Treating Rubber, Vinyl, and Plastic
By Michael Mankarious
2002 einszett® North America

The most widely used elements on today’s vehicles includes rubber, vinyl and plastic. So, as important it is to understand paintwork maintenance, it is just as important to know how to maintain the components of your vehicle that are made of these three elements.

There are many products on the market today that are marketed for the maintenance of tires, dashboards, plastic trim, molding and vinyl trim. Unfortunately, most of these products are designed to solely focus on making these components “look good” without any consequence as to the long-term results. In other words, many products touted as treatments and protectants are nothing more than dressings.

Protecting Rubber

To understand how to properly care and maintain rubber – specifically tires — it’s important to understand the basis of this element.

Rubber in its natural form is susceptible to the harsh effects of Ultraviolet light (UV) and ozone. These two elements cause oxidation and the breakdown of rubber. In order to combat this natural effect, tire manufacturers inject add anti-degradants during the tire manufacturing process. These anti-degradants include anti-oxidants, anti-ozonants and polymer waxes. These three ingredients are essential in keeping the rubber flexing and in general “together”.

The most apparent anti-degradant are anti-ozonants which are brownish purple in color. As the tire rotates, anti-ozonants migrate to the outer surface of the tire. This is the common ‘browning effect’ many people notice and in the case of many enthusiasts, they attempt to disguise with dressings. Unfortunately, this masking practice is the cause of tire damage and the focus of discussion as we continue.

The Damaging Effects of Dressings

There are many choices on the market when it comes to tire dressings. Most focus on the ‘shine factor’. A wet glossy effect is the preferred choice by many individuals and car care companies respond.

Unfortunately, in order to achieve this high gloss look a primary ingredient is required: thick, non-evaporating petroleum solvent. While there are many types of solvents for different purposes, the type of solvent used to produce these high gloss dressings are the most damaging on rubber. More specifically, they are the most damaging towards the anti-degradants in tires. It has been a long-standing myth that silicones in dressings are to blame for the damage but this simply isn’t true. Because the solvents do not evaporate and are allowed to ‘stay’ on the surface, they are allowed to break down the anti-degradants in the tire exposing them to the oxidizing effects of UV rays and ozone. In this case, the effects are drying and cracking. To prevent such a situation, we have to look towards a product that does not contain such low-evaporating solvents.

Treating Rubber Components

So far we have learned what tire manufacturers do to extend the life of rubber and we’ve read what some car care products have done to counteract this goal. So what can be done to assist in maintaining the longevity of tires?

einszett has always focused on treatment rather than dressing. When it came time to produce a product specifically for tire treatment, they created a formula to work in conjunction with anti-degradants. So in 2002, they created Tire Foam 'Reifenschaum' using the latest technology in UV protectants and anti-ozonants all in a water-based formula.

With such a formula, several benefits result:

  • product won’t damage the rubber by harming anti-degradants therefore preventing drying and cracking
  • added UV and ozone protectants enhance anti-degradants tire manufacturers have added
  • water-based formula will not stain, drip or splatter during application or driving.
  • Non-oily formula won’t attract dust and dirt.
  • Tire Foam is tested to be more resistant during multiple washes and rain than solvent-based formulas.
  • Tire Foam produces a deeper, more natural black sheen. A look more individuals are leaning towards.

Treating Plastic and Vinyl

With good intentions of protecting and enhancing the appearance of plastic and vinyl components such as the dashboard, exterior trim and plastic interior trim, many consumers end up using products designed to primarily enhance appearance which in turn causes more harm than good. Unfortunately, like the products designed to enhance the appearance of tires, products designed to enhance the appearance of trim, the dashboard and other plastic and vinyl components do more harm than good. To avoid causing such harm, it’s important to work with a water-based vinyl and rubber treatment (which naturally also treats plastic). Water-based treatments do not comprise of heavy petroleum than break down protective waxes and oils manufacturers incorporate into the components to withstand environmental influences such as heat, ozone, etc. Earlier, we focused on tires as an example. When petroleum-based tire dressings are applied, the petroleum over time breaks down the oils and waxes and cause the rubber to dry and rot. The same thing happens to plastic and vinyl components accept in their case, they dry and crack. Again, to avoid this potentially hazardous outcome, use a high quality protectant that does not contain solvents such as einszett Cockpit Premium for interior application and Vinyl-Rubber Care 'Tiefenpfleger' for exterior application.

Vinyl and Plastic Protection

Like rubber, vinyl and plastic have similar chemical properties. Therefore, they require similar maintenance treatment.

Manufacturers created vinyl and plastic components to withstand stresses of the surrounding environment such as extreme heat and cold. For example, the dashboard was designed to withstand high temperatures a car faces when parked at high noon in summer.

In order to accomplish this, manufacturers incorporate flex agents into the components. These flex agents are usually non-organic oils that allow the plastic or the vinyl to flex, therefore, preventing drying and cracking.

Mass marketed products with heavy petroleum distillates as their main ingredient, break down these oils over time causing the components to turn a chalky white color and eventually crack. Essentially, these products are dehydrating the component. To prevent this from occurring, it is vital to use a vinyl/rubber/plastic treatment that does not contain heavy petroleum but rather adds oils that work in concert with the flex agent oils already found in the components. There are many more choices for a quality product such as this on the market today as more manufacturers switch from using heavy petroleum and go to water-based solutions. Because they are water-based, there is no threat component degradation. Ahead of its time, einszett developed Vinyl-Rubber Care 'Tiefenpfleger' as a water-based solution before such a product was widely available on the market in North America. einszett worked in conjunction with leading European automotive manufacturers to create a product that worked in harmony with the components being installed in their vehicles. Since Vinyl-Rubber is water-based, the formula does not attack and degrade the flex agents in the components but rather aids them in their protective duties. What further separates Vinyl-Rubber from other brands is its ability to penetrate deeper and remain sealed into the component instead of evaporating over time. As a result, over time, you will require less use of the product.