We are a husband and wife team Chris & Carol who have invented a unique device for securing Motorhome and Caravan windows
So our little story begins… we bought our first motorhome in 2012 we loved the idea of setting out on the open road, being able to stay in multiple places
Our first motorhome an Ace Roma 2008 (complete with garage to house my trusty steed (Triumph Bonnaville 1969 vintage) had a payload of 200kg
Our first trip
And we were away! Talk about jump in at the deep end, we set off to France November 2012 with no experience in motorhomes. We had been camping on many occasions before, but this was in my old Land Rover with a roof tent but we were older and we needed a few more luxuries in our life, plus I didn’t want to be parted from my motorcycle.
The weather in Northern France was similar to the UK so other than stopping for lunch we kept our stopovers very brief until we reached southern France where the weather was a bit kinder to us.
Motorhome security was brought to my attention in France
When we reached a campsite near Montpellier, a police presence caught my attention. After speaking to some fellow travellers it seem that things had been being stolen from motorhomes, that was the first time I realised that motorhome security might be a problem.
Heading to Spain, we made new friends, who were unfortunately the victims of a motorhome break in
We were fortunate enough to be going away for 3 to 4 months and as far as I was concerned the only one way to head was South into Spain. The weather seemed to improve the further south we went, we worked our way along the east coast on the A7 staying in various campsites along the way,
this was long before we discovered free/wild camping. It was at one of these campsite we met a Dutch couple Jos and Iris, they seem like a fun and like us were new to motorhomes so we had a few drinks and exchanged a few stories as you do.
It was a day or two later in the afternoon that Iris came to us very upset, as their motorhome had been broken into. The perpetrators gained entry through the windows when they were out walking, and had relieved them of a lot of their valuables including cash and some electronic goods and most importantly the passports.
They told me that the Spanish police offered little help. We did what we could over the following days, a bit of running around on the back of a motorcycle and the use of our laptop. But what really hit home to me was how easy it was for the thieves to break in. I looked at our window catches on our motorhome and realised just how flimsy the catches are.
My concern about motorhome security, led me to develop my own solution
To be truthful this made me a little paranoid for a while, when we went to supermarkets or any shops one of us would stay in the motorhome. Being an engineer I needed to come up with a temporary solution to make the windows more secure, my wife searched the Internet and the only thing she could find were some small battery operated alarms that were triggered if someone opened the window. Personally, I’m not a big fan of alarms, I guess if you are in ear shot of your vehicle when the alarm is going off you may run to it if you’re fit and able to, and then do you want to tackle one or more perpetrators if they are still in or about your van. If you’re out of earshot no one else seems to take any notice of alarms. So in conclusion I think the alarms are about as much good as a chocolate teapot.
In Spain there are lots of Chinese outlet places, they seem to sell thousands of bits and bobs for not a lot of money so as a temporary solution I bought some of these bits and bobs and cobbled up at some temporary security. To be honest it wasn’t great but I felt a little bit safer. The strange thing is when you talk to people regarding security a lot of them seem unconcerned by it. I suppose that in most cases you have to be a victim of theft before you feel you need to do something about it.
Other travellers were also concerned about motorhome security
After bringing up this security subject with fellow travellers a surprisingly number of them had either been broken into or knew someone who had. It seemed that this problem wasn’t unique to Spain, as some of the people informed me that they have or knew someone who had been broken into in the UK. Spain. France. Italy. Germany. etc etc, One thing all the stories had in common was that no one seemed to have found a solution to the window security problem.
In that year we come across several other people had been broken into in the past and in all cases entered via the habitation windows.
We survived our travels unscathed, well certainly as break-ins were concerned. Despite the stories of break ins we’d heard, this was not going to put me off travelling in the future. At home I have a small but very well equipped workshop as I’ve taken on a wide variety of engineering projects in the past. I was pretty sure that I would be able to come up with a solution to this problem. As I said earlier I’m not a big fan of alarms so I thought of something simple but effective.
The first prototype was born!
I came up with my first prototype which was actually made out of a piece of copper tube. It worked a treat on our catches, so with the knowledge that there were no products available on the market Carol said.”Why don’t we see if could sell them” The problem was copper is not the cheapest a material to use in a production process, so I found some aluminium tube of a similar size and we use that instead.
We were very surprised by the interest we received, we made about 200 to start with, we sold all of them and got really good feedback.
We realised different products were needed for different motorhomes
About a year later we upgraded our motorhome and we noticed that the catches on the windows were totally different, they were a totally different shape and there was a button that had to be depressed to open them. My initial thoughts were A: Our devices that we had produced won’t fit our catches in this van and B: We won’t need a device for our catch as it has a button.
In the past the people that come up to me at shows and said it doesn’t look like it will fit our catch I just assumed that they had some oddball vehicle not realising that there are a number of different types of catches out there. It was at one of these shows when this couple came up to me and the guy said that he’d been broken into via the window, that in its self wasn’t it’s a surprising, but when I found out that his catches was exactly the same type I had in my own van alarm bells rang and I thought I need to rethink how I was going to make these.
Time for a redesign!
I made a prototype to fit my own catch and it seemed to work quite well but didn’t look great, so we had our first small batch laser cut, I made some press tooling to form into shape. Now it was made from steel we had to get it painted. Allegedly Henry Ford never uttered these words “you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black” it was a double edged sword making our products out of steel on the plus side steel was a lot cheaper than copper or aluminium, the downside is the production of it, i.e. tooling to form the device and the labour to execute, plus paint finish. All our early devices were laser profiled, the tooling to form them was made in house, in many cases also we carry out the production i.e. the forming work in-house, the paint finish we leave to the professionals. Our efforts paid off and we produced our first steel devices.
In 2015 we were selling well, so considered investing in Progressive tooling, this is a multi stage tooling that is strip fed with each stage carrying out one or more operations i.e. Cutting, punching, bending the steel at different stages culminating in a finished product that just needs to be painted. Tens of thousands of pounds later we had our progressive tooling.
A number of the smaller volume devices are still made in house as we simply don’t sell enough to warrant the expense on more progressive tooling.
It was certainly a learning curve in the early days!
The innovation continues!
Our current motorhome has a sliding window, I had considered a security device for this window but didn’t see the rush as I thought it was quite secure until someone showed me just how easy the sliding windows were to break into, even easier then the top hinged type windows as they require no tools to break-in. So I designed, and we added a sliding security device to our early range of products.
We now manufacture 28 different window security devices including sliding type top hinge type and the left and right hand variance to date.
Owning a motorhome has never been so important to us, and of course, keeping it secure
At the time of writing this we are now in a second lockdown in the UK March 2021, caravan and motorhome numbers are increasing which I believe is a direct result of COVID-19. I’ve enjoyed the freedom of travelling in our motorhome even before this horrendous virus avoiding all the chaos at the airports and the freedom to stop and go as you please.
I would imagine we will have to live with this virus in the near future one way or the another so one thing is for sure when times allow we will be out and about in the UK and beyond visiting campsites, airs, stopovers, CLs, and we will free camp/ wild camp, sightsee, explore and enjoy the freedom of our motorhome, who knows you may even come across us in your travels there is no mistaking our van we’ve got large graphics on either side of the vehicle with Guess what
LOCK-M-OUT so maybe just maybe we’ll see you on your travels.
Stay Safe, Sound and Secure!
Chris & Carol