Failure Analysis Rejects Product Liability Claims in the Automotive Industry

Failure Analysis Rejects Product Liability Claims in the Automotive Industry

Did you know that motor vehicles were involved in 19 % of all product recalls listed by the Rapid Alert database in 2018? In the automotive industry, recent product failures concern the rupture and leakage of fuel tanks due to errors in the production process. It is crucial to find the cause of failure that can result from either design-, material- or production-related causes. Four thermal analysis instruments can answer many questions.

Motor vehicles were involved in 19 % of all product recalls listed by the Rapid Alert database in 2018 and thus, took second place after the recall of toys. The database has been set up by the European Union to allow swift exchange of all information on dangerous goods between authorities across the EU. In that way, appropriate measures to remove dangerous products for the markets can be taken.

Product recalls of plastic components often result from design-, material- or production-related causes. In the automotive industry, recent product failures concern the rupture and leakage of fuel tanks due to errors in the production process, the evaporation of fuel due to flawed petrol caps and defective plastic brush holders that may cause the brake booster pump motor to stop working.

Fight off product liability and compensation claims

These product recalls in the automotive industry are a costly endeavor. Not only the appointment of a crisis team, but also the removal of the product from the market and the notification of customers will bring about high costs. Furthermore, indirect costs like lawsuits for product liability and compensation significantly increase the total expenses of a recall, resulting from the failure of a plastic component.

In order to keep the costs and the impact on the company as low as possible, much effort needs to be put into finding the cause of failure of the plastic component and thus, the responsible party.

Analysis is key in finding the cause of failure!

The objective of failure analysis is the detection of the cause of failure, which often proves to be like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Reasons for failure include brittle fractures, creep rupture, ductile overload, environmental stress cracking, molecular degradation and fatigue. Oftentimes, it is not only one factor that affected the performance of a plastic component, but rather multiple integrated factors in the material, design and production process of a part. Therefore, the evaluation of how and why a part failed requires a scientific approach and broad expertise of polymer materials.

Get answers from four thermal analysis instruments

Is the material properly cured? Was the component produced from the right material? Did the material become brittle? These and many more questions have to be answered during comprehensive analysis that aims to detect the cause of failure.

Four thermal analysis instruments can give the desired insights into your crucial questions:

With Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) you determine if the molded plastic component is able to retain its desired properties over the service temperature range. Furthermore, the loss of stiffness of a molded part in contact with liquids can be measured.

Thermomechanical Analysis (TMA) allows to assess if residual stress is in the molded component. Additionally, the method determines expansion and shrinkage of parts due to temperature differences.

Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) reveal the material composition of a molded plastic part and can additionally tell you if the material degraded due to, i.e., faulty share of stabilizers.

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Sources:

https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumers_safety/safety_products/rapex/alerts/repository/content/pages/rapex/reports/docs/RAPEX_2018_Report_en.pdf

https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumers_safety/safety_products/rapex/alerts/?event=main.listNotifications&year=2019&lng=en

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