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Getting past the stigma of repairing plastic automotive parts

by Douglas Craig, Structural Adhesives Applications Engineering Manager & Collision Repair Industry Liaison, LORD Corporation

Douglas Craig, Structural Adhesives Applications Engineering Manager & Collision Repair Industry Liaison

Douglas Craig

Each year, there are thousands of plastic automotive parts that can be repaired – and done so profitably – rather than being replaced. However, there has been a stigma in the automotive repair industry that plastic car parts are not repairable and can only be replaced once they are damaged.

While this might have been true many years ago, recent developments in repair materials and processes have made it much simpler to choose repair over replacement. In the past, some of the repair procedures have been very cumbersome, and the type of plastic material had to be correctly identified in order to determine which repair product to use on the damaged part. The technician had to determine if the plastic material was flexible or semi-flexible, rigid or semi-rigid – and often a consensus could not be reached among several technicians. Adding to this challenge was the lack of any useful repair products for plastic parts.

A new era of repair products – adhesives specifically formulated for repairing bumpers, bumper tabs, emblems, headlamp modules, grilles, cladding, and door trims – has changed this. Now, the technician just chooses among a few products and only needs to know that the part is plastic – not the type of plastic material. Repairing a damaged car part is as simple as identifying the damaged part and choosing a repair adhesive.

The question of “repair vs. replace” can be profitably answered by using repair adhesives. Almost any plastic part can be effectively repaired with an adhesive. Staples – essentially “heated stakes” – is another tool for plastic repairs, which involves pressing the stakes directly into the plastic. Once this part of the procedure is done, the staples need to cool before the ends are removed. “Staples” are a practical plastic repair procedure and useful for repairing parts with large tears. As with all repairs, it is important to follow OEM guidelines when using a stapling procedure for plastic repairs and note that applying adhesives over the staple is not recommended or warrantied by many adhesive manufacturers.

When deciding on whether to repair or replace a part, be sure to consider the cost of the new part, time and labor for repairing the broken part, the age of the vehicle, and the manufacturer and model of the vehicle. For a simple repair on a less-expensive vehicle, it might be worth it to replace the part. If the replacement procedure involves excessive disassembly work, it might also be more beneficial to use a repair adhesive. Customer satisfaction is always of prime importance and the customer should be reassured that a good, reliable repair can be made with quality repair adhesives.

An automotive technician must also decide if a damaged part requires a structural or a cosmetic repair. Appearance is one of the big determining factors when considering structural vs. cosmetic repairs. A structural repair is usually warranted when a part is broken off from another section such as a headlamp mounting tab or torn bumper tab. A repair adhesive may be used to bond the part together.

For example, if the bumper cover is torn through – i.e. punctured – this is a structural repair requiring a backing patch. If the bumper cover sustained scratches only on the surface, this is a cosmetic repair requiring proper preparation, filling, sanding, and repainting. Parts such as bumper tabs and headlamp-mounting tabs can be easily repaired with adhesives.

To learn more about repair adhesives, click here.

Pictured above and below are pre- and post-structural repairs of a bumper using Fusor Repair Adhesives.

Fusor, Lord Fusor, bumper repair, 132/133, 132, 133




How to make plastic repairs with adhesives properly and profitably

by Douglas Craig, Structural Adhesives Applications Engineering Manager & Collision Repair Industry Liaison

Douglas Craig, Structural Adhesives Applications Engineering Manager & Collision Repair Industry Liaison
Douglas Craig

While making plastic repairs with structural adhesives is relatively simple, it is important to understand the product being used and to carefully follow instructions to guarantee optimal results. Profitability comes from doing repairs properly – the first time.

A good rule of thumb is, “Slow down to go faster!” You only want to make a repair once. There is no profit gained in having to redo a repair, especially since the second repair might have to be done free-of-charge to gain customer satisfaction.

Spend the time needed to make the repair properly and be sure to follow the procedures recommended by the adhesive supplier.

Here are some guidelines to follow when using adhesives to guarantee successful plastic repairs:


  • Surface preparation – clean the front and back of the surface using the recommended cleaner.
  • Backing patch – a backing patch is required if the damage penetrates through the part, such as a bumper cover.
  • Sanding – for certain repairs use a sander or sandpaper to prepare the surface for proper adhesion.


