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Old 05-09-2019, 04:02 PM   #1
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Default Screen door latch: don't make this mistake, like I did

Whenever we leave our trailer, we usually just close the screen door and then slam the outer door. (Spoiler alert: that's the big mistake, right there.) We've been doing it this way for 14 years and two trailers.

A couple of weeks ago, we slammed the door, the way we always do. The little handle on the screen door latch snapped off. I had to remove the latch in order to get the screen door open.

I went to Camping World and got a new one. It is tricky to figure out whether you need a right hand latch or a left hand one. Tip: when you stand inside your RV and the door hinge is on your left, then you need a right hand screen door latch. (The Camping World salesperson was very knowledgeable -- I wasn't.)

But the real light-bulb went on when I was installing the new latch. I had a chance to spend a lot of time with the design and the materials and the placement of the components, trying to figure out what went wrong.

Bottom line: DON'T JUST SLAM THE OUTER DOOR against the already-closed screen door, which is what we had been doing all along. Bad idea. It eventually causes material fatigue, and the handle will break.

Instead, when it is time to close the outer door, FIRST latch the screen door to the outer door by depressing the little handle. An angled hook on the outer door then engages the little handle on the screen door latch; the hook holds the screen door handle in a slightly-depressed position, so that the "tongue" of the screen door latch retracts. Once the screen door handle is engaged by the hook, then it is ok to close the main door.

Here are some photos that should clarify the problem. This is what the hook looks like in profile – notice the sloping “nose” of the hook:


Click For Full-Size Image.

This is the handle of the screen door latch, in a “depressed” position, ready to engage the hook:


Click For Full-Size Image.

This is the handle engaged by the hook:


Click For Full-Size Image.

And this, in my opinion, is the culprit – this is the backside of the screen door latch handle, with a little angled cutout. The cutout is supposed to slide down the nose of the hook and pop into the engaged position:


Click For Full-Size Image.

I had never paid any attention to the interaction of the angled hook and the sloping cutout on the backside of the latch handle. Theoretically, these two components are designed to engage the handle automatically, as the handle slides down under the pressure of the hook. In the real world, though, the materials are not tough enough to handle that impact. Eventually, the handle will break.

After doing it the wrong way for so many years, this is going to be a hard habit to break. I have posted a little reminder on the inside of the door lock: LATCH SCREEN FIRST.
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Old 05-10-2019, 06:16 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by profdant139 View Post
Whenever we leave our trailer, we usually just close the screen door and then slam the outer door. (Spoiler alert: that's the big mistake, right there.) We've been doing it this way for 14 years and two trailers.

A couple of weeks ago, we slammed the door, the way we always do. The little handle on the screen door latch snapped off. I had to remove the latch in order to get the screen door open.

I went to Camping World and got a new one. It is tricky to figure out whether you need a right hand latch or a left hand one. Tip: when you stand inside your RV and the door hinge is on your left, then you need a right hand screen door latch. (The Camping World salesperson was very knowledgeable -- I wasn't.)

But the real light-bulb went on when I was installing the new latch. I had a chance to spend a lot of time with the design and the materials and the placement of the components, trying to figure out what went wrong.

Bottom line: DON'T JUST SLAM THE OUTER DOOR against the already-closed screen door, which is what we had been doing all along. Bad idea. It eventually causes material fatigue, and the handle will break.

Instead, when it is time to close the outer door, FIRST latch the screen door to the outer door by depressing the little handle. An angled hook on the outer door then engages the little handle on the screen door latch; the hook holds the screen door handle in a slightly-depressed position, so that the "tongue" of the screen door latch retracts. Once the screen door handle is engaged by the hook, then it is ok to close the main door.

Here are some photos that should clarify the problem. This is what the hook looks like in profile – notice the sloping “nose” of the hook:


Click For Full-Size Image.

This is the handle of the screen door latch, in a “depressed” position, ready to engage the hook:


Click For Full-Size Image.

This is the handle engaged by the hook:


Click For Full-Size Image.

And this, in my opinion, is the culprit – this is the backside of the screen door latch handle, with a little angled cutout. The cutout is supposed to slide down the nose of the hook and pop into the engaged position:


Click For Full-Size Image.

I had never paid any attention to the interaction of the angled hook and the sloping cutout on the backside of the latch handle. Theoretically, these two components are designed to engage the handle automatically, as the handle slides down under the pressure of the hook. In the real world, though, the materials are not tough enough to handle that impact. Eventually, the handle will break.

After doing it the wrong way for so many years, this is going to be a hard habit to break. I have posted a little reminder on the inside of the door lock: LATCH SCREEN FIRST.
Dan-
Excellent topic and excellent pics and description. Just like the old aphorism, "There are only two kinds of motorcycle riders: Those who have had an accident and those who haven't had one yet." Problems with these darn cheap screen latches either have happened or will sooner or later. As you have said many times, "Don't ask me why I know."
We all need to follow your advice. What I cannot figure out is why there isn't a competitor (with a better latching mechanism) that cannot capture the market in the Ohio and Indiana assembly plants. We are on our third travel trailer brand and all have had the same latch. I'm no inventor, but if pressed, I'm certain I could make a magnetic latch that would work and last better. Actually...maybe that should be my next mod....
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Old 05-10-2019, 06:45 PM   #3
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I thought about retrofitting a magnetic catch -- there are plenty of powerful rare earth magnets available online. If I had a thin magnet with a countersunk hole in the middle, I could attach that to the aluminum frame of the screen door with a small screw. The head of the screw would fit down into the countersink.

Then I would mount a corresponding steel plate to the main door, giving the magnet something to stick to.

I would have to do the same thing on the inside of the screen door, to replace the latch mechanism.

But I chickened out and just replaced the whole thing. Now we have to remember to close the door in a new way. A slight hassle, but not a big deal.
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Old 05-17-2019, 06:16 AM   #4
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I had never given that a thought.

Little tips save others from future problems.

Thanks for the heads up.

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Old 05-19-2019, 11:24 AM   #5
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Been there, done that. But now thanks to you we know why it happened. Hope we can remember to do it right.
Thanks!
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Old 08-18-2019, 02:47 PM   #6
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I had the same problem with my screen door latch last month. Went on Amazon and ordered a latch that appears to be "beefier" in the area where the original one cracked at the pivot point. Anyway, it was a direct replacement for the original. Below is a link to Amazon and a picture of them side by side.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07S3YD26V?psc=1&ref=ppx_pop_mob_b_asin_title
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