Ty-Rap® cable ties save a frozen day in Manitoba, Canada

Quick-thinking driver uses cable ties to nurse his truck hundreds of kilometers home after serpentine belt breaks on a remote highway

Quick-thinking driver uses cable ties to nurse his truck hundreds of kilometers home after serpentine belt breaks on a remote highway

Peter Jakabek faced a sudden dilemma as he hauled an expensive piece of equipment across the frozen Canadian prairie last year.

It was Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, about 1:30 p.m. when the serpentine belt snapped on Jakabek’s Ford Super Duty diesel truck.

His daughter, Jessica, and a friend were aboard for the ride. The nearest town, Russell, Manitoba, was at least 40 km, or about 25 miles, away down Provincial Trunk Highway 16.

Jakabek, an excavation company owner from Clandeboye, Manitoba, near Winnipeg couldn’t leave an expensive trailer and equipment sitting by the side of the road, 360 km — 227 miles — from home, while he went for help. And he didn’t want his friend and daughter to wait in a freezing truck for help to come from who-knows-where on a Sunday afternoon.

So what to do?

Like the savvy mechanic he is, Jakabek did what you do when you really need performance.

He reached for Ty-Rap®, the sturdy cable ties from Thomas & Betts, a member of the ABB Group.

With a spare bag of Ty-Rap he keeps in an emergency road kit, Jakabek fashioned four loops to fit tightly where the serpentine belt once was, between the crankshaft pulley and the water pump. He used a generator on the truck’s flatbed to keep the electrical system charged.

It took 15 minutes to make the fix. Then the trio nudged their fully-loaded rig gently back onto the highway, with eyes fixed on the heat gauge to make sure the Ty-Rap belts turned the water pump to cool the engine.

After 10 minutes, they stopped to check. The Ty-Rap held and the engine was cool. They gradually sped up to highway speed and continued toward home. Once they reached cell phone range, Jakabek alerted his wife to buy spare parts in Winnipeg and head in their direction, still about three hours away.

The generator failed to keep up with the full electrical load, so the trio stopped about 100 km (60 miles) down the road to shed lights, freeing power to keep the engine’s computers running. All but one of the Ty-Rap straps were still in service, though, so Jacabek replaced the broken strap and they continued, back up to highway speeds.

Finally, with new parts in hand, Jakabek stopped and checked the engine compartment.

The Ty-Rap fix was still working, with all four in place. Jakabek figured he could squeeze a few more kilometers out of the setup, so he drove the ailing rig the rest of the way home before he cut the Ty-Rap loops and installed a new serpentine belt.

The Ty-Rap was part of an emergency road kit Jakabek tossed onto his truck to handle any break-downs the trio might encounter on their 2,400-km — 1,490-mile — round trip to Bonnyville, Alberta, to pick up an expensive hydro vac trailer for a friend who wants to work with his business, CLD Excavating.

Why pack Ty-Rap?

Before he started his company in 2007, Jakabek worked for Air Canada as an aircraft maintenance engineer.

“There I learned the value of good materials,” he said. “There is no point in buying cheap cable ties. Soon as it gets cold, they break.”

Thomas & Betts engineer Joseph Ferris and senior project engineer Ben Freeman examined the Ty-Rap cable ties that Jakabek used after he cut them off and mailed them to the home office in Memphis. The standard Ty-Raps were rated to handle at least 120 lbs. of pull, so Jakabek’s installation put little strain on them, the engineers concluded. The stipples on the bottom of the ties were hardly worn, which indicated that the loops gripped tightly and did not slip. And the connection points — the most likely points to fail as they whipped and flexed around the truck’s pulleys at high RPMs — appeared to be solidly connected and only a little worn.

“Based on what I see, he probably could have gotten double the miles he did out of it, if he had to,” Ferris noted.

“But it’s absolutely not something we recommend that people do,” Freeman said. “Carry an extra serpentine belt instead.”

To underscore that point, the Thomas & Betts legal department contributed this thought:

“While we congratulate Mr. Jakabek’s ingenuity and appreciate that sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, T&B Ty-Raps are designed and sold for specific limited uses and are only warranted when used as intended by the manufacturer.”

Thomas & Betts engineer Maurus C. Logan introduced Ty-Rap, the original cable tie, in 1958 for the Boeing Company to bundle electrical cables in its aircraft fuselages. In the 60 years since, it has morphed into several specialty lines with its characteristic Grip of Steel® metal barb and been used for a wide variety of purposes, from securing cables on the Martian Rover landing craft to building whimsical park benches at Thomas & Betts trade shows.

Whether Ty-Rap has been put to the test before as a serpentine belt on a heavy-duty truck engine is an open question, but Jakabek’s experience underscores a key point: When performance matters, you can count on Ty-Rap.

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About the author

David Fisher

David Fisher is a content writer for the Electrical Installations Business Unit. He enjoys telling the stories of ABB’s work around the world, along with seafood, travel, and walking in Memphis.
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