Whether you store your Airstream trailer at home or in a storage lot, theft is always a possibility.
You'd think that even dumb crooks would know that stealing an Airstream can't possibly work out for them, but they keep trying.
The good news is that often the Airstreams are eventually found—probably because they're hard to hide! The casual thief is like the dog who chased a car and finally caught one. "Now what do I do with it?"
The bad news is that in the time between "stolen" and "recovered" there's a lot of anxiety, inconvenience, and often expensive damage. And sometimes an Airstream disappears forever, destined to become a backyard meth lab or chopped up for parts. Sudden disappearance of your Airstream is a messy situation that obviously you want to avoid as best you can.
The typical thief works like this: they back up a truck to the Airstream, quickly wrap a bunch of chain around the tongue hitch, and pull the trailer away as quickly as possible. The trailer tongue is held up by the chains rather than a hitch ball. They often don't both to try to hitch up properly (using the coupler and the 7-way cable) since this would create a delay. "Gone in 60 seconds" is their motto.
There's no guaranteed way to stop this from happening. What you can do is make your Airstream an unappealing target:
Lock The Hitch
I just said that thieves can haul away a trailer without even using the coupler, so what good would a coupler lock do? Well, it makes their task harder. With a extremely strong lock like the Megahitch Coupler Lock PRO, the thief has no choice but to use the chain method if they want to make a quick getaway. This is obviously suspicious and limits how far/fast they can travel.
If you don't have a coupler lock, you're making it too easy. Any yokel with a pickup truck can haul your Airstream away and look legit doing it.
If a thief has aspirations of using your Megahitch-protected trailer later, they'll have to figure out how to get the Megahitch off. Good luck with that.
Make The Airstream Harder To Tow
You can complicate a would-be thief's life by adding barriers to movement. First, raise the tongue (using the power hitch jack) to the point where it would be hard to haul it away using chains. Then, pull the fuse that controls the power hitch jack, so the jack won't work. (The in-line fuse is in the battery box. Follow the wires from the hitch jack to ensure you're pulling the correct fuse.) Be sure to store that fuse somewhere you'll remember.
You can also put down the stabilizer jacks to add another element of difficulty for a thief, but of course there's always the risk that a thief in a hurry might not notice them. You might recover your stolen Airstream later with a badly bent power hitch jack and 4 mangled stabilizer jacks.
(Chocks aren't effective for theft deterrence. Usually they'll just pop out of place once the Airstream starts moving.)
Don't Be A Target
If you can store your Airstream where it isn't on full view to everyone who drives by, that's best. I was reminded of this when I used to keep a 1968 Airstream Caravel in my driveway. Hardly a month went by without somebody knocking on the front door and offering to buy it (for a lowball price). This made me realize just how much that polished vintage trailer was drawing unwanted attention.
Draw the curtains and remove any valuables from your Airstream, every time you store it. When people break into Airstreams they often will steal the TV and anything obviously left in drawers and cabinets. The TV can be inexpensively replaced, but your binoculars and portable electronics are going to add up.
Make sure you aren't leaving a smorgasbord in the outside compartments. Often we accumulate valuable tools and forget about them during the off-season. Do you keep a power drill in one of the outside compartments? A tool kit? Perhaps a Progressive EMS? Any of those items can mean a quick $200+ loss if someone decides to casually open an exterior compartment and grab what's just lying there.
By the way, the exterior compartment locks use a common key that literally millions of people have. On a later-model Airstream it will be marked either RS-141, CH751, or 001. If you have an Airstream made since 2015, we offer an upgrade to the standard black Airstream compartment locks with one of 50 different keys. Switching to a different key will make it much less likely that a thief will have your key in his pocket.
Tag It and Track It
As I said, there's no guaranteed method to prevent all theft and break-ins. You can't count on the "24 hour manager on-site", video surveillance, or gated entrance to save your Airstream at a storage lot. The manager on site has other things to do besides watch your trailer, the video will probably only show a couple of guys wearing hoodies and masks, and I think we all know how easy it is to follow someone through a gated entrance.
So if the worst happens, your next concern is quick recovery. The faster you find your Airstream, the less damage may be done.
"Tagging" the Airstream may be your best option. There are numerous products on the market that will help you trace your Airstream if it goes missing. Most of these use a combination of GPS and cellular network to report location to you. you can even set up a "geofence" around the expected location of the Airstream so that you're notified if the Airstream has moved.
An Apple AirTag (or similar "lost item" tag) is an inexpensive option, but not foolproof. These cost about $30 each and have battery power for a year. Their big advantage is that they don't require a subscription, but the flip side is that AirTags can't report their location until someone with an iPhone or iPad comes within 30 feet of them. Once that happens, they'll report their location to your Apple device. (An Android phone-carrying thief might never trigger the AirTag.)
We've been evaluating various tracking solutions for over a year now, and so far none of them have been ideal. Most have been too complex to set up and/or use, and often far too expensive. Others have had unreasonable power requirements, are designed for truck fleets, require wifi at all times, are not designed to work in trailers, or just plain don't work. If we ever find a really good one, we'll let you know.
Hi Rich, To add to your post, I have a Proven Hitchlock, which not only covers and lock the hitch, it also houses and locked up the safety chains, making it hard for thieves to use them to steal the trailer. I also have the Tag system installed which is a self-contained GPS tracking system that can be activated when the trailer is stolen. It has it’s only battery so doesn’t consume any from the trailer batteries and it makes it harder to find and disable. My dealer installed it and I hope I never have to use it, but they’ve also partnered with a few insurance companies to get additional discounts for policy holders which is a plus I think. Love your magazine and blog posts and hope to see you out on the road some time!
I bought the Brahma wheel lock – IMO, the best theft deterrent for Airstreams. Stores neatly behind my rear seat of my pickup.
Another relatively cheap option that I use (in addition to a heavy-duty hitch lock as you mentioned) is to run a heavy-duty chain and lock through the two driver’s-side trailer wheel rims that prevents them from rolling. This only works with double axle trailers.
good article. check out the KYCS Locate system. it is being sold by some dealers. It is worth a look. also, i was going to say to lock the tire clamps between twin axle trailers.
I like the idea of the fuse and I also use a Trimax wheel lock when storing.