Vacation isn't just for vacation anymore.

How we made our Airstream’s screen door a bit easier to open

Imagine you’re standing outside an Airstream.

The screen door is closed. You want in. So you reach up, retract the little spring-loaded plastic latch, open the door, and go inside.

Now imagine you’re standing inside the Airstream and want out. The latch is mounted on the outside of the door. In order to reach it, you first have to slide the little gray access panel open. Then once you’re outside, you have to remember to slide the access panel back closed—lest every variety of flying and hopping insect invade your beloved travel vessel.

Push It

We have long considered various ways we could modify our screen door latch so that it only required a firm push to release from the inside. We have no pets or kids to secure and often find ourselves going in and out over and over again—especially when we’re cooking outside or loading/unloading for a trip. (“Jill! I need another spatula! And some more paper towels! Oh, and don’t forget the grease jar!”)

I searched around and to my surprise found few other Airstreamers in search of a similar modification. The only thread I found was this one and none of the ideas there appealed to us. Most online discussions I found about screen door latch “improvements” sought to make them harder to open rather than easier. I thought this was odd at first, until I read that those latches are no match for a sturdy dog with its eyes firmly locked on a tasty looking squirrel.

Jill and I had a few ideas rolling around in our heads, but wanted to sit down with my dad and think them through before we tried implementing any of them. My dad has owned a hardware store for roughly 64,000 years now and knows everything one can possibly know about fixing things. The three of us spent quite a bit of time trying to solve the problem with a magnetic cabinet latch before finally settling on a much more pedestrian idea involving a Dremel tool. In short, we ground the edge of the latch down just enough that it would release when the door was pushed from the inside. And it worked perfectly.

Two minutes of grinding was all it took. Now opening the screen door is equally convenient regardless of whether you’re coming in or going out. The only downside is that our days of flinging the door shut are gone. Any swinging motion now causes the door to spring back with enough force to bypass the latch. For us that tradeoff was absolutely worthwhile, but if you’re someone who prizes the ability to shut your screen door with a flick of the wrist and an about-face, this approach may not be for you. Of course, that latch is hardly the most expensive part on an Airstream, so if you really screw it up—or just want to start from scratch with a new one—they can be had for only $30.

I can’t wait until we’re back in the trailer and can open that door like a waiter busting through the kitchen at a restaurant!

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