Benefits of Low-Friction Plastic Seals in Automotive Critical Components

Low-Friction Plastic Seals

What a great experience Saint-Gobain’s team had at the CTI Symposium in China! It is always a great opportunity to connect with the company’s auto industry colleagues. One question that often arises at these events is about the advantages of low-friction plastic seals. This article reviews some highlights:

Low wear = extended service life. This is a fact when it comes to automotive sealing solutions. In an industry with mandates for lifetime service confidence and zero tolerance for failure, wear-resistant plastic seals are used in numerous applications, including braking systems, oil and fuel pumps, automatic transmissions and more.

The automotive industry is continuously innovating to remain competitive, and simultaneously working to meet the strict safety and environmental regulations. However, as the industry evolves, low-friction plastic seals are quickly adapting. These seals are solving a range of problems to provide various benefits with new, custom designs and improved tooling and testing techniques.

Key Benefits of Low-Friction Plastic Seals

Lower Fuel Consumption and Reduced Emissions

Wear-resistant seals also provide extended performance, making the plastic part last the entire lifetime of the transmission.

Reduced Wear

Metal sealing solutions were the norm for particular automotive components in the mid-1990s. However, metal-on-metal friction and rubbing lead to accelerated wear and fretting issues. Seals from high-temperature thermoplastics provide a flexible, wear resistant solution that removes any metal-to-metal issues.

Today’s demanding applications, such as planetary ATs or DCTs, would be impossible without thermoplastic seals.

Less Leakage

Plastic seals also offer indirect advantages to automotive design engineers. They provide a rigid design that forms a tighter seal. With this lower leakage rate, manufacturers can decrease the size of their oil transmission pumps in order to increase overall fuel efficiency. In addition, these lower leakage rates promote a more environment-friendly automotive component.

Non-Corrosive Materials

Polymer and plastic seals resist corrosive liquids such as brake fluids and oil. Plastic seals, unlike metal seals, do extremely well in a demanding environment without rusting to offer lifetime service confidence.

Flexible Design

Low-friction polymer seals can be modified and customized to suit the OEMs’ requirements. For instance, the sealing injection molding process can integrate various functions and material formulations; lubrication channels can be included and sizes can be modified. In terms of the geometry, polymer materials provide extremely high flexibility for a unique part design.

Space Saving Property

Rectangular seals are normally used on rotating actuators such as clutches and pistons. In order to provide optimal design possibilities, this space-saving seal design has a thickness of just millimeters. However, the thin design can easily accommodate pressures and speeds that cannot be sealed by conventional radial shaft or lip seals.

Future Technology Adoption

As the automotive industry continues to develop more hybrid and electric technology, low-friction plastics are perfect for dry-running parts in electric motors. Polymers, unlike metal seals, accommodate minimum counterfaces without surface treatments. They also accommodate a wide range of temperature to withstand heating and cooling cycles, and are lightweight to help reduce drag. Low-friction seals do extremely well for conventional and hybrid automotive technology.

Where Will You Find Low-Friction Plastics Seals in Automotive Applications?

  • Engines: Oil pump components
  • Braking: Assist components
  • Steering: EPS rings
  • Transmission: DCT/ CVT rings
  • Suspension: Air suspension cup seals
  • Emissions: Solenoid valve cup seals
  • Climate control: AC compressor components

Plastic seals do extremely well in friction reduction for different automotive applications. Customers can contact Saint-Gobain’s team to learn more about design options for their critical applications!


This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Saint-Gobain.

For more information on this source, please visit Saint-Gobain.


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