When you think about the inner workings of an engine or other automotive parts, a lot of metal comes to mind, including a lot of metal bolts and metal nuts. These materials have been the go-to products in the auto industry because they offer strength, since the days of Henry Ford. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with them – but over recent years, with gas mileage becoming more important, the auto industry has looked for ways to save on weight while at the same time, to maintain strength, improving reliability and reduce wear.
Enter Plastic Fasteners
Plastics have come a long way. They are being used more and more in the building industry, and because of this, special fasteners have been created to reduce radial stress, maximize stripping torque, and increase resistance to pullout.
Just as special fasteners have been made to fasten plastic materials together, special plastic fasteners have also been made for a wide range of applications, including those that involve the auto industry.
Why plastic fasteners are a good choice for the auto industry
There’s a lot going on under the hood of your car. From oil and fluids to heat and humidity, the environment under the hood of your vehicle is harsh. Because dependability and safety are so important to a vehicle, metal materials and fasteners have been the norm. The trouble is, metal products have problems of their own. They are prone to corrosion that can compromise the safety and dependability of a vehicle. Plus they are a little heavier. A few ounces here and there can add up to many pounds of weight savings.
Plastic fasteners are gaining in popularity in the auto industry because they are chemical and acid resistant, non-conductive, and have a much higher tolerance for exposure to water and humidity. By using plastic fasteners, you can reduce maintenance issues and the need for repairs.
Just as strong as metal
The trouble is, plastics are not known for being strong. Even with their other properties, they weren’t a good choice for the auto industry in the past. That’s not the case today.
Some plastic fasteners are just as strong and durable as metal fasteners. You just have to be smart about the plastic materials you choose.
FR-4/G10 is a popular plastic because it is flame resistant. It is a composite material that is made up of woven fiberglass cloth and an epoxy resin, providing it with good strength to weight ratios.
Polyarylamide (PARA) has both a lower and slower water absorption rate than typical polyamides. It is reinforced with glass fiber, providing the material with very high rigidity. It is also resistant to a wide variety of chemicals that are common in the automotive industry.
Thermoplastics Polyurethane (TPU) is also a very strong product. It is significantly lighter than metal, it is resistant to chemicals, moisture, and UV radiation.
Some fasteners in the automotive industry aren’t quite what you would expect. For example, Kapton polyimide film is often used in automotive applications and fastener materials.
Types of plastic fasteners used in the automotive industry
There are many different types of plastic fasteners that are used in the automotive industry. Interior trim fasteners are nearly always plastic, as they enhance the interior of the vehicle. Bumper spacers are also made out of plastic. Plastic tube clips and electrical fasteners can keep things neat and tidy under the hood.
Things get a little more complicated when it comes to fastening metal. Studs can be made out of plastic, and they can be used in the engine. Screws can also be made out of plastic. Some fasteners are even specially made just for the auto industry.
Plastic fasteners are more versatile than ever and they can provide a wide range of benefits in the automotive industry and beyond. You just have to take the time to make sure you choose the right automotive plastic fasteners for the job.