On Car Repair and Duct Tape

 It’s always struck me as strange that a lot of folks will, when they learn that my day job involves fixing stuff, make some remark about how I must use a lot of duct tape. I also get a particular Internet meme shared with me: It’s a guide to fixes of all kinds, consisting of two questions:

1. Does it GO and it’s supposed to stay put? (Answer: Use duct tape!)

2. Does it STAY PUT and it needs to go? (Answer: Use WD-40!)

Now, I do use WD-40 and other penetrating greases on occasion, but I have to admit: I hate using duct tape for general repairs, and I generally refuse to use it at work for any purpose other than taping thick rugs down over spots where our tile floor breaks. As a means of fastening things together, I personally feel that if I resort to duct tape, I’ve failed as a professional. Yeah, it’s one of those weird “honor” things. We’ve all got an honor thing about something, and duct tape is one of mine. (Another? Papermate and Bic pens. Yuck!)

But there is one repair for which I used duct tape without regret. It was a repair–you know what, let’s put quotes on that, because even I can’t call this a genuine repair–there’s one “repair” I made using duct tape. One time my car door wasn’t closing all the way. It would feel closed, but it wouldn’t be registering as closed. The “Door Ajar” warning light would come on, and even more annoyingly, the dome light would come on as well. I find the dome light enormously distracting when I’m driving in darkness, so this was a frustration. This went on for a few days until I realized what the problem was. It was related to…the seatbelt.

There’s this weird thing that tends to happen to me in cars: the seat belt doesn’t retract all the way, like it’s supposed to. This happens to me a lot. I don’t know if it’s something about the shape of my body or something, if the belt twists in such a way when I use it that it doesn’t snap all the way back, or if it’s a thing that happens to everybody. But once in a while, the seat belt will stop retracting and just kind of hang loose. More often than not, then, the belt hangs into the damned door frame, so when I go to shut the door I close it on the seat belt itself, sometimes catching the entire buckle between the door and the frame. This in turn results in the door not closing properly, but latching enough that I have to unlock the door to fix things.

So: I turn the car off, unlatch the seatbelt and flick it to my left, from where its spring-loaded mechanism is supposed to retract it. Then I pay no attention as I grab whatever I need and get out of the car. Most times I shut the door and go about things normally…but once in a while, I hear an obnoxious metallic CRUNCH sound and notice that the door is not closed. The damned seatbelt has caught in the door frame again! I swear a few times, take care of business by opening the door and untwisting the belt so it can do its thing correctly, and then close the door again.


One time, the buckle managed to get in between the door and the frame at the exact spot where the door’s shape is supposed to depress the door switch that tells the car that the door ain’t open. And of course the damned buckle dented the door at that exact spot. It’s a tiny dent, so tiny you can’t even see it unless you’re poring over the door itself trying to figure out why the door-close switch isn’t working. The switch itself is working just fine, see! With the car turned on and the door open, you can press it with your finger and make the car think the door is shut!

Yup. That tiny dent, barely a fingernail’s thickness in depth? That was sufficient to make the door not click the switch. I couldn’t see any feasible way of repairing the door to make the switch work myself, and I sure as hell wasn’t taking the car to the shop for this dumb repair, which I could see resulting in a whole new door. Screw that.

So…enter the duct tape.

A disposable wipe cloth, folded up and taped to the door at that spot? That worked wonders.

Stupid duct tape.

Damnable Duct Tape!

I hope this doesn’t come up too much when I’m sitting around the fires in the halls of Repair Valhalla.

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2 Responses to On Car Repair and Duct Tape

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    Bic pens? What do you have against Bic pens? I used to use them a lot 20 -30 years ago. What do YOU use, an inkwell?!

  2. Bill says:

    The duct tape/WD-40 duality resembles the basic principle of dermatology: If it's wet, make it dry; if it's dry, make it wet

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