A Simple Door Latch for a Residential Refrigerator -June 2017
By Bruce Fay with Butch Williams
Refrigerator Door Latches
Our new refrigerator doors seal nicely, but in a sudden stop there was no guarantee they would stay closed. Our initial system for latching the doors was painter’s tape, but we clearly needed a better, long-term solution.
We have seen several very clever ways to latch refrigerator doors on units that do not have them designed in. A simple hook and eye arrangement is easy to do if you have access to the side of the refrigerator case or surrounding cabinet and don’t mind drilling holes into your fridge case, doors, or woodwork. Our friend, fellow bus nut, and BCM contributor, Scott Bruner, attached electromagnets to the cabinet and matching plates to the doors. He wired up a circuit for the electromagnets that activates them when the ignition is turned on and provided an override switch to allow them to be opened. As much as that approach appealed to me, I was not up for running the wiring.
A few winters ago we were staying at an RV park in Florida and they had an RV show. In one of the motorhomes we saw a simple, mechanical latch that intrigued us. Imagine a flat piece of metal shaped like a T. Bend the “bull” of the T 90 degrees and then bend the tip of the bull another 90 degrees in the same direction so the tip is now parallel to the run. Mount the run of the T to the refrigerator case so the bull sticks out between the upper and lower doors (or the left and right doors, as the case may be). Drill a hole in the tang at the end and install a narrow turn latch (not a round knob). If the metal plate is sized correctly so the bull is just the right length, and the turn latch is the right size, it can be turned horizontally (vertically) to allow the doors to open and turned vertically (horizontally) to latch them closed. Simple!
I described this to friend and fellow bus nut, Butch Williams, and asked if he could make one. He thought about it for a while and came up with a way to do almost the same thing that was easier for him to fabricate. Easier is good.
Our Refrigerator and Latch
Our refrigerator is a residential over/under top-freezer design. Because it has reversible doors, there are mounting holes between the upper and lower doors on the front at each side to allow a hinge to be located where needed. Our refrigerator is set up with the hinges on the left so the holes on the right were not being used and were plugged with black screws to match the finish.
I made a paper template of the hole locations, including their relationship to the right edge of the case, the upper and lower doors and seals, and the door handles. Butch then fabricated a metal plate with three holes in it that was narrow enough to fit between the doors and not interfere with the door seals but long enough to allow a threaded rod to come out between the doors and not interfere with the door handles. He drilled a fourth hole in the plate and countersunk it from the back side until the head of a flathead screw was just below the surface. The hole was located so that it was half way between the doors when the plate was mounted to the case using the other three holes.
Butch slid a washer over the flat head screw and attached a 1” long hex coupling nut using thread-locker. He then installed a piece of all-thread rod in the other end. He found an old round knob (black) with threads that matched the rod and determined how deeply it would thread onto the rod. He then cut the all-thread rod so that it extended just far enough beyond the front surface of the doors that the knob could be tightened down snug to the doors with the addition of a fender washer and pad.
Butch used a hole punch kit to cut a circle of leather and glued it to a washer. The all-thread was removed from the hex coupling nut and a nut was threaded onto it followed by the padded washer with the leather pad facing away from the knob. The knob was screwed tight onto the all-thread and then the nut was tightened to hold the washer in place and keep the all-thread from backing out. He used a little thread-locker to help hold it together.
I installed the plate on the refrigerator and threaded the free end of the all-thread into the hex coupling nut. The padded washer was just big enough to catch both doors. When parked, the all-thread comes out along with the knob and goes in a drawer. That was by design so that nothing is sticking out between the doors when we are using the refrigerator. And that is how we made a latch for our refrigerator without having to drill any holes in the case or doors.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are best and this was about as simple as it gets. Still, it solved a very real problem for us.
About the Authors
Dr. Bruce Fay is a retired educational assessment and evaluation consultant and a former electrical engineer, photographer, and teacher. His wife, Linda, is a retired CPA &
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