Latches – they’re not always at the forefront of our minds, yet the average caravan is practically held together by them. When a latch gives up on you, more often than not you’re on the road, away from home.
Interior cabinetry latches range dramatically. Older-style retainer or twin-roller catches come in metal (brass or steel) or a combination of metal and plastic and are relatively easy to source. Another simple bit of hardware is the tried and tested magnetic catch and magnetic push-to-open catch. More often than not, plastic components are the first to go, such as the female retainer catch. On twin-roller catches, the two points of failure are the metal prong bending and the roller housing bending from improper use.
With all of the above cases, as their components screw in, they’re very easy to remove and install – save for instances where a screw-hole thread has been stripped.
Things get a bit more complicated with latches that protrude through the cabinet doors, especially for older caravans where the manufacturer hasn’t used a standard latch. A popular latch of this kind is the push-lock latch where pressing the button in locks it and popping it out unlocks it. While older models may differ in size, many newer caravans will use a push-lock latch with a 25mm bore.
With spring-loaded latches, the first thing to go is the spring itself. While fiddly, repair can be straightforward. Failing that, replacing the latch completely is usually cheaper than having someone else repair it for you.
Like interior latches and locks, the variety of exterior hardware is broad. Most exterior latches are going to be lockable and made of cast aluminium or steel. Common types include the ever-popular recessed or flush-mounted latches and handles, traditional lever door handles, t-shaped lockable handles and handles with a push-button lock.
As many of these latches find themselves on exterior doors, they can take the most abuse. Though hardwearing, it’s not uncommon for a spring to break or for a cast-metal handle to snap after years of being slammed.
One of the biggest issues with replacing external hardware is ensuring that the caravan remains watertight. This is especially prudent if you’re forced to fit hardware with a different screw pattern or different sized bore.
Sourcing an original latch depends largely on how old your caravan is and, to a lesser extent, where it was made. If buying from your caravan’s manufacturer is not an option, a good place to start is one of the many lively Australian caravan forums – there’s a good bet someone else has had a similar issue. Naturally, eBay is a logical place to look and a simple Google search will yield a number of online retailers. In some cases, older components may be salvaged from doors and cabinetry advertised on Gumtree or sourced via forums.
Interior hardware can range in price from just a few dollars for basic components into the teens and beyond as their complexity and size increases. The same is true for external hardware as it is larger, heavier, has a spring mechanism and usually includes a lock. External door hardware can be relatively expensive, with some parts costing in excess of $100.
While you’ve got your tool box out, here’s a look at What You Can And Can’t Do in caravan maintenance.
Image: Brett Goldsmith