In Stitches - RV Enthusiast Magazine

In Stitches

by | May 3, 2023 | Cool Gadgets, RVEXPERT

Photos by Bob Livingston
Cutting sections of the belly pan to access plumbing, wiring and/or holding tanks is easier than releasing all the material — but finding a way to close the hole afterward can be challenging. An inexpensive wire welder makes it possible to seal those seams.

Enclosed belly pans are nice to have — protecting the wires, plumbing and holding tanks from road debris and water — but when you have to access something behind the pan, you need to either remove the whole thing or cut holes. If you decide to remove all the belly pan up to where access is needed, be prepared for a shower of construction shrapnel when lowering the material. Cutting access holes makes more sense, but you’ll have to figure out a way to re-install the belly pan material. Most people use tape, but it may not hold, especially if using the wrong adhesive.

Fortunately, I found a wire welder for plastic that stitches the seams, much like how a surgeon closes a patient’s skin with staples. Thanks to an Amazon pop-up, I discovered the Wrdlosy Plastic Welder for only $24.99, which by cost alone is not much for any tool. But it works better than expected.

One thing that came to mind while looking at this tool was the big crack in my holding tank pan, which contained the insulation and protected the holding tanks from weather and road debris. When the welder arrived, I separated all the “staples,” which are pieces of bent wire that load into the tips of the soldering-gun-looking device. The staple gun has two tubes, which transfer extreme heat to the wire staples. Apparently, the wire is a certain type of material designed to get red hot and melt into the plastic, then cool down very quickly. Yes, there was a learning curve; the first time that I tried it I held the trigger too long and it melted all the way through the plastic material in a heartbeat.

top view of the Wrdlosy Plastic Welder kit case
The Wrdlosy Plastic Welder kit comes with bunch of staples, an offset cutter and a razor knife. The welder works great, but the tools are classic overseas stuff of questionable usefulness. At just $24.99 for the whole kit, however, you can’t expect top-notch tools.
close view of the four different staple shapes
Staples are provided in four different shapes, which are designed for mending various seams. The first one on the left was used to mend the cut in the Coroplast belly pan.

As usual, most such tools come with terrible instructions; it’s up to the user to play around with it and figure out how and what works the best. The limited instructions did call for pressing the trigger for five seconds before applying the staple to the material. This worked okay — but if you count wrong (maybe 6 to 10 seconds), the staple gets too hot. I found it more useful to hold the cold staple up against the plastic, then pull the trigger until it starts to melt into the plastic and remove the pressure while it cools and sets up in the material. It didn’t take me long to figure out how fast the staple goes through the plastic. I also found out that if you pull too hard on the gun and the plastic is a little bit soft, part of the staple may come out of position.

a hand holds a staple to the Wrdlosy Plastic Welder tubes
The staple loads into the tubes extending from a plastic handle, which looks like a soldering gun. Keep your hands off the trigger when loading the staple to prevent finger burning. It’s probably safest to unplug the gun when loading the staple.
close view of two pieces of plastic seamed together with a staple
There are many uses for this plastic welder. Here, two pieces of plastic are seamed to show how the staples work.

One other thing I found that helped was to wiggle the gun back-and-forth as you gently pull it away from the belly pan, releasing the staple. It’s possible, according to the instructions, to sever the ends of the staple off with the provided cutter, but the tool didn’t work very well. Instead, I used a precision wire cutter. Even so, sometimes a portion of the staple protruded from the material, exposing sharp edges, so I cut them with a power grinder. Repairs can be made horizontally or vertically.

loaded with a stapler, the weld gun is places on the Coroplast seam
the staple is melted into the plastic
Once the staple is loaded in the gun, it’s placed on the Coroplast seam and the trigger engaged. In no more than five seconds, the staple will melt into the plastic and the trigger can be released. The plastic will harden quickly, leaving the staple in place.
the Coroplast seam held together by three staples
It’s best not to sink the staple too deep into the plastic. The staple ends can be removed with an offset cutting tool. I didn’t care for the one in the kit and used my own precision wire cutter.
a grinding plate is used to remove protruding staple ends and edges
Finally, any staple ends that are still protruding through the plastic can be ground down to prevent the sharp edges from cutting your fingers or catching on anything.

There are four types of welding staples in different shapes for use on corners, cracks and odd-shaped cuts. I also found these staples useful for repairing plastic bumpers, air dams and cracked or broken off plastic pieces of fender extensions. Basically, I’ve found that this tool can be used for anything made of plastic or polyethylene.

While it’s not the most exotic tool you’ll have in your box, it does come in handy for a number of projects.

Safety Precautions

  • To prevent burning your fingers, use a pair of pliers to hold the material being mended.
  • Use eye protection — you don’t want the tiny ends flying into your eyes when they are being cut or when grinded.
  • Unplug the electric cord when loading the wires — accidental pressing of the trigger could burn your fingers. Wire staples can also be loaded into the gun with pliers.
  • Smooth out the ends of the staples with a grinder.
  • Refrain from inhaling the fumes from the melting plastic.
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