How to avoid theft of your caravan or camper

Recent reports suggests that caravan theft is a significant and growing problem in Australia. Caravans are prime targets for thieves and it is estimated that around 500 or so touring caravans are reported stolen each year in Australia, representing a major inconvenience to their owners. The implications of a stolen caravan can be devastating financial but it can also be very emotional for the individuals involved. This article is designed to provide you with general advice and ideas regarding how you can maximise the security and avoid theft of your valuable property.
Created: March 2012
Latest Feedback: January 2016

What are the risks?

As the owner of a caravan, motorhome or camper trailer you should be constantly vigilant in the protection of your rig and its contents.

Australia has one of the highest rates of vehicle theft in the western world. On average, one in every seventy Australian households had a vehicle stolen in the last twelve months. Almost 100,000 vehicles are stolen each year and around one-quarter will never be recovered.

With the massive boom in caravan ownership in Australia in recent years, caravans are now prime targets for thieves and it is estimated that around 500 or so touring caravans are reported stolen each year in Australia, representing a major inconvenience to their owners.

The implications of a stolen caravan, RV or camper trailer can be devastating financially but it can also be very emotional for the individuals involved. Regardless of your level of insurance, you are bound to be inconvenienced signficantly by theft, be it of your entire rig or of just the contents from within or around your campsite.

The first steps to avoiding theft begin with ensuring you follow a few simple commonsense security routines to deter thieves in the first place.

Simple Ideas for Deterring Thieves

Park Safe

When you are touring with your caravan, always be conscious of where you park – even if just for a quick stop. Some towns will have specific parking sites approved by the police, so take heed of any such indicators.

When leaving a van or trailer unattended and unhitched from your tow vehicle, always try to park with the drawbar facing towards a wall, gutter or difficult access point. This may require physically moving your unhitched trailer 180 degrees however this inconvenience could be the ideal deterrent to opportune thieves who might otherwise be able to simply back up their vehicle and hitch up your trailer and drive away.

Immobilisers

If you are taking a brief halt somewhere, do not neglect the important task of immobilizing your RV.

Keep Valuables out of Sight

Do not keep valuable items lying around or in sight. . If these are small enough to carry, take them with you. Always lock up if you are going out, including windows and draw the curtains. If possible, store any high-value items such as generators inside the van when not in use whilst you are out, rather than in an annexe with no hard walls.

Automatic lights

A light activated switch is a simple precaution to avoiding caravan theft. These switch on automatically when it is dark. This would give the impression that the caravan is occupied even when it isn’t.

VIN number protection

Most thieves wipe out the registration or VIN numbers from a stolen caravan to escape detection and enable resale to an unsuspecting buyer. To maximise the chance of reclaiming your van should it be stolen, it would be useful to have these numbers written or etched in various places in the caravan. For example, labeling the underside of drawers, in cupboards and on other areas of bare wood will help the police to identify a touring caravan if it is ever stolen. Obviously, the method of labeling should be permanent and not easy to remove or disguise.

With the advancement of technology, the identification system in caravan security has undergone many improvements. There is a system in which very small discs, the size of a grain of sand, are etched with a code having a number of lines. These tiny dots are sprayed or even brushed on your RV or campervan or caravan. These dots contain the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that are invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen under UV light.

Security stickers should be placed prominently to warn thieves that the vehicle is registered and can be easily identified if stolen.

Buyer Beware

If you are buying a used caravan, take consideration of any suspicious indicators that might mean the van is stolen. Be wary if it’s out of registration; ask to see proof of ownership paperwork; and consider looking up the VIN number on any stolen vehicle registers in your state.

Neighborhood Watch

If there are other caravan owners about who are your floating neighbours, have an informal agreement with them to keep an eye out for suspicious activity at each other’s caravan. Remember to give them a method of contacting you quickly should the need arise (eg. mobile phone number).

Protect Valuables

Lock all windows and draw the curtains. Do not keep valuable items lying around. If these are small enough to carry, take them with you.

Evaluate your van’s contents in the same way you would your home, and take out adequate additional contents cover.

TIP

Also see our article Caravan & RV Insurance

Anti-Theft Devices

Coupling Locks & Wheel Clamp Devices

Invest in a security or locking device, such as a coupling lock or wheel clamp. There are a number of devices on the market that suit different types of situations.

Hitchlocks

A good Hitchlock will be a deterrent to thieves from opportunistic road side stops. A Hitchlock is designed to lock the caravan to the car as an integral unit. Choose a Hitchlock where the securing bolts are completely covered. If the Hitchlock bolts are exposed, it would be a cakewalk for an expert thief to unbolt the lock and fit his own in place. Remember, of course, that Hitch bolts should not be used while in transit in interest of safety.

