Gonzo's Toolbox: Duct Tape ... The Often-Used, Sometimes Abused Wonder Adhesive
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Gonzo’s Toolbox: Duct Tape … The Often-Used, Sometimes Abused Wonder Adhesive

When people list the myriad of uses for duct tape, they never seem to include the various ways I’ve seen it used on the family car. I’m a big fan of duct tape, and my son has even made himself a handy little wallet, a tie, book binders and whole bunch of other cool things with it. While I’m no pro at conjuring up different uses for this stuff, I’ve seen what some creative people can do with a roll of it. Recently, I was out to dinner with the family, and, low and behold, we spotted in the parking lot a minivan with the front bumper strapped on with layers upon layers of duct tape.

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When people list the myriad of uses for duct tape, they never seem to include the various ways I’ve seen it used on the family car. I’m a big fan of duct tape, and my son has even made himself a handy little wallet, a tie, book binders and whole bunch of other cool things with it.

While I’m no pro at conjuring up different uses for this stuff, I’ve seen what some creative people can do with a roll of it. Recently, I was out to dinner with the family, and, low and ­behold, we spotted in the parking lot a minivan with the front bumper strapped on with layers upon layers of duct tape. 

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The owner had done a nice job, as it was definitely holding the bumper in place. You could tell it’s been that way for quite some time, since all the edges were starting to fray and the inner grid of the tape was showing through. (It was probably time for another layer.)

Even NASCAR has found a use for this magical fix-all tape. If you’re running around the track at high speed and then get tagged by the guy who’s trying to pass you, there’s a good chance something is going to get torn off. The next trip around the fourth turn means a little more tug on the steering wheel, and a downshift into the pits. At that point, your pit crew jumps the wall, slaps on a few layers of duct tape, and off you go back onto the track again, grabbing the next gear and holding the pedal to the floor. No wonder duct tape has gotten the nickname “200 mph tape.”

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Then, there are those uses I think are really ridiculous, like using duct tape to hold up a ­broken electric window. It probably sounded good at the time to the person using it in this fashion, but wait until he needs to take it off. That’s usually left up to me when the car is in for repair. It will come off, but you might need a bit of elbow grease and a few shots of cleaner and solvent along the way. It’s even more fun to remove it on a hot summer day; it can be one gooey mess.

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MORE CREATIVE USES

In the spirit of creativity, I’ve seen duct tape hold together broken glove box doors, center console lids, visors, door panels and various other assorted interior components. I’ve even had a car come in that had it wrapped around the entire steering wheel, as if it were a steering wheel cover. That’s not to mention the patched upholstery, a stereo ­install gone wrong or the broken key fob. The list is endless.

Let’s not leave the exterior out of this, with duct tape being used on the trunk lid when the latch has broken, or for repairing a broken taillight lens or the occasional door that won’t stay shut. Of course, there’s also the engine compartment, which can be a plethora of unending duct tape. Sometimes it’s the only resource you have at the time, but, really, it’s only “duct tape,” not “tape to hold the coat hanger in place where the radio antenna used to be.”

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The innovations that duct tape connoisseurs have dreamed up can be truly entertaining.

Some time ago, I had a car come in the shop with a severe driveability problem. The service light was on, and it was stalling, was hard to start, had no power, was coughing, and, for the most part, it was just plain sick. The service codes showed a rich condition and some really crazy short fuel trim values. When I opened the hood, I noticed the rubber intake plenum was ­completely ­collapsed onto itself. I thought that was a bit weird, but I thought I might as well pop it back into shape and see what happens. 

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At first, the car sounded great, but within a few seconds it ­reverted to its original ailment. So next, I took the plenum off the car and investigated things a ­little further. I found a huge wad of duct tape wedged up against the filter box opening to the plenum. It was completely strangling the air ­intake system.

Apparently, the owner couldn’t find the right size replacement air filter for the car, so he used duct tape to make the opening small enough to accommodate the wrong-sized air filter he purchased. It had been on the car for so long that he had completely forgotten about it.

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As the duct tape adhesive deteriorated, it started to slowly ball up at the connection between the ­filter box and the leading edge of the plenum. One new (correct) air filter and a lot less duct tape took care of the problem. I know it’s called “duct tape,” and this is a duct, but not the kind of duct to be using it on. (I’ll have to add this to my list of failed uses for duct tape.) 

A TV program that aired not too long ago did a whole segment on duct tape. (Of course, I had to watch that one for sure!) It showed various uses of duct tape including making it into a sailboat, and using it as a hoist to pick a car off the ground, to name just a few. I’ll have to admit they were pretty ingenious uses that proved the point of how versatile this sticky stuff really can be.  

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I’m sure there are more uses that haven’t yet been tried, and I doubt that we’ll ever run out of ideas for using duct tape in some creative way. Who doesn’t have a roll of duct tape lying around somewhere, and who hasn’t tried some crazy idea with this stuff? Alright, maybe splicing a car back ­together wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever seen duct tape used for… but it sure was cool. 

Duct tape is a good thing to keep around for a ­variety of emergency repairs. It has a purpose no matter where you are or where you go. I keep a roll handy in my toolbox all the time, because I never know when I’ll need even a few strips of it. Just ask the guys on Apollo 13 how valuable a roll of duct tape was to them. 

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Duct tape … if it’s good enough for NASA, it’s ­certainly good enough for me. 

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