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Shop Talk

January 2017 Issue




Plane and Simple

Silicone tapeits for a lot more than just emergencies.

To keep the layers of tape from fusing together, a thin plastic cover is removed prior to dispensing.

At the risk of sounding like a late-night TV infomercial, judge for yourself how self-fusing silicone tape can provide a wide range of useful functions in the construction of your aircraft project. It traditionally has a popular following for its ability to provide emergency repairs to leaky hoses around the home and garage. But let's look at some of the uses specifically geared toward our needs as aircraft builders.

Here are the characteristic properties of this thin tape made from special silicone rubber that sets it apart from other tapes:

  • It does not stick to much of anything—but will fuse to itself—quickly and naturally. This allows it to be used on any surface: wet, dry, or oily. It simply needs to be wrapped upon itself for adhesion. No sticky adhesive is used.
  • It is naturally an excellent electrical insulator—about 8000 volts per wrap. It can be used for covering and protecting anything electrical in the aircraft.
  • It can withstand temperatures from 500F down to -85F. This makes it suitable for just about anywhere in the engine compartment.

Keeping these unique properties in mind, let's consider some uses around our aircraft.

Preventing Short Circuits

There are instances where we desire to insulate electrical studs used on wire buses to prevent accidental short circuits. There are insulated boots made for single wire terminals, but often we have complex or multi-wire terminations for which boots cannot be used. A few wraps of silicone tape is the perfect solution and can accommodate any size or shape challenge encountered. If you ever forget to install heat shrink tubing on a wire termination, silicone tape can always be added after the fact and provide a professional seal and insulation against the elements.

Electrical mounting studs cannot always be covered with pre-manufactured insulating boots due to their irregular shapes and complexity.

A few wraps of silicone tape provide any electrical hazard with a neat, inexpensive solution for electrical insulation and safety from wandering metal tools.

An Alternative to Zip Ties

When it comes to wire bundling and cable support on the engine side of the firewall, we often reluctantly use plastic wire ties, knowing these are not the best solution. Heat and age keep these plastics as a temporary solution at best. Using silicone tape instead is a wonderful alternative. Its high temperature rating allows it to secure the sensor wiring next to the engine manifold without complaint. As quickly as it can be installed, it is easily removed by slitting with a knife.

At home with high temperatures in the engine compartment, silicone tape is a wonderful solution for cable and wire bundles. It's easy to install and remove.

Preventing Abrasion

Abrasion protection for your engine mount or other structures is easily added by wrapping a layer of the tape around the mount tubes. Control cables and wire bundles can be safely routed against your mount with the silicone tape protecting the finish from damage caused by hundreds of hours of vibration and movement.

A single wrap of tape will protect engine mount tubes from abrasion with control cables in an environment rich with vibration and heat.

Sealing Firesleeve

Firesleeve used on fuel lines requires the ends to be sealed to prevent oil and other fluids from being wicked into the sleeve. Typically this is addressed by dipping the ends into an expensive liquid material made for this purpose. An inexpensive, effective alternative to this method is to tightly wrap the ends of the firesleeve with silicone tape, sealing the ends from any possibility of contacting fluids. This simple step really makes the firesleeve installation complete, compared to just leaving the ends unprotected (as we have all seen on more than a few engine installations).

Protection From Frayed Cables

The frayed ends of steel cable after they have passed through a thimble (e.g., at the ends of your rudder cables) can be easily and neatly covered with a few wraps of silicone tape to protect fingers and toes from inadvertent contact.

These aircraft specific examples don't take into account the myriad of uses that include emergency repair of leaking coolant, oil, and vacuum hoses. Keep in mind the tape's unique properties when putting it to use—especially the fact that it sticks to almost nothing—but can be used on anything because it fuses to itself without any adhesive. Add to that a high resistance to heat and electric potential, and you have a versatile product that any late-night infomercial hawker would be proud to sell! Known as self-fusing silicone tape, it is available at your favorite aircraft supplier or at online retailers like Amazon.com.


As the founder of HomebuiltHELP.com, Jon Croke has produced instructional videos for Experimental aircraft builders for over 10 years. He has built (and helped others build) over a dozen kit aircraft of all makes and models. Jon is a private pilot and currently owns and flies a Zenith Cruzer.

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