First the bad news. “If they want your trailer, they’ll take it,” say savvy Airstreamers. No matter what security measures you employ, a competent thief can find a way to separate you permanently from your Airstream.
“Airstreams are targets,” explained an expert at an Alumafandango seminar. “If yours gets stolen, you won’t get it back. They’re hard to recover, and they all look alike.”
“Most late-model coaches are stolen for parts, and can be sent overseas in shipping containers. Four or five coats of paint on your tongue hitch covers the VIN number. And the old tongue locks are kind of worthless,” he continued. “They can be broken into in five minutes.”
Victims of theft agree. “It’s almost like the insurance companies go, oh, just get ‘em a new trailer,” said one. “They don’t go after who stole it and don’t pursue where it went. They just figure it’s been scrapped out, it’s just gone, and that’s the cost of doing business.” Don’t expect law enforcement to step in, either. “Sadly, the highway patrol does nothing proactive to find stolen RVs,” said one victim. “They simply add the license to their list.”
Yikes. What’s the good news? You can take steps to reduce your chances of theft—in increasing degrees of difficulty for the bad guys.
Any deterrent will at least slow them down; a feeble padlock or virtually useless barrel style receiver lock can deter the local prankster thugs, and more substantial measures might motivate a professional to move on to an easier target docked nearby. Airstream owners weigh in with their preferences.
Keep it close.
“Ours is on our own property in a fenced yard behind an electric gate, and there’s a truck usually in the way, blocking it,” said one owner.
Have a Hensley (or Hensley-style) hitch.
“Hensley’s are stronger than Superman,” said a seminar leader at Alumafandango, and users explain how it deters theft: ”You have to have that type of hitch mechanism to take it away. If you don’t, you can’t hitch it up. It beats the odds that a criminal would also have a Hensley. Plus, trying to remove the hitch from the trailer is a major task. You have to know what you’re doing.”
Get a good lock. A really good lock.
Thom (no pun intended) Locke at Sutton RV recommends the MegaHitch lock coupler vault. “It’s the best lock we’ve found,” he said. “It’s powder coated, and quarter-inch thick steel. When locked, you’d have to cut through two thicknesses, a half an inch. That’s a lot,” he said. “It also has a round key that’s almost impossible to duplicate.”
“It would take a long time and someone would have to work very hard to break into a MegaHitch,” said a fan. “It’s kind of like a car alarm in that it calls attention to the theft in process, causing suspicion.” Lug it around in your tow vehicle, and “put it on every time you stop, no matter where you are,” said another user.
Use multiple deterrents…
…like a Club wheel lock (or two) in addition to the hitch lock, or use a second type of lock in addition to the one on the locking lever. “You can always defeat a lock, but they’ll discourage amateurs—drunk rednecks, weirdos, kids—that might get a wild idea to pull your trailer away,” laughed an Airstreamer. Others have their Airstreams alarmed with a device that activates if the trailer moves.
Go to extremes.
“Take one wheel off on one side, and partially deflate the tire on the other side,” offered one Airstreamer. Others suggested “jack the trailer up and put it on blocks”, and “install a big u-bolt underneath with a drag mechanism on it.” Or not.
Keep your insurance strong.
“A replacement policy isn’t necessary with most RVs, but with an Airstream, it is,” said experts at Alumfandango. Review with your agent every detail of your policy, and understand the meaning of replacement value, agreed value, and the various types of loss. Make sure your content coverage is adequate; there’s more in your trailer than you might remember. (“Thank goodness we had enough,” said an RV crime victim. “We needed not only to replace things like sheets, dishes, and inside supplies but all the tools, cords and hoses.”) Keep ALL receipts, and make it easy on the insurer. Organization scores points.
Avoid multi-use storage facilities.
“The biggest problem are those big facilities where they have small storage rooms as well as boat and RV parking,” said another, and many agree. “Thieves come in there and rent a small, cheap storage unit, and go in and out for a couple-three months. Since they have 24-hour access to the yard, one day they hook up an Airstream and just take it away. Then they keep paying their rent, inconspicuous, and cancel the rental after a couple more months.”
That’s exactly what happened to the former owners of a “new, 2009 27ft front bedroom we had in what we thought was a very secure storage unit,” said the victim. “People came in and out all the time that had nothing to do with the trailers.” (Management later suspiciously claimed the security camera wasn’t working or possibly rolled over the recording.) They have their new Airstream—entirely replaced by insurance—in a facility that “has tons and tons of cameras, and it’s strictly a boat and RV storage lot.”
More Airstream anti-theft tips
- When choosing a storage lot, ask when security cameras recycle. “It’s gotta be at least three months,” said an Airstreamer who packs his away for the winter.
- Keep the Airstream hitch and/or wheels locked tight when stored, no matter how secure the facility.
- Etch the VIN number on both the trailer and your tow vehicle. “Etching kits are easy to find online and inexpensive,” said another victim of theft (who learned these lessons the hard way). “I etched the number around the vehicles in four places.”
- Ask your dealership what anti-theft measures are in place while your coach is in for service.