With today’s cars, a “fender bender” no longer holds true to its name. Add freezing temperatures to the mix, and plastic bumpers and fenders seem to shatter on impact. I speak from experience (due to Canadian winter roads) that even the slightest contact of your vehicle with anything else can result in what looks like a catastrophic episode. They sure don’t make stuff like they used to. So when you’re faced with any busted plastic, you have two options: replace the part, or fix it. That’s where this ManHack comes into play!
Today’s ManHack is how to repair broken plastic, such as a bumper or fender, by a process of DIY staple or heat welding. I have done this a few times already, but this past summer, the aged plastic fender of my ATV broke, which gave me an opportunity to demonstrate the staple welding process. Amazingly, this process needs no glue, and the final result is a strong and a seamless repair to anyone who doesn’t know it is there!
- Blow Torch
- 3/4″-1″ Finish Staples
- Long Nose and Flat Nose Pliers
- And your broken fender
Step 1: Line up the broken seams on your plastic pieces and estimate the length of the break. For every inch, you’ll need to make at least 2 staples. Calculate how many staples you’ll need and then use your pliers to bend your staples. Remove each individual staple from the strip, then bend the tip of the first tang 90º into the tip of the second tang and the second tang 90º up. The first bend will help create a very strong bond, and the second bend will give you a point to grasp with your pliers (As you will see).
Step 2: This repair is done from under or behind the break. In the case of a bumper or fender, it might be easiest to find a way to remove the whole part so as to have full access to the backside. Start your blow torch. Grasp the upward tip of one of your staples and hold it in the flame until it is hot. As soon as it starts to glow a dull red, it will be hot enough. Carefully bring the hot staple over to your break and gently press it down into the plastic, while straddling the break. If you press too hard or if the staple is too hot, it might melt through to the other side. If the staple is too cold, it won’t melt deep enough, and will not be a good bond. Ideally, the staple should be set so that it is pressed in flush with the surface of the plastic. (Note: the plastic you are attempting to repair must be thicker than the staple wire)
Step 3: Repeat the process of melting staples along your break at least every 1/2″. (Note: You can custom bend your staples to join breaks that might span across surfaces that are angled, such as a rim). Once you are done, the backside will look like a major surgery took place. It is optional to snip off the staple tips, but usually this won’t be necessary because the back of the repair will be far out of sight. Flip the part over, and the front will look almost as good as new. In fact, chances are, only you will be able to find the hairline crack where the break used to be. Congratulations on a job well done!
This repair will be extremely strong AND flexible. If you did it right, it will not break apart because the plastic is encasing the staples, which in turn, are holding the break together. Also, you shouldn’t need to even repaint or do any other work to the front side.
As you perform this repair project, may it remind you that however broken we are in our sin and weakness, God is eager to repair and heal us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Happy Staple Welding and Happy ManHacking!
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