When we bought the pop up camper last year, one of the first things we noticed was that the lock on the stepper door was broken. The guy we’d bought it from on Craigslist told us that they’d forgotten their keys one trip and had to pry the door open. He said the lock stuck sometimes, but they usually had no trouble opening it. Yeah, right! 🙁 Ever since the day we brought it home, Mr. TypeTwoFun has been the only one who can open up the camper. The lock is finicky, and you have to jiggle the key just right to coax it open. Back in March, we ordered a new lock, but we were just too intimidated by the project to complete the repair.
So a couple of days ago, after desperately trying to get the camper to open while Mr. TypeTwoFun was running an errand, I decided it was definitely time to get the stepper door lock fixed. We did a little research on the Pop Up Portal and decided we could definitely handle this repair ourselves.
The door is put together with pop rivets, so the first thing Mr. TypeTwoFun did was take a drill and drill out all the existing pop rivets.
Once he removed the pop rivets from the aluminum plate on the top of the stepper, he removed that and pried the “skin” of the door back a bit. Many of the tutorials online told us that we could remove a few of the pop rivets on the top of the door and pry the skin back to reveal the guts of the door. You want to remove the large bolt at the top of the lock as well as the two screws at the metal base plate in order to replace the lock. As long as you can get to those easily, you may only need to drill out a few rivets. That was not the case for us.
The screws didn’t seem to be a problem, but try as he might, Mr. TypeTwoFun couldn’t get that nut off. So he had to drill out all of the pop rivets and remove the entire door skin. Wow! How dirty and gross is that door?
So once the entire door was taken apart, he could easily use a socket to remove the bolt and all the guts of the old lock. Turns out that bolt was put it nice and tight and sealed up with Lock Tite. Whew! As a side note, make sure your lock isn’t scratching the front of your camper when you are taking it off. Since ours was on so tightly, it took some muscle to get it off, and it scratched the front of the camper pretty badly. Halfway through, Mr. TTF covered the lock face with some duct tape to prevent further scratching. We should have done that from the beginning. 🙁
Once you have the skin taken off, you’ll have this big nut and the two small screws. You’ll need to remove them, and then, you are going to slide the lock out, but keep the locking arm mechanism in place. See the picture above? This shows the locking arm mechanism in the open position. When the arms are turned this way, you will not see the ends of the arms protruding out of the sides of the door. Turn the mechanism to locked position, so the small plate just under the big bolt is horizontal. Now, make sure the new lock is also in locked (horizontal) position, like the picture below.
You can then put the smalls screws and large bolt back in place. We used some Permatex Threadlocker to make sure the nut had a nice tight fit and then used a socket to replace the nut on the bolt. Test the lock a couple of times to make sure everything works smoothly, and then you are ready to put the skin back in place.
To put the skin back in place, you’ll need a pop rivet gun and some rivets. We found the 3/16 sized rivets worked well for us. Mr. TypeTwoFun had a cheap rivet gun from Harbor Freight, and he started the project with that. I do not recommend using a cheap gun. Our gun broke halfway through the project, and we had to run out to the store to buy this gun.
It was a MUCH easier project with the new gun, so if you don’t already have a pop rivet gun, consider buying a better model. It may cost a bit more, but it will make the job much easier.
Mr. TypeTwoFun lined the door up so that all the existing holes matched up. If you don’t have an extra set of hands to hold things in place while you rivet, you can use clamps. Mr. TTF then set a pop rivet into each hole to make sure the holes stayed aligned.
Then he used the gun to set the pop rivets. The long head of the rivet breaks off when you set it with the gun, leaving a nice, flush rivet. On a few we set with the crappy Harbor Freight gun, the head didn’t break off very cleanly. Mr. TTF just used a pneumatic grinding wheel to cut off the excess metal.
Not so hard, right?