By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Strange things happen along the road. A flying baseball, rock or tree limb can make a mess of that “relight,” or window, in your RV entry door. If your glass is a mess (or you get to that point down the road), it’s sometimes tempting to look at the cheap side and just charge down and replace that broken glass with an off-the-shelf chunk of window glass at the local glass shop. Cheap, but not wise.
The original glass is tempered — for a good reason. When broken, non-tempered glass has a nasty way of shattering into long, deadly, sharp shards. When replacing glass in an RV, code calls for tempered glass which, when broken, typically chunks into smallish, rounded pieces, far less likely to cause great bodily harm.
Your local glass shop can probably sell you tempered glass, but it may require a few days from order to readiness. Tempering requires cooking the cut-to-size glass in an oven, and many shops have to send out the glass for the tempering process. Yes, you could replace your door glass with acrylic, but don’t use inexpensive Plexiglas. Plexi is easy to work with, but it gets brittle at low temperature and breaks easily. Lexan, although more expensive, is your best alternative.
Before you fire off an order for tempered glass through a glass outfit, check with local RV parts dealers. Many keep replacement glass in stock, and their price and availability may shine in comparison. Or, if you know you have a change-out job coming up, look on eBay or Amazon— you may find sellers that will equip you with a complete two-piece frame and glass for far less than you’d imagine.
While we’re on the subject: Entry door window frames are a two-piece design. You’d think to replace the frame you’d just go down and buy a “pair” of frame pieces. Here’s one of the RV manufacturing world’s great mysteries: The frames are sold as halves, either an exterior half for the outside of the door, or the interior half. But you’ll probably find a dire warning printed on the packaging: “It is strongly recommended that both interior and exterior frames be replaced at the same time.”
The “duh” question then becomes, “Why not sell both halves at a reasonable price, together in one package?” And what’s the big deal, anyway? Our job was to replace a weather-cracked exterior frame half, and cheapskates that we are, we simply bought the exterior half because the interior side looked good enough to us. We later found out one possible flaw in the reasoning. There was a slight bit of warping in our old interior frame, which made alignment a bit tricky. Like any good follower of the “Red Green Show,” we said, “What the heck?” and grabbed screws that were just a bit longer than the originals. After all, that little bit of extra length made alignment so much easier. The first screw put in practically nicked the helper’s hand on the far side of the door — the screws you take out are precisely the correct length.
So get the right glass and, if you can hack it, buy both sides of the frame when you need ’em. You’ll be happier in the long run.