Oops, Locked Out: How to Open a Camper Door Without Keys

Locking yourself out of an RV is almost a rite of passage whether you’re a new or seasoned Rver. Of course, no one enjoys the experience—even if it’s a great tale to tell later. First, you must find a way back into the camper and find your keys. Here’s how to open a camper door without keys.

What to Do If You’re Locked Out of Your Camper

It’s understandable to panic the moment you realize you don’t have your keys and your camper door is locked. For many RVers who travel with pets, the realization that you can’t get back into the motorhome is downright stressful. Here are a few steps to take the moment the door locks behind you.

Find a Safe Place to Wait for Help

Whether you’re on the side of the road or in a cozy campground, you need to know where assistance is if you need it. If the weather is below freezing or over a hundred degrees, finding shelter is a priority. For RVers with tow vehicles, you might have a ready-made backup plan.

If you’re on the side of the road without another method of transportation, consider where you might go if opening the door will take a while. Walking to a gas station might be an option, or you can call for help if you have a cell phone and adequate service.

Don’t Panic

Panicking is often an RVer’s first instinct when they realize a lockout has happened. Especially if you travel with your dog or cat, you might worry about your animal’s safety first and foremost. Even in hot temperatures, you shouldn’t panic: each minute you spend frantic is a minute you aren’t looking for a solution.

That said, if a child is locked inside the camper, consider contacting emergency services immediately. In hot temperatures, especially, a lockout scenario can turn from bad to deadly. Like a car, an RV can reach interior temperatures of 100 degrees or more, even in relatively cool weather.

While you may not want to risk damage to your rig, sometimes the only efficient option for entry is to break a window. You can safely break a window using a sharp edge—a hammer, screwdriver, or another tool—near the corner of the glass.

Check for Spare Keys

If you travel with a partner, check to see if they have a spare key before you go searching for something to pick the lock with. Check for your keys in your tow vehicle, bag, or pockets before assuming you’ve left them inside. Look on the ground, underneath the RV, and anywhere else you may have dropped the keys.

Look for Tools

For RVs with driver’s cabs, you may be able to open the lock from the outside if a window is slightly open. Look for a metal hanger or another tool to slip through the window. You may be able to roll manual windows down farther with the right tool, allowing you to put your arm in and unlock the door.

Even a string through a window can open a lock, depending on the type of hardware your RV has. Look for these options first, then proceed to the next steps for how to open a camper door without keys.

How to Open a Camper Door Without Keys

Here are ten potential solutions to open a camper door without keys.

1. Check All Windows & Doors

Depending on the season, you may have a window cracked open or a screen door operational. If your RV has a back door, you should double-check to make sure nothing is left open. If a window is open, you may be able to reach inside to the door or even grab your keys if they’re accessible. With larger windows, you may be able to crawl inside.

Some motorhomes have storage hatches which lead to bunks; if your motorhome has this feature, you may be able to access the interior via the storage door. Bunks with exterior storage are most common in Class A motorhomes and larger vehicles, but it’s worth checking regardless.

2. Inspect Emergency Exits

Larger rigs have emergency exit windows. In most cases, you only need a screwdriver to open an emergency window from the exterior. You might need a ladder as well, depending on the size of the rig. Be sure to reaffix the emergency window once you gain access.

In addition to knowing where your emergency exit window is, you should also understand how to use it in case of a non-lockout emergency. Keeping the window in good working condition is also helpful for gaining access (or exit) in an emergency.

3. Pick the Lock

If you know your way around a lock-picking kit, this can be a helpful way to gain entry to your RV without keys. Often, an Allen wrench and screwdriver (a tiny one) can help you jimmy the lock. You may damage the lock if you don’t know your way around a lock pick, however, so this isn’t an ideal solution for every RVer.

4. Remove the Door Lock

An alternative to picking the lock is removing the RV’s door lock—and potentially the door, too. Especially in older and vintage RVs, removing the lock may be the simplest access point. Removing the entire door is often possible as well and avoids damaging the lock and other mechanisms.

Removing the lock (and door) does require tools, however. Therefore, storing your toolbox in an exterior compartment (or in your tow vehicle) is helpful.

5. Consult Campground Staff

If you’re staying in a campground or RV park when you accidentally lock yourself out, it’s worth inquiring at the front desk for aid. Many campgrounds have a set of universal keys—one for each brand or make of recreational vehicle. In many instances, these keys can get your door open in a matter of seconds or minutes.

RV manufacturers often sell master keys to open multiple makes or models of RVs. Due to the cost, larger RV parks are more likely to have this solution available to customers than smaller or privately-owned locations.

6. Consider Insurance Assistance

Most RV insurance plans include standard roadside assistance. Some offer lockout help, too, depending on the type of plan and coverage you have. In non-emergency scenarios, calling your insurance company can be a smart option. If you have time to wait safely, your only expense will be whatever your insurance company charges for a service call.

7. Call a Tow Truck

Even without insurance coverage—or a plan with towing assistance—you can still contact towing companies for help. Calling ahead to inquire whether they can unlock RV doors is crucial; make sure they can help before you pay for a service call.

8. Contact a Local Locksmith

No matter where you are staying in your motorhome or travel trailer, there’s likely a local locksmith business nearby. You may find costs are lower with a lockout service than a tow truck company, so it pays to call around before choosing a provider.

9. Call the RV Manufacturer

Though there isn’t always a secret way to pop open an RV door, the manufacturer may have tips on how to gain access. Consider calling the manufacturer for advice, or the rental company if you’re renting an RV.

10. Keep Duplicate Keys on Hand

You may also want to purchase your own duplicate set of keys and keep one in a hide-a-key spot. RVs for sale typically come with two keys, but you can usually get copies at the dealer. While a spare key can prevent lockouts from happening, it won’t help in the moment. But it only takes one experience being locked out of your RV to recognize how crucial it is to plan for the scenario.

Final Thoughts

Getting locked out of the camper is something that happens to almost everyone. Whether you’re a veteran RVer or are renting for the first time this weekend, knowing how to address a lockout is a vital skill. Plus, after you experience it once, it’s unlikely you’ll make the same mistake a second time.