  • Surface modifier or adhesion promoter – use the recommended surface modifier or adhesion promoter before applying the adhesive.
  • Equal mix – two component adhesives require leveling of the plungers. Typically, a bead of adhesive should be dispensed through the mixer before it is applied to the repair area.


  • Curing times – follow the manufacturer’s suggested curing times to guarantee optimal repair adhesion. In some instances, parts may require clamping or taping during the curing process, or the use of a heat gun.
  • Sanding – follow the manufacturer’s recommended sand times to finish sanding the adhesive.

One of the biggest failure situations that occur in the automotive repair industry is not allowing the proper time for each procedure to reach its finishing point, before moving to the next step. This is where “Slow down to go faster” can really make a difference in the final outcome. Make sure that cleaning solvents and surface modifiers are allowed to dry for the recommended time. Rushing these procedures or steps may result in failure. If the repair adhesive is applied before the proper drying time is reached, the adhesive may not hold and the repair may fail.

When repairing plastic automotive components, apply the adhesive and spread it evenly to ensure the best adhesion.
When repairing plastic automotive components, apply the adhesive and spread it evenly to ensure the best adhesion.

Respect written cure times before sanding or other finishing procedures. Do not rely on observation to determine if the adhesive is cured. Follow the recommended curing time before handling or completing work on the repaired part. When using primer or paint, follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.

When used properly, some manufacturers’ repair adhesives carry a lifetime warranty. Repairing plastic car parts is both practical and profitable, and will garner customer satisfaction. It is crucial, though, to respect each adhesive manufacturer’s product line to guarantee the best results.

Fusor_blog_How to make plastic repairs properly and profitabily_Emblem (21) (Custom)
Spend the time needed to make the repair properly and be sure to follow the procedures recommended by the adhesive supplier.

Do not combine repair products from different suppliers; they could be chemically incompatible and compromise the outcome of the repair or cause harm to repair personnel. Use the complete product line of repair products recommended from the repair product manufacturer. Not doing so could negate the warranty.

Always stay within one manufacturer’s process – bottom-to-top – from surface preparation to final finishing.

Adhesives provide a solution to making durable repairs and increase a body shop’s profitability, all while ensuring customer satisfaction.

Are you using crash-durable adhesives at your facility? Tell us about it here.

What you need to know about aluminum vehicle repair and crash-durable adhesives

by Douglas Craig, Technical Application Engineer & Collision Industry Liaison, Structural Adhesives Tech Service, LORD Corporation

Aluminum’s light weight makes it an ideal autobody substrate as an environmentally-friendly, cost-effective method for increasing performance, boosting fuel economy and reducing emissions while maintaining or improving safety and durability.

Douglas-Craig-edited photo
Douglas Craig

Auto OEMs are using crash durable adhesives in the manufacturing process, and will be recommending similar type adhesives for repair operations to return vehicles to pre-accident condition.

Two-component crash-durable adhesives for repair have been formulated to replace all OEM one-component crash-durable adhesives. The crash-durable adhesives allow you to duplicate the original vehicle right down to the adhesive.

Reference is often made to one-component and two-component, or 1K and 2K, materials. This designation refers to how many materials are applied as a bead or are mixed to be applied as a bead. A one-component material is applied as received from the supplier, whereas a two-component material is mixed together during the application.

Most of the vehicles produced today, whether aluminum- or steel-bodied, are assembled with a one-component crash-durable adhesive, whereas the repair version of the crash-durable adhesive is a two-component formulation. Here’s the reason for the differences:

When OEMs assemble cars with crash-durable adhesives, the vehicles go through a heat-curing process for the adhesive, along with drying processes for the paint and/or e-coating. The one-component crash-durable adhesive is made to withstand temperatures up to 400° F. All of this heat allows the chemistry in the one-component adhesive to cure.

In the collision repair shop, it is not possible to place a repaired vehicle into such high temperatures for the curing process. The two-component epoxy formulation allows repairs to be made to vehicles that match the original adhesive application.

