Rewrap your assist handle with this mod

11

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Right up in the “neatest thing since sliced bread” category, for our family at least, are big “assist handles” that you can mount on the side of your RV. At the end of a long road day, or a long trail, being able to grab that handle and stabilize yourself heading up the steps into the rig has been a lifesaver.

Trouble is, the grips sold as standard on many of these units just don’t hold up too long. Maybe it’s UV light, maybe it’s the wind blowing over the handle as you blast down the highway, but sooner or later, the foam grip on the bar just gives up the ghost. This leaves you with an unsightly mess, and a more difficult situation. If your assist handle is wet, and you have no grip, you’re far more apt to slip off. On the other hand, if you grab hold that of handle on a HOT day, you can practically hear the palm flesh sizzle like a steak on a grill. Cold out? Maybe you’ll stick like a tongue on a frozen flagpole.

We’ve looked into the “standard” answer that one of those assist handle manufacturers offer: a piece of “replacement” rubber wrap that you wind around the bar. That’s great, until you consider the price of the wrap, enough to cover 12″ of the bar carries a list price of close to $17, and add shipping on top. If you want to cover the entire bar, you’ll need at least two packages – pretty close to the price of a whole bar. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

assist-handle-raw
Raw metal bar after the original foam deteriorates just doesn’t cut it.

A couple of years ago when our original wrap ratted out, we tried an alternative. We removed the old, worn out wrap, and in its place, glued on a chunk of foam-rubber pipe insulation. It was inexpensive, gave a good grip, and promptly deteriorated in the weather within a few months. Next we tried using a small foam rubber “swim noodle,” which we cut a lengthwise slit down to put it over the rail, and adhered it with glue. Aside from the fact that it looked pretty strange – a brilliant, neon blue against our white rig – it had a lifespan similar to the pipe insulation.

assist-handle-materials
Nearly everything you need in one box.

Finally, it dawned. Forget foam rubber. This time a quick stop in a big box department store sporting goods section found a box containing “road handlebar tape” designed for making the grip on a bicycle’s handlebars far more comfortable. For about $8 and no shipping charges, we had enough “soft and durable, antishock” tape to wrap around the entire RV assist bar. We’d already done a little research on handlebar tape – there’s a huge variety of the stuff, but what we were concerned about is that whatever bar tape we used, it had to have an adhesive strip on the back to help hold it in place. What we bought, Bell Handroll 300, didn’t have a description on the box, so (a pardon to our pals at Walmart) we brazenly opened the package and unrolled a couple of inches of the tape to ensure the adhesive was present – and it was.

Here’s how we put ours on. Since we’d previously used glue to hold on the “alternative treatments,” we did have a bit of a mess to clean up. The glue didn’t respond well to mineral spirits, so what was left on the assist handle we carefully sanded off, working hard not to chew up the paint. With the old glue knocked off, we were ready for the install.

The handlebar tape we bought came in two rolls – one for each side of your bicycle handlebars. Since we were heading for a single installation, we started the wrapping at the middle of the hand rail and worked down. Carefully peeling the adhesive backing paper off the strip on the back of the handlebar tape, we laid down and smoothed out the bar tape, slowly unraveling the new tape from the roll. We stretched the bar tape as we went, overwrapping the tape already on the handrail so that about two-thirds of the tape was exposed, and the last third was covered with new tape. By stretching and holding the roll firmly as we “placed” the new tape on the bar, we reached the bottom of the bar easily.

Now, if you were wrapping your bike handlebars, you’d simply stretch the remaining end of the tape into the hollow handlebar, and stuff a provided chrome trim plug into the end of the handlebar. This would hold the tape in place, and make the whole installation look sharp. However, there’s no place to “stuff” the end of the tape on an RV assist handle, so we tightened the tape down at the end of the run, and then ran a few twists of the appropriate colored electrical tape around the handlebar tape to hold it in place. Since we picked black handlebar tape, we had plenty of black electrical tape to do the job.

assist-handle-tape-wrap
A couple of wraps of electrical tape finish off the job.

