1972 Airstream Entrance Door Lockset (KT Lock VTS-1318)

Recently my Airstream door froze shut, and the post that runs vertically through the “flap/lever” that functions to open the door from the outside broke off inside the housing.

The model of the lockset is a KT Lock VTS-1318 and was apparently used by Airstream from 1970 to 1977.  You can get them for nearly $500 from Vintage Airstream. Other vintage parts sites have them listed for as much as $750.  Seriously.  As such, they come up almost never on eBay, and when they do, they sometimes reach nearly $1,000.  It’s usually easier/cheaper to find a whole door with the lock still in it.

I still have all the parts, though the front housing piece is now damaged (from frustratedly trying to get into the Airstream at 11pm in below 0 cold), and the main post that allows the outside lever to function (VTS-1013 in the diagram above) is obviously broken.  Also, the little piece that goes at the end of said post to make the bolt/latch slide internally fell off when the post broke, and is now inside the door, so I’ll have to drill out the rivets on the interior of the door to retrieve that little piece. Ugh.

To exacerbate the issue, the sliding latch (VTS-1014, the piece of metal that goes from the door to the jamb to keep the door closed) has had a groove worn into it from years of wear and vibration, so the door effectively remains “locked” unless you push in on the door and then pull the handle lever open.  Embarrassingly, I was once locked out of my Airstream for several days thinking the lock was broken, when really it was just “stuck.”

On top of all this, the way the actual lock in the KT VTS-1318 functions allows for road vibration to shake the lock closed, so you can get locked out of your trailer by simply driving down the road (and having the lock rattle shut).  Since my key is no longer able to manipulate the locking mechanism from the outside (the internals have worn over time, and no longer slide the lock), once the lock is engaged (from the inside, or by rattling into position), there is no way to unlock the door from the exterior.  Thus, disabling the lock mechanism inside the KT handle set is a necessary modification.  I decided to leave the KT entrance latch in place for aesthetic purposes, but I removed the mechanism inside the latch/lock assembly that allows the door to be locked (not just latched).

After I disabled the lock part of the KT handle set, I needed a new solution to lock the AS, so I decided to install a dead bolt, but I didn’t want a clumsy looking replacement, so I searched for a while until I found the lowest profile lock still readily available.  This Kwikset “Uptown” deadbolt (258RDT-15S) fits the Airstream aesthetic and costs around $35 at Home Depot or Lowe’s. Depending on how you install/mount it, the deadbolt may need to be modified, as the “throw” is not long enough to reach from the door to the jamb in a typical Airstream installation.  I hope to post that modification and install in a future post.



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Things I Learned on Roadtrip #4

We recently took another 2,500 mile trip to Ohio and back for Thanksgiving.  Here are some important things I learned on this adventure…

Vibration is the Enemy!

This Airstream has never had shocks.  When I first purchased it and had the axles and breaks checked and the bearings packed, the RV dealership I took it to told me that shocks on an Airstream are pretty much worthless, and that the torsion axle would do all the work.  Since they were actually cutting their own profit by not selling me something, I believed them.  They were certainly wrong.  And on this trip, not only did we not have shocks, but one of our tires had tread that was actually coming off (though I didn’t realize this until later), so there was additional trailer vibration from an irregularly shaped tire.  When we arrived at our destination, I found that all of the storage drawers and bins were filled with a fine dust consisting of plastic and metal, many  things had “changed color” (the finish had rubbed off), and lots of things were broken.  Imagine turning on an orbital sander and tossing it in a drawer with your stuff for 12 hours.  It was exactly like that.

Storing Things in Bins Instead of Easy Access Cabinets is a Real Bummer

If you have to take a lid off of a bin every time you need something to cook with (bearing in mind that you have likely also set things down on top of said bin), it makes cooking and other activities arduous.  Being able to get at things quickly and easily, especially kitchen utensils, pots and pans, spices, etc., is going to make a HUGE difference in the livability of the Airstream.  Having a pantry and kitchen storage with drawers and/or shelves and a latching door will be one of the first things on the build list from now on.

A Thermostat on Your Heater is More a Necessity than a Convenience

Our Mr. Heater propane heater is fantastic for heating up the Airstream quickly, but leaving it on all night, even on low, makes things uncomfortably hot and wastes too much propane.  Thus, I usually turned the heater off right before bedtime, which meant waking up to a super-cold Airstream in the morning.  It was toasty and cozy under the blankets, but getting out of bed was paaaaainful. The portable propane heater is a good temporary solution for winter time heating, but a dedicated system (which will likely entail radiant hydronics) with a thermostat will definitely need to be installed.

Under Bed Storage is a Serious Inconvenience

I’ve got copious storage under the rear beds, but when the beds are made up (which ends up being pretty much all of the time on a trip), it’s a real pain to access that storage.  The under-bed storage is accessed from the front via either drawers or fold down doors, but having to move the bedding and mattresses and slide the extensions back before being able to get at the openings is way more difficult than I had anticipated.  I started leaving things “out” in the walkway area between the beds (under the sliding extensions), but even accessing that stuff was a pain.  I’m going to really have to rethink what goes under the beds and how we get at it.

Camping Toilets Suck

We are currently using a “camping toilet” since the permanent toilet hasn’t been installed yet.  It’s small and uncomfortable, and I HATE emptying it at the end of the trip (I puke every time!).  I am really looking forward to having a “big boy” toilet.