Crash-durable adhesives not only have the strength of structural adhesives, they also provide exceptional toughness. This is why they are sometimes referred to as “impact-toughened” adhesives. Crash-durable adhesives are extremely flexible, with the ability to stretch without losing their effectiveness.

Flexibility is especially crucial in crash mode situations. Crash-durable adhesives will not “micro-fracture” in a “crush-and-crash” mode as with standard structural adhesives. Therefore, joints will hold together better and not lose their strength during a crash. This is especially important when considering that thinner substrates, such as aluminum, tend to “move around” more during a crash, and the flexibility of the adhesives helps to hold the joints together.

Crash-durable adhesives, for repair procedures, are used to replace all the original equipment locations of OEM-applied crash-durable adhesives. Typically, these areas are between all the metal panels and in sections such as A-, B- and C-pillars, and other locations including roof joints and engine box joints. They can be used for panel bonding, weld bonding and rivet bonding of aluminum panels.

Though application methods for these adhesives are similar to conventional structural adhesives, technicians might be “startled” by their appearance. Crash-durable adhesives are highly pigmented and come in colors such as purple, orange, red, and blue.Offering both strength and sealing functions, crash-durable adhesives provide a sealant to the vehicle‘s body structure and a bonding method. If there is any doubt as to whether the OEM adhesive is crash durable, use a crash-durable adhesive in the repair.

For repair, it is important to understand that colors do not need to be matched. For example, a purple OEM adhesive can be replaced with a blue repair adhesive as long as that repair adhesive meets the OEM requirements.

Understanding repair product selection for seam sealers and foams in collision repair

by Douglas Craig, Technical Application Engineer & Collision Industry Liaison, Structural Adhesives Tech Service, LORD Corporation

When using foam repair products and seam sealers in collision repair to restore vehicles to pre-accident condition, a repair technician needs to understand when and how to use these materials.

Douglas-Craig-edited photo

Douglas Craig

A repair operation should begin with a review of the OEM’s repair documentation to see if specific products are indicated for repair. The technician should look closely at the material that needs to be replaced while dismantling the vehicle. If the OEM has not specified recommended repair products, try to duplicate as closely as possible the material that you are touching.

Foam repair products used in collision repair are available in two-component formulations and two densities. Soft foams offer anti-flutter properties; and firmer, denser foams control air flow and noise through vehicle cavities. The dense foams are used in any area where an inner and outer layer of steel can cause a noise path.

Two-component foams come in a cartridge formulation and cure through a rapid chemical reaction, not heat. The repair materials, Part A and Part B, mix together as they are applied and will begin to expand and cure within seconds. They cure quickly, helping to speed repairs.

Sealers are available in both one- and two-component formulations. Two-component sealers will cure through a chemical reaction; one-component sealers cure through a moisture reaction. Certain one-component sealers, such as windshield urethane, will not attain a strong bond directly to metal. For metal-to-metal applications, use DTM (direct-to-metal) sealers for the best results and corrosion protection.

There are three methods for using seam sealers:

  1. Weld-through sealers – the sealer is applied in the joint between panels; the sealer is welded through by resistance-spot welding or the panels are held together by mechanical fasteners, such as rivets
  2. Applied over a joint to cosmetically hide or seal the joint
  3. LASD – Liquid-Applied Sound Deadener – a seam sealer applied to a panel to add mass or stiffen or create an insulting layer. The LASD can be applied by trowel or spray

In some repair applications, a foam product used in production can be replaced with a sealer, if the foam’s purpose was to close gaps between car panels. During car assembly, panels do not always fit together perfectly in order to provide the tolerances needed to build the car. In these instances, the OEM will apply a foam product to fill the gaps.

Learn more about seam sealers and foams for collision repair by reading, “Restoring vehicles to pre-accident condition with seam sealers and foams.”

For a video on using seam sealers in collision repair, click here.


Sealers are available in both one- and two-component formulations. Two-component sealers will cure through a chemical reaction; one-component sealers cure through a moisture reaction. Older technology sealers cured through evaporation of solvents. Certain one-component sealers, such as windshield urethane, will not attain a strong bond directly to metal. For metal-to-metal applications, use DTM (direct-to-metal) sealers for the best results and corrosion protection.


