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Those plastic parts are so weak. They get broken all the time. I specifically saw this problem in My Renault Twingo 1995 and VW Beetle 2001.

Are there any cars that use metal instead of plastic?

  • As a person who drove 1995 Twingo, I would like to know which plastic part did you break? :) Also, keep in mind that in really low temperatures, most plastics get brittle and can get broken not because they are weak. So I try not to operate plastic latches in such conditions. Did you break things when it was really cold? – Evren Yurtesen Feb 17 '17 at 10:49
  • @Evren Yurtesen On the contrary, It's too hot and many parts to mention got broken. The famous plastic door handles, the interior light, the ac buttons, dashboard screw holes, wire connectors, blower fan, air vents. – Ronen Festinger Feb 17 '17 at 23:07
  • It is strange, maybe your car had some manufacturing defect in its plastic parts. The plastics were very sturdy in the twingo I was driving even at -20C. The only other reason I can think of is if some incompatible chemicals (for cleaning etc.) were used. They can modify the properties of the parts and make brittle. I think even alcohol and other solvents can make this happen. Are you using any cleaning agents? Read this umgabs.co.jp/en/trouble/detail/chemical.html – Evren Yurtesen Mar 4 '17 at 22:29
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Plastic parts are used extensively in cars because they are light, cheap, and break after only a few years (yes, ideally just after the warranty expires, by design). Note, the parts that break most predictably are the small, higher stress parts used in the door latch assemblies, the interior vents air direction assemblies, door handles, panel latches and covers, just about everywhere where frequent high, localized mechanical or thermal stress is expected.

I mention thermal stress from my experience with BMWs in the Mid East, where their handles literally turn to black goo and their hood gaskets disintegrate, and these cars are supposedly designed to survive the heat of the region. Never happened to my Hondas.

Plastics are truly miraculous, if chosen and designed correctly, and can be as good as or better than the metal parts they are supposed to replace, but seldom is the case due to bad design, bad specs, or bad manufacturing.

The old lightweight plastic duct and body panel argument just isn't part of the discussion, but is frequently used as a diversion from the real reason plastic parts are so widely implemented.

They simply do not belong in the higher mechanical stress locations just mentioned, and the weight savings of going back to metal are negligible compared to the drop in reliability, increased cost of ownership and higher driver safety risk.

I am an aerospace engineer with 40 years of international experience, and I would support a global class action lawsuit against all car manufacturers who have gone too far in changing their metal assembles to plastic ones, to the seemingly intentional detriment of their customers.

10

As @DucatiKiller said, weight is a major factor. With ever-increasing safety standards that need to be met, car weights are constantly increasing. Making as many weight savings in as many areas as possible is a major reason here. Cars are getting more efficient, with smaller engines, so the cars need to be as light as possible.

Then there's cost.

Manufacturing cast alloy products, or steel products, just isn't as cost effective as it used to be. Injection moulded parts can be made en-masse and they are cheap to produce, cheap to ship, and cheap to eventually recycle.

Also, advancements in polymers that actually make some plastics stronger than metals.

It might seem like these plastics break easily, but in a lot of cases they can perform better than their metal counterparts. They might snap if you lean on them but so might an equivalent metal part. Remember, in a modern car, it's designed to crumple like a beanie-baby on impact. Metal parts don't crush as easily in a lot of cases.

Edit: And then there's the cynical, yet very strong case of

Return customers

Oh dear, that part has broken three days outside of warranty. Isn't that conven... I mean... a pity. You best buy that bespoke, dealership-only plastic part again. See you again in a year or so!

  • Do you have a reference to those plastics which are stronger than metals? I guess it may depend on what you mean by 'strong' also, can you explain? – Evren Yurtesen Feb 17 '17 at 10:47
  • Kevlar and carbon fiber composites are stronger than steel in some applications (higher tensile strength, but less elasticity). – Hobbes Feb 17 '17 at 12:03
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Weight Reduction

Using metal components within a car to replace all of the plastic components would increase the weight and reduce the overall efficiency and gas mileage of the vehicle.

The overall energy consumption globally by replacing plastic parts with metal parts would have to be astronomical.

0

If we made metal body, engine efficiency automatically decrease. Engine has to propell the overall if we add metal that doesn't get move or performance will decrease automatically, plastic body will be light weight so can be move easily or load doesn't act much....

0

There are cars that use metal in more places than most. In a Rolls-Royce, the vents are metal, for example.

But there are many places in a car where you don't want to use metals. In addition to the cost and weight issues mentioned in other answers, metal has noise issues. Esp. if you use thin sheet metal, it will readily conduct noise and vibration. That makes it undesirable to use on e.g. ventilation channels, interior panels etc.

Metal is also undesirable in places where the car's occupants will come into contact with it: e.g. the dashboard, center console, backside of the front seats. All of these would need at least some padding over it. Much more labor-intensive (and expensive) than a flexible plastic shell.

In other places, metal performs worse than plastic. A plastic bumper will spring back into shape after a minor parking accident, a metal bumper will be permanently deformed.

Plastic allows construction methods that are more difficult in metal: with injection moulding you can get parts that are thick and strong where they're needed, and thin and light where less strength is necessary. These parts can be much stronger and lighter than the equivalent made in sheet metal.
Metal casting is a process that gives results more comparable with injection moulding, but it is a far more complex and expensive process than either injection moulding or sheet metal operations.

Finally, there are plenty of cars that have durable plastic parts. I've owned several that didn't have a single part break, even when the car was 10-12 years old. It won't be hard to find a more durable car than that Twingo.

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