The automotive industry used to be synonymous with steel and rubber. In their efforts to make automotive manufacturing more eco-friendly, manufacturers have turned to lighter materials like urethanes. The flexible material has become ubiquitous in the automotive industry as manufacturers use it from bumper to bumper.
In the Bumpers
Car bumpers used to be made of heavy steel. This made them strong, but not flexible. It also made them difficult and expensive to repair. Now, manufacturers are making bumpers out of reaction molded urethane to make them lightweight and shock-absorbing.
The inside of the bumpers also contains urethane but in a different form. To protect the passengers and make the car impact-resistant at low speeds, manufacturers use polyurethane foam inside of the bumpers.
In the Seats and Interior
Most car seats are filled with polyurethane foam. Both seat foam and bumper foam offer cushioning, inside and outside. Other cushioned areas in the interior of a car are made of polyurethane, too. Areas like armrests, softer areas of the dashboard, and headrests have polyurethane in them. These areas of the interior help prevent injuries if drivers are in accidents.
The liner in the top of your interior is also made of polyurethane. Prior to using polyurethane, car headliners were made of fabric attached in various spots. Often, as cars aged, the liner would release and sag. This no longer happens with polyurethane headliners.
Sealants, Elastomers, Adhesives
If your car has a lovely shine to it, it is due to polyurethane. The coatings that protect the paint from chips and scratches is a polyurethane coating. They add a durability that makes the exterior resistant to corrosion.
Most windshields and windows are also coated with polyurethane to make them scratch-resistant and less likely to chip and crack under pressure. These coatings will keep shattered windshields from breaking apart because the tiny pieces stay attached to the coating. The coatings also prevent the expensive paint jobs from fading in the sun or becoming damaged from precipitation.
Other polyurethane parts serve as O-rings that keep interior parts like the gas tank from leaking. Elastomers are used so the O-rings can subtly change to keep nuts and bolts together under the pressures of driving. They help keep air in tires and oil in the car. The lightweight quality of elastomers make them highly desirable parts in the automotive industry.
Automobiles also have polyurethane sealants and adhesives to hold some pieces together. For example, windshields have a polyurethane coating, but they also have sealants and adhesives that keep them from leaking or falling into the car when it is going 70 MPH on the highway.
Adhesives and sealants made from polyurethane are also used to keep taillight and headlight covers in place. These adhesives are weather-resistant, water-resistant, and heat-resistant so that headlight compartments do not fill up when water or fall apart in hot conditions.
Creating an Eco-Friendly Automobile
Polyurethane in the automotive industry has helped make cars and trucks more eco-friendly by making them lighter so they use less gas. The automobile industry has also started using polyurethane motor mounts to keep cars lighter. With polyurethane, cars have more parts that can be reused, like the foam used in seats and interior spaces.