You don’t have to replace carbon fiber if it cracks or fades. It’s possible to bring carbon fiber back to life. We answer a few questions about returning old carbon fiber to its former shine.
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In this article:
- Can Carbon Fiber Be Repaired?
- Should You Replace Or Repair Carbon Fiber?
- How Do You Bring Faded Carbon Fiber Back to Life?
- Can Carbon Fiber Be Recycled?
Can Carbon Fiber Be Repaired?
You can repair carbon fiber, but that is a common myth. Manufacturers warn against fixing carbon fibre components. It is not true, however. It is possible to repair carbon fiber and it can last a long while if done properly.
A carbon-fiber plane is not thrown away every time it sustains damage. Boeing and other companies have tested many carbon repair methods over the years.
It is important to know what carbon fiber component, how it is repaired, and who does it. For instance, you could probably fix some minor cosmetic details, but it may be best to hire a professional for structural repairs.
Cosmetic carbon fiber repair doesn’t contribute to the structural integrity, for example, a scratch on a surface. Undamaged fibers can be restored only by painting or hiding the defect.
It’s relatively easy to do these types of repairs, and you won’t need any special tools. The most important thing is the adhesive. Epoxies work better than urethanes because they are too flexible for certain repairs.
Structural repairs take more skill and involve a lot more variables. The fiber is directional. Therefore, the technician needs to consider the number of fiber layers along with the fiber orientations. Each layer of cloth should match the original layup to keep the same properties as before.
Removing components with severe damage may not be possible. Repairing bike rims is difficult because of friction, heat and other high-force forces.
Should You Replace Or Repair Carbon Fiber?
Before deciding whether to replace or repair a carbon fiber component, there are a few things to consider:
Will the repair be strong enough to survive the life of the part?
Because the rest of the structure surrounds it and supports it, repairing a hole in a door panel’s middle will be very strong. However, a damaged edge on a car doors won’t have the same support and may fall again before it’s time.
How severe is the damage? Is the cost of repairs worth it?
It may not always be affordable to repair a severely damaged part after an accident. Before making a decision, assess the extent of damage and weigh the costs and time involved. It may be less expensive to repair a Shelby Mustang’s carbon fiber hood than to buy a new one. However, buying a new bike fork will be quicker and cheaper than fixing it.
What impact will the repair have on the appearance of the component?
The repair will be less noticeable if the carbon fiber is painted. You will see the repair on painted parts. This may pose a problem for some.
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How Do You Bring Faded Carbon Fiber Back to Life?
No matter if your part has an outer layer of clearcoat or epoxy resin, UV exposure will eventually cause it to deteriorate. As a result, exposure to the elements makes the clear coat on the carbon look dull, hazy, and faded. Epoxy resin will start to yellow. Removing the outer layer and applying a new one is often the only way to remedy this.
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You could attempt to repair it yourself, provided that there are no structural damages. But fixing significant cracks going down to the weave is a labor-intensive process, and you might want to consider hiring a professional for this.
Bringing faded carbon fiber back to life usually involves washing the component thoroughly and removing any wax or grease before sanding it down. Then, use rubbing alcohol to clean up any remaining residue. Once everything is smooth and clean, it’s time to apply the clear coat.
Watch this video for more on bringing faded carbon fiber back to life.
Before jumping in, there are a few things to remember:
- Make sure the part is wax-free before sanding to avoid embedding old wax in the fiber or clear coat.
- Use epoxy resin to fill any deep chips or fissures. It should cure for at least 24 hours before you apply the clear coat.
- Sanding off oxidation, UV damages, and clear coat will leave behind a brownish to white residue. Stop immediately if it turns grey-black. If you see dark residue, it means that you have started sanding.
- You are responsible for restoring faded carbon fiber. If you’re inexperienced or unsure, it’s always best to consult a professional.
Can Carbon Fiber Be Recycled?
Though it’s possible to recycle carbon fiber, it’s not easy. Carbon Fiber can withstand high temperatures as well as powerful forces. It’s possible to grind components down or break them down with chemicals to recover the carbon. The process could cause damage to the fibers.
Additionally, while the technology to recycle carbon fiber composites has existed for many years, the industry is still in the early stages of developing markets for recycled material.
The good news? As carbon fiber is in greater demand, so does the recycling industry. And with big companies like Airbus and BMW on board to reduce carbon fiber waste, the recycling industry is set for rapid growth.
In many instances, it’s possible to repair carbon fiber. It is also possible to restore parts of carbon that have been damaged. Lastly, old carbon fiber can be recycled and doesn’t have to end up in a landfill.
Visit our website to learn more. Carbon Fiber Gear also sells products made of recycled carbon fiber.
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