Friday, January 14, 2011

Exterior Compartments, Locks, Insulation, Weather Stripping


Some folks worry about the flimsy locks on the outside storage compartments. For one thing, anyone with a similar lock has a key that will unlock YOUR compartments. You can change out the locks to something different and more sturdy, but it's debatable whether that will keep a determined thief out; he is likely to use a pry bar to force the doors open, damaging both the door and the exterior of the LD.

I found the round key locks at Camping World many years ago. I have had the same problem with the keys as they have worn. I had problems with the lock spinning in the door, when the hole gets knocked out of shape. I found a cheap desk lock that used the same cylinder shape and it had a sheet metal backing plate that would hold the lock cylinder in place. It was screwed and glued to the inside of the door. I tried making a sheet metal plate but it has to be perfect. It's worth $4 for the desk lock backing plate.

Another source for locks with a unique key for “your” locks is Industrial Lock and Hardware. They produce and sell tubular cam locks with unique keys. However, ordering them is a bit of a problem since LD uses three different lock sizes. The locks are an odd length that require an offset cam to compensate. The upper compartments all have the longer cylinder. The lower compartments all have a shorter cylinder. The Battery compartment also has the shorter cylinder. The shorter cylinders, however, are a stock size and do not require the offset cam. The third size lock is on the water fill compartment and the outside shower compartment; IL&H does have a stock replacement for them as well.

As for installation: it’s easy to get them in upside down, backwards, wrong rotation, wrong cam position, left out the bezel, etc. but a little trial and error will result in success. Just be sure that everything works the way you want and everything is in the right place before you tighten it down. You can change the direction of key rotation by turning the little lock cam over. If you don't already know it, the compartment doors are very thin aluminum styrofoam sandwich. The backing nut is pretty small and does not give much purchase when tightned against this thin backing. Get some large flat washers at Home Depot for a backing. If anyone wants to try this and has a problem, IL&H is vey helpful on the phone.


The compartments can be a source of cold (or hot) air that infiltrates the coach's interior, especially those compartments that under the slide-out sofas. The mechanism LD uses for guiding the sofa in and out includes a slot in the top of the compartment which lets cold air from the under seat compartment to come into the cabin. When you pull out a sofa in order to make it into a bed, cover the exposed slot in the wood cushion support with something; we use magazines.

You can reduce the cold air penetration by installing some sheet styrofoam on the inside of the compartment doors and/or on the interior walls and ceiling of the above-floor-level compartments.

Some models may have the floor cut out to expand one compartment both above and below the floorline. In this case, the most efficient way to improve interior insulation can vary from one design to the next. If you insulate the door, you must also insulate all non-insulated 'outside-wall' compartment surfaces. Alternatively, you could just insulate those surfaces which form an 'inside-wall', and leave the door alone.

Weather Stripping

Over time the rubber weather stripping around the door opening can become brittle and/or start to pull loose, allowing air and perhaps crawly creatures to enter. It pays to treat the rubber to keep it supple and re-glue or replace as necessary if it starts to pull off.

The factory manual recommends using petroleum jelly on the cargo door seals to keep them from sticking. On the other hand, petroleum jelly is sticky; it "gunks" and attracts dust, grit and dirt. A number of LD'ers do use silicone spray for some hardware, but for anything rubber or vinyl, they use 303 Protectant; pour a very small amount of 303 on the corner of a little sponge and swab the seals. Another option is silicone spray; spray a bit of silicone spray on a scrap of paper towel and wipe the rubber seals with that.

Weak Floors

The plastic floors in the outside storage compartments aren't designed for heavy items. The factory recommends fitting a piece of 1/2" or 5/8" plywood to cover the entire floor inside the compartment to spread out the weight of those items that are heavier (tool boxes, blocks, etc.).

Spare Tire Cover

On the spare tire cover, I use a thick nylon washer, under the stock acorn nut, to spread the load and to keep the paint from being damaged by the nut. I find the I can finger tighten it without it later becoming loose. When it comes to compressing plastic, less pressure is better. Nylon washers are also used under the knobs that hold the skirts down on the rear wheels.

At some point you may find that you cannot remove the acorn nut to open the tire cover; using a wrench only results in the bolt turning along with the nut. I never understood why the factory does not secure the head of that bolt so it can't turn. The trick to loosening the nut is to use an air-impact wrench with the proper size socket. The rapid spinning and vibration of the wrench will loosen the nut. If you don't have such a tool, a stop by the local garage will do. It happened to me a few years ago and the mechanic got it off in a few seconds, no charge, but I slipped him a couple of bucks. As noted above, finger-tight seems to be sufficient. I also remove and replace the nut several times a year, just so I know I can get to the tire if I have to.

Contributors: Larry Jones, JC Taylor, WxToad, Steve aq433, Mike Coachman, Roger Nickey

Revised: 25 Feb 12