DennisB WiseAutoTools.com © Summary: We are commonly asked about the differences in Time Sert and Heli Coil brand thread repair kits. In this article we cover ten main differences between these two brands. First, I will say that they have some things in common. Both brands have a large selection of sizes available. Both can be used to fix threads that have been damaged from cross-threading, over-tightening or vibration due to being too loose. Both brands have been around for a long time and each have some very loyal customers. Heli-Coil used to be just a wire coil, but now they also offer a solid insert similar in appearance to Time Sert. There are more differences than what meets the eye. I've written about advantages that Time Sert has over "wire style" inserts in the past, so for this article we cover the differences between Time Sert and SOLID Heli-Coil inserts. This also applies to other comparable labels like Lisle, Save-A-Thread, Balkamp, Fix-A-Thred etc. They all are basically the same design, unlike Time Sert.
Ten Main Differences between Time Sert and Heli Coil
1. Helicoil is less expensive... initially. In some less crucial applications Heli Coil can work well. When we see a problem, it's usually with more crucial fasteners like head bolts, oil pan thread repair for drain plugs and for spark plugs. Some customers think they are saving money by purchasing a cheap kit only to later have a repeat failure and then need an over-sized repair kit like Big Sert, which is Time Sert's name for their oversized repair kit. In conclusion, Helicoil is only less expensive if a second repair is not needed. In this case, no money has been saved. One of our customers said it best. "Cheap ain't good and good ain't cheap".
2. Length of tooling. In some applications longer tooling is required (see the video below for one example). Heli Coil tooling is typically for surface mounted threads and therefore has shorter tooling compared to Time Sert. Welding an extension to a tap or grinding down sockets so they fit down a hole is not uncommon when using the Heli Coil brand. Time Sert has kits for more specific applications and therefore have longer tooling when it makes sense.
3. Thicker, Oversized diameters available. If a Helicoil fails there is no "solid" over-sized Helicoil kit that installs a thicker insert that accepts the original size bolt. Only Twin Serts which is two sets of wire coils, one inside the other. Time Sert has addressed this problem by making "Big Sert" which uses a thicker solid insert for when a competitive brand (like Heli Coil) fails. No need to make the hole bigger and use a larger bolt.
4. How inserts are held in. Helicoil inserts are held in by swedging the top by hitting a spreader tool with a hammer. Time Sert is held in by using a threaded install driver which finishes the bottom threads by cold rolling and expansion of the bottom portion of the insert. This holds the Time Sert insert in from the bottom rather than Helicoil's method of holding from the top. No guessing how hard to whack with a hammer. Just rotate the threaded driver down as the instructions state. Easily repeatable by any skill level installer.
5. Can inserts be screwed too far? Helicoils and competitive brands can be screwed in too far. In fact some of our customers call us after screwing a Heli Coil all the way in and dropping one into the combustion chamber when attempting to fix threads for a spark plug. Time Sert cannot be screwed in too far because of the flare at the top which fits into a counter-bored area formed by tooling that comes in the kit. There's no scenario where a Time Sert gets dropped into a cylinder.
6. Placement? Helicoil, as mentioned before is typically made to install flush to surface level. Time Sert tooling takes into account when threads don't start at the surface. Therefore Time Sert thread inserts are installed where the original threads were. This prevents unintended consequences like TTY (Torque to Yield) head bolt's mathematics being skewed or altered.
7. Which is better for frequent use? Even techs who are very passionate about Heli Coils admit that if fastener's that are removed and re-installed frequently like a drain plug, there could be a problem. The Heli Coils can come out with the drain plug. We also get calls from customers when a Heli Coil comes out with a spark plug and won't screw back in. In our opinion, Time Sert is better for frequent use.
8. Strongest? There are arguments regarding strength on both sides. Both are strong. Both are stronger than aluminum to be sure. The bigger issue, in our opinion is proper placement and how well the repair will stay where it is installed. We cover those points in other parts of this article.
9. Applications. Time Sert makes thread repair kits for more specific applications where-as Helicoil seems to mainly have repairs for general thread repair. That's one reason their cost is less for kits. I worked with a tech that double-stacked Helicoils for a head bolt thread repair. He did this to get a longer run of threads, because Helicoil inserts were shorter than he actually needed. He undoubtedly crossed the threads when he got to the bottom set of threads. Not an comfortable feeling. No one wants to rely on crossed threaded bolts to hold for the integrity of their job. Time Sert has specific kits for drain plug thread repair, head bolt thread repair, spark plug thread repair and much more. Time Sert even has an RC Glow Plug thread repair for remote control air planes. That's pretty specific.
10. Designed for car warranty repairs. Time Sert has worked together with car manufacturers to design thread repairs for aluminum engine components. There's no collaboration that we are aware of that Heli Coil has ever worked with a car manufacturer for an authorized warranty repair. In fact, it's possible manufacturers may void certain aspects of a warranty if a Helicoil has been used. This could be considered an after-market modification.
For even more information, see our main page with many more articles and videos on how to repair stripped threads.
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