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Over Centre Latch Problems with Pop Top Caravans

Most Pop top and Hybrid caravans use 4 over centre latches to secure the pop top roof to the caravan, when the van is not being used or being towed. There are however several problems and  safety issues that can occur with the style of over centre latches that are used on almost all Australian pop top / hybrid caravans. These include:

1. De-Coupling of the Latch

If the latches aren’t correctly secured into the over centre position or due to subsidence of the pop top’s canvas sides during towing, the latches may de-couple from the catches.  This represents a potentially deadly accident if the roof lifts-up and blows away during towing. That is exactly what happened to this poor driver who’s pop top blew off while travelling along the Hume Highway in Campbellfield, Sydney. Fortunately, the drivers travelling behind were able to avoid colliding with the flying pop top.

Photo illustrating the problems with pop top caravan latches

2. Latch Failure & Corrosion

Pictured above is the style of over centre latch used on the vast majority of Pop Top Caravans.  Their poor design &  construction leads to several problems, including:

  • The thin pop rivets used as the pivot pins fail because of their diameter size and wall thickness (too small and too thin/ not ‘Construction Grade’),
  • The use of Pop Rivets also causes the latch to be stiff in operation from new and creates a potential for personal injury when the latch handle is left protruding at a 90 degree angle to the the body of the vehicle
  • The latch becomes difficult to use or inoperable due to corrosion or distortion and damage to the latch. There appears to be several causes including protruding latches being knocked, latches being over tightened and when collapsing the pop top.

The galvanised steel construction can result in corrosion quickly setting in. Given Australian’s love of the ocean and the coast, this seems like a poor choice of material when for a few dollars more stainless-steel fittings could be used.

3. Injury Caused by Protruding Latch

When the over centre latch is dis-engaged the latch T Bar can protrude and accidently gouge or snag the user. Some Pop Tops have latches installed at eye level that have resulted in significant injuries.

Photo showing protruding over centre latch on pop top caravan
Damage, corrosion or poor construction can cause over centre latches to protrude and cause injuries

4. Damage to the Lifting Cable Mechanism

If all 4 x over centre latches aren’t correctly disconnected before trying to wind up the Pop-Top, damage can be caused to the Pop-Top lifting cable mechanism.  This can typically cost anywhere from $200 – $500 to repair.

Solving the Over Centre Latch Problems with Pop Top Caravans

Frankly, we are surprised that $40 – 80K Pop Tops come installed with such poor quality over centre latches that can lead to such dangerous outcomes.

Uniseg Product’s patented Snap-Flat latch resolves these problems through intelligent design and use of appropriate materials.

The Snap-Flat Over Centre Latch prevents the accidental de-coupling of the latch and the catch plate due to the spring tension between them.  The latch also reduces the likely hood of the latch not being disconnected properly as it visibly and audibly disconnects. That is, because one can see and hear the Latch disconnect from the catch plate, it is difficult to make the mistake of leaving a latch connected and thus damage the lifting mechanism.

The Snap-Flat latch’s design and use of 304 stainless steel ensures strength and long-term durability. For full details including the Snap-Flat Caravan style latch’s measurements and installation instructions, download the brochure below;

The image below shows the Caravan version of the Snap-Flat latch, which can easily be retrofitted to most pop top caravans and hybrid caravans.

Photo showing Caravan style Snap-Flat latch retrofitted to a Pop Top Caravan
Caravan style Snap-Flat latch retrofitted to a Pop Top Caravan
Photo of Caravan style Snap-Flat latch retrofitted to an Pop Top Caravan
Caravan style Snap-Flat latch retrofitted to an Pop Top Caravan

Buy Online the Snap-Flat Pop Top Latches

For additional examples of Snap-Flat latch applications including Pop Top Caravans.