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Discussion Starter #1
What will soften rubber part?

I am looking to soften rubber gaiters that go between the fairing and the shocks. The bike has stood for a number of years; it starts and runs great so I don’t want to strip it at all.
The fairing gaiters are of the vulcanized black rubber type. I am looking for a easy to use house / garage product that I can use to soften the rubber up and stay that way.

I have read elsewhere of a number of possibilities but would like to hear if someone has any experience with this or is a bio chemist who can recommend a cocktail to rub on the rubber to soften it and keep it that way with say maybe a maintenance period of every 3 months or so.
 

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i've had good luck with dielectric grease. little bit sticky but you can rub it in and then rub off the excess down after it sits for a while.
 

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I'm no bio-chemist, nor do I play one on TV, but I think that part of the hardening process is the rubber oxidizing and that caused it to change it's properties to something hard and crunchy. Do not believe that is reversible.

Denatured alchohol is the standard recommendation for removing the oxidation on things like windshield wipers. Also used to make the surface slippery for installing things like footpeg rubbers. Not sure what would happen if you rubbed you gaiters with it.

I'd do a web search.

regards,
Rob
 

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My dad taught me to use brake fluid,
cleans , gets rid of dry spots and can be almost all wiped off.
Just did the Knee Pads on my 38 Norton and they are beautiful.
Also my trick on black plastic bumber and wheel arches on my cage
 

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Yes, brake fluid is an old trick I'd forgotten about. It was how we made our car tires look good before ArmorAll arrived. Never thought about it for making rubber soft. Worth a shot.

Keep it OFF YOUR PAINT!

regards,
Rob
 

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Discussion Starter #8
To be fair I have asked this on other forums as well, these are the contenders with the number of times mentioned: Gummi-pflege 2, Peanut oil, dielectric grease, Denatured alcohol, brake fluid 2, silicone spray 3, wintergreen oil 3, liquid Ivory soap, 303 Aerospace Protectant, Pledge furniture polish2, ATF (automatic transmission fluid).
I did a small experiment with what I thought would work based on the above and what I had in the garage at hand. I cut an old bicycle tube in ½” strips and smeared them with multi-purpose grease, old engine oil, brake fluid, aluminium deoxidiser, ATF, pledge furniture polish, carb cleaner, painter’s thinners and CRC marine spray. I can tell you the only ones that seemed to work was the CRC, painter’s thinners and carb cleaner sprays.
The thinners is no-good it just makes the rubber deteriorate. The Gummi-pflege is a known rubber product for BMW door / sun roofs rubbers etc. Maybe once its soft a little bit of furniture polish, Gummi-pflege or silicone spray will keep it soft.
 

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I was told by an old friend to try an ethylene glycol antifreeze/coolant, it has additives in it to keep rubber soft (like your coolant hoses), also works on airbox rubbers if they are hardened. Tried it on some carb to airbox rubbers that wouldn't go back on easily and it worked, left the rubbers to soak for a couple of days first. Don't use anything that has methanol in it though has the opposite effect. Dynoman!
 

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I would personally never put anything on them. Yes, there are things that will make it softer but then, how is it actually doing that? It degrades the rubber!

Ever seen rubbers on a car, side by side, where one was covered in oil? It completely destroys rubber, not just make it soft.
 

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Your initial curiosity may have been handled, but I did just remember seeing a similar discussion on a [Honda] forum, where someone made the point that it depends on what the material actually is. I'm not going to claim it as my own insight, in part because I really don't have the background to discern whether it's correct, but it felt plausible. The point was that the answer is different whether it's actually vinyl, latex, real rubber, some sort of black plastic, etc. (are those even all different things? I don't know).

I know a lot of people were suggesting vaseline, for example, but the petroleum would degrade one of the materials (displacing polymers and then evaporating, or something like that) that might or might not have been in the Honda fork boots.

Your list looks like a mix of silicones, petroleum distillates and vegetable oils, plus other items whose contents I don't know. They probably all work on something. Good luck experimenting.

ps - I'll add one thing: I once put a completely rusted brake cylinder, with rubbers still installed, in a can of Permatex penetrating oil; the rubbers (started out maybe 1" in diameter) were 4" wide the next day but back to normal after a second day in the dry air. Now I wish I'd kept it so I could know if it turned into a rock...
 

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Heh Heh, a Rock :D
I was told by an old Geezer once that It's OK to use Armorall, but once ya used it, ya had to keep on using it. Otherwise it was Bad Luck :p
 

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You know the Greeks have an old saying - "Spray Windex on it".

Well, here in the 'States we have a saying - "Spray WD40 on it".

I can't believe we got to 2 pages of posts without a single mention of WD40...

(but as was already stated, once it's brittle and crunchy/crumbly, it's too late)
 

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WD40 is basically mineral oil and solvents and will destroy natural rubber over time, but then we don't actually know what form of "rubber" these gaiters were really made from.
Their purpose is to protect the stantions from damage and also to keep any lubricant inside so we can only assume they are oil proof to a certain extent.

.
 

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I'm not a chemist, but I am a recovering chemistry major, and I echo those suspicious that at best, these topical treatments offer benign but short lived results. At worst, they do further damage to the rubber.

Rubbers get hard by the outgassing of chemical plasticizers (that is the oily stuff that used to deposit on the glass surfaces of new cars--don't notice that so much on later models), or by outright chemical degradation from exposure to oxygen, ozone, UV, heat, and who knows what else.

Neither one of these processes is easily reversible.
 

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Besides the aging process, I've also found that some rubber products made today seem to have more carbon black in them than actual rubber or synthetic rubber. They easily tear or crack if flexed or stretched too far. I have a new set of knee pads for a BSA that were so still they were impossible to install without destroying them. I should have returned them, but never did.

I'm sure there are gaiters and other rubber parts made of substandard rubber like this. Seems most of it comes from Asia or India.

regards,
Rob
 

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BB, If you clean up the old worn gaiters and coat them with a silicone spray that remains flexible when dried, would that help?
 

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I found that soaking in a mixture of nitro-methane and methanol would temporarily soften "rubber" parts,like rubber carb mounts.
It might give enough flexibility to fit the part,but 2 days later it's hard again.

A lot of things get called "rubber",because they look like rubber.
Natural rubber and synthetic rubber used for tyres is not oil-resistant.
Neoprene O-rings are oil-resistant,but not fuel-resistant.
Viton O-rings and fuel hoses are oil-resistant and fuel-resistant,and more temperature resistant.Health Warning:don't ever handle viton parts that have been burnt.
 

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PB Blaster can restore the elasticity and softness of hardened rubber. I've soaked many crusty rubber parts in it with good results. A 50:50 mixture of paint thinner and boiled linseed oil is an excellent formula for restoring faded and discolored plastic and rubber.
 
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