Monday, December 20, 2021

The Realist: Adhesives for Home and Automobile Repair

  This is the fourth in a series by the Realist on tools for the prepper. You can find Part 1, about common hand tools for home repair, here; Part 2, "Tools for Diagnosing and Repairing Electrical and Electronic Problem" here; and Part 3, "Specialty Tools for Home and Automobile Repair" hereThe Realist writes:

Disclaimer: All products mentioned in this article were purchased by myself. I did not receive samples, evaluation models, or other compensation from any manufacturer or retailer. I have no formal relationship with any manufacturer or retailer mentioned in this article - I have only been an arms-length customer. All brand names and product names used in this review are the trade names,service marks, trademarks, or registered trademarks of their respective owners. I am not a licensed or certified tradesman. Further, this article reflects my unique circumstances and subjective opinions with regard to performance and other characteristics of the products being discussed. Your mileage may vary.

Some of the adhesives discussed in this article.

    I have been fixing things almost my entire life. In prior articles, I discussed various tools I regularly use. In this article I want to highlight some adhesives I frequently use for home and automobile repairs.

    As mentioned in prior articles, my father taught me to fix many things as I was growing up. My father had his favorite adhesives, some of which I use, and some of which I don't use. My father usually used 24-hour-cure two-part epoxy,contact cement, and liquid plastic cement. He also occasionally used the two-part 5-minute-cure epoxy, and hide glue for some wood furniture repairs.

    There were probably a few other adhesives he used, which I don't remember. I no longer use the 5-minute epoxy and contact cement because their results have been unsatisfactory. I never got satisfactory results with hide glue.

    Many items in the home and parts in vehicles are not amenable to repair with traditional fasteners (nails, screws, bolts, rivets), but must be somehow glued back together or replaced. With the economy worsening and continuing supply chain issues, replacement may become unreasonably expensive, unreasonably delayed, or even impossible. Further, I have saved a bundle of money by repairing things myself.

    When using adhesives, it is important to select the correct adhesive for the task. The packaging for most adhesives will describe which materials it works best with, and which materials to avoid. So, always consult the packaging for guidance when selecting a particular adhesive. There is also an experience component to selecting the correct adhesive, which can only be learned by doing.

    Surface preparation is also important when using an adhesive. You certainly want to have a clean surface free of dirt, dust, oils, and liquids. Also, roughing up the surface of solid materials with sand paper or a file will frequently help with adhesion. Although, for an item that has not broken completely, but just has a crack, making sure the material in the crack is clean may be sufficient.

    When repairing something that is broken, proper alignment of the broken pieces is important. Proper alignment will result in a stronger repair that will look better.

    With most of these adhesives, being able to hold or clamp the parts together afterward until the glue cures is critical to getting a serviceable repair. Depending on the repair, tape, rubber bands, clamps, bungee cords, heavy weights, or some combination of these items may be necessary to hold the parts together.

J-B Weld 24-Hour Epoxy

    My favorite adhesive for many repairs is J-B Weld epoxy. It is a two-part epoxy with a 24-hour cure time. It cures to a gray color. When cured, it is solid enough to be filed and drilled. I can't begin to list all the items I have repaired with J-B Weld epoxy. But, items repaired include the plastic housing for a vehicle side mirror, the broken plastic snap mounts for an electric lock mechanism inside a vehicle door, and broken screw posts inside an electronic device.

    I once had a 35-gallon steel drum I was using to store gasoline. After the drum was full, I notice gasoline leaking from a pit in the side of the drum. The pit was not from rust. I didn't want to empty the drum to fix the pit. I ended up laying the drum on its side, with the pit on top, sanded the area around the pit to remove paint, and then used J-B Weld epoxy to seal the hole. After the epoxy had cured, the drum no longer leaked.

    I do not like 5-minute epoxy. In my experience it has always had inferior performance. It doesn't adhere as well as the 24-hour epoxy and it is not as strong. Further, I do not like epoxy packaged in those dual-syringe dispensers because they cannot be tightly sealed after use.

Shoe Goo

    Shoe Goo is another favorite adhesive. As should be obvious from the name, it is useful for fixing shoes. I have used it to glue soles back on shoes, glue seams that failed, and even build-up worn soles so I could continue to wear those shoes.

    Shoe Goo remains flexible after "drying" (curing), and it adheres to many different materials. I've used it to bind stacks of loose paper into books by smearing the Shoe Goo along the side of the stack I wanted to become the spine of the book, then waiting for the glue to cure.

    Shoe Goo is good for repairing many other materials - think of the wide variety of materials from which shoes are made - when a flexible waterproof bond is required.

    Shoe Goo is messy to work with. Either wear thin nitrile gloves or be prepared do clean glue residue from your hands afterward. I personally don't bother with gloves and clean my hands afterward.

    About the only downside to Shoe Goo I have found is that after you puncture the metal seal to the tube, the contents of the tube will only last about six months, even if the tube is tightly capped. After about six months, it becomes very difficult to get the glue out of the tube and the glue you can get out does not adhere very well. However, as I was writing this article, I discovered that Shoe Goo is available in small tubes probably intended for single use ( These small tubes are obvious more expensive per ounce than the large tube, but may turn out to be cheaper per use when you consider how much of a regular tube will be wasted if not used soon enough after opening.