Now we grabbed the second roll of handlebar tape and proceeded to start placement at the middle of the grab handle, this time wrapping the handle from the middle up to the top. We started the run on top of the already-placed handlebar tape that we’d put on for the “middle-going-down” run. It was a simple matter to repeat how we’d done that first run, and again, we finished off the top run with more wraps of electrical tape. If there’s any concern about the middle points staying in place, you could similarly wrap this junction with tape. In our case, it wasn’t necessary – everything stayed put without it.

We recognized that electrical tape isn’t the greatest weather resister, and figured in a few months we’d probably have to go back and re-do the spots with new tape. Actually, the electrical tape lasted better than a year before starting to come loose. A quick revamp and we’re good to go for another year. Way better than fussing with loose foam or spending far too much money for the “official” replacement grip.

All photos, R & T De Maris

##RVT772 ##RVDT1260

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Dietrich Kanzler
8 months ago

Take the handle off. Put masking tape on the areas you don’t want covered. Then use spray on undercoater. Add layers to make it thicker.

HGoff
8 months ago

Being a road bicyclist for many years this bar tape is our go-to covering for our trailer assist handle. i was able to use only one of the two rolls – covering most of the assist bar. its lasted for a few years. the good thing about bar tape is you can take it off (while there is some adhesive – it doesn’t really need to be glued to the bar) and reapply if needed. its also designed for wear (handlebars) and UV and lasts for a long time

John Mattson
8 months ago

Consider Platsi Dip. Used to add “rubber” covering to tools like pliers. Costs about $17 a pint at any Home Depot. From very thin layer to several thick layers as you see fit. Very tough, I have tools still in good condition after 30 years. Use a light color if in hot climate. I would suggest a light sanding to the surface, then add coats about every 40 min as needed. Fumes are strong, so do it outside.

Jerry Murri
8 months ago

You could use Rescue Tape instead of electrical tape. It sticks to it’s self so there is no adhesive. You could also use it to wrap the handle instead of the handle bar tape. Make sure you wrap it so that it overlaps since it does not stick to any thing but it’s self and stretch it tight. Rescue Tape | Self-Fusing Silicone Tape. Available at Ace, Amazon … Also YouTube videos.

Danny Wells
8 months ago

I recovered our assist handle with baseball bat wrap from Amazon.

Mike
8 months ago

I will add two thoughts to this conversation: First, I like to act proactively and used Gorilla tape to wrap the top and bottom of our RV assist handle before it started to deteriorate (since I knew it would) and our handle has held very well. We have RV’ed for twelve years now, and we learn by doing and listening to others. Secondly, I agree with Dale e Rose, this type of handle works very well in my garage for the step into the house. I mounted a handle on the wall, next to the door and it works great and it’s easy to install. I mounted a second handle on the wall next to our patio door where there is 2.5 to 3 steps up into the house. We are Very happy with this use of the handles.

Dale e Rose
8 months ago

This type of handle also works well in my garage for the step into the house. I mounted a handle on the wall, next to the door and it works great and it’s easy to install.

Pat
3 years ago

I’m pretty sure the next information is well known; but, just in case, ….

Fingernail polish remover is acetone and it un-goos and unsticks a lot of adhesives – quickly. Then there’s also a product I use called Goo Gone.

I generally use polish remover because it’s readily available, inexpensive, and it works rapidly. Please note that care and discretion are necessary because it can damage paint and other finishes and it does have an objectionable odor.

Fred
3 years ago

Another excellent tape for this application would be Rescue or Fixit brands of self fusing silicone tape. They have no adhesive to dry out but will stick to the bar. It also fuses permanently to itself where you overlap it to create a water tight seal. And it seems to hold up well to the elements. Available in any hardware store or Amazon. I always keep rolls of black, clear and red on hand for many uses in my truck and fifth wheel.

Walt
3 years ago

Good old hockey stick cloth tape works well and holds up to all weather conditions.

David Ozanne
3 years ago

Gorilla duct tape would probably last longer then electrical tape.