RV Keys: The Quest for the Blue Bauer

Nov. 2, 2020
How one man’s journey to attain the elusive tool led to enlightenment and information, but would it lead to a happy ending?

Until recently, I didn’t even know there was a blue Bauer key, one that would pull down the retaining wafer and remove the core or plug from a Bauer paddle-handle recreational-vehicle (RV) lock.

Sometimes the retaining wafer at the back of an RV lock plug can be pulled down by using a hook pick, and sometimes you can impress a key or disassemble the lock, but it’s much easier to slide in a special key that allows the plug to come right out. With Bauer RV locks becoming more prevalent in the field, I knew I wanted a blue Bauer.

I recently had to walk away from an RV that had a Bauer cargo compartment lock, because after an hour of trying, I couldn’t remove the plug; I couldn’t impression a key; and the lock wasn’t made to be disassembled. Not having that blue Bauer key really was starting to bug me.

The Search Begins

I tried the obvious — Bauer Products in Elkhart, Indiana. I’d purchased nice, original black or gray plastic-headed blanks (other than the color, they’re identical) from Bauer to duplicate keys for the owners of RVs. Bauer informed me, however, that it won’t sell blue core-removal keys, or orange or purple masterkeys to anyone except RV dealers.

I tried to explain that only a locksmith would want a core-removal key, and because we can pick locks, we don’t have to have the orange or purple keys. That didn’t help.

Ideally, the RV dealer is supposed to remove the plug by using a blue Bauer key, get the code number from the plug or lock and send the code off to Bauer for keys. In the real world, however, when a customer is stranded at a campground, we can’t refer them to an RV dealer so they can wait for two weeks to get a key from Bauer.

When I finally asked where RV dealers buy the colored Bauer keys, I was referred to AP Products, in Coldwater, Michigan, a division of NTP STAG Corp. They were happy to open an account for me when I called . . . until they found out that I wasn’t planning to buy $500 worth of products each month, and that, in fact, I only wanted one product — a single blue Bauer key.

Next, I turned to the most reliable source for odd keys — Blue Dog Key Co., owned by Framon Manufacturing in Alpena, Michigan. When I asked about buying the elusive blue Bauer key, Phil Agius, vice president of sales at Framon, kindly informed me, “No way. And you’re not going to find it.”

“Can’t you make some?” I whined. C’mon, you guys can do anything.

“Not unless you want about a thousand of them,” he responded.

So, strike two. While I had Agius on the phone, I asked about FIC (Fastec Industrial) and Trimark RV keys, and he sent me an unbelievably complete yet confusing chart on Trimark keys. I thought I knew something about RV keys. Now I think I don’t. Thanks a lot.

Going Off the Beaten Path

Before the real-estate meltdown around 2008, when people had lots of equity in their homes, RV dealers were going gangbusters. By getting some of those accounts — you walk in the door, smile and give them a card — I learned what keys the RV dealers wanted and, consequently, what keys I had to have. Blue Dog Key really helped.

Eventually, I had a large collection of RV keys for customers and dealers. It’s common for an RV dealer to want not one, but several sets of masterkeys for their salespeople. Each ring I put together for one RV dealer in particular includes the Trimark large red 1P, 2P, 1R, 1M, 3M and 1N keys, and the Trimark brass rectangular keys MK-A through MK-K. Occasionally, they also want the huge Southco hood-lock keys and the old Deco water-compartment keys.

All of those keys are sourced from Blue Dog Key, and they’re precut at the factory, so there’s no labor involved, other than stamping my company name on each key and putting them on 3-inch rings. Easy money, and the RV dealers love those shiny, colorful new sets of keys.

The masterkey most often requested by RV dealers is the rectangular green MK9901, which can be purchased from RV Locks and More in Elkhart, Indiana. The green MK9901 is almost identical to the old FIC red MK9901. The cuts are the same, but the red key is slightly thicker than the green key. FIC stopped making the red MK9901 when it discontinued its 300 series locks.

One RV key that I use often but never sell is the blue FIC core-removal key. (FIC calls it a “tool” rather than a key.) As with the blue Bauer key, the tip of the blue FIC key pulls down the retaining wafer at the rear of the plug in an FIC paddle handle lock. The plug slides right out, but it’s important to note that the tool/key only removes the plug from the paddle handle part of the lock, not the deadbolt part, and the lock has to be in the unlocked (vertical) position. RV Locks and More also sells a yellow tool/key that’s similar to the blue FIC key.

In contrast, a blue Bauer key will remove the plug from either the deadbolt or the paddle-handle part of the lock, and the plug has to be in the two o’clock position to come out. The blue Bauer key also will turn the deadbolt plug, so maybe the orange and purple masters will work only the paddle handle plugs. Wow, is there no end to this information?

And Then One Day …

Because it’s difficult to know which keys fit which locks, I keep a large ring with one of each. RV service techs most often ask for the FIC blue or yellow keys, particularly if they see you remove a key plug by just sliding in the key, but RV service techs rarely rekey locks, and they never make RV keys, so they really don’t need core-removal keys. At any rate, it seems counterproductive to sell the blue or yellow keys.

And then, purely by chance, as I watched an RV dealer searching her desk for a checkbook, a speck of blue plastic caught my eye.

“Hey!” I practically shouted, “Is that a blue Bauer key?”

She put some colored keys on her desk. “I don’t know. I’ve got a couple of those, and an orange and a purple one. I have no idea what any of them are for, but they came from AP Products.”

I put on my poker face. “I’ll trade you three green MK9901s for the blue Bauer key.” I wondered how high I’d go.

“No. But I’ll give you one blue key for four green keys,” she grinned.

Happy days! The elusive blue Bauer key is now in my arsenal of RV keys.

The end.

For more information:

Blue Dog Keys: www.bluedogkeys.com

RV Locks and More: www.rvlocksandmore.com

Bauer Products: www.bauerproducts.com

FIC: www.fastecindustrial.com

Trimark: www.trimarkcorp.com

Michael C. Tritel, the owner of Lively Locks & Dead Bolts, can be emailed at [email protected]