Panic Bar Door Repair





Introduction: Panic Bar Door Repair

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

The photo shows the 40 year old panic bar door hardware on our church doors. We had a problem that left us wondering for a bit if we would need to buy new door hardware for $600, but solved the problem inexpensively.

Step 1: How It Is Supposed to Work

Sunday mornings we "lock" this door open by pushing the bar toward the door and turning a hex key clockwise in the hole shown. That causes the knuckle in the panic bar to remain pulled inward in the direction of the door, as you can see just above my hand. Someone had turned the hex key counterclockwise. When the door did not "unlock," he got a big pliers and began to force the hex key. The internal parts were bound so tightly that he cracked a part inside. This Instructable will show how to make a replacement part.

The first step was to remove the cover over the mechanism. You can see two screws on top of the cover. There are two more on the bottom of the cover, too.

Step 2: The Mechanism and How It Works

This view looks down on the mechanism from above. The cover has been removed from the mechanism. The two upper screwholes are visible on the casting. The black square surrounds the hole where the hex key is inserted to lock and unlock the panic bar mechanism. The green outline is a special 5/16" x 18 thd. setscrew with a dome end. When the panic bar is pushed toward the door, the portion of the bar at the mechanism pivots around the shaft shown by the red circle in the direction of the red arrow (counterclockwise). The domed head of the setscrew comes to align directly opposite of the pale blue line, which represents a flat spot on the frame of the mechanism where the domed head comes to rest as the setscrew is turned clockwise to extend in length. The yellow lines represent a heavy spring which makes it difficult to insert the shaft encircled in red if the mechanism is disassembled. Getting it all back together again is a two man job. One pushes against the spring while the other inserts the shaft. Even then it is not easy. 

Step 3: The Setscrew With a Dome Head

The photo shows the replacement screw I made. The two green lines represent the cracks in the original screw caused by turning the hex key in the wrong direction with extra leverage provided by a very large locking pliers. The yellow lines, arrows, and numerals give the sizes in inches.

Step 4: Materials Used

The photo shows a 5/16 inch x 18 thread per inch setscrew 1 1/4 inches long. This is a standard item from the local hardware store and cost just a little more than half-of-a-dollar. In order to make clear that it has a hex-shaped socket on one end, I inserted a hex key for the photo.

In addition I used a common 5/16 x 18 hex nut.

Step 5: Grind a Slope

The hex nut will be welded to the setscrew so the domed end can be formed. It is necessary that there be an opening for a weld to be made. I ground the blunt end (not the end with the hex socket) of the setscrew off at about a 45 degree angle.

Step 6: Add the Nut

Grinding may have disturbed the threads enough to make threading a nut onto the setscrew a challenge. Add the nut from the hex socket end of the setscrew. The portion of the setscrew held by my fingers from its end at the left of the photo to the left side of the nut should be exactly 1 inch. Notice the cavity inside the nut formed by grinding a slope on the end of the setscrew.

Step 7: Weld

I used a wire feed welder to get into the cavity and fill it with weld material, fusing the nut to the setscrew. (first photo) The second photo shows the end of the setscrew after the nut has been welded to it. At 1 1/4 inches in length the setscrew is a little long and will need to be ground down to 1 3/16 inches in length. It is no problem that the weld material did not fill the entire area inside the nut.

Step 8: Grind

I chucked the setscrew in an electric drill and spun it while holding it lightly against a spinning grinding wheel. This takes the corners off of the hex nut and makes it nearly round at just about 1/2 inch in diameter. See the second photo. I began grinding to length and in a dome shape. The chuck on the drill will loosen frequently. Stop and check it regularly. I wrapped the threads in a little masking tape to protect them, but, the remnants of the tape were difficult to remove from the threads. If you are careful, you will not do much damage to the threads with the drill chuck.

