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Trouble latching door(s)

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The other evening I was going to go flying with a friend. We were going to take a video of the most decorated home in Kingman (Christmas lights +++). I got him safely buckled in and his door latched. Then I tried to latch my door and it would not latch. He had driven 40 miles to do this with me, so I gave it another try and the door latch lever went all the way, but it was jammed. I had a very difficult time unlatching the door. When I got out, and lowered the door near the latched position, I realized that the forward latch pin had jammed and it looked like it had actually bent the hinges because the door was no longer centered in the opening. 

Tonight I went back thinking I would remove the door and I had assumed that the hinges were bent. But, looking them over, they seem to be straight. I also had thought that there probably are shims where the hinges mount, but it did not appear so. I ended up latching the door from outside (reached thru the sliding window and pulled the front of the door up and latched it. 

I'm planning to go back tomorrow evening and see if I can latch the door from the inside by pulling it up and inward in the front. I'm also thinking about adding a handle down below the latch access cover to enable pulling the door into position better. 

I'm also thinking that I will leave the door latched all the time. Thinking this will make it easier to latch. I cringe to write this because it's pretty silly to think that the door could "take a set". I get goofy/wishful thinking now and then, ha ha.

OK, I'm just hoping some of you have experienced this and gained insights that you can share with me.

I will probably end up removing that left side door, but can anyone tell me if there are shims under the hinges? That would allow you to rig the door in the door jam, which is what I need to do. If I do remove the door, of course I will remove the hinges and see if they are bent. 

Thanks in advance for any input. 

ET

 

 

 

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Service the door latching mechanism in the door. Make sure none of the clevis or bellcrank pins have fallen out or been jammed, and that the alignment of the patches are correct and not twisted or bent.


The airplanes take several years to settle into their final shape. It is extremely common to see doors not centered in the opening. I have never heard of that causing a jam though.

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When opening or closing the door try pulling it in towards the seat or go outside and push inwards and reach through the window. This airplane may have had new door seal applied and it's wider than the original. If this is the case you may need to elongate the pin holes a tad. You can also use some silicone paste on the pins and see if that makes a difference.

There are some that need the latch pin holes opened up a tad. I use my Dremel and this makes closing / opening very easy and takes the stress off the entire door and latch mechanism.. If it gets too stressed I have seen one latch break. 

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That is what I plan to do because I need to pull inward from the center of the door. The little grip area on the door is too far back.

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I have found that the Composite material wears into the pin as much as 1/8 of an inch making the doors leak a lot  of air. The edge of the hole also wears and together it can be 3/16 to 1/4 inch of wear. The easiest, fastest way to fix it is the little plastic plugs from the hardware store. This will also prevent further wear on the pins and the hole in the cabin. That way you won't need to replace the pins in the door. When they wear out just put in new ones.

I have replaced all my weatherstrip on both doors also.

As for the doors being hard to  latch, I have found the forward pin was too far back in the hole so it jammed. Use a small screwdriver to get it back in place if that is your problem. Then lube all the pins and moving parts of the latch assembly. That has worked for me several times but I do think there is some wear inside the door on the moving  parts.

I was able to find door seal that is an exact replacement for the original

IMG_0264.JPG

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Minor update: After pulling the door into place and latching it (by reaching thru the sliding window), I left it latched and went back in 3 days. After unlatching it and checking, the mis-alignment had not changed a bit, errrrrr, (not like it was a surprise, but I just had to see). I'm baffled how this happened because my hinges do not look bent, distorted. I'm 99% sure the front latch pin never went into it's hole when I forced the door latch closed.

So, my next step was to remove the door. I was planning to support the weight with a cinch strap around the wing. I dared not proceed with that, the forward portion of the door sticks forward of the wing leading edge, the door would tear the hinges off as I removed the final screws.

So, I will build a really simple rack for the door to sit on while I disconnect the hinges (I always devise a way to do a chore solo, being a retired aerospace manufacturing engineer).

I will remove the hinges completely, mark where the hinge holes are on the outside of the door and fuselage, and reinstall the door without the hinges (I will shim it into the best fit I can rig). Then I will decide how to fix the problem by 1. Making shims where the hinges mount (to tilt the door) or 2. Buy blank hinge material and remake the hinges with the hole pattern shifted so I can float the door into place. If so, I will probably have to make offset hinge halves (because they mount into recesses in the door and the fuselage. I bought a mini milling machine just for working on the airplane, so I can do this. I guess before I launch into this, I'll do a little illustration and send to Arian Foldan  at Flight Design for input.

