Every year across America millions of car bodies suffer from a noticeable condition called polymer degradation. For many vehicles, the symptoms are as subtle as a slightly faded bumper. Others experience more serious signs like cracked trim or molding around their windows or wheel wells. In addition, if you operate a vehicle in an area that’s prone to excessive heat its exterior is probably already showing signs of PD. What exactly is polymer degradation, and is it stoppable?

Polymer Degradation

What Are Polymers? 

Polymers are large manmade molecules that are chemically bonded together to create materials used for vehicle body components. Polymer materials include rubber, vinyl, and various plastics, and end up in exterior car parts like:

  • Bumpers
  • Black trim around windows, fenders, and windshields
  • Spoilers, air dams, and other aerodynamic body features

Design engineers use polymers to improve vehicle exteriors:

  • Appearance (aesthetics)
  • Design flexibility
  • Functionality (corrosion resistance, strength, reduced weight, etc.)

For example, you’ve probably noticed that some vehicles have more polymers incorporated into their designs than others. Oftentimes those parts are left unpainted for added curb appeal. Unfortunately, all polymers- painted or not- are vulnerable to environmental forces that can cause polymer degradation.

Why is Polymer Degradation Bad?

When a car’s body part, like a bumper, is made from a polymer and starts to degrade, it causes premature aging to that part which further leads to:

  • Fading, discoloration, and loss of its glossy appearance
  • Reduced strength  
  • Decreased flexibility
  • Less scratch resistance
  • Cracking

UV Exposure: The #1 Enemy of Polymer Materials

When exposed to excessive sunlight, which is full of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the color, shape, and tensile strength of polymers begins to change. This process goes by several names, including photodegradation, photo-induced degradation, and UV degradation. No matter which name you use, the process is the same. UV radiation attacks the polymers in your car, causing them to crack or disintegrate under constant exposure to the sun’s rays.

A car’s exterior paint offers a perfect example of polymer degradation. As the polymers degrade they begin fading in color and losing their glossy appearance. The coating loses strength and flexibility and begins to crack. Similarly, it’s ability to resist scratches also declines. The rate at which the degradation occurs depends on the amount of UV light that gets absorbed. The more UV attacking the paint, the faster the chemical bonds in the material will break, leading to bleaching, fading, and cracking.

Stopping Polymer Degradation

There are things you can do to slow down and even prevent the polymer degradation process. In addition, it takes a certain amount of time, money, and “elbow grease.” But, your car will look better and last longer, making it well worth the effort.

Most car owners start with protecting the polymer coating on the paint. However, the most effective treatment is also the easiest – avoid the sun as much as possible. Park under covered areas at shopping malls and public garages. Park in a garage at home and in the shade at work (avoid trees that drop sticky substances). If this isn’t possible, use a car cover.

Get in the habit of applying a protective coating on top of the outer layer of the paint. In other words, wax your car on a regular basis. When washing your car, avoid detergents that are too harsh for polymer materials, as this can actually speed up the degradation process.

Sudden Impact Auto Has The PD Solution

Unfortunately, many vehicles end up experiencing polymer degradation. If it’s happened to your car, take it to a Sudden Impact Auto. Our technicians have the professional detailing products, experience, and know-how to restore your vehicle’s polymer features like-new again promptly, reliably, and affordable. If you have areas that need to be repainted, we can expertly tackle that too! Call us at 702-457-3002 today.