Step 9: Finished Part

This is the finished part. Right now the original cracked setscrew is still working, but the day may come when the small piece between the cracks breaks loose. When we did have the mechanism apart, someone chased the threads to remove rough spots over the cracks.  Now we have a backup part we can install quickly and easily. We had searched the internet for a replacement part, but we actually could not even find a manufacturer's name or a model number on our hardware anyplace. I must admit we have not tried our replacement part yet because the reassembly of the mechanism is difficult and an unpleasant task. But, what the part needs to do does not require a lot of precision, either. So, we are quite confident.

It is hoped this Instructable will inspire someone with a panic door hardware problem to consider making a part, even if it is not the same problem or the same hardware. Making a part is much more economical than replacing hardware on even one door. But, that almost certainly would not match the old hardware, and aesthetics would require replacing the hardware on at least two doors. This little fix cost less that a dollar, plus an hour or so of time.



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    12 Discussions

    WOW, Phil, you are always doing impossible repairs. How many persons would make it? I think almost everyone would have said "this is hopeless" and bought the whole mechanism.

    4 replies

    Thank you, Osvaldo. It did seem impossible at the start, but as we thought about the problem, the solution became simple.

    i am a repair-man myself, and the worst thing about the job is the tool. if you dont have the right tool you're going to have a very bad day...

    hitachi8, "if you dont have the right tool you're going to have a very bad day" ... or make it.

    Oh, yes! It seems I often find myself in situations where someone needs to use a piece of equipment very soon, but it does not work, people are coming who will be depending on that piece of equipment, and all I have available is my Leatherman Tool.

    When I read that it would have cost $600 for replacement hardware I have to admit I was taken aback some. It paid you to be handy Phil! It sounds like your fix was faster than replacing the door hardware would have been on top of being a lot cheaper. Great job.

    4 replies

    Thank you, Pfred. We were a little shocked at $600, and that was for one door (if I remember correctly). Naturally, the new hardware would not match in appearance, so we would need to do the other side, too. And, there are two more doors with the same hardware only a few feet away that go out the backside. So, we would likely be stuck with 4 x $600. I did not think of how to make this part until several days later, though. By that time, the mechanism was back together. We have talked about putting the new part in just to make certain it works. But, we just have not gotten it done yet.

    4 times $600 is some pretty strong incentive to come up with a more cost effective solution. The part you made looks good to me. It should work fine but good luck to you when you try it out anyways. No one should get stuck with that kind of a bill over such a little thing.

    My car's alternator needed new bearings. I could get to the larger front bearing, but the smaller roller bearings at the rear required removing the stator coil. I needed to disconnect wiring from the windings, but the way it was connected did not allow the home mechanic disconnect and make new connections later. There was no way to get new grease into the old roller bearing. I had to buy a new alternator because I could not get a dab of grease into a bearing. The price differential was not as great, but I was a little "bummed."

    There are two kinds of computer fans, one kind you can pull the fan hub off and lubricate both support bearings, the other kind you can't. The fully serviceable one is extremely rare. There ought to be a law, if no one can service and maintain your product you shouldn't be allowed to sell it! I mean one puny little drop of oil is all these fans need, but you have to chuck them when they dry out. Industry obviously regulates itself improperly in this regard and needs to be corrected.

    If you haven't seen this already it is pretty good:

    Great work!

    In your searches, keep in mind that the process that you call "locking the door open" is termed "dogging". I learned this a few years ago, when I wanted a dogging key of my own. Though some manufacturers use their own sizes, the most common hex key size for dogging mechanisms is 5/32". I bought a cheap folding set of SAE wrenches, put the 5/32" on my keychain, and kept the rest in my toolbox. Cost me <$3 for the set, whereas I would have had to spend upward of $5 for one dogging key at a locksmith's. :-)

    1 reply

    Thanks. The fellow who had helped me had an extra Allen Wrench I cut and welded to resemble a screwdriver. The idea was to make a tool that would not provide more than the necessary leverage so someone cannot over-torque it again.