Repairing Things

How many times have you thrown something away because some little piece of plastic broke? The item was perfectly serviceable, save for that cheap little plastic part. I can’t count the number of times it has happened to me. Times are tougher now. Many of us just can’t afford to throw away things because of such small issues. Not to mention the other downsides of a throw-away society – toxic waste, exploitative multi-national corporations, dwindling resources, etc. Which leaves us in a quandary. How do we fix these things?

That is where I bring good news. In most cases, you do not need to throw these things away anymore. You can repair them. Even if they are plastic. I just posted clear instructions, complete with photographs and even video on how I repaired a large hole in a plastic automotive part. You can view it here:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Repair-Plastic-Parts/

Repaired air handler cover for car

I also recently salvaged an expensive vacuum sealer machine which had a crucial plastic clip that broke off. I used super-glue to join it back on, and then reinforced it with hot glue. It works great now.

Another recent repair was to a used refrigerator we had bought. In many older refrigerators, the plastic pegs that hold up the glass shelves become brittle and break off. These pegs must bear a lot of weight. They attach to the sides of the unit which are made from extremely thin, fragile and brittle plastic. How do you fix such a thing? Wood and hot glue of course. I fashioned the pegs from pieces of wood, and then hot glued them into place, completely filling the large broken hole in the side with hot glue. The result is stronger than the original.

These are just my latest examples of repairing broken plastic parts. When you have something that breaks, use your imagination. Wood can serve where you need rigidity and strength. In fact wood is superior to plastic for most things. The only reason plastic is used is because it is cheaper in mass production. Wood is usually better, but that also usually requires craftsmanship – something you can easily provide. Hot glue takes care of the rest. It is actually a better plastic than the typical ABS plastic used for most things. It is so strong and flexible that you can even make hinges from it. You can combine it with wood to make such versatile parts that exceed the original in strength, flexibility and rigidity.

Plastics are not the only thing that need repair, although they are often the biggest mystery to repairing serviceable goods. Last year, my son got a little wild when adding wood to our wood-stove and broke the glass in the door. With the heating season upon us, I called a local glass company about a replacement. I found out that glass for wood-stoves is not ordinary glass, nor is it even tempered glass. It is a very special ceramic, and very expensive. Local glass companies cannot offer any help. I tracked down the manufacturer and they wanted $175 for this small piece of glass. Yikes! I then did some Internet searching to learn more about this glass. It is actually a high temperature ceramic. It must be cut to shape first and then fired, just like a ceramic pot. I found a couple of companies which make custom wood stove windows. They turned out a little cheaper, but it would still be around $100. The budget is tight this year, and I just didn’t want to part with that large of a sum.

So what did I do? I repaired it. A big chunk had even fallen out by this time. I fitted it back in, and applied a high temperature stove gasket adhesive. It comes in a regular caulk tube. While its stated use is to seal metal to metal, it was nice and elastic and sticky. I applied a generous bead (or two) along the seams of the cracks. The glass is now just like one piece again, albeit with what looks like a big black spider in the corner. Its not pretty, but how much is $100 worth? I rather have an Amazon Kindle (which costs just little more than $100) and a black spider on my stove glass, than a new glass door, but no Kindle.

You really can fix this stuff. Don’t be intimidated. What have you got to lose? If you are stumped, think about it. Something will eventually come to you. Even if you fail to repair it, you will have learned by the experience, and will be in a better position to succeed next time. If you have any innovative repairs you have made, please share them in the comments below. Happy repairing everyone!

Repairing Things by Provide Your Own is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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5 Comments

  1. Dan
    Posted August 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Nice article that you have written, I throughlly enjoyed reading it. The advice you gave about attempting repairs reminds me of some advice that I received when I was young “Don’t be afraid to attempt a repair It’s already broken” That advice and much creative thinking has served me well for many years. My main hobby used to be tinkering now it is what can I turn this pile of stuff into.
    Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse is a new slogan but I have been doing that for years as I enjoy the challenge.
    Very good website you have
    Keep up the good work.
    Dan

    • Posted August 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the positive feedback, and I am glad to hear from a fellow tinkerer – keep it up.

  2. jimahenderson@facebo
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I read your article as well,and I’m gals I’m not the only frugal person out there, I broke my glass on the wood stove and it would be around 130 or so for me to fix it myself and I would be so disappointed if I hadn’t broke it on my own but ,oh well,I took permatex super glue and separated he crack enough to run a bead if super glue on he cracks and along al the other cracks that were hairline and this stabilised the glass considerable, there was one small hole instead if stove cement I put plumbers putty in it for now ,the stove hasn’t changed in operating it at all, albeit I will have to be extra careful not to break it beyond what I have done, I figure in he off season I will, look for a used glass or better priced. Then when and if it breaks the rest if the way I will have the backup ready and will get my money out of both items , my stove was only 3 years old.Luckily I live we’re wood is. Reasonable and it certainly way cheaper than out eclectic furnace.Something I did find at the local auto stores is a 12 Oz can of. High temp silicone spray that works for 1500-2000 degrees F the cost is 11 dollars so if you have a lot of cracks a person could certainly use this. As a way to stabilise the glass and seal cracks safely.
    Design Engineering Black Hi-Temp Silicone Coating Spray
    Part No. 010301, thanks for your post , I like your way of seeing things.

    • Posted March 6, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for the tips. My stove repair ended up failing after a while (the glue just didn’t adhere in the heat), and I ended up inserting a thin piece of steel over the broken part. I left the glass in place with the steel backing it. It is holding up fine now.

      There’s often a way to repair most things, but we have to get very creative to do so.

      Scott

  3. Julia Bucklew
    Posted March 4, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Boy, oh boy…this article is just what I was asking Jesus to help me in solving my problem. I have a jotul big bear F118 and the corner of the glass in the door broke. It is a clean break and I was trying to find a solution to how to “glue” it back…
    I am going to use the solution you used. Thank you so much for sharing your solution. It has saved me lots of money….and it being the end of our wood stove season…I am thankful for you.

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