I will share pictures with my pals here.

Thank you all so much for your input guys!!!

I will be installing internal door handles (found really light ones at Home Depot Aerospace, ha ha).  

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1 hour ago, aldowns said:

I was able to find door seal that is an exact replacement for the original.

Please share that with us. Perhaps a web link.

Thank you, Sir.

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If you remove all but one screw in the front, and one in the back, it makes this a lot easier. Then back out those screws 3/4 of the way before finally removing them. The doors are super light and easy to remove with a friend helping.

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I got the seal from TrimLok. They require a 328 foot roll. I have 4 planes I needed it for. I do have some left over. This was on the CTLS not sure if SW is the same.

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Al, good idea for the plastic sleeve you used as a "bushing" for the door latch hole.  Can you please provide us with a web link or some way to contact Trimloc?  Thanks.

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Update: I made a shelf looking thingy (ha ha) to rest the door on while I detached the hinges from the fuselage. Wouldn't you know it, the day I used it there were 2 guys in the hangar next door, coulda just used their help. Anyway, then I finished removing the hinges from the door. Then I used a fine mechanical pencil to make witness marks there the screw holes were on the exterior of the door and the fuselage. Then I put the door back in the door opening, reached thru the window vent, and latched the door. The door was well centered and the hinge holes in the door and fuselage were very well aligned. So, the issue I had was: When I forced the door latch lever closed, the forward latch was pushing on the door sill (did not go into the hole) and pushed the door reward so hard that it bent the hinge and ruined the countersinks even (posting a picture of one hinge). So, the good news and the bad news: Flight Design had hinges in stock, the price for those little bitty things was $46.XX each! Order total for 2 with delivery to AZ was $103.XX. 

I will put a handle on the inside of the door so I can pull it all the way closed before I latch it. I found a very light 2 screw handle at "the aviation department of Home Depot" ha ha. Hopefully it will be strong enough, if not I will use a handle with 4 mounting holes. 

Moral of the story: Don't force the door latch lever!!!

Damaged door hinge.jpg

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Two items to look at here.

The fuselage over time can settle and change a tiny amount in the door frame. Sometimes this leaves a big gap up at the front of the door that lets air in  and also makes the door contact and rub the frame on the door rear edge. If the door is not gapped open in the front and only has slight contact on the rear edge that can be filed down (or Dremel with a sanding disc) on the door edge to make it so it won't rub or cause hard door closing.

Another way is to remove the door and its hinges from the fuselage , put the door back in place with hinges still screwed onto the door , but not fastened to the door jam and remark the hinge points which should allow the door to be positioned more forward closing off any gap up front and allowing a little clearance on the back door edge. You'll only actually move the hinges forward about 1/8" - 3/16" more forward and you'll be right next to the old holes.  The upper plate in the door frame that the hinges screw into has a metal plate and is not just carbon fiber. If you do relocate the hinges a tad more forward you can fill the old holes with JB Weld and drill and TAP the new holes.

If the door closes hard , but is pretty well centered in the frame then you can take a Dremel tool with a small sanding disc, identify which door pin is too tight in its hole and slightly elongate the door pin hole so when you push the door handle forward it closes more smoothly. This will take the stress of the latching mechanism. I have had a couple of people break the door latch by applying too much force to close it. What a PITA to fix. Since 2007 I have always applied a thin coat of silicone paste to the door pins to keep them from such a dry hard rub during the closing.  This makes the latch mechanism close more smoothly. I also apply a touch of silicone to the handle metal where it rubs in the plastic slot just below your hand.

Sometimes you have to elongate one or more holes when you install new door edge trim because it is thicker than the original.

I never put inserts in the pin holes. These are the ones that I have seen break the latches. You would need to make the pin holes a lot larger to put the insert in and then you're locked in for life with those inserts and then no good way to ever adjust them.

 

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Thanks to all, and thank you very much Roger for that detailed description of remounting when neccessary. I had thought I would make up custom offset hinges if my hinge holes were mis-aligned (but they weren't). I had assumed Flight Design was gonna be out of stock on the hinges, but they weren't either. I gotta get some silicon grease. Hinges due in on the 10th, then I gotta teach myself to fly again, ha ha.

Happy flying all!!!

ET 

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