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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