Motorhome security: How to protect a campervan from theft

Motorhome security

As the popularity of van life grows, so too does the risk of campervan and motorhome theft. But what are the best motorhome security locks and what more can you do to reduce the risk? Here Van Life Matters provides an overview of all the security options.

Booming demand for motorhomes and campervans means there’s currently an increased risk of theft and, given that the majority of new motorhomes feature nothing more sophisticated than a Thatcham Category 2 system as standard, additional motorhome security devices are something that every owner should consider.

Security basics: Simple security measures could mean the difference between returning to your belongings as you left them and a broken window. When looking for a safe parking location, look for good street-lighting and CCTV. Before leaving your motorhome, lock all doors, windows and vents, and don't leave anything on show - including any windscreen-mounted gadgets.

Motorhome alarms and immobilisers

Almost all modern campervans and motorhomes will already have an alarm fitted as standard by the vehicle manufacturer.

That’s not to say, your motorhome is immune from theft though.

Today’s motorhome thieves tend to be equipped with sophisticated gadgets which can override many alarm and immobiliser systems and, if you’ve got ‘keyless entry’, your motorhome is actually at high risk of theft.

Keyless motorhome theft: A keyless fob has an in-built transceiver, which can send and receive coded radio signals to lock the doors when the key isn't within range and unlock them when the key is close enough. However, thieves can now exploit this technology to gain entry to your vehicle within a couple of minutes. Sophisticated devices used by criminals amplify your key fob's signal and copy it to a second transmitter, tricking your vehicle into thinking the key fob is close and unlocking the doors. What's worse, if your motorhome has keyless start, they can also start the engine and drive off. This type of theft is widely used on newer vehicles and usually takes place on while parked on the drive of your house.

Minimise the risk of keyless theft:  If you haven’t bought your new motorhome, the easiest way to avoid keyless theft is to ensure it doesn't have keyless entry. If you've already got it though, you can block the signal from your keys by storing them in a a special key signal blocking pouch. Alternatively, a metal biscuit tin would also do the same job. 

Motorhome trackers

It seems professional thieves are always one step ahead of manufacturers when it comes to security.

Motorhome trackers, which can reduce your motorhome insurance premium if you go for a Thatcham-approved tracker, are an increasingly popular motorhome security device.

While they can’t physically stop a theft, they can be seen as a deterrent and, should the worst happen, your chances of being reunited with it are significantly increased.

Options vary from a basic OBD-port GPS tracker for as little as £30 to an all-singing, all-dancing S5 Thatcham tracker system with 24/7 control centre monitoring for upwards of £700 plus an ongoing subscription service.

There are two categories of Thatcham-approved trackers: S7 and S5, both use GPS signal.

An S7 motorhome tracker offers post-theft vehicle tracking, while an S5 tracker does this while adding a system that automatically recognises the driver of the vehicle.

S7 trackers tend to be cheaper than their S5 counterparts.

These aren’t your only options though – there’s also a whole range of non-insurance-approved motorhome trackers.

These usually come with an associated smartphone app, which is used to alert the owner of unauthorised vehicle movement.

They may also require a mobile phone SIM card and associated account, and will send data to the app.

You can have these either as a pay-as-you-go account, which you’ll need to top up yourself, or as a rolling data contract, the same as you might have for your mobile phone.

There are also small OBD trackers that plug the socket that vehicle technicians plug their diagnostic devices into.

These also use a mobile phone SIM card to transmit data to an app but don’t need a battery because they draw power from the vehicle itself.

What the insurers say: For high-value motorhomes, most insurance underwriters ask for a Category 1 or S5 system, if they insist on anything at all. Category 1 systems are designed to prevent your campervan or motorhome from being stolen, while Category S5 systems allow your vehicle to be retrieved if it does get taken. Even if your insurer doesn’t insist on getting a tracker, it’s worth considering one.

Thatcham security categories explained:
     Category 1: Electronic alarm and immobiliser
     Category 2: Electronic or electromechanical immobiliser
     Category 2-1: Electronic alarm upgrade
     Category 4: Wheel locking devices
     Category S5: High-spec tracker systems
     Category S7: Lower-spec tracker systems
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Motorhome security door locks

Aftermarket door locks are designed provide additional security to stop thieves gaining entry to your campervan or motorhome, with various options available for cab doors and habitation doors.

From the classic Fiamma security door handle to bolt-on motorhome barrel locking systems, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to habitation door locks.

One thing to consider is that the majority are designed only to be operated on the outside when you leave your camper.

