Classic Car Rubber Components - Are you at risk?

19 June, 2021

Worn out windscreen wiper blades

The MOT says it is safe, but is it durable?

Rubber components

They’re not always as tough as they would like you to believe.

One item of your car you probably take for granted is rubber; this will include tyres, fuel lines, brake hoses, windscreen wipers, window seals and even light gaskets.

What is more important, the tyres or the brakes?

Particular care and attention should be given to these characters; they’re your only way of staying on the road. If only one decided to have a day off, it could be catastrophic.

What is more important, the tyres or the brakes?

If you have great brakes and poor tyres and vice versa, then your stopping time and control of the car is considerably diminished.

Tyres and brakes are complimentary, and when you want to come to a measured stop at a junction or perform an emergency stop, the act of deceleration and coming to a halt is a combination of the two.

But tyres are constantly engaged, and if they have insufficient tread on a wet road, they cannot displace the water, or on a dry road going into a bend, then the poor condition of the tyres could cause an accident regardless of having good brakes. 

Look very closely at the sidewall and between the tread for cracking. Should you find any at all, it would be advisable to change them all, if your tyres are over 10 years old it would be advisable to change them regardless of their appearance.

Swollen rubber hose preventing return of the brakefluid and leaving the brakes on all the time.Swollen rubber hose preventing return of the brakefluid and leaving the brakes on all the time.

Brake hose in good condition

Rubber Brake hoses

Brake hoses.

These are tricky, older hoses don’t like brake fluid, but they won’t show it as they age until the problem actually occurs.

When you brake, the pressure on the brake fluid inside the hose is trying to double the hose in size, but restricted by the hardy woven coat you can see in the picture above, and so the pressure exerted on the fluid is applied to the brake pads.

The problem occurs when the swelling in the deteriorated hose prevents the return of the brake fluid from the brakes when you take your foot off the brake.

So the brakes remain partly on all the time, there is lots of friction and heat build-up causing the brakes to bind and become damaged.

Save the expense of repairs, most hoses are no more than £20 and can be purchased very easily for most cars. 

Just because they would pass an MOT doesn’t make them safe.

If they’re over 10 years old it could be worth investing in a new set on the next service.

When replacing hoses, there are two sorts; most manufacturers use reinforced ones, so beware of cheap replacements without.

Un-reinforced hoses split much easier, and on the likes of Aston Martin, Austin Healey, Jaguar, and other big engine cars inferior quality hoses can explode under the pressure these cars run at.

The top hose shows white cotton reinforcements; the bottom is unsupported. 

Does your car have Wiper blades or smudgers ?

Wiper blades (or smudgers)

These are handy if you want to see clearly out of the front screen or even the back if your car is fitted with one, again not expensive to buy but are often overlooked as we generally use our cars in the dry (editors note: Really?

There will be a time you have half the insect population stuck on your car, including the windscreen, with a quick push of the screen wash and bingo!

You can’t see anything as all your hard or worn-out wiper do is spread the
mess around.

Perishable Fuel Lines

Fuel line

This is the daddy of rubber on your car.

The new fuel available today is NOT compatible with old hoses, and you should change all the rubber hoses as a matter of course.

Even the healthiest of old Rubber hoses will turn soft and jelly-like eventually, either disintegrating or bursting due to not having any resistance to the Ethylene content of fuels on sale at the petrol station forecourt.

There are some garages you can buy old 4-star petrol, but not many, most have E5 (5% Ethylene) and fuels will come with up to 10% Ethylene.

Have you found water in your boot or passenger footwell recently ?

Light, boot, and door seals.

Not so much a safety item but still important, water always finds the easiest route to enter your car for a free ride.

Light seals are an easy option for water ingress via the boot, as is the boot seal, which, if worn or damaged, will also let carbon monoxide in, which is smelly old stuff and not great for your health.
One trick to help mitigate the intrusion of this unwanted character if a problem starts whilst your out is to keep the windows closed whilst driving; if open, they will cause a vacuum and suck the fumes in.