J-B Weld is an American company which specialises in high-temperature epoxy adhesive for use in bonding materials together. There’s plenty of companies offering this type of product, but J-B Weld was good enough to send us some to fool around with, and to make an expert available to help us with a few queries.
Most adventure riders would be familiar with the concept of an epoxy bonding agent. Araldite is probably the best-known. A squirt from Tube A, a squirt form Tube B, mix thoroughly and everything from a patch on the hull of a deep-sea fishing trawler to the handle of grandma’s gravy boat can be as good as new.
J-B Weld has taken epoxy bonding agents to incredible levels of specialisation though, and we were a little bewildered after a recent repair used the last of our stock and sent us in search of a replacement.
Most riders probably carry the putty-type epoxy. There are tubes of fluid available – like Araldite – but they’re prone to bursting in the rough and tumble of a motorcycle tool roll. A flexible stick of putty handles the knocks better. The most common arrangement we’ve seen – and the one we carry ourselves – has the two different-coloured parts wrapped around each other in a sausage-type arrangement. It’s just a matter of slicing off a disc, squishing it around over and over until it has a fairly uniform colour, then applying it to the job. We’ve done a couple of engine cases – most memorably one after the first section of an Australian Four Day Enduro championship which lasted the rest of the event – and have never had the repair fail. If the epoxy is applied to clean surfaces and allowed to cure it’s rock-solid reliable in our experience.
Anyhoo, we recently had to do a steel fuel tank with a hole in it – another successful repair, and the bike is still running with the patch in place – and that meant looking for a new stick of putty to put in the tool roll. We bowled into the auto shop and nearly shat ourselves at the huge range of specific-use material available from J-B weld.
After standing there making pathetic whimpering noises for a while, we sought help.
Ben Leonard, sales manager at HPP Lunds, the importer of J-B Weld, had a quiet chuckle when we explained our situation.
“SteelStik is probably the best general-purpose product for motorcycles,” he bonded. “You’re only talking about a four-inch cylinder, so it’s compact and easy to use. You can just use your fingers to knead the two epoxy components together. Once they’re a smooth colour and a consistent mix, it’s good to go.
“For ease of use it’s a lot more convenient than liquid epoxies.”
We’ve always wondered about storing the putty after we’ve cut off a chunk. We’ve been covering the open end with insulation tape and that seems to work okay, and it’s not unusual for the stick of putty to stay in our kit for several years. Hopefully it’s not something we get to use too often.
“That’ll work perfectly,” said Ben, adhering to the topic.
“Obviously keep it in the airtight cylinder supplied. We guarantee the product for an approximately two- to three-year shelf life. If it can be kept at a fairly constant temperature, that’ll help as well. If the product in your kit is really getting old, it may mean it’ll need to be kneaded for a bit longer, but it’ll probably still be okay.”
The other common repair for adventure riders is plastics. It’s not so common for a plastic repair to be a life-and-death option, like, say, and engine case in the middle of summer at Poeppel Corner – but it still can be an important repair, not least for preventing further damage to expensive screens and fairings. Damage to fuel and water tanks, of course, can be as serious as buggery.
We thought we were on to it with PlasticWeld epoxy putty, and discovered just how specialised J-B Weld’s products can be.
“It’s very difficult to find an adhesive that does polyethylene and polypropylene products,’ said Ben. “The one we come closest with is PlasticBonder. It’s a two-part bonder in a syringe, and the big benefit with that product, especially for motorcycles, is it allows for vibration and the flexing of the plastics.
“PlasticWeld is good for rigid plastics where there’s no movement of the parts.”
For the rider who wants to be prepared for absolutely anything – like Chris Bostelman – J-B Weld has an Essential Travel Pack. It ran in last issue’s Checkout, so you can get the important info there, but it’s pretty much a selection of essential epoxy repair gear in one compact pack. The interesting thing about the Essential Travel Pack is, it’s an Aussie innovation.
“It’s something we put together locally,” glowed Ben.
“It’s a small kit that basically provides a gluing or repairing option for most application surfaces. It comes with WaterWeld, a unique product that will set and cure underwater – it’s diesel-resistent, too – SteelStik, PlasticWeld, Ultimate Grey gasket maker and sealant, and KwikWeld twin tubes.”
Nobody is better prepared to repair, rebuild or remodel just about anything, anywhere, under the worst possible circumstances, than Adventure Moto’s Chris Bostelman. When it comes to calm damage assement and innovative repair he’s the bull-goose fixit man.
Chris has been carrying an Essential Travel Pack for while and he shared his gluey, sticky thoughts.
“For more than a decade adventure riding has taught me to be prepared,” said Chris. “Carrying repair putty has kept myself and many other riders moving after indiscretions between handlebars and the dirt.
“If it’s a minimalist trip I carry SteelStik and WaterWeld. The travel pack is an easy choice if you’ve got half a dozen mates coming along for a week-long adventure. I’ve repaired radiators, fuel tanks, engine cases, clutch covers, tent poles, chairs, water-pump housings and cylinder-head covers.”
“You can’t go wrong with following the instructions when handling chemicals,” Chris Bostelman explained. “Here’s a practical example if you’re fixing damage to an engine cover.”
Chris has seen repairs like these last 10,000km with no leaks until the bike was next serviced. J-B Weld really is that good.
Clean the area with your glove to remove debris. Remove any foreign objects from the area to be repaired. For maximum adhesion, rough up the area with whatever you have on hand. I keep some sandpaper and a multitool with a file and knife for this task. Wipe with a clean rag and some petrol to remove any grease and grime. Dipping a rag into the tank is an easy way, or you can pull a fuel line.
Mix equal portions of the two compounds from the SteelStik tube. Knead them together until you get a uniform colour. The mix should have no streaks and will start to get warm. Apply to the broken cover. Starting on the inside, apply approximately 10mm of extra cover beyond the crack or hole and work through to the outside.
Spread the excess across the outside face to create another flat area to help anchor the repair. Apply pressure to both the inside and outside surfaces of the repair at the same time to ensure good compaction and no air pockets. Smooth the surface with soapy water. I use my visor-cleaning spray. Soapy water will also help clean up your hands and any tools.
Allow to set. It’s clear to see even with this case filled with oil there’s no leak. Reassemble and ride on.