THE MECHANIC’S BEST FRIENDS: WD-40 AND GAFFER TAPE

26 April 2017 from THE CLAN MOTOGUZZI

If you were stranded on a desert Island, just you and your bike, and you could only choose 2 things to have by your side, what would these be?

Never mind food, telephones and all those other things that are inextricably tied to our very existence as human beings (but actually of secondary importance only), if we want to ensure that our bikes carry on going for a long time then the most obvious choices are WD-40 and gaffer tape. It is said that with these two items we can fix any problem, whether motorcycle-related or not.

Here is the story of how these bestsellers were born and some of the most interesting and creative ways that we have found to use them.

WD-40
Penetrating oil to loosen stuck bolts and nuts, water repellent, rust remover, stain remover, polishing liquid, anti-ageing product and even excellent as a men’s cologne. Ok, let’s face it, the last two uses are perhaps a little over the top (don’t try this at home), but it is undeniable that this virtually miraculous liquid is one of any mechanic’s most faithful and reliable allies.

WD-40 is an acronym that stands for “Water Displacement, 40th formula”, where the “40” stands for the number of different formulae tested by San Diego California inventor Norm Larsen before finally coming up with the perfect rust remover recipe back in 1953. Norm developed this product specifically to protect nuclear missiles against the ravages of water, but the product was soon being widely used in various other fields, including in domestic applications, before it was first marketed in 1958.

The precise recipe of WD-40 is still a closely guarded secret to this day but what we do know is that the key to its success is that it works exceptionally well and is easy to use. The lubricating and protective ingredients are diluted with a volatile hydrocarbon to lower the viscosity so that the product can be sprayed on and will penetrate into any crack. The volatile hydrocarbon then evaporates, leaving behind a viscous lubricating oil.

When and how to use WD-40 on your bike. The main and most well-known uses for this product include the following: as a penetrating fluid to loosen stuck nuts and bolts, to prevent rust and to remove tar and petrol stains from vehicle bodywork. After applying WD-40 and leaving to soak for a few hours, screws, nuts, bolts and small rusty metal parts can be cleaned off and loosened easily without any risk of the typical kind of damage usually caused by acids, such as occurs with the old home-remedy using Coca-Cola (but that’s another story altogether).

It is however better not to use WD-40 as a lubricant for any O-ring chains, not so much because it attacks rubber but because its extremely low viscosity enables it to penetrate between the chain links, removing all the grease trapped inside by the seals. For those of you whose bikes have a shaft-drive, things obviously just got a lot simpler.

Then there are many other somewhat more unconventional uses for this product such as, for example, it is perfect for loosening up stuck zips on garments, it is an excellent insect repellent, it removes chewing gum and stains from carpets and rugs and finally, it is sufficient to spray a light coat onto a snow shovel to prevent the snow from sticking to it.

Gaffer tape or duct tape
We all know what this is, partly thanks to all the Hollywood movies in which this silver-coloured tape is often used to gag the victim in kidnapping or torture scenes. Excellent for quick repairs, protecting components, sealing pipes and for any task that requires a really strong adhesive tape, however, its actual potential uses are only limited by the creativity of the individual user.

Some people have even turned its use into an art form and, incredible as it may seem, it has even been touted as an effective way to remove warts. As regards this tape’s strength, the myths are legend. In the well known television series MythBusters, its strength was put to the ultimate test when duct tape alone was used to lift and hold a car up in the air and to build a working cannon, a sailing boat and a thirty-metre long suspension bridge.

But where and how was gaffer tape or duct tape actually born? Its origins date back to the Second World War when Vesta Stoudt, a factory worker and mother of two sons who were seamen in the U.S. Navy, wrote to then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to inform him about a type gaffer tape that she had been testing in the factory. The tape, which could be cut by hand, was designed for sealing ammunition boxes and would save the troops in battle precious time. 
This green tape, which was strong but easy to apply and remove, was immediately put to use for emergency repairs to weapons, vehicles and military equipment. After the war ended, the gaffer tape became generally available in hardware stores and initially being called “duck tape”, retaining the slang name given to it by the soldiers, probably due to its being waterproof much like the feathers of a duck or after the DUKW amphibious vehicle (pronounced “duck”). The silver colour and the “Duct Tape” name by which it is known today in most English speaking countries actually comes from its widespread utilisation in the building industry from the 1950s onwards to seal metal air-conditioning ducts.

Another interesting snippet of information is that according to NASA Engineer Jerry Woodfill, duct tape has been standard equipment on every space mission since the Gemini programme. This tape has been used by engineers and astronauts alike to carry out various emergency repairs.

All in all, if gaffer tape can save an astronaut’s life then just imagine what it could do for you and your bike? It’s always a great idea to have a roll of this tape in your rucksack, especially when you’re on a road trip and you don’t have all your tools with you. For example, you could even use it to temporarily patch up your bags, riding gear and boots. A clever way to ensure that you always have some gaffer tape with you is to wrap a small amount of this tape around the shifting spanner that sits in your toolkit.

With WD-40, gaffer tape, a few cable-ties, water pump pliers, a puncture repair kit and a few other bits and pieces you will be able to handle any situation that may arise. If that’s not good enough then you can always rely on other bikers to help you or else look around you and ask yourself “what would MacGyver do?”

What other unlikely or creative uses for these products have you come up with in the past? Is there anything else that you wouldn’t ever dream of leaving home without?