How to Preserve Automotive Rubber

Updated April 17, 2017

Automotive rubber is used for a variety of purposes such as rubber bumpers, window and door trim, windshield gaskets, and decorative moulding. Rubber is also used for engine gaskets, seals, and fuel lines. Rubber is a durable and flexible material but as it ages it dries out and hardens which can lead to cracks, holes, and faulty seals. Rubber deteriorates for a variety of reasons such as exposure to UV light and ozone, road grime and debris, and exposure to extreme temperatures and pressure.

Routinely wash rubber trim and moulding with a mild soap and water. Routine cleaning removes dirt, grime, and other contaminants that cause rubber to deteriorate. Rinse the rubber with clean water to remove soap residue.

Trim off rough and jagged edges with a utility knife or file the edges with a file. Sand the rubber with 180 grit sandpaper. Continue sanding until the rough areas are smooth and even.

Fill nicks, gouges, and cracks. A flexible auto filler works well for rubber bumpers. The elasticity of the filler material prevents the cracks from reopening. Rubber silicone caulk works well for rubber trim and moulding. Read the instructions and apply the patching material accordingly. Allow the filler to dry.

Wet sand repaired areas with 400 grit sandpaper. Spray the rubber with water using a spray bottle. Sand the repaired area until it is smooth and even. Allow the rubber to dry. Wipe the rubber with denatured alcohol and an clean cloth.

Apply a rubber trim dye to restore the colour. A variety of rubber trim dyes, such as Forever Black, are available at auto parts stores. They are easy to use. In addition to restoring the colour the trim dye helps to restore the lubrication to the material. Allow the trim dye to dry for thirty minutes.

Apply a rubber protectant to the rubber. A variety of rubber protectants are also available at auto parts stores. Apply the protectant to a clean cloth and use the cloth to apply the protectant to the rubber.

Make an appointment with an auto mechanic. Ask the auto mechanic to inspect rubber seals.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap
  • Sponge
  • Sandpaper
  • File
  • Auto filler
  • Rubber silicone caulk
  • Rags
  • Rubber trim dye
  • Rubber protectant
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About the Author

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.