When you think about what is used to manufacture a car, you might come up with materials like metal, glass and fabric, as well as specific parts like the engine, steering wheel and headlights.
While this list is certainly correct, there is another key product that is very important in the automotive manufacturing industry: rubber.
Let's take a look at how rubber is used throughout vehicles and why high-quality rubber makes such a huge difference in the safety and reliability of automobiles.
While your vehicle will take you safely down the road, the tires are the only part of the car that will actually come in contact with streets, freeways and dirt roads. To safely carry the weight of the car and its passengers, the tires must be made from something that is incredibly strong and durable. As Motor Biscuit notes, rubber is the perfect material for tires because it is so strong and can handle temperature changes as well as shifts in weight when the car is turning, accelerating and stopping. No matter if you are driving, all vehicles will share one key thing in common: tires that are made from rubber.
If you've ever opened the hood of your car, chances are good you were struck by the number of hoses that run through the engine. As It Still Runs notes, many of these hoses, including the air and radiator hoses, are made from rubber. Rubber is an ideal product to make these hoses, which have to stand up to temperature changes and be exposed to harsh chemicals. Unlike plastic, which can break down under these conditions, rubber is much more flexible and tough.
As you are driving along the freeway at 65 miles per hour, you want to be completely sure that all of the flammable fluids inside your car's engine are not only doing the jobs they are supposed to, but that they are not escaping out of the engine and getting into other places. To help ensure that there aren't any leaks when fluids are flowing through hoses, valve stems and more, rubber o-rings are utilized throughout your vehicle. As Apple Rubber notes, each o-ring is not the same by any means; they are made from a variety of rubber components and go by names like Nitrile and Fluorocarbon Viton. As for specific places that you will find o-rings in cars, valve stems in the engine will usually use o-rings to keep oil from entering the combustion chamber.
O-rings are great at creating an air-tight and liquid-tight seal between the valve stem and valve guide, which prevents oil from getting into the valve guide. O-rings are also used in transmission seals, in the air conditioning system, in the engine seal and other areas. Factories should ensure that they use the highest quality o-rings possible on the production line; as Car Treatments notes, it can cost between $900 and $1,800 to replace valve seals, so it's important to prevent these rubber components from failing.
Rubber Is as Important as Metal or Glass
It takes a wide variety of materials to create a working automobile, and rubber is one of the crucial products. From providing the "rubber meets the road" experience to being transformed into hoses and a number of key seals, rubber helps to keep your family safe every time you get into the car.