Piston Slap: Portal Protection for an Erratic Winter?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap portal protection for an erratic winter

TTAC Commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

Sajeev,

As I look outside a the terrible weather, I felt it was opportune to ask you (and the B&B) a relatively simple yet timely question about preventing car door freezing: door handles, windows, etc, during the freeze and thaw cycles that we are increasingly experiencing.

On Sunday our temperature reached a record low of – 22C but on Thursday we had driving rain and a record high of + 10C melting all the snow. Friday we are dropping to – 13C with high winds and freezing rain/sleet/snow. All of these freeze thaw cycles play havoc with our autos.

The high temperatures combined with the salt used to keep the roads less icy results in rusting. Perhaps less serious but just as frustrating are the freezing of windows, doors, door locks and door handles.

Historically I have used a number of different types of lubricants and sprays to combat this.

  • For frozen door locks, lock de-icer, powdered graphite, silicone spray and even in an emergency Vaseline.
  • For “hidden” hinges, white lithium grease, now replaced by “green” Rust Check.
  • To prevent doors from freezing, spray silicone or Teflon spray on a rag, applying it to the door sills, ledges and the rubber seals.
  • Prevent windows from freezing by rolling down the windows and applying silicone or Teflon spray to the inside top ledge.
  • Spraying silicone or Teflon spray into the door handle’s hinges, after I broke a frozen one.
  • About once per year use the straw that comes with the silicone spray can, insert it into the outer part of the door frame and spray down to help prevent the windows and door handles from freezing.

My questions are:

  • Are these practices beneficial?
  • If not what should I do?
  • Is the silicone spray safe or will it eventually damage the rubber?
  • If so, what other lubricants would work better?

Sajeev answers:

Son, why you gotta take this Houston kid outta his comfort zone? But aside from Vaseline being a dirt magnet, I agree with your regimen to prevent car door freezing.

Consider that plastic door handles, window regulator bits, and all rubber items age. So having less resistance means a lower chance of broken mechanisms as the years go by.

Definitely use silicone-based lubricants on door handle mechanisms, weatherstrip and just about every other rubber-based door component, even window channel runners. Silicone sprays are made specifically to prolong the life of rubber parts. Avoid WD-40 or similar oil-based penetrating fluid as they can leave a gummy residue, thus making things worse. (Not to bag on WD-40, they have a full range of lubricants.)

Using a dry lubricant (usually graphite) for keyholes and latches is ideal to keep things slick without attracting dirt. And give the door/trunk/hood hinges a shot of white lithium grease to keep them moving like new, too.

Now is Teflon spray any better than Silicone? I’d like to know! I’ve been happy with silicone’s non-stick demeanor and rubber conditioning qualities (and squeaky door silencing on E39 M5s) exclusively for 10-plus years, so that’s a question for the B&B.

[Image: Shutterstock user S_Photo]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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  • Never_follow Never_follow on Jan 19, 2018

    Shin-Etsu for rubber seals all the way. Rub it on once a year, seals don't perish or stick. I'll second teflon spray for locks, Dupont makes a good one.

    • See 1 previous
    • Northeaster Northeaster on Jan 20, 2018

      Is Shin-Etsu very different from the usual Dow Corning high vacuum grease? I find the latter fine for door seals, but a little stiff to be applied easily.

  • Ernest Ernest on Jan 19, 2018

    I'm guessing the words "remote start" might be relevant here?

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