DAP Black Waterproof Roof Sealant

    DAP asphalt roof sealant is another one of my regularly used adhesives. This product probably wouldn't even be on my favorites list if my house was not located near the crest of a hill, with my roof occasionally experiencing wind damage. Besides replacing the damaged and missing shingles, part of my roof repair process involves tacking down the shingles around the replaced shingles with this roof sealant to make the repair more wind proof. [Ed: I have made a few repairs like this myself in past, although using black silicone because that is what I had on hand and I was ignorant of DAP. This type of repair is acceptable for the occasional lost shingle, but more extensive loss of shingles due to wind damage should be turned over to your property insurer for repair or replacement].

    When this asphalt roof sealant is first squeezed from its tube, it is black, but any of it that is exposed to sunlight soon fades to a medium grey.

Cyanoacrylate - a.k.a. Super Glue

    I have a love-hate relationship with cyanoacrylate. Sometimes it works really well, and sometimes it is terrible.

    One of the problems I have with cyanoacrylate is that the unused portion in a tube eventually dries out. Since I use it only infrequently, I may not discover it is dried out until I want to use it. However, I have discovered that Super Glue branded cyanoacrylate is available in a package of four small single-use tubes at Dollar Tree ($1.25), or a package of five tubes from Amazon for ($6.55).

Testers Liquid Cement for Plastic

    Tester's liquid plastic cement is really a solvent. It glues plastic by dissolving it so the two pieced being glued kind of melt together, becoming a permanent bond once the solvent has evaporated. It is only useful for polystyrene and ABS plastics. It will not work on other plastics.

    Many inexpensive plastic items are made from polystyrene, which is why I regularly find uses for this glue.

    Liquid plastic cement should be used sparingly. While I use Tester's liquid plastic cement fairly regularly, I use it in such small quantities that a one-ounce bottle I bought in the mid-1990s is still at least half-full.

White Glue - Elmer's Glue

    Everyone should be familiar with white glue. It is the glue we all used in grade school after moving beyond the "yummy" paste used in kindergarten and first grade.

    White glue is most useful for gluing paper, cardboard, and wood. The packaging says it is also useful for gluing cloth, leather, ceramics, and other semi-porous materials. White glue is water soluble, so it should not be used where the item being glued may get wet or be exposed to high humidity.

    Besides using white glue on wood, paper, and cardboard, I have used white glue for gluing broken ornamental ceramic items back together. It is not suitable for repairing ceramic items that will get wet or be used to serve food.

Carpenter's Wood Glue

    Carpenter's wood glue is chemically similar to white glue, but some varieties are also waterproof. (Spend the slight extra money and get the waterproof variety.) The waterproof variety can be used where the repaired item may occasionally get wet (but not submerged). The packaging says it can be sanded and painted, but I have not personally tried to do so.

    In the past, I used white glue when joining wood together or repairing wood items, but I now use carpenter's wood glue. When repairing something where the wood broke or split, I will apply the glue to both surfaces, and either clamp the item together, or if the repair will be hidden, use screws to hold the split/broken wood together.

    Carpenter's wood glue is not suitable for structural wood repairs. Instead use a construction adhesive like Liquid Nails, along with screws.

Honorable Mentions

    Ultraviolet light cured adhesive. A few years ago, UV cured adhesives became available to consumers - probably because UV LEDs to provide the curing light source became available at modest prices. I have primarily used UV cured adhesives to glue display windows for small electronic devices back in place.

    Since the glue is UV cured, I am able to carefully fit the display window and clean up any excess adhesive before exposing it to the UV light to cure the adhesive. UV cured adhesives should not be used with opaque materials, or with materials that will block UV light. (For all but the smallest of repairs, a multi-LED UV flashlight (e.g. this modestly priced Harbor Freight model) will allow you to make repairs using UV cured adhesives quicker and more reliably.)

    Clear silicone sealant. While technically not a glue, silicone sealant adheres well to some plastics and many other porous and non-pourous materials, and it is waterproof. I once used silicone sealant to repair a crack that had formed in the plastic windshield washer reservoir of one of my vehicles. The repair was still holding when I traded-in the vehicle a couple of years later.

    Epoxy putty for fuel tank repair. Fuel tank repair is something you don't worry about until you need to fix a fuel tank. I had gasoline stolen out of a vehicle by a thief who used an ice pick to punch a hole in the bottom of the fuel tank.

    Be aware that some fuel tank repair kits require the tank to be drained before applying the adhesives. I successfully used an epoxy putty fuel tank repair kit whose packaging specifically stated it adhered even if the surface was wet with gasoline.


    As I was doing some background research for this article, I came across a web site that highlights many different adhesives and their practical uses:

    Just like tools, adhesives make many repair tasks possible or easier. J-B Weld 24-hour epoxy, and Shoe Goo are my two favorite adhesives because of their utility, and hence I have a modest stockpile of them. I also have a reasonable inventory of cyanoacrylate because it is so cheap and can be used for many repairs. All of the adhesives mentioned above should be available from many of your local retailers.

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