Restoring vehicles to pre-accident collision with repair seam sealers and foams

by Douglas Craig, Technical Application Engineer & Collision Industry Liaison, Structural Adhesives Tech Service, LORD Corporation

A collision repair shop technician’s goal is to restore a damaged car to its pre-accident condition, which fulfills both OEM and safety requirements and satisfies the customer. To return a damaged vehicle to its “as-built” condition, repair shops need to use materials that are equivalent to those used in the original manufacture.

Repair seam sealers and foams can be used in vehicle repair to duplicate the look and performance of original OEM parts.

Douglas-Craig-edited photo

Douglas Craig

While it is not possible to exactly duplicate the seam sealers and foams used in OEM production, the repair products that are available will produce equivalent results. This is apparent with two-component seam sealers and foams used for repair vs. one-component OEM products. Different types or formulations of repair products can still provide the same outcome.

Car manufacturers use seam sealers and foams to control noise, vibration and harshness/corrosion (NVH) almost anywhere in a vehicle body. OEMs primarily use one-component products which cure during the e-coating process. However, two-component products sometimes are installed in the paint shop after curing the e-coating.

Typically, two-component seam sealers and foams are used in the repair process, since the heat system needed to cure a one-component material is not feasible for a repair shop. Two-component products/materials allow the repair technician to achieve the same quality or characteristics that are evident in the component being repaired.

Here is how OEMs use seam sealer and foam products in vehicle production:

  • Noise control – Foams eliminate air movement in the auto-body shell; when air movement is curtailed, noise is reduced.
  • Sound and vibration dampening – LASDs (Liquid-Applied Sound Deadeners) are used to dampen vibration and noise in floor panels, vehicle underbodies and inner cabins.
  • Harshness – Sealers and foams are used to provide a “smooth” ride for the driver and the passenger by eliminating air gaps that can lead to a “bumpy” ride
  • Corrosion protection – Specially formulated sealers and foams are used to prevent various car parts from corroding.

Look for Part 2 on seam sealers and foams for collision repair, “Understanding repair product selection for seam sealers and foams in collision repair.” 

For a video on using seam sealers in collision repair, click here.

A Guide to Seam Sealers and Foam from LORD Corporation


The technicalities and techniques of weld bonding

by Douglas Craig, Technical Application Engineer & Collision Industry Liaison, Structural Adhesives Tech Service, LORD Corporation

Although weld bonding is not a new technology, knowing how and when to use weld bonding in the repair process can help technicians become more productive, and ultimately lead to higher customer satisfaction metrics for the repair body shop.

Douglas-Craig-edited photo

Douglas Craig

The weld bonding process uses adhesive bonding and resistance spot welding to deliver a sealed joint that is stronger than either of these procedures used individually. After the adhesive is applied and the parts are assembled, spot welding is done through the adhesive. The adhesive is then cured to complete the assembly.

Repair weld bonding not only duplicates the original OEM manufacturing construction but also reduces the Heat Affect Zone (HAZ). HAZ refers to the portion of metal surrounding a weld that has not been welded (melted), but has had its properties altered during the welding process. It is crucial to keep the HAZ as small as possible in order to not weaken the original properties of the parent material.

However, weld bonding is more than just “putting adhesive on a part” – liability issues can develop if the repair job is not properly executed. Furthermore, if a repair technician is not using the appropriate repair products and the approved procedures, a vehicle will not be restored to its pre-loss condition, and the customer will not be satisfied.

In the weld bonding process, squeeze-type resistance spot welding (STRSW or RSW) is used as opposed to metal inert gas (MIG) or metal active gas (MAG) welding techniques. STRSW forms a welded attachment similar to the original assembly. With STRSW, the weld joint is not impacted by the zinc coatings present in the substrate steel metals.

Along with STRSW, the weld bonding process uses a structural metal adhesive in the middle of a joint or assembly. The STRSW can weld right through the adhesive to provide a complete, bonded interface for replacing structural or non-structural auto body panels. The adhesive significantly increases the strength of the joint.

