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DIY Day-Night Shade Repair

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Adjusting the cord retainers, and even complete restringing, can keep perfectly good fabric in use for a long time in your motorhome.

During the last 20 years, day-night shades have become the top choice of window coverings in RVs. The ability to conveniently block unwanted light in the mornings and/or allow in a gentle light throughout the daytime while still blocking some of the heat from harsh sunlight has made day-night shades practical — and they add an element of décor. Unlike the old miniblinds that rattle and shake, day-night shades are lightweight and quiet while driving down the road.

The problem with day-night shades is that at some point they stop working properly, become disoriented and appear unsightly on the windows. The thin cords, which are the heart of the operating system, are usually the first to go. Depending on the brand and how frequently the particular shade is used, you may notice that the cords loosen up and need a bit of TLC to perform optimally. When they break, the shade is rendered useless. Replacing the shades is one option, but it could be difficult finding a close match to the texture and color of the ones used in your motorhome.

Repairing A window shade may seem like a daunting task but with a little know-how, day-night shades can easily be brought back to life.

The good news is that by simply replacing the strings, you can keep your existing fabric and save a lot of money when compared to replacing the entire shade.

Maintenance and repairs can be as simple as adjusting the bottom cord retainers or replacing the strings that make it possible to raise and lower the shade. Start by inspecting the shade carefully on the front and back sides. Look for frayed or broken strings and any plastic grommets that may have broken and caused the strings to fray, which will prevent the shade from moving up or down. If the shade simply won’t stay put in the up position, a simple adjustment of the cord retainer will likely solve the problem.

To adjust the cord retainers, gently loosen the screw on the right side retainer while holding it firmly to prevent unwinding. Turn the cord retainer one-half turn and tighten the screw. Repeat on the left side, but for this one you’ll have to turn the cord retainer counterclockwise. Repeat the process until the shade stays in the proper position. Use caution to not overtighten the strings, as they will wear much more quickly if under increased tension for long periods of time. If the cord retainer comes loose and the string begins to unwind, simply rewind the string onto the cord retainer until snug, add one-half turn and set the screw. Repeat this process until the shade stays in the proper position and performs as designed.

It is very common for the screw that holds the cord retainer in position to become stripped, thus allowing the string to unwind. An effective way to solve this dilemma is to use a larger screw, but this is not always an option because of the small hole in the center of the cord retainer.

It’s also very common for the cord retainers to be installed into a thin piece of wood paneling. A convenient way to fix this problem is to remove the cord retainer and install a self-drilling E-Z Ancor drywall anchor into the wall. These drywall anchors are available in many different lengths and may contact the outer wall if you use one that’s too long, so be sure to measure the wall depth before installing. Once the drywall anchor is in place it’s a simple matter of reinstalling the cord retainer into the anchor that is now flush with the wall. If the wood is solid behind the wall, use a plastic expansion anchor rather than an E-Z Ancor.

If the cords are broken, the repair involves restringing, which is much easier than most people imagine. Once you determine the diameter and the color of the string that needs replacing, log on to www.fixmyblinds.com for materials. This company has everything you need to repair any type of blind or shade, as well as the tools to assist with the string-replacement process. The website provides a wealth of instructional videos and a detailed diagram to assist in the entire restringing process. The end result will look as though you have a new day-night shade.

Tools required:

Cordless driver, Phillips or square drive bit and extension, wire restring tool, flat screwdriver, rubber bands, scissors, tape measure, shade string and possibly new plastic grommets.

The process starts by removing the valance above the window. This step can often be more difficult than restringing the shade itself, because clearance to the brackets can often be restricted. After the valance is removed, the shade is dropped down all the way for full extension. It is important to measure the height as well as the width of the shade to determine the complete length of each string. Only two new strings are needed for most shades; some will need three or four. The string length will be 2.5 times the width plus the height; it’s best to add a few extra inches to each string to allow for any errors in calculations — it is easier to cut off excess string than start all over again.

Although this day-night cord replacement may seem complicated at first glance, rest assured that after completing just one new string replacement you will have the skill and the confidence to care for your day-night shades in the future. Figure on about 90 minutes to get the job done the first time, but the time to complete the process will get shorter with subsequent restringing projects. Here’s how the cord retainer repairs and restringing are done:

broken string on a day-night shade

As shown here, one simple broken string on a day-night shade can cause myriad problems when opening and closing the shade. Photos: Jenn Gehr and Bob Livingston

make sure that the blind is secured

Before loosening the cord retainer, make sure that the blind is secured to prevent it from falling to the bottom and causing minor damage.

Adjusting cord retainers

Adjusting cord retainers can be challenging at best. Make only half-turn adjustments at a time.

window shade end caps

Be careful when removing the end caps, as they are plastic and easily broken.

removing the shade fabric from the top rail

When removing the shade fabric from the top rail pay close attention not to snag and tear the material.

cutting the cord from the spring at the top of the shade

Use high-quality scissors when cutting the cord from the spring at the top of the shade.

cutting the old cord

Pay close attention to cord routing before cutting the old cord attached to the retainer.

remove remaining end caps

Use a flat-blade screwdriver to remove the remaining end caps. Pry the plastic gently to prevent breakage.

pull the string as you slide the two sections of fabric apart

Gently pull the string as you slide the two sections of fabric apart. If the string gets bound up, it will be difficult to remove.

Note the routing of the strings

Note the routing of the strings (for use later) after separating the two sections of fabric.

remove the strings

At this point it should be very easy to remove the strings entirely.

rubber band the shade

Make sure the shade is gathered tightly and use rubber bands to hold it together. This will eliminate the need for two extra hands during the restringing process.

use a secure knot

Be sure to use a secure knot when tying the string to the spring in the top section of the shade. This will ensure that the strings will not let go during normal operation.

wire restring tool

Using a wire restring tool or a large needle, pull the string with an even pressure through the top and bottom sections of the shade. This will prevent any snagging during the process.

route the new string

It may even be possible to route the new string without using any tools, as shown here.

place the string in the rail section

Carefully place the string in the rail section so that it doesn’t bind.

slide the sections together

While sliding the sections of the shade together, check for flaws that may be in the slide rails preventing the completion of the process.

double-check the string orientation

Before the two sections are mated together, double-check the string orientation.

use silicone spray to slide together

If the two sections are difficult to slide back together, use controlled doses of silicone spray to smooth out the process.

Gently slide the top into place

Gently slide the top into place, making sure that the strings do not get bound up or twisted.

sliding the top into place

When sliding the top into place, be careful that the strings are in place.

Sliding the fabric through the rails

Sliding the fabric through the rails may require an extra set of hands to keep the material from binding.

reinstall end caps

Carefully reinstall the end caps before final assembly. These caps can become brittle over time, so use even pressure when seating.

pull the string tight

Before inserting the end cap in the lower rail, pull the string tight to prevent binding inside the lower channel.

Pay attention to the direction the string is threaded through the cord retainer

Pay close attention to the direction the string is threaded through the cord retainer before reinstalling on the wall.

Bill and Jenn GehrMotorhome DIYmotorhome windows

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