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In late December we found ourselves in Alabama in some very cold weather. After rain during the day, we had temps in the low 20's and lower overnight. Late in the evening I had trouble unlocking the deadbolt from inside to let the dogs out, then had to shoulder the door open as it was frozen across the bottom. I went to bed soon after, leaving the wife & dogs on their own. When I got up the next morning and went to let the dogs out I found the lever for the lower lock on the door latch flopping freely. It had frozen, and the wife had banged on it" to get it free. End resut was the lock cylinder was broken off at it's base. From the outside, I removed the cylinder from the door by simply pulling it out. Oh well, we have the dead bolt so can still secure the door.
After returning to our Texas home base I called Lichtsinn Motors in Forest City IA and ordered a new latch assembly at a cost of $185. It arrived several days later with the bottom keyed to match the original key & our storage door locks, and the top deadbolt uniquely keyed. The entire kit includes the inner plate, outer plate, and latch assembly. No instructions included. A friend with some connections got me some helpful instructions available here. Entry Door Latch Replacement.
The outer surface of the latch is black, as were all the storage compartment door latches I have replaced in the past. Of the 12 storage compartment latches, I have replace probably eight, and six of those where in the first 1-2 years of ownership. An improved design about a year after we bought the coach cut down of the failure rate considerable. Since our coach has full body paint I had to have each latch painted to match the coach ...the paint normally cost more than the latch did. Interestingly, any time I have checked the entry door latch on a Winnebago coach I have found it to be black ...not painted to match the full body paint. However, our original latch was painted. CLose inspection revealed that it had been painted by the dealership along with the front of the coach ...in spite of their denials of anyi paint work. It had been a dealer show coach, so imagine they repainted to repair gravel damage encured during that year of service. If "the boss" delares so, I will remove the latch later and have it painted to match. .
Replacing the latch assembly was not particularly difficult, the hardest part being getting the outer half out of the door due to the long deadbolt that extends to the edge of the metal frame. First a "7/16 thin-wall nut driver" is needed to removed the nut in the end of the door frame that connects the latch itself to the handles. That hole is under the latch at the very bottom of the picture on the left before the inner plate & linkage was removed ...a close-up is on the right showing the hole in the latch release bracket that you must thread the linkage through when installing the inner plate ...not as difficult as it might first seem to be. There was a black square glued over the hole on my door. Normal sockets are too large for the small hole, so I borrowed a neighbor's cheap nut driver, then later figured out that I had a 1/4" drive socket that also worked. With that nut removed and the three torx screws removed from the inner plate, the inner plate pulls free. Removing the power lock linkage from the outer half of the latch could have been difficult, but due to the broken lock cylinder the rod was easy to remove. After some wriggling of the outer latch and the lower lock lever, the latch came free.
On inspection I could see that I would need to remove the plastic inner door liner to gain access to the end of the power door lock linkage to take it loose at the other end (below, left) so I could attach it to the new latch. Considering the fact that my key fobs quit working years ago, and the power lock button inside the coach works only on rare occasions, I decided to leave that linkage un-connected, simplifying things considerably. I also left the original latch assembly inside the door frame. On the right you see the hole in the door with both inner and outer plates removed. The power lock linkage I left un-connected is visible protruding form the right side of the hole.
Some wriggling and fidding with the lower latch lever and I had the new outer half in place. Then I got the inner plate in place and snugged up the screws. Then the instrucitons say to close the latch (with the door open), use the nut driver to put the self-tightening nut on the linkage, hold up on the inner latch, and tighten the nut until the latch opens. Then back the nut off 1-1 1/2 turn. Everything worked. When the lower locked was engaged, neither inner of outer handle would open the latch. With lock off, either handle would open the latch. Went inside and pulled the door shut, handle opened it fine. From outside, closed the door, handle opened it fine. Great!! Success. Put all the tools away.
NEXT DAY ...you didn't really think it would be that easy, did you??? Early afternoon the next day DW invited me to accompany her to the motorhome to discuss some interior changes she would like to make. I unlock the lower lock, then the deadbolt, then pull the handle ...nothing, the door does not open. Several more attempts, and nothing. The handle feels normal, with spring tension on it, so I know it is engaging the release lever on the inner plate but it is not tripping the latch. Bummer.
After studying the situation for a bit I decided I need to force a window open, breaking the plastic catch. (I have had to replace two or three broken latches over the years). I decided on the small window beside the door so I could reach through and see if the inside latch would work ...figured that it would be cheaper to replace too if I broke the glass. In a few minutes I broke the plastic latch, raised the window, reached inside, and easily opened the door.
After removing the inner and outer halves and studying them a bit I reinstalled them and found that now the lever on the outer half was not engaging the linkage on the inner plate. This has been a cause of failure for several folks over the years, but one I have not experienced. On the left you see the outer plate on the left side of the picture. The tab on the arm at the bottom engages a notch on the realease lever on the inner plate on the right. In the right side picture you can see where I bent that outer arm inward just a bit to help it better engage the release lever. That cured that issue, but I still had the original issue where the handle was pulling the release but not releasing the latch.
Following the instructions again, with the door open I engaged the latch, raised the inner handle, and tightened the linkage nut until the latch released. But then I tested the outer handle it would not release the latch, and I noticed the nut was much further out on the linkage rod than it originally was. So it tried again, this time reversing the instrucitons and holding the OUTER handle open while tightening the nut until the latch released. Then I ignored the instrustion to back off the nut 1-1 1/2 turns and fine tuned the position of the nut until I was happy with the operation of both handles, relasing the latch shortly before full travel was reached. Then I locked the door and ensured that neither handle would release the latch when locked. Success again!!
Yep, darned right I will be checking it again tomorrow to ensure it still works!!
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