When most people consider the construction of a car, no doubt the first material they think of is metal. Of course the exterior of the car is the most obvious element, and then immediately following is the engine—also metal. But while it may be less obvious, one of the most important materials found in every car on the road today is rubber.
Cars come in a variety of styles, colors, shapes, and levels of luxury, but one thing they all have in common is: four wheels. All tires are made from rubber. Often tires are made from recycled or synthetic rubber, and they are typically vulcanized. Vulcanization is a process of adding sulfur to the molten rubber as it dries in order to make the resulting product stiffer and more durable. All tires can be recycled and some can be retreaded.
We don’t make tires at Sperry & Rice but we do supply the auto industry with another, less obvious but equally essential, component of every single car on the road: hoses. Many of the hoses in a car are made of rubber. Rubber is the ideal choice for any application that requires flexibility and a natural resistance to the caustic chemicals used in cars. Rubber also beats out other materials such as plastic because it’s incredibly heat and cold tolerant (although it will melt or crack in extreme temperatures).
You’ll also find rubber in your car wherever you find gaskets and covers. Gaskets are used to create a seal that won’t leak when fluids pass through a junction in a pipe or hose. Rubber is also used to cover electrical wires and to shield electrical parts such as spark plugs. The reason rubber is the perfect choice for this job is that it acts as an insulator and won’t conduct electricity. This not only protects the people within the car or working on a car, but also protects the other parts of the vehicle from an escaped charge.
If you’ve ever driven during a rainstorm, there’s another component of your car that’s made of rubber you undoubtedly praised: windshield wipers. Rubber performs better at clearing water from your windshield because it is better able to hold its shape and remain pliable at a variety of temperatures and constant agitation.
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