If you’d sleep better at night knowing there’s something a little more substantial than the standard habitation door lock, look for options that can be operated from both the inside and out.

Don’t forget about additional locks for any storage lockers and garage doors that you may have.

For the cab doors, you’re best advised to seek an automotive locksmith who’ll be able to advise on the best option for your specific vehicle.

Pros: Provides a good visual as well as physical deterrent.

Cons: Requires drilling into the bodywork, check with your dealer about any warranty issues before fitting one.

Cab door security bar

Instead of a cab door lock, a lockable cab door bar could be a good alternative.

A simple but highly effective method to stop unauthorised access to the cab area, cab door security bars tend to clamp to the inside of each door so that they cannot be opened from the outside.

Pros: Simple but highly effective.

Cons: Not so good if you're inside and wish to make use of the cab seats while parked-up for the night.

Motorhome steering locks

The most-common types of motorhome steering wheel locks include the enclosed steering wheel lock, which completely covers the steering wheel; the traditional bar lock, which hooks onto the steering wheel; and a wheel-to-pedal lock, which hooks onto both the steering wheel and the brake or clutch pedal, preventing both from use.

Before making a purchase, make sure you measure the outside diameter of your steering wheel to ensure you get a steering wheel lock to fit your motorhome.

It’s also worth considering how big the lock itself is – you’ll need somewhere to store it while it’s not in use.

Pros: A quick and effective solution offering both a visual and physical deterrent.

Cons: Depending on your steering wheel, finding a steering lock to fit your vehicle can sometimes be difficult.

Motorhome window security

Some motorhome windows are alarmingly easy to open from the outside and yet it’s the one area that often gets overlooked when it comes to security.

There’s a number of options available on the market to lock motorhome windows but you should also consider fitting a window alarm too.

Pros: A relatively inexpensive motorhome security upgrade.

Cons: Some plastic window latches can become brittle with age and a metal window lock could easily break it if you're too heavy-handed.

Motorhome safes

A motorhome safe ensures your most valuable items remain secure, even if someone does gain entry to your vehicle.

The best options are those that can be well-hidden and attached securely to the vehicle chassis.

If you’re not sold on a traditional safe, why not consider a can of beans safe, which look just like a normal tin and can be stored discreetly among your groceries.

Pros: For the most popular vans, there's a number of bespoke options available designed specifically to fit your vehicle.

Cons: Unless it's fitted properly, there's a risk the thief could just take the whole safe.

Motorhome security camera

Motorhome security cameras offer excellent peace-of-mind, allowing you to check-in on your rig and all of its contents from your phone.

You can choose from a hardwired 12v camera, a battery-powered camera or a solar-powered camera.

Essential features to look for are motion detection, night vision and remote monitoring.

Remote monitoring will of course depend on a reliable and stable motorhome WiFi connection.

If you don’t have WiFi, go for an option which uses its own cellular data – although this will cost a little more and require a data subscription service.

Once you’ve got motorhome CCTV installed, be sure to advertise that it’s under 24hr CCTV surveillance to any potential thieves – the sticker alone could be enough to put them off.

Pros: With remote monitoring, CCTV is the ultimate choice for peace-of-mind.

Cons: A good, reliable security camera system may not be the cheapest security measure and it won't necessarily stop a thief from covering their face.

Motorhome wheel clamps

A good quality motorhome wheel clamp can cost upwards of £130 and as much as £300.

While there are cheaper alternatives, these are unlikely to carry security accreditations such as Sold Secure Gold that prove a lock has stood up to known theft techniques for a considerable amount of time.

To ensure you get a wheel clamp to fit your motorhome properly, check the wheel diameter and tyre width.

You’ll find this information will be on your tyres – the width is a three-figure number expressed in millimetres and the wheel size is in inches after the letter R.

You may also need to check if the clamp is suitable for use with your wheel type (alloy or steel).

When it comes to choosing a motorhome wheel clamp, it could be worth choosing one that’s not quite so common – the less popular a wheel clamp is, the less likely a thief will know how to break through it.

Pros: Another motorhome security staple choice that offers both a visual and physical deterrent. 

Cons: Some clamps can be particularly bulky, so you'll need to make room if you plan on travelling with it.

Driveway security posts

If your motorhome left parked up on a driveway for any period of time, a security post will make life much more difficult for any would-be thieves.

Options vary from relatively inexpensive ‘hinged’ posts to much more substantial telescopic bollards.

Pros: A wide choice of styles to choose from.

Cons: The more substantial bollards may require professional installation.

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