Self Fusing Silicone Rescue Tape
Every once in a while a product comes your way that not only performs as advertised but actually exceeds expectations.
We first encountered this so called "silicone self fusing rescue tape" at a boat show.
The salesman came across as your typical small-time, side-show, snake-oil spruiker. He occupied a lonely back corner consisting of a solitary card table, a pile of bright orange silicone tape and numerous implements, pipes and gadgets he was demonstrating repairs to.
These days we never travel without a roll of this stuff but at the time we baulked and nearly walked away from the outrageous $20 per roll price tag.
He got us the second time we passed him and we're glad he did.
What Is It?
Self fusing rescue tape is sold under a variety of names from a variety of manufacturers. Called Silicone Tape, Rescue Tape, Self Fusing Tape and Emergency Tape we assume it really is made from silicone because it has the synthetic elastic structure you would normally associate with cured silicone. It is very thick - for an insulation type roll, between 1mm to 2mm, and is wound with a cling-wrap type liner that separates the adhesive side of the tape from the face.
The sales hype suggests it was developed by or for N.A.S.A. - presumably so astronauts can clamber onto the space station and perform some sort of ground breaking repair (unlikely). Whatever the history is the fact remains that this is a great product.
What Will it Repair
Recommended for repairs to hoses, pipes, air lines, air-conditioning pipework, exhausts, fuel lines and a host of other conduits that fail on a regular basis, this stuff is limited only your own inventiveness.
The snake-oil salesman at the boat show demonstrated how an emergency fan belt could be constructed by lashing the tape around the pulleys of an engine and while we haven't needed to try it we have no doubt it would work.
The promotional blurb also states that self fusing tape has "7000 volts dielectric strength after elongation'' meaning it is a very safe insulator for spark plug leads, electrical car coils, power tools, electric leads etc. etc. etc.
How To Use It
In practise rescue tape behaves like a combination of insulation tape and very thick cling wrap. The literature states that the tighter the tape is stretched over the repair the stronger the seal. Removing the tape requires it to be cut from the component.
Below are the instructions we received from the last lot we purchased.
Pressure Repairs - Blown radiator hoses, water pipes, air hoses, gas lines etc. In these repair applications, the tape should be stretched and wrapped tightly and quickly.
Non-Pressure Repairs - Electrical wiring and cable repairs. In these repair applications, do not stretch. Simply wrap like normal tape.
Re-positioning Tape - Should you wish to reposition the tape after starting the repair, unwrap tape within 60 seconds for reuse.
The Wrap - Commence the wrap at the repair point, and work the tape 3 to 4 centimetres either side. Turn the tape at least 3 to 4 times for non pressure repairs and 6 to 7 times for pressure repairs.
Value For Money?
$20 for a ten metre roll of what looks like thick insulation tape seems exorbitant. We carried a roll in an aluminium toolbox on top of a Toyota Troop Carrier for 2 years. We spent a lot of time in the Pilbara where daytime temperatures regularly exceed 45°C so who knows what the temperature inside a box made of aluminium was. We extracted it from the toolbox and used it to make a repair in a pressure pipe and it performed perfectly - suggesting that it has a great shelf life.
We've used it a couple of other times and have always been surprised at just how effectively it works.
If you're travelling the backroads of the outback then good sense tells you to stock up on spare fan belts and radiator hoses. It is however, comforting to know that a $20 roll of tape can be carried around and used to repair limitless unforeseen eventualities.
As we said we wouldn't be without a roll these days.
There are a few things that are essential recovery items. One is the Hi-Lift Jack.
In Essential 4WD Equipment we list the accessories that we consider are an absolute must and also the accessories that are nice to have but may not really be mandatory.
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