Each year, millions of cars across the country suffer from a noticeable condition often referred to as polymer degradation (PD). Its symptoms can be as simple as a slightly faded bumper, or as severe as a cracked molding or trim.

If you own a vehicle that’s more than five years old, it’s probably starting to show signs of polymer degradation. Cars that are often exposed to air pollution, sunlight, or extreme heat are also susceptible to PD.

But what exactly is PD and why should you be aware of it?

Let’s take a closer look at why all car owners need to know the basics of polymer degradation.

What is PD?

Why Polymer Degradation Should be on Your RadarVehicles are made with polymer materials that degrade over time. Exposure to air pollution, including car exhaust, can hasten the degradation process. The same applies to road grime, dirt, and other kinds of pollutants that cling to the polymers.

Once those polymer parts degrade, they become brittle and may fade, chip, or crack easily. They are no longer as flexible as they once were, and they become weaker as time goes by.

The effect in fading is more noticeable in black polymers, which transform into a gray color. This makes car owners mistake the degradation with leftover wax that was just not buffed out properly. While that may also be the case, it’s usually not wax.

Why is PD bad for your car?

When a part of your car, i.e. bumper or hood, is made of polymer material and it begins to degrade, it leads to premature aging which then results in other problems. These issues include cracking, reduced flexibility, decreased strength, discoloration, fading paint color, less resistance to scratch, cracking, and loss of glossy finish.

Can you prevent PD?

Now that you know the serious effects of PD, you may be wondering if it’s preventable. The good news is that PD is oftentimes preventable, as long as you are willing to invest a certain amount of money, elbow grease, and time. As a responsible car owner, you need to regularly maintain the vinyl, rubber, and plastic parts of your car.

Keeping your vehicle free from tar, grime, dust, and dirt is the first step to making sure all polymer parts don’t deteriorate faster than you expect. Using detergents that are not too strong also goes a long way in slowing down early signs of PD. We recommend washing your car regularly and having it detailed at least once or twice each year.

Aside from getting detailing and auto body repair, you can use specially-designed products that are made to protect polymers. Never reach for the cheapest cleaner you can find, as those have chemicals that will likely speed up PD instead of preventing it.

Dealing with PD? Get Professional Help

Polymer degradation can affect all vehicles, including yours. If it has already happened to your car, be sure to take it to a trusted auto body shop. Technicians have the right experience, access to professional detailing product, and extensive knowledge to help make your car look like new again. They may also offer car repainting or detailing services for your convenience.