the exterior storage compartment doors and we replaced those with CPG’s counterparts to enable the tumblers to be keyed alike. The slam-latch paddle locks ($47.73) used for this project were direct replacements for the original Kenco hardware. Locks for other OEM models are available; it’s best to seek professional advice if you are not familiar with the standard locks on your trailer or fifth wheel.

The process is straightforward, meaning you unscrew one lockset and replace it with the CPG slam latch hardware. Some models may require drilling out rivets inside the compartment door; we found that necessary on a second fifth wheel solicited for a concurrent project. A special removal tool will make short work of drilling out the rivets, although a drill bit large enough to release the rivet collar will work fine. Once the new latch brackets are riveted in place, it’s just a matter of mounting the paddle with a screwdriver. However, it’s also possible that you will have to realign the strike plate, which can take some patience.

checking clearance
The new lockset is pre-fit into the door to make sure clearances are OK. The clearance in the door opening was a little tight to allow the Ultra E Pro lockset to function smoothly, so a razor knife was used to cut away a small amount of polystyrene insulation.
connecting the wires
The outside and inside sections of the new lockset are connected by two wires, which sends the signals from the passcode entered via the LED keypad.

While the compartment latches work smoothly, we found that a thin coating of a silicone paste, applied about once a month (for heavy usage) facilitates easier opening and closing.

The last phase of this lock transformation project was replacing two CH751 cam locks on one of the storage compartment doors. These locks are nothing more than latches to keep the compartment door closed; the prevalence of the CH751 by many manufacturers means there’s hardly any security offered — your next-door-neighbor at the campground probably has locks on his rig using the same key. CPG offers cam locks for just about any compartment door where the cylinder will fit; 5/8-inch diameter cam locks are available in short- or long-arm versions. The only caveat in using these cam locks is that they may not work in access doors (think outside shower, leveling controller or gravity water fill, for example) that have shallow locks, but there’s nothing worth stealing there. Careful measurement and test fitting will help.

Cam locks sell for around $12 (two keys are provided) and can be fitted with offset latches to fit the compartment-door configuration. The big benefit of using the CPG cam and slam latches is that they can be keyed alike to the entry-way lockset, which happily renders the CH751 key useless.

Owners can order all the locksets with alike keys, including those that cannot be opened with a pass key; we like that feature. There are 90 key combinations available, which makes it pretty difficult to find someone with a key that will fit your locks. Owners can also change the tumblers in existing locks, which requires the use of a change key. This key is not universally available, which is a good thing, but most RV dealers have one or it can be rented from CPG for $50; $40 will be credited when the key is returned. While this is done for security reasons, it’s still possible for a crook to buy a key, but the chances of that are slim. And, if the lock is in the locked position, the change key won’t work anyway.

Light Up Your Life
Finding the keyhole at night can often be difficult without a flashlight. Among its varied offerings, CPG can supply a key with an LED in the thumb hold that illuminates the keyhole. This lighted key sells for $15.99 and can be ordered to fit your tumblers. These keys are bright enough to prevent fumbling at night; we found the light to be indispensable.
a key with a light shining on the lock
CPG offers lockset keys with an LED that can illuminate the keyhole at night. It provides plenty of light to prevent fumbling with the key in dark quarters.

The process for replacing the tumbler is simple: Insert the change key into the lock, turn and remove the tumbler. Put the key in the new tumbler and secure in the cylinder. It takes less than a minute. In fact, it only required about two hours to complete the entire job. This is one project that raises the convenience factor dramatically by going keyless to enter the RV — and only having to carry one key to access all the storage compartments — while still offering enhanced security against unauthorized entry.

tightening the screws
supporting the handle while tightening the screws
After ensuring the fit was right and the wires connected, the lockset screws are tightened from the inside. If using a screw gun, be careful not to overtighten — this can damage the door by sinking the housing edges into the fiberglass.
a close up of the big red lever
The deadbolt can be engaged from the inside using the big red lever on the lower part of the lockset. An emergency provision is included should the handle get locked from the outside with someone inside the RV — a discrete small button on the inside of the lock will, when pushed, disengage the deadbolt.
inserting the screw
a close-up of the handle on the outside
New paddle locks were installed on five storage compartments. The slam latch paddle locks were direct replacements for the original Kenco counterparts (CPG has replacement slam latch locks for most fifth wheels and trailers). CPG’s slam latch paddle lock fit perfectly in all the compartment doors. They operate smoothly and the paddle handle is comfortable to use.
adding the slam latch paddle locks
Adding the slam latch paddle locks to a second fifth wheel required drilling out rivets and setting new ones before the body of the lock could be fastened in place.
close-up of a CH751 key
The original cam locks for one of the storage compartments used a CH751 key, which offers virtually no security.
detaching the arm
the large nut being removed
Removing the original cam lock is simple. First, the arm is detached and then the large nut is removed to free the lock.
close-up of the new cam lock
The new cam lock uses a cylinder that is keyed alike to the entry-door and compartment paddle locks.
installing the large nut
tightening the bolt
The large nut is installed to hold the cam lock in the compartment door. Some installers will remove the screw that holds the latching arm in place first, but the process works in either case. Short or long arm versions (not shown) are available, depending on compartment and door configuration.
close-up of cylinder tumblers
Cylinder tumblers can be ordered directly from the CPG or RV dealer.
the new key in the lock
A change key is required to remove and replace the tumbler. RV dealers usually have change keys, but one can be rented from CPG for $50; $40 will be credited when the key is returned.

(888) 400-9849

Photos by Shawn Spence
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