Tautliners have handled extreme loads over millions of kilometres and any freight vehicle is subject to wear and tear. Like a conventional flatbed or enclosed van, a tautliner trailer takes a beating during service on the road. Some manufacturers market their tautliners as “rip-proof”, however, the fact is no curtain material resists all rips, tears or cuts from any and all sources.
For demanding or high-security applications, a net of steel webbing is welded to the interior of the curtain for extra protection. Yet the standard, heavy-duty polyester tautliner may be subject to rips or tears as a result of random “stuff that happens” in any busy fleet.
Fixing a damaged tautliner is doable by the maintenance crew at most facilities. Gluing patches or stitching is not recommended because they present durability and cosmetic issues. The best practice for repairing small holes and tears is the heat gun method. Bonding the patch with heat provides equal strength and weather-resistance as a new curtain. Here’s an overview of what’s involved in repairing a tautliner tear:
1.Check The Tear
First assess the extent of the damage. Check to see if the puncture has affected one of the post pockets, or has extended across any welded portions of the curtain. If so, the damage is generally not suitable for repair by fleet maintenance and should be returned to the manufacturer for repair.
2. Prepare For Patching
Turn on the heat gun to allow time for it to warm up to operating temperature, which at its hottest setting will be 1500 degrees. Tautliner patching is a two-person job, therefore, give the second person a clean, flat board to hold against the outside of the curtain to provide a firm base for the application of the patch inside.
3. Apply The Patch
Clean both sides of the curtain around the damaged area with denatured alcohol and allow the surface to dry. Cut a piece of the curtain patching material supplied with the repair kit large enough to overlap the damaged area by two to three inches on all sides. If possible, cut the patch in a circular shape to remove corners that cause weak adhesion. The patch is always applied to the interior of the tautliner.
- Center the patching material over the damaged part of the tautliner.
- Hold the flat board against the damaged area on the exterior of the tautliner
- Insert the flat tip of the heat gun between the curtain and the patch. Take your time to heat both materials to the proper temperature.
- Use the included silicone rubber roller to press the heated material together firmly. Apply intense, uniform pressure to ensure adhesion.
- Gradually work your way from the center of the patch out to the edges with the roller using
In all likelihood you will find yourself repairing your tautliner a few times every year. Here are 3 ways to repair a tautliner so that you can get back on the road without spending a lot of money in the process.
1. Use a heat gun (recommended for professional results)
An industrial model heat gun is the best option for the job, Don’t opt for a non-industrial gun – the relatively low heat setting will prevent the material from bonding. Vinyl patches should extend at least two inches beyond the damaged area. When applying patches with a heat gun, avoid applying the patch on the outside as it makes the curtain look like patchwork. The inside of the tautliner is cleaner and better for patching and allows the outside to continue to look like new.
2. Try vinyl cement (For temporary, emergency patches)
With vinyl cement and a scrap tautliner section, you can often make repairs to small holes. Keep in mind that you want the section to be completely clean of dirt and debris before applying—rubbing alcohol and a clean rag can help do the trick. If the surface isn’t clean, the adhesive will not create as strong a bond. However, once the glue is warmed by the sun during travel it often loses efficacy, making this a temporary solution in most cases..
3. Sew on a patch (For large repairs with no other option)
For larger holes and tears, cement and glue won’t be able to keep the patch in place. If you’re on the road and don’t have time for or access to a heat gun, then go back to basics with sturdy thread and a needle.
Rips and tears to your tautliner are inconvenient, but a part of typical road wear and tear. Wear and tear of tarpaulins and tautliner curtains is only natural – while we guarantee a lengthy lifespan in general, rips and tears do happen – and Cargo Tarp and Net Manufacturers is on-hand for all your tarpaulin repairs in Durban.