So how does a repair technician know when to use weld bonding, or MIG or MAG welding, to repair a damaged vehicle? And which are the correct adhesives and bonding sealants to use? Presently, there are no industry standards that can help with these determinations. It is necessary, therefore, to rely on each individual car manufacturer’s recommendations for repair techniques and products. There are courses offered that teach weld bonding, and collision shop owners should also confer with their product suppliers for “how-to” information.

By law, all auto OEMs must provide servicing and repair information to the general public. Most auto manufacturers’ websites feature some level of information that relates to collision repair and auto body rebuilding instructions. While it is easy to access an auto OEM site, it can be confusing to navigate each site to find the repair information.

To make it easier to find specific auto model repair instructions, the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), at www.nastf.org, provides access to auto OEM websites. NASTF’s site, oem1stop.com, has direct links to over 60 auto manufacturers and their OEM Electric/Hybrid Vehicle Handling Guidelines.

Welding training and certification courses are offered from the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair I-CAR (www.i-car.com). I-CAR not only offers courses on STRSW and other welding techniques, it can also perform a comprehensive evaluation of your collision repair facility and equipment to ensure that it is equipped to perform safe and proper welds.

Suppliers of weld bonding adhesives are another good source for training information. Many suppliers host in-house training courses or feature training videos on their websites with details on how to use weld bonding adhesives for repairing damaged auto panels. Speak to your supplier about how you can access these programs to help educate collision repair technicians.

Crash-durable, structural metal-bonding adhesives are designed to replace all OEM one-component crash durable adhesives, returning vehicles to pre-accident condition. They are ideal for weld bonding of replacement structural and non-structural autobody panels. Crash durable adhesives offer higher impact strength performance, excellent corrosion protection, and are immediately weldable after application.

Proper application of the weld bonding adhesive is also crucial to achieving a successful repair. Carefully follow both the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines for replacement panel fastening and the removal of any metal coatings, and the supplier’s instructions for applying the weld bonding adhesive. When the proper metal preparation, product preparation and application procedures are followed, the weld bonding adhesive will provide an excellent bond with corrosion-protection properties. Once the adhesive is cured, it can be painted.

Increasing your business with alternative revenue streams

by Douglas Craig, Technical Application Engineer & Collision Industry Liaison, Structural Adhesives Tech Service, LORD Corporation

As the automotive collision repair market contracts across the country, the market is becoming more competitive; consequently, many shops are looking for alternative revenue streams.

Douglas-Craig-edited photo

Douglas Craig

There are many reasons why the auto collision repair industry is shrinking, including automobile construction, environmental regulations, repair equipment costs, an aging workforce, and retaining employees. Technological advancements in auto manufacturing have led to vehicles that are built to last longer. Safety innovations, such as collision avoidance systems not only help to prevent accidents by warning the driver of a potential collision, but, ultimately, also reduce the number of damaged cars that need repairs.

Some auto collision repair shops are finding it difficult to remain in business due to the expense of keeping pace with increased environmental regulations. Auto body painting restrictions, solvent recycling, hazardous waste considerations, and personnel safety equipment needs are all areas that require investment to meet government standards for shop operation. Even though these standards are good for the environment and personnel, they add to the costs of running a repair shop.

Repairing vehicles other than automobiles should not incur any extra investment for an auto body repair shop, nor does it require any extraordinary knowledge, techniques, products, or tools. Any vehicle that can be repaired and sold for market value can be an additional source of income.

The substrate body materials on ATVs, boats, snowmobiles and other recreational vehicles are similar to those found on autos. Collision repair shop technicians will be familiar with these materials – plastics, composites, aluminum, metals, fiberglass – and the products used to repair damage to these substrates. It is likely that no initial investment will be required to repair other types of vehicles.

Larger repair shops, such as those geared towards the heavy-duty trucking industry, might also consider repairing equipment used in farming, construction and industrial settings. The idea is to keep the focus on vehicles that can physically fit into your facility layout – automobile-size vehicles for a smaller shop and larger pieces of equipment for heavy-duty facilities.  As an alternative, consider going into the field to perform repair operations.

If you have satisfied, regular customers that trust your shop and its technicians, you can build on that relationship to attract new business to repair different types of vehicles other than autos. Similarly, a customer that has been consistently using your repair shop and is happy with the service might be overlooking your shop as a potential place to repair these vehicles. The convenience of using a local repair shop can be a big draw for both existing and new customers.