Cons:- a Hitchlock can only be of value if you use it every time you walk away from your rig. This is often impractical when the time to attach the hitch might take longer than the time you expect to leave your rig unattended; and idle forgetfulness can render you completely exposed to the risk of theft.

Wheel Clamps

A wheel clamp of some description is essential whilst the caravan is in storage and most touring caravan insurance companies insist that some form of wheel clamping is used to comply with the exclusions in the policy.

Wheel clamps simply clamp the wheels of your RV and prevent it from being driven away. There are many models of wheel clamps. Some are made of hardened steel and fit up to 290 mm size of tyres. Many come with a 25 year guarantee and are designed to fit all wheels so your initial investment may be used for any future vans or RVs that you buy in the future.

Locking Wheel Nuts

Locking wheel nuts won’t stop your vehicle from being stolen but they do a great job in protecting your wheels from being removed. These bolts are a great investment if you have a new and desirable set of alloy wheels fitted to your vehicle, van or trailer, but can equally protect your tyres which are particularly expensive nowadays.

Locking Bolts are a simple idea – you replace one retaining nut on each of your 4 wheels with a locking one, which then requires a special adaptor to be placed over the top of the nut to allow it to be released, meaning that wheels cannot be removed without this adaptor.

You’ll need to keep the adaptor in your vehicle in a secure place that thieves cannot easily find but in a place where you can locate it quickly in the event you have a flat and need to remove the wheel.

Cons:- Quality of the nuts = ease of theft. Some organized criminals make master copies of the adaptors so pay a little more for a more complicated design with a number of combinations.

GPS Alarms, Immobilisers & Tracking

Unlike traditional noise alert alarms, modern security alarm systems can now provide real time information about the location of a RV or camper van and also notifies the owner whenever the vehicle moves out of an allotted area (geofence). A Geofence is an imaginary area which could be as small as a circle of 50 metre radius. If your vehicle fitted with such a GPS alarm system, leaves or enters this area, you would be notified via your mobile phone.
These systems can also allow you to check up on the location of your vehicle/van. By activating the unit from your end, these system can give you an SMS advising the longitude and latitude. If your mobile phone is 3G enabled, you can access a road map showing precisely where the vehicle is located. You can also see this via the internet in the same manner as you can see your home on your computer screen. You can also, via your mobile phone perform some functions like locking or unlocking of doors, setting off the horn or immobilizing the engine.

Another GPS alarm invention utilises a wireless passive infrared sensor that is used besides a smoke detector and an impact sensor. The sensors operate on 12 volts and send alarm signals over radio frequency to the alarm unit. The system is capable of attaching a GPS tracking unit to it and the GPS can send an SMS to your mobile phone.

When you choose a tracking system, get all details about a police-allocated unique reference number and the methodology of alerting police about theft of your vehicle.

Note:- ExplorOz cannot provide details on manufacturers, brands, retail outlets or pricing for these devices or services. Please check this page for any associated sponsor or advertising.

Security with EOTrackMe

Whilst, the EOTrackMe system is not an alarm, it is an online tracking system that you can utilise in the same manner to track and locate your vehicle anytime it moves out of your nominated geofence provided the GPS tracking device that you have registered to the EOTrackMe service is located within the vehicle or van. ExplorOz Members may register additional devices to the service upon request. So, since you might register and use an iPhone to enable your family/friends to follow your travels using your ExplorOz Member profile, the reality is that you would most likely not leave this device in the vehicle when you leave it unattended (eg. going out to dinner, day trips etc). The ideal situation is to also have another device that is also registered to EOTrackMe that you don’t need for any other purpose so it can be left hidden in your vehicle in the case of theft. You could therefore, have a second iPhone, a Spot, or any other non-specific GPS enabled device for this purpose.

David Martin, from I.T. Beyond Pty Ltd, is the developer of all ExplorOz software and associated applications such as EOTrackMe. He has been purchasing and testing various small inconspicuous devices but has not made one commercially available. There is no reason that anyone interested in using the EOTrackMe service in this way could not register a device of their own choosing and use it in the manner described.


This article was written to provide you with general advice and ideas regarding security of your valuable property, however we do not offer any services directly. Please contact embedded advertisers and sponsors if you seek more information on any products or services mentioned. You could also use the Article Feedback below to ask questions, or make a comment - this will automatically appear in the Forum whereby you'll gain responses from our audience. We also welcome your review of our article - you can rate it for others and tell us if you found it useful. Thanks,

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