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Understanding plastic repair with adhesives

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 - 07:00
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Now that the collision repair industry has moved past the stigma of repairing plastic automotive parts rather than just replacing them, adhesives provide an economical and uncomplicated solution for technicians to make successful repairs. 

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Each year, the collision repair industry is presented with thousands of plastic automotive parts that can be restored to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) standards – and done so simply and often profitably – rather than being replaced after they have been damaged. New simplified procedures of using repair adhesives for plastic repair provide an alternative to more cumbersome procedures – both past and current – that require intensive training and sometimes costly equipment.  

Repair adhesive products specifically formulated to be used on plastic for more than cosmetic repairs are offering straightforward solutions. For example, torn bumper tabs can be created with the plastic repair adhesive, enabling technicians to make a new tab, bond it to the assembly, and continue with the repair job. Emblems, headlamp modules, grilles, cladding, door trims, among other vehicle parts, can also be restored to “like-new” condition with repair adhesives when they are used properly, according to Kevin Creegan, Sales Manager for LORD Fusor Aftermarket Repair Adhesives in the U.S. and Canada for LORD Corporation.  

Although it can be helpful, there is no need for the vehicle repair technician to identify the type of plastic material – i.e. determine if the plastic material is flexible, semi-flexible, rigid or semi-rigid – just that the part is plastic. (It is generally required to determine if you are working with an olefin plastic to determine if adhesion promoter/surface modifier is required). As long as the technician selects the appropriate repair adhesive, while also following proper OEM recommendations, almost any plastic part can be effectively repaired with a repair adhesive, Creegan explains. Conversely, he adds, identification of plastics required for repairs made with a plastic welding can be both confusing and time consuming. (See diagrams, “Composite and Plastic Repair Process Using Adhesives” and “Composite and Plastic Repair Process Using Plastic Welder.”)

“Repairing a damaged plastic car part is as simple as identifying the damaged part and choosing the right repair adhesive,” he says. “With the right adhesive product, you don’t need to understand the type of plastic with which you are working. This really simplifies the repair process and saves time involved searching for mold marks, or in the case of plastic ‘welding,’ conducting multiple rod adhesion tests to match the substrate.” 

This is significant, especially as the use of plastic in vehicles continues to grow. Not only are automotive manufacturers staying focused on reducing vehicle weights – a.k.a. lightweighting – to comply with government regulations on fuel efficiency, but plastics and polymer composites continue to remain an integral part of vehicle safety and performance breakthroughs.  

The 14.65 million light vehicles assembled in the United States and Canada in 2016 – the latest available data, required nearly 4.9 billion pounds of plastics and polymer composites valued at $5.7 billion – $390 in every vehicle, according to the American Chemistry Council’s November 2017 report “Plastics and Polymer Composites in Light Vehicles.”  

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