Pop-Up campers have come a long way in terms of technology and function and yet, they remain much the same. Despite their durability and longevity, a pop-up camper is just like any other camper, even a Class A Motorhome. Sometimes little issues, such as the door not latching, crop up and need to be addressed.
Sometimes, there’s not even a technical issue with the door latch. It’s just that your pop-up isn’t level. If your pop-up is flexing, added pressure throws off the latch alignment. It could also be that you need a new latch because sometimes these things happen.
Campers are a little weird when it comes to being off balance and that includes everything from a pop-up camper to a Class A Motorhome.
Think about it. All homes, even mobile homes, require a level foundation prior to construction. Why should a camper be any different?
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Keeping Your Pop-Up Camper Level
If you’re new to campers or pop-up campers specifically, you’ll be surprised at how often a door latch problem isn’t a door latch problem at all. When your pop-up (PUP) isn’t level, it creates strain on certain sections of areas of the PUP.
All it takes is a slight misalignment between the latching mechanism and the catch. An unlevel PUP is more than enough to cause misalignment. Depending on how well you can see the catch and the latching mechanism, you might be able to tell that it’s off.
If your PUP lacks a built-in leveler, it’s a simple thing to check and make sure it’s level. If not, it’s a good idea to purchase a BAL Leveler just for your camper. The good news is, there are a ton of them on the market, depending on your needs and preferences.
Your PUP might already feature a tongue jack, which is enormously useful when you are just trying to get your PUP level right off the bat. Stabilizer jacks are highly popular options as well. You see them in use with small travel trailers up to much larger.
Motorhomes usually have something along the lines of a stabilizer built in but you also see them in use for raising drop-down bends in Bunkhouse travel trailers.
Use Some Wheel Chocks
The frustrating thing about a level PUP, or camper of any type for that matter, is how easy it is to be slightly off-level. If you’re a frequent camper, a couple of jacks or some stabilizers are in order as well.
Wheel chocks don’t necessarily level your PUP but they help to keep it level once you have that established. Just remember to pop one under each wheel once you get the PUP level.
Leveling blocks are good for leveling your PUP as you park it, not leveling it after you are unhitched and the PUP is where it’s going to be for the remainder of your time there. They aren’t designed for finesse leveling.
These kinds of jacks are installed on your camper, usually on the corners. They generally come in two varieties–hand-cranked and automatic hydraulic.
For obvious reasons, automatic hydraulics are far more expensive, thanks to the added components and the fact that all you need to do is press a button.
What to Do When Leveling Isn’t the Problem?
If your PUP is perfectly level and your door still won’t latch, then you’ve eliminated the most common problem (leveling the PUP) as a factor, and its time to move on. There are a few things that might be the root cause here.
- Broken spring
- Worn out hinges
- Bent frame
- Something is in the latching mechanism or catch
- Loose screws in the striker plate
- Dirty door tracks
Some of these are instantly identifiable. If your door tracks are full of dirt and debris, you can spot that pretty easily. The same is true with worn out hinges, loose screws in the striker plate, or a bent frame.
For the rest, you will need to disassemble the latching mechanism and have a look at everything inside. Latching mechanisms on PUPs are fairly simple and you should be able to immediately identify obstructions in the latch or in the catch.
Make sure everything is well-oiled and working properly. Worst case scenario, you will have to replace the latch entirely but they are relatively inexpensive. Make sure your door tracks stay clean and the striker place is solidly in place with the screws all the way in.
Also, check the catch to see if there is an obstruction. You would be surprised how easily that happens.
All Things Considered
A malfunctioning door latch in a PUP is a very common problem when the camper is not level. In fact, making sure your PUP is completely level will solve the issue 95% of the time. The rest of the potential issues are common as well and fairly easy to identify and address.