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An RV door latch isn’t an item you generally need to spend much time thinking about, but when a door latch fails, the consequences can be serious. A broken door latch could lock you OUT of your RV or allow a stranger IN! Or your RV’s door could open while you’re driving at highway speeds. ????
Clearly, a working RV door latch is important for your security and that of your family, as well as for the preservation of your possessions. So, today we’re knocking on your RV door with an in-depth look at the RV door latch – how to repair it and, if necessary, replace it by installing a new one. Let’s go!
Common RV Door Latch Problems and How to Fix Them
There are a few common ways in which your RV’s entry door latch can fail. Let’s walk through each of them briefly, followed by suggestions on how to resolve them.
Latch Coming Loose
Sometimes your RV door latch will stop working properly because the latch mounted inside the door frame has become loose, causing the door to rattle even when it’s closed. You need to be aware that this issue could cause the door to open while your RV is being driven down the road… or could interfere with the action of the door’s deadbolt, preventing it from being fully locked when you think it is.
So, while it might seem like a loose door latch is a minor issue you can put off dealing with until you’ve got some extra time, it’s really in your best interest to deal with this issue as soon as possible. It’s easy and won’t take much time.
The Solution: Check the screws and bolts that mount the latch to the door frame. These can come loose with time and travel over bumpy roads. Ensuring that these are tightened properly will easily address your loose latch problem making it possible to open, close, and lock your RV’s door, and keep it from opening while you’re driving down the highway. That’s a big win for a small investment of your time.
Latch Not Closing Properly
With a latch that isn’t closing properly, you may find that the door won’t close completely, or it may not latch at all. In this case, you probably have an issue where the catch in the lock on the door isn’t aligning properly with the latch in the door frame.
This is another issue that’s not difficult or especially time-consuming to address but is likely to benefit you significantly. If your RV’s door is starting to fail to close completely, even sometimes, in time it will likely fail to latch at all. Addressing this issue before the door can’t be latched is a good idea.
The Solution: Check the position and tightness of the strike plate/bolt mounted in the door frame to ensure that it matches up with the catch in the door lock. If you find that the door is out of alignment, you may need to adjust the door hinge so that the catch in the door’s lock mates up properly with the strike plate/bolt.
RV Door Locking Automatically
Proper alignment of the mechanism inside the RV door latch itself is what allows the outside lock to move the interior catch out of the way. When your RV door is locking automatically, however, a failure or misalignment of the mechanism in the door lock is preventing it from operating correctly. More than likely when this occurs, you have a bent actuator/lever. This can happen over time from use.
The Solution: Disassemble the interior of the door lock/handle to access the bent actuator. Use a pair of pliers to bend the actuator back up to the proper position. Reassemble the lock assembly, and hopefully, this will address your issue.
However, there are many reasons why RV door latches may need to be replaced, and this could be one of them. If so, don’t despair – we’ve got you covered. Read on…
Why You Should Change Your RV Door Latch
There are many good reasons to change your RV door latch, and a broken door latch is only one of them.
Security is a very good reason to change your RV door latch. You may not be aware that there are only a handful of standard key/lock assemblies for RV doors and RV basement locks. This means that many other people have keys that will unlock your RV’s door if you still have the standard RV door lock assembly in place.
For many years, RV entry door locks have been keyed to one of four master keys or passkeys. If your RV’s door lock has two keyholes, one is the main handle lock and one is a deadbolt.
The main keyhole originally had a letter engraved into the metal, which you may or may not be able to decipher today, depending on how worn the area is. That letter corresponds with one of four master keys or passkeys. For this reason, many RVers always lock the deadbolt when they’re away from the RV or when they’re inside, especially at night.
This factor alone is a good reason to upgrade to keyless entry, which not only gets you a new lock mechanism but also provides improved functionality and versatility.
Should You Upgrade to A Keyless Entry?
We think the upgrade to keyless entry is well worth the investment. First, keyless entry means greater security as noted above.
Additionally, keyless entry means you’re less likely to be locked out of your RV, and you and your family (kids included) can get into and out of the RV without having to carry keys. (And as a bonus, you won’t have to worry about losing your keys, either.)
A great choice for going to a keyless entry locking mechanism is a unit from RVLock. They have several different options to fit the most common door latches (and they have an RV door lock fitment guide to help you determine which one is right for your RV).
You know how we love a good DIY project, so let’s get to replacing your RV door latch!
How to Replace Your RV Door Latch
Replacement door latches may vary in style and model depending on your RV’s door and lock assembly, but the basics of installation are generally the same, so you should be able to follow along with our guide.
Prop Your Door Open
Prop the door open so that you have a good working space with easy access to the part of the door you’ll be working on during this project.
Remove Your Current Latch and Lock
First, you’ll need to remove your current latch and lock assembly. You should be able to remove it from the inside by removing a few screws from the latch/lock assembly. Once you’ve removed these screws, the assembly should lift right out. You may need to use a set of needle-nose plyers to pry out the interior bar if it’s prohibiting the removal of the lockset.
Pro Tip: It’s always a good idea to take a photo of the mechanics of any assembly prior to removal so that you’ll have a reference should you need one during the process of installing the new assembly.
Check that the New Latch Will Fit in the Newly Opened Space
Next, you’ll want to make sure that the new latch you’ve purchased will fit inside the space from which you’ve just removed the old latch/lock assembly.
Insert the Front Assembly of the RV Door Latch, Paying Attention to the Placement of Deadbolt and Levers
Set the front assembly of the RV door latch into the open space, paying close attention to the placement of both the deadbolt and the levers. The proper positioning of the deadbolt and levers will ensure the alignment of your new latch/lock assembly so that functions optimally.
Attach the Back Assembly and Fasten Screws
Attach the back of the latch/lock assembly and tighten the three screws securely, ensuring that there is no movement of the assembly.
Test the New Latch and Locks
Test the new latch to make sure the door opens and closes properly and fully. Then test the locks to make sure that they function properly as well.
If Keyless, Program the Lock
If you’ve purchased a latch/lock with keyless entry, program the lock, and then check to ensure that the keyless entry system is functioning properly. Educate those traveling with you about the new keyless entry process.
Finally, turn to the member of your traveling party who most often loses or forgets his or her keys and whisper, “You’re welcome”. They’ll thank you the first time a situation that would 0therwise have been a lock-out… isn’t.
RV Door Latch Installation Tips
As always, taking a photo of the interior of the assembly prior to removing it can be helpful if you have difficulty aligning the new assembly.
Mark areas with a pencil to assist you in properly aligning the new assembly with the door strike.
If the new latch assembly doesn’t have a built-in or included seal/gasket, run a bead of clear caulk around the outside of the newly installed latch/lock assembly to ensure a good seal to prevent water from entering the assembly and causing parts to rust or degrade prematurely
While an RV door latch isn’t something you’ll need to change or even maintain on a regular basis, its proper functioning is crucial to your positive RVing experience in terms of being able to get into and out of your RV, and it’s critical to your security and that of your family, pets, and possessions.
Now that you know how to repair and replace your RV door latch, you and those traveling with you have the benefit of enhanced security, and you’ve got a new DIY job under your belt!
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Even though we're handy RVers, we're not professional technicians. So although we're happy with the techniques and products we use, you should be sure to confirm that all methods and materials are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.