Your Door Is Ajar

The classic Dad joke: when is a door not a door? When it is a jar.

I know. Let it all out. The groaning and the moaning. All set? Feel better? Okay, let’s continue.

Today’s button is not really a button. It is a door handle. Simple enough. You can open and close the door. Lock and unlock the door. And there is also a deadbolt lock for the door.

That assumes, of course, that the door that Newmar installed works like a door.

It doesn’t.

Many Newmar owners have found themselves locked inside their own coaches unable to get the door to open. It happened to us a few years back. Another wonderful feature of these doors on some models? They can open. On their own. Unexpectedly. Like our awnings. This can bring a bit of excitement to those long, boring drives on the Interstate. “Sorry dear, it appears as though the dog has just jumped out the open door.”

Our door seems to prefer being locked. Even when we want to get out.

We had to learn the hard way that there is a specific protocol that must be used to avoid being trapped within our coach.

Curious to know the magic trick?

First the door handle.

The top latch is the deadbolt. As far as I know, it doesn’t seem to play a role in keeping us trapped inside our coach. The big handle is, of course, the door handle. It suggests that raising the handle will let you out of the coach. And it does most of the time.

Except for when it doesn’t.

The red latch underneath the door handle is the door lock. Sometimes the coach will automatically lock the door when it is begins moving. Not sure if it does that all the time. For example, at a fuel stop, I might pull the coach forward and unlock the door for Lorraine to enter — she usually goes back to pay the fuel bill as I clear the pump area. Sometimes it stays unlocked after she steps back in the coach and we start moving again.

But this one thing I do know. Never, ever attempt to open the door without unlocking it first. If you fail to unlock the door before exiting the coach it may cause the locking mechanism to get jammed which will prevent the door from opening.

This happened to us at a truck stop a few years ago. We pulled in to fuel the vehicle and Lorraine opened the door, assuming that regardless of the state of the door lock, it would just open. If the door was locked, it would unlock and open by raising the door handle. No need to push the red latch up.

Except it didn’t.

The door would not open.

We could not get out.

When this happened, we were really quite stunned. How could we be trapped inside our vehicle? What if there had been a fire at the back of the coach and we needed to get out of the front entrance door in a hurry?

This really poor door design means that if you pull up on the door handle when the door is in the locked position, the locking mechanism could get jammed and you will be stuck, unable to exit the door.

I suspect part of the problem is related to getting an airtight seal for the door. To do so you really have to slam the heck out of these doors. Ask any Newmar owner with a bit of experience. They know that these doors need slamming when driving the coach.

This door slamming technique triggers a secondary latching mechanism which holds the door tight to the frame. And that same latching mechanism can prevent you from getting out. The lock can get stuck in this locking mechanism forcing you to use some brute force methods to get the door to open again.

We spent about an hour on the phone with Newmar that day trying to figure out how to get out of our coach. At one point they even asked us to jump out the emergency door in the back.

No thanks. Getting in and out way back there would be a pretty big jump. No extended ladder for the rear exit was provided for our model year. That feature came in subsequent years.

Ultimately we called a couple of guys over from another fuel lane and with much pushing, shoving and pulling from both sides of the door it finally worked its way open.

The complete story from when it happened back in 2016 can be found here.

Seems a bit funny now. Didn’t seem that way back then.

How to use this door from the inside? Always unlock it BEFORE you open it.

The door does stay put once we are in transit. Only our awnings open unexpectedly now and then although hopefully that particular issue has been fixed now.

The joys of owning a motorcoach.

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