Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fastec Door Latch

Be sure to check the blog archive in the right column to see the "New Beginnings" post if you haven't yet read it. We're just getting started with this new blog, and there will be lots more to come.

In preparing our cargo trailer for full-time travel, one of the first things that absolutely MUST be done is to keep someone from locking us in!

The former motorcycle trailer only has what I call a "cam bar" over the doors, similar to what a truck would use to secure its doors. The long pole along side the door has cams at the top and bottom to fold over the door edges, and then the bar swings around and over the edge to fit into a "hasp" near the middle of the door. It's very good for security, and one reason we like having it, but it's very inconvenient as far as using the door while you're on the inside. From the outside, there's no way to get a hold of the door to pull it open (except for the hasp), no way to hold the door closed from the inside, and no way to get it open from the inside.

But that's obviously why they don't use them on RV doors. We want to keep the cam bar for security for when we have to park the trailer and go away, but for our needs, we also want a standard RV door latch of some kind for when we are "home". I was familiar with Bargman latches, having owned many RV's with that type of door latch on them, but after shopping around, we decided to go with a Fastec, which is basically the same design, and slightly less money.

After much searching, I found that with combined shipping costs and price point, theirs was the best buy on Amazon.

This door lock combines both a latch as well as a built in deadbolt, plus it can be bought in several finishes (white, black, chrome) to suit any needs. Since our trailer is white, we wanted to stick with that color.

However, even installing this latch isn't going to keep someone from using the cam bar to lock us in. The solution for that was obtained at a trailer manufacturer in Elkhart last September. It is a standard item for nearly any cargo trailer that uses cam bar locks, so any trailer supply place should have one, but unfortunately, they don't seem to be available on Amazon without buying the entire cam bar assembly. Chances are, you can even find them on eBay, but I'm not even sure what the correct name for it is, other than "cam bar hasp", and neither did the clerk that waited on me, but I could clearly see what it was through the plastic packaging, and recognized it as soon as I saw it. I simply call it a "cam bar hasp" for lack of correct terms. You can see an example of it next to the new latch opening in the photo below, although we haven't installed the new one yet.

A second hasp is required on the side of the trailer, to the left of the door, the same height and distance from the door as the original, to lock the bar back, in the open position. When the bar is swung back to that side, and set into the hasp, the padlock is reattached to keep it there while the trailer is occupied.

Because of the way we will be camping, and where, we wanted to make sure the trailer was secure. By mounting the new door latch in line with the cam bar handle, it provides double protection by covering the new latch. Also, there was already wood blocking inside the door in that area, so we didn't have to take the whole door apart to add it. 

The lock opening cut into the trailer door.

Since these latches don't come with any instruction sheet or template (at least the one we bought didn't have paperwork with it), measurements had to carefully be taken from the latch itself, and then a rough sketch created as to what the hole would look like, and how it would be positioned. The new hole had to be carefully measured out and then cut through the sheet metal of the door as well as the inside plywood. Had there not been blocking inside the door in that area, it could have meant removing the inside plywood, and adding a wooden core to the door for strength. 

The lock opening from the inside of the trailer door.

Also, there were trim screws in both the front and back of the door, which had to be temporarily removed, cut off, and then reinstalled, otherwise they would have been in the way of the door bolt. in the photo below, you can see the empty hole on the inside of the door edge.

The Fastec door lock installed. Note the empty screw hole in the frame of the door.

Next, the edge of the door had to be carefully cut for the door bolt section, and the lock had to be carefully measured from the edge of the door, so that the bolt section would fit flush with the door edge. This is probably the most critical cut, other than the backset for the latch itself. In this case, the latch fit perfectly against the corner trim on the door, and nothing else had to be cut. Once the lock was in the door, then I had to carefully drill the holes in the jamb for the latch bolt, as well as the deadbolt, but since they were designed to use the same opening, it was just one rectangular hole.

The striker plate that we couldn't use because there wasn't enough room.

The only problem I ran into there, was that the space between the door and the frame wasn't enough to allow me to use the new striker plate that was included with the lock. Even if it had been totally flat, it could have caused rubbing problems, so the plate shown in the photo above was not used at all. Instead, I just marked out the opening, predrilled some starter holes, and then cut the rest out with a saber saw with a fine-tooth metal cutting blade in it. This was not easy, because behind the trim was a square steel tube (part of the framing of the trailer) and I had to hold the saber saw free-hand so it would not cut so deep as to bottom out on the other side of the tube, and yet not get so far away as to bounce out of the hole. That's why the edges of the hole are "less than perfect". That. and the fact that I used a very sharp chisel to cut through the aluminum first, and then cut the steel part afterward. That's what files are for...right? 

The door bolt holes being cut into the door frame.

After everything was cut out, and I smoothed up the edges of the hole with a flat file, the door closes perfectly...just enough to push it shut without extra force, and tight enough that there is no play in  the door. The picture below was taken before the filing was done on the edges. The finished opening looks a lot better than the photo. I'm sure it doesn't look like a factory stamped hole, but like an old contractor used to always tell me, "It's good enough for who it's for".

The door bolt hole nearly finished, except for filing the edges.

The photo below shows the new lock installed except for one screw in the door frame, which had to be cut off before reinstalling it.

The new Fastec lock installed next to the cam bar hasp. One frame screw missing yet.

And when the cam bar is put back in the locked position it covers the door latch, so no one can tamper with it. That little thing that the padlock is attached to is what I previously referred to as the hasp, for lack of a better name. I have a brand new one just like it, that will be attached on the left side of the door, to lock the handle in the open position, so that no one can lock us inside the trailer. That is a MUST for safety reasons, as there is no other exit from this trailer...unless we later decide to add a skylight that also serves as an emergency exit, like many truck campers have. We may do that. Later.

The finished lock installation with the cam bar covering it.

For the cam bar hasp on the trailer side, I'm almost certain that there is no backing where I need to install it, so that will have to wait until I can pull the plywood from the inside to insulate behind it, at which time I will install wood blocking where necessary.

Now that I can close the door properly, I can get a cord run in there to provide lights and heat, and then I can work out there whenever I want...unless it's too hot. As long as the weather permits, I can open both the side door and the rear ramp and get a nice breeze through the trailer. I will do that during the next phase, of adding blocking and insulation to the ceiling and sidewalls. Then I have to do some minor wiring. All of that is necessary before I install the two Fantastic ceiling fans (reversible, three speed, thermostat controlled). Once those are installed I will have all kinds of air movement!

I originally thought of getting fans with rain sensors on them, but then I realized that if it's a hot, muggy day and it rains, we don't want to be stuck in there with the vents closed and no windows to open! That's when we realized that Maxx-Aire rain caps over the vents would be the better way to go, for a lot of reasons. On one hand it would allow the vents to be open even if it were raining, and make having rain sensors kind of a moot point. But on the other hand it takes away from the low profile and stealth of the trailer. As is, it will still fit inside a standard 8-foot high garage door. If I add the caps, it won't. But then, if we're full-timing, we won't have a garage!

Problem solved!

The next post will be installing the access opening for the power cord, and then the start of the blocking, for edges of paneling, for mounting things or hanging things on the paneling, etc., etc.

Any questions...about anything? Let me know!


Unknown said...

Thanks, I'm installing one this weekend

Earl Mark said...

I am so glad you found the security solution necessary for your family. Camping is a wonderful activity, but sadly there just aren't great security options pre-installed in RVs. The community has to come together to find a way to protect ourselves, our families, and our property. I will try your design later this week with the help of a professional locksmith.