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Though rarely seen, automotive seals and gaskets play an integral role in keeping drivers on the road. There are, however, many questions about seals and gaskets due to their lack of exposure. What do they do? What are they made out of? How long do they last? Pep Boys is here to help with a 101 course on automotive seals and gaskets.

What Exactly do Automotive Seals and Gaskets Do?

To put it simply, the purpose of a gasket and an automotive seal is to close spaces between stationary and moving components in mechanical equipment so lubricant doesn't escape. They also help keep liquids, fluids, dirt, and other unwanted materials from entering the engine or mixing with other substances. Vehicles typically feature hundreds of these, which create long-lasting, impenetrable bonds.

What are Automotive Seals and Gaskets Made Out of?

Both automotive seals and gaskets are made from a variety of materials, the most common being rubber and stainless steel. Gaskets, however, have a more extensive list of materials they can be made from, such as multi-layered steel (known as MLS), copper, and composites. Regardless of what the seal or gasket is made from, it is engineered to be flexible and strong, to mold itself to the imperfections of the bonded area(s) and hold up under extreme conditions.

How Long Do Automotive Seals and Gaskets Last?

There is no typical 'shelf-life' for gaskets and seals, as a variety of factors can affect their durability. Factors include driving conditions, vehicle maintenance frequency, design flaws, torque, and much more. There are, however, easy ways to prolong the