Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tip 90: Duct tape and other cheap repairs

Tip 90: Duct tape and other cheap repairs

It usually pays to fix things right, but you can do a lot with super glue and duct tape...

A recent example of a duct tape repair is my handiwork on a garbage can lid.  The plastic garbage can lid is about 4 years old and got a little brittle with age.  It cracked and would no longer snap firmly to the top of the can.  While the crack was small, I put some duct tape over it and further along the lid in the direction of the crack to try to stop the crack from growing.  This has worked so far.  The lid stays firmly snapped on, and the crack does not seem to be growing.

Duct tape can also be used to repair coats.  Of course, it looks pretty cheap to repair the outside of a coat with duct tape, but I have used duct tape to repair the inside lining of a coat and it lasted for years that way.  I have also used duct tape to cover holes in work gloves to keep my hands clean when I didn’t have replacement gloves available.

Another cheap repair is to replace a frayed electrical cord on an appliance or tool.  Some people will wrap a frayed electrical cord with electrical tape, but I don’t trust this.  I don’t want to risk someone getting shocked or starting a fire, so I like to replace the cord if I can.  I once changed the electrical cord on a bread maker and got years of use from it after this.

One day, I went to pop the hood on my old Civic to check the oil... and the hood handle broke.  This was bad since I could no longer open my hood.  I went to the hardware store and got a small knob with a set screw and clamped it on to the hood release cable.  This is simple and works great.  The way the handle was attached to the release cable, I would have needed to replace the entire hood release cable and handle which would have been a lot more expensive than the $2 or so of hardware that I used for my cheap repair.

Another example of a cheap repair is one that I mention under the topic of shoe repair in this book.  If your shoes are uncomfortable, you can buy shoe inserts for a few dollars that will make your shoes feel like new again.  You can also take shoes to a cobbler or shoe repair shop for repairs.  I have tried repairing shoes using glue, but this has never lasted very well.  I have used duct tape successfully to cover holes in shoes or to hold the sole on a shoe for a few months.  It works best to wrap the duct tape completely around the shoe; otherwise it tends to come off pretty easily.

Computers can sometimes be repaired cheaply.  My son’s laptop once came down with a bad hard drive.  I bought a used drive on the internet and replaced the bad hard drive to keep the laptop going for a while longer.  You can also work around broken keyboards or track-pads by plugging in cheap desktop keyboards or mice.  My son recently broke the LCD display on his laptop.  He now plugs the laptop into an external monitor that we had around.

Another cheap repair that makes a big difference is to patch holes in your walls with a little dry wall patch compound.  Holes in a wall really look bad and decrease the value of your house.  Small holes can be patched simply by applying dry wall patch compound with a paint scraper.  You’ll need to paint the repair to match the wall.  It only takes a minute to touch it up if you have matching paint.  For larger holes, you can stick some fiberglass mesh to cover the hole, and then apply repair compound to the mesh.  You’ll need to sand the patch compound after it hardens and then paint to match the wall.  Repairing holes in walls is cheap and makes a big improvement to the appearance of your house.

When repairing things, you always need to balance the cost of the repair with the cost of replacing the item.  For example, replacing my son’s broken laptop screen would probably cost a few hundred dollars.  It would not be a good move to put this much money into an old laptop since the repair costs almost as much as buying a new laptop.  We decided to go with the “free” option of plugging in an external monitor and working around the broken screen.


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