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Ford Developing Ways to Prevent Car Seats from Aging

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Ford prevent car seats from aging due to sunscreen
Photo: Ford Motor Company

Sunscreen is an absolutely vital component of your summer, whether you’re wanting to avoid the all-too-familiar pain of being scorched or avoid the long-term effects caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. But wearing sunscreen as well as hand sanitizer can have a negative effect on your car seats — chemicals in these products can cause surfaces to wear down more quickly.

To combat this, Ford engineers are constantly working to create new seats and resistant coatings that can stand up to these chemicals. The protective coatings can also be used on other interior surfaces like trunk liners and plastic covers, prolonging the life and look of a Ford vehicle and keeping resale value higher.

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“Sometimes what we do requires a bit of detective work,” said Richard Kyle, materials engineer at the Dunton Technical Center. “There were instances of particularly high wear in Turkey and we managed to trace it back to ethanol potentially being a contributing factor, and most likely a popular hand sanitizer that contained 80 percent ethanol — far higher than anything we’d seen before. Once we knew what it was, we were able to do something about it.”

Ford notes that hand sanitizer is a huge market in Europe at $371.92 million a year, and it’s expected to only grow by 60 percent to around $593.62 million by 2024. In the case of sunscreen, the key contributor to premature aging is titanium oxide, which particularly takes a toll on plastic and leather when the weather is hot.

To test the coatings and surfaces, the teams at Dunton Technical Center and Ford’s technical center in Cologne simulate the heat of a car on a hot day and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light for upwards of 48 days. In contrast, these materials and substances are also tested to ensure durability in cases of extreme cold.

Ford also tests the viability of its seats against summer sweat, which it accomplishes thanks to the help of a cheekily named machine called Robutt.

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