Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Emergency Repairs

Yesterday evening, Lisa and I were playing Lunar Rails at the table in the trailer when she remembered something she needed to get in the old house. A few minutes later, I heard her trying to open the door but not being able to do so. I opened the door from the inside without difficulty. Something was wrong with the door. Investigating, we confirmed that while you could open the door from the inside, pulling the handle on the outside did nothing. Lisa produced a tool kit and proceeded to remove the door-handle mechanism from the door.

Looking inside, she diagnosed the bad news. A piece of metal that connects the outer handle to the rest of the door mechanism had broken. This is not easy to fix at all. It's better to just replace the entire door mechanism. Well, we could do this, but (a) now we have a hole in the door through which very cold air was rushing, (b) even if we put the mechanism back into the hole, we're in a situation where one of us has to stay in the house or else we'll be locked out of our own house, and (c) even if we dealt with the previous two problems, Lisa is uneasy about leaving the house unlocked while we drive to town to get a new door mechanism, and would rather not have to leave me behind solely to keep the house safe.

"Let me think," Lisa said. She fiddled with the mechanism some more, and determined how to make the latch move from the outside with a screwdriver. She got several ideas. We went into the old house, pushing the door closed. (The now-latchless door was held shut by the inner screen door, which attaches to it by a magnet. This keeps the door from blowing wide open but is not useful for any other purpose.) In the workshop area of the old house, Lisa went to work on the mechanism, grinding off the rest of the half-broken handle so she could get at it more easily. She then wedged a large bolt into the mechanism to force it to stay open permanently.

Surely this is no better than before, you might think. What good is a door latch that won't stay closed? But this blocked-open latch is actually quite serviceable in a temporary fashion, because it still has a working dead-bolt lock in it. While the main latch is now out of service, we can still keep the door closed with the dead-bolt. We can't lock ourselves out because you can't lock it from the outside without a key. We can keep the door closed from the inside by turning the interior dead-bolt. Reassured that we had a temporary workaround, Lisa reinstalled the patched-up mechanism and we went about our evening.

Today's job was obviously to go buy a new trailer door mechanism. Fortunately, this is a pretty standard part. Unfortunately, the trailer-supply store in north Salem was taking a long New Year's weekend holiday, so we had to drive up to Camping World in Wilsonville. They had one replacement door mechanism. Lisa didn't like the feel of it. Instead of the heavy, textured metal from which the original was made, this was lighter weight and smooth. She said, "This one isn't as good as the old one."

The man behind the counter snidely said, "Not as good? It's not broken!" Although Lisa was put off by his manner, we bought the part anyway and took it home. Lisa examined it more closely. After separating the two main pieces preparatory to installing it in the door, she found, on the inside of the mechanism, the dreaded words: "Made in China."

Lisa has grown extremely frustrated with the continuing flight of all of American manufacturing to China. She complains that nearly all of the stuff made there is of lower quality and that we don't seem to have a lot of alternatives because "cheap" is all that seems to matter. She has made it her practice to avoid purchasing Chinese-made items if there are any other reasonable alternatives. We still have the temporary working solution in place, so her hand has not been forced for now.

We'll take this replacement back to Camping World tomorrow -- this is not such a bad thing because I want to return the video-capture software I bought from Fry's across the freeway from CW anyway, because it's too difficult to use and my laptops are just not powerful enough to handle what I want to do anyway. Next week, she'll investigate other alternatives, such as going to an RV salvage store in Eugene that will probably have older (but in this case better built, sturdier) parts.

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