The Frigging Flyscreen

During our trip, BTL (before the lockdown) to the Waikato River, we experienced the failure of our flyscreen. There is a design flaw with the shape of the door in our motorhome. If the wind blows the door shut, it closes onto the flyscreen stretching the internal strings beyond their limits. This causes them to eventually snap, and all tension in the flyscreen is lost.

At another time of the year, this might not have been a problem. But given the exceptional weather we were having keeping the motorhome door shut wasn’t an option. We really needed to keep the vents and door open to allow some air to circulate. Also to prevent the motorhome from becoming an oven. Sadly the good weather had also led to an abundance of large flies, mosquitoes and other winged pests. All of whom were lining up to make our motorhome their new place of residence. All very frustrating as I hate flies and mosquitoes and Sarah hates fly spray.

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When we returned home, we started investigating getting it fixed. A quick email to the motorhome agent resulted in an estimate of $350 to repair the screen. Sarah is the practical one in the family decided that we would repair it ourselves. The first step is removing the screen from the door frame.

So back out to the motorhome to get the flyscreen. The first step was to remove the panel above the door that displays battery power etc. This simply unclicks such an easy job. Imagine our surprise when this was removed to discover mouse droppings behind the panel. We did have a problem with the furry visitors quite a while ago, so we hoped that this was the last remnant of their existence. We had found the two deceased tucked up inside one of Sarah’s shoes some months ago.

The flyscreen itself is held in by just 4 screws, so that was easy. However, the wires for the electric door lock run through the frame of the screen. Not quite so easy! Anyway, persistence overcame the resistance, and we got the screen out. Then into the car for the trip home. The only way to get it into the car was to hook it over the front passenger’s seat. Then Sarah climbed under it and into the seat to hold it in place for the journey home.

Sarah had spent several hours on the internet researching how to do the job. It was actually tough to find anything that came close to providing the solution that we needed. But there were a couple of sets of instructions that gave some clues. The strings that make the flyscreen work are mounted within removable housings. So to replace these, we needed to drill out the rivets that held them into place.

To help us when it came to putting it all back together, I was tasked with taking several photographs. As you can probably see by the ones above, I did a terrible job, and in most cases, we had no idea later what they were meant to be or where the string was supposed to go.

Sarah, ever the practical one and to be honest the only one in the family with brains. Kept the broken strings, this would prove invaluable later. Whereas I would probably just have thrown them away.

We did know from the way we had taken it apart from that the string started with a knot inside the frame. The hole to get the line through was about the same width as the string. This proved rather frustrating as neither of us has particularly good eyesight. However, Sarah championed the cause, and we were underway.

It’s probably just as well that we have been home during the lockdown, with plenty of time on our hands. I can hold my hand up here proudly and say that most of the following stuff-ups were mine. The first such mistake was when I convinced Sarah that the string should be threaded incorrectly.  The correct way is for the bottom string to thread the top half of the screen. And the top string the lower half. So we did it the other way around. Thankfully we decided to test it before putting the whole screen back together and realised our mistake.

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We then rethreaded the door the correct way, only for me to make mistake number two. After much discussion between ourselves about how to do this, we closed the screen into itself so we could knot the strings. Sarah had marked on the thread from the old strings where the crimp should be. This I completely ignored and crimped the strings in totally the wrong place. We then riveted the screen back together to reassemble it.

What should be the final step in putting the screen back together is to slide the handle part of the frame back onto the screen. It was then that we discovered that muggins here had joined the strings too short. With the string running out with the door still about 6 to 8 inches from being closed. The look on Sarah’s face said it all. Especially as I had cut off the supposed excess length of the strings rather than kept some length available for adjustment.

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Frustrated and angry at myself, the screen was consigned to the spare bedroom as punishment for a couple of days. Then Sarah convinced me we should have another attempt. Some many hours later, we had, we thought succeeded. Only to discover that this time there was too much play in the strings. So the flyscreen was consigned back to the naughty room for further punishment.

During the time the flyscreen was serving out its punishment Sarah, and I talked about possible solutions. I was getting closer and closer to sending it away to a flyscreen obedience school and paying someone else to train it to behave correctly. Sarah, however, still was convinced that we could do this.

We both knew that we had to take up the slack in the string, but wanted to do this without having to disassemble the whole frame again. We worked out that we could do this just by removing the handle part of the screen and then retying the strings. Using the original broken strings that Sarah had kept as a guide. We retied the knots and hey presto it works!!!

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With the lockdown moved from level 4 down to level 3, we went out to the motorhome. Proudly reinstalled and it looks just like a new one, well almost. Just don’t ask me to do it again, actually now that we know what to do…. Would I suggest that you do this job yourself? I think if you have time and lots of patience then yes. If you need advice about the job don’t listen to me but I am sure Sarah could help with some instructions via email. Just comment below if you would like some sent.

I don’t think I have truly expressed the frustration that Sarah and I experienced doing this job. What we both thought would be reasonably easy turned out to be hours and hours spent going nowhere. Anyway, we made it and thanks for reading this blog.

When I first started writing this blog, the idea was to include some corny fly jokes as part of the blog. But as the blog grew longer, I wondered about that wisdom. However, if you want a bit of a laugh here are some of the worst ones I found.

  • A woman arrives in the kitchen and sees her husband with a fly swatter and says “What are you doing?” He replies: “I’m chasing the flies…” She asks “Did you kill them?” He says “As a matter of fact, yes, 3 males, 2 females” Intrigued, she asks him: “How do you tell the difference between females and males?” He answers: “3 were on the beer can, 2 on the phone.”
  • Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!
    There couldn’t be, sir. The cook used them all in the raisin bread.
  • A female fly is sitting on a pile of dog feces. A male fly spots her, flies down next to her, to check her out, looks her in the eyes and says: Is this stool taken?

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