Car rubber care (treatment and nourishment) in the desert

I friend recently came over to visit driving Mercedes CLS400 AMG.  The model is 2015 and with only 80,000 km (50,000 miles) since 2015 drives nicely despite of numerous pot holes in Kuwait.  The rubber around the doors was rock hard, while the seals under the hood where crumbling like an old cookie.  This partially explains why cars from the USA and Western Europe don’t hold value in the Middle East.  After 5-7 years they start falling apart and deteriorate quickly.

Japanese cars, such as mine Nissan Patrol Y62 do better but they suffer too, particularly if they parked outside and not in the shade.  Where there is money to be made the services adapted to the harsh Middle East desert conditions:  every three months or 5,000 km air filters and oil are changed, air conditioning campaign services.  Somehow there is very little to no rubber care protection for the doors, under the bonnet (hood) or undercarriage.   A year ago I estimated that only the doors and trunk (boot), bonnet (hood)  replacement  rubber will cost 2,000 USD without labor cost.

Since I bought 6 year old car (back in 2020) without any prior rubber treatment (but it was parked in the shade) there had been some irreversible damage done. In one place the rubber cracked in others it was very dry (bottom edge of the car door).

I had to replace front link suspension on both sides, shock absorbers back in March and December 2021. The total cost was about 2,500 USD. Some of it was due to worn bushings but Nissan doesn’t replace them alone.  The tires were replaced in November 2021 (1,400 USD for five).

Excluding the suspension which can be damaged by uncountable number of speed bumps of various shape and sizes (the standard only due to be introduced on them in Gulf Cooperation Countries) total cost of the rubber I can reach and care for is $3,400 USD excluding the replacement labor cost.

For the past year I have been experimenting with variety of products and developing my routine for the rubber treatment and protections in the desert.  Nissan Patrol Y62 is a big car so its fairly time consuming.   Here is my routine so far:

  1. Daily. Keep the car in shade whenever possible out of direct sun radiation.
  2. Weekly. Car wash with pH neutral shampoo of all external elements and tyres.
  3. Weekly. Tires. Apply to the tire threads and external side wall water-based rubber care solution.  Let it sit for at least 30 minutes (it dries up much quicker than that).  This is to prevent tire rubber from hardening.  Its worth noticing that the only thing between the car and the road are tires, which act as primary shock absorbers.  Keeping them relatively supple with help the rest of the car elements to serve you longer.
  4. Monthly. Tires. Apply dressing to the tire dressing to the external tire walls.
  5. Three to four months. Apply rubber treatment and nourishment to the doors and windows elements, under the hood (bonnet), trunk (boot), windshield, sunroof.   Apply rubber treatment to all elements I can reach undercarriage – suspension links and control arms, bushings any rubber I can find and reach.  I don’t have access to a hydraulic lift so I found that removing spare tire in Patrol greatly enhance access to the rear.
  • Opportunity based (tires rotation, tire alignment, tire replacement, etc). When the wheels are off and the cur is suspended it provides great opportunity to lubricate the undercarriage rubber due to better access and that suspension, control arms are “relaxed”.  In Kuwait garages customers are allowed to go in and under the car.  I was thinking to buy jack stands but haven’t got around it yet.

Time consumption for the car rubber care, treatment and protection.

  • Weekly routine – car wash, wax and tires treatment – two hours.
  • Monthly – additional fifteen minutes.
  • Three to four months.   Door, hood and trunk seals – 3 hours.  Undercarriage treatment is split into two weeks (rear and back) – about two hours.  5 hours.

There is a lot of advertisement out there of different products people swear buy and provide affiliate links.

 The products I have tried for exterior rubber protection:

  • Nextzett 91480615 ‘Gummi Pflege Stift’ Rubber Care Stick – 3.4 fl. oz
  • 303 Rubber Seal Protectant – 3.4 Oz
  • AT-205 ATP Re-Seal Leak Stopper 8 Ounce
  • Genuine Honda 08798-9013 Silicone Grease (Shin Etsu) – 100g
  • Liqui Moly Rubber Care Maintains Cleans and Embellished 500ml
  • Liqui Moly Rubber Care Tire Door Window Boot Rubber Seals 75ml
  • Sonax rubber protectant
  • Swisswax seal feed rubber seal conditioner, 250ml – ordered but not tried.

The products I have tried for tires nourishment and treatment for the hot dry desert environment:

  • Meguiar’s G7516 Endurance Tire Gel – 16 oz
  • Aero cosmetics  Tire Conditioner 32 Oz
  • Adam’s Wheel & Tire Cleaner 16 Oz
  • 303 Wheel and Tire Cleaner  15.5 Oz
  • Mothers Tire and Wheel Cleaner 24 Oz
  • Dr Beasley’s DB-t31d08 Tyre Conditioner 237ml
  • Adams Graphene Tire Dressing 16 Oz
  • Adam’s Wheel Cleaner 16 oz
  • Meguiar’s G7516 Endurance Tire Gel – 16 oz.
  • SOFT99 Tyre Black Wax 170 g
  • Adam’s tire armor

This excludes the wheels treatment and protection from the brake dust.   This focuses just on the car rubber.  Excluding shampoo, I spent almost $1,500 USD in the past two years on the products trying them.

In my experience, hardened, cracked and discolored seals that have been neglected cannot be returned to an as new condition but they can be maintained and somewhat improved.

The key for the rubber treatment is regular wash with non-aggressive chemicals and brushes.  From all the car rubber treatment chemicals above mentioned here is what works for me:

Tires. Weekly I apply Aero cosmetics  tire conditioner on the tire threads with a foam applicator.  Monthly on the external tire wall I apply Dr Beasley DB-t31d08 tire conditioner or Adams Graphene Tire Dressing. Both provide light glossy dark finish and very good keeping roads dirt and dust away.

Every three to four months. Car doors, trunk (boot), bonnet (hood) rubber, moon roof and rubber around windshield. After thoroughly cleaning and drying them using brush I saturated them with shin etsu silicone grease and leave for as long as possible.  First time almost six hours and then removed the excess. If you leave the grease on it will attract the dirt and dust.

Word of caution – sometimes rubber absorbs too much and pop out of its groove.  I had it in two places.  For big, such as Nissan Patrol Y62 I had used almost two 100 g tubes.  After three-four months I use Nextzett (need two bottles). Applicator there is horrible, so I use piece of clothes for the majority of the weather strips, a brush and cotton sticks for the windows. Next three-four months I use the silicone grease again.

For the undercarriage rubber I use combination of AT-205 in a spray bottle and shin etsu where I can reach.  With AT-205 I spray all the rubber I can reach (including bushings) and apply shin etsu. The car is big so I can get under the car.  Typical mount per treatment are two bottles on AT-205 and two tubes of Shin Etsu.

My total annual consumption assuming three months interval treatment (including delivery to Kuwait):

  • Aero cosmetics  Tire Conditioner  128 Oz – 2 off –   150 USD
  • Dr Beasley DB-t31d08 237 ml – 2 off –  60 USD and Adam’s Graphene Tire Dressing – 16 Oz – 2 off  – 60 USD.
  • Shin Etsu silicone grease – 8 tubes – 2oo USD, AT-205  8 bottles – 300 USD
  • Nextzett 100ml – 4 bottles – 50 USD.

All together 750 USD annually. In the US it would cost 520 USD.  Is it worth or is it cheaper to replace all rubber every 10 years? I don’t know.  As an engineer one can argue about potential costs or neglected rubber – replacing the windows motors,  air conditioning inefficiency, more dust inside the car, safety risks driving on hard tires and so on…

I like the way the car looks and look after it. Perhaps it’s more esthetic than an economical decision.  Desert is a harsh mistress.   What is your car rubber care strategy?

Car rubber care in the desert. How to clean, protect and nourish your car rubber in harsh environment.