There should be no concern about what repair products or equipment are required for repairing recreational vehicles – it’s the same products that are used for auto repair! Auto collision repair shops have these products on hand, ready to repair any vehicle – metal-bonding adhesives, plastic-bonding adhesives, cross-bonding adhesives, repair adhesives for rigid and flexible substrates, two-component seam sealers. The same tools and equipment are used for repair operations, also, such as manual and pneumatic dispensing guns for adhesives and seam sealers.

Many suppliers also offer informational sheets featuring Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for properly bonding metal or fixing plastic substrates in any application. The SOPs offer details on identifying a repair, choosing the right repair product, preparing the substrate surface, applying the repair product, and finishing the repair. Technical tips teach technicians the key steps for repairing damaged vehicles, and help with determining if repairs are cosmetic or structural.

Repairing alternate types of vehicles is really simpler than you might expect. If you are bonding metals on a snowmobile, you are still bonding metal. If you are repairing a flexible plastic part, you are still fixing a flexible plastic part. If you are bonding aluminum-to-aluminum or aluminum-to-steel or steel-to-steel or steel-to-fiberglass on any type of vehicle, the repair products and processes are still the same.

For an auto collision repair shop, diversifying the repair menu can be a potential revenue stream. Bringing in different types of vehicles for repair can keep a shop functioning and busy, and help with employee retention, while providing better overall service to an expanding customer base.

What you need to know about repairing carbon fiber

by Douglas Craig, Technical Application Engineer & Collision Industry Liaison, Structural Adhesives Tech Service, LORD Corporation

Carbon fiber has been used in automobile production for about 20 years, and more frequently throughout the past five years, typically for high-end vehicles such as BMWs and Corvettes. Carbon fiber is composed of thin carbon filaments that are bound together with a plastic polymer resin to form a composite material. The fibers are woven into a complex weave that is both strong and lightweight. Carbon fiber does not contain any metal elements.

Douglas CraigMost collision shops will be making structural repairs to cosmetic carbon fiber panels. The repair shop technician will be fixing the outer skin of a vehicle – a ready-to-repair type of damage – such as a scratch on the surface of a hood or a small hole in a door panel.

As an example, if a Corvette has a visible carbon roof that is scratched, a repair can be made if the roof will be painted. With a light cosmetic scratch, the panel can be clear-coated to hide the scratch. But if the carbon fibers are torn, a repair patch would be visible and not acceptable to the customer. For replacement procedures, a mechanically fastened or bonded carbon fiber component can be replaced in the shop.

The decision to repair or replace a carbon fiber component is the same as with any metal or composite component – analyze the damage and estimate the time it will take for repair vs. the cost of a part replacement. For instance, if there is damage to a carbon fiber hood on a Shelby Mustang, a technician can spend several days recreating the hood, painting it and getting it ready for the customer. If it makes good business sense to repair the hood, rather than spend $15,000 on a new hood, then that would be the best decision. If you can do the repair, that is the key, and the answer to “repair vs. replace.”

Visibility of a repair is another factor that enters into the decision-making process for repair vs. replace. If the carbon fiber component is painted on the outside surface and the backside of the repair will not be visible, the repair can be made and should be acceptable to the customer. A visible repair would probably not be considered satisfactory.

For example, a repair made to a carbon fiber hood on a Corvette might look good from the outside after it is painted, but if you can see the patch on the underside of the hood when you open the hood, this might not be acceptable to the customer. Corvette owners want their vehicles to look good both outside and inside, so in this instance, a replacement would be preferable.

There are no special tools, equipment, product, or training required for repairing or replacing of a carbon fiber component. Any of the products that are currently used to repair fiber-reinforced plastics and fiberglass can be used for cosmetic repair of body panels, hoods, decks, and doors.

Some of these products include heat-set plastic panel repair adhesives, flexible and rigid foams, plastic bonding adhesives, and plastic-to-metal bonding adhesives. Consult your repair product supplier for information on which products are suitable for repairing carbon fiber parts. Your supplier will also have instruction sheets with preparation, application and finishing techniques for carbon fiber repairs.