Comparison of Body Kit Materials
Today we’re going to discuss the difference between Fiberglass, Polyurethane, ABS, and Carbon fiber body kits.
The first decision you may need to make is the type of material you may want. Body kit parts come in fiberglass, polyurethane, ABS plastic, carbon fiber, and composite. Some manufacturers specialize in one or two types, while others offer various kinds. In the scope of this article, we'll look at the characteristics of each of these materials and some examples of each in order to help you make a more informed purchase.
Fiberglass parts are relatively easy to produce and inexpensive to buy, but their as-delivered fit and finish may not match those of ABS plastic parts. Fiberglass has many benefits: it's lightweight, there's no warping during temperature changes, and paint will readily adhere to it. The downside to fiberglass is its rigidity. This lack of flexibility makes installation more difficult, and it leaves the finished product more vulnerable to shattering and breakage. For example, if angled driveways and parking lot barriers are not approached with caution, you may end up with a cracked or broken fiberglass part. In contrast, an ABS part is able to flex enough to avoid damage in that same environment. Assuming installation is done perfectly and your vehicle is driven with the utmost caution, fiberglass is still susceptible to cracking due to unanticipated road hazards and debris. As we mentioned earlier, the relatively inexpensive nature of fiberglass materials lends itself to low-grade, cheaply-made parts also being on the market.
Polyurethane (also known as simply "urethane") is a popular material for body kit parts. Because polyurethane is more difficult and costly to produce, parts made from it are more expensive to purchase. However, the as-delivered fit and finish level is usually better than fiberglass. As mentioned earlier, polyurethane is much more flexible than fiberglass - making it more durable and easier to install. A polyurethane part can be "coaxed" into position during installation without fear of it cracking, and the end product will flex in response to minor impacts instead of breaking apart. However, polyurethane is heavier than fiberglass, so polyurethane aero parts are not the best choice for racing if weight reduction is a primary goal. And while the finished surface of polyurethane parts is generally smoother and more even than fiberglass, more specialized preparation is required in order for paint to adhere properly without peeling or flaking off. Polyurethane is also susceptible to warpage under extreme heat, so the environment must be taken into consideration.
ABS plastic is a thermoplastic blend that combines the strength and rigidity of acrylonitrile and styrene polymers with the ruggedness of polybutadiene rubber. Because ABS plastic is chemical and heat-resistant and offers good protection against dents, it's widely used by automobile manufacturers as original equipment for trim, bumper covers, and some body panels. ABS plastic is more expensive and heavier than fiberglass. However, it also offers fit and finishes that are superior to fiberglass. ABS it's a very easy surface to apply paint on.
Carbon fiber more accurately known as carbon fiber-reinforced polymer is a polymer-like epoxy that's strengthened by actual carbon fibers. Those carbon fibers are constructed from carbon atoms bonded together in crystals that align parallel to the long axis of the fiber - an alignment that makes the end result very strong for its size and weight. And as you might guess, carbon fiber gains its distinctive appearance because the fibers are woven into the polymer "fabric".Carbon fiber parts are extremely strong and lightweight, making them ideal for racing or any application that requires strength without the weight penalty of metal. However, carbon fiber parts are equally valued for their looks and high-performance image. And their looks are usually ready to go right out of the box because they come clear-coated and don't need to be painted - unless you prefer to.