Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Minor Nuisance

In the rear luggage compartment of the C5 Corvette there are a number of storage spaces, some large, some small.  The large one is where the CD changer goes, and the smaller ones provide places to put tools, the owner's manual, etc.

All of these compartments use the same fastener to latch them shut, made by a company called Southco.  The latches consist of a threaded plastic screw with a soft rubber washer that goes through a hole.  Closing the latch compresses the rubber washer, causing it to become too large to fit through the hole.  It's elegantly simple, and has the additional virtue of producing a tight fit--nothing rattles as you drive...energetically.

Unfortunately, they don't last forever.  I have had first one, now the other, fail.  All that has really failed is the little soft rubber washer, which has torn, so when you compress it, it flies out, and gets stuck in the hole.  Chevrolet will sell you a replacement latch--for $39.44.  This is a bit expensive, considering that the only part that is actually bad is the soft rubber washer.  I need to find a local source for these soft rubber washers--but I'm not quite sure what vendor would have something like this.  It's small--about 3/8" diameter with about about a 1/8" diameter home through it, and about 1/4" thick.

I'll probably hunt up a source for these washers--and buy enough to replace all of them, if need be--but as I look at it, I find myself wondering if there isn't something better than I can cobble up.  You see, the latches are held into the various panels only by a friction fit--and after they have popped out a few times, that friction fit gets less and less friction.  I'm tempted to come up with something that actually uses a couple of small screws to hold top and bottom together, with the bottom and top pieces somewhat larger than the hole into which the current latch fits.  The design of the current latch is clever--but I find myself wondering if there might be some other mechanism that when you close the latch, expands outward to fill the hole.

UPDATE: Any suggestions on where I might find what are essentially fat, soft rubber washers (the Dilbert of washers, so to speak) would be more than welcome.


  1. I spent a little over 5 years working for a (small) competitor in some of Southco's markets.

    That type of latch is known as a "swell" latch. The rubber part that gets compressed is called the "bushing", and it is typically made out of Styrene Butadiene Rubber (aka SBR).

    I don't see on the datasheet or trade drawing a sub part number for just the bushing. I no longer have a userid/password to get to the pricing application, so I can't find the P/N that way.

    The easiest/cheapest solution is likely to buy a standard part number latch that uses the same through hole size as your Corvette application. Southco has an entire division that does nothing but automotive applications, but it often just reaches into the tool box for the bits that driver do not typically see.

    Reid Tool sells small quantities of the latches, and you can order them without an account through Reid's amazon store. Just harvest the bushings and toss/store the rest of the latch.

    Here's a link to one.

    There's even some on ebay!

    You could, I suppose, order some SBR tubing (if you can find the right ID/OD) and cut to length.

  2. This silicone tubing, cut to length, might work.

    It is a 50 on the Shore A scale, which is similar to door molding rubber, fairly squishy stuff.

    $1.71 per foot plus shipping.

    If it works you can start selling these as a side line to your sideline!

  3. Thanks! I'm impressed with the caliber of responses! The rubber tubing is something that I can probably find locally--and yes, another division of ScopeRoller!

  4. also, 1/4 inch thick sheets of rubber (silicone, neoprene, glued together mouse pads, etc.) could have 1/8 inch holes dilled, and then be cut out by a hole saw or plug cutter, or just a piece of copper pipe of correct size with a cutting edge, used in either drill press, or like a punch. it would probably be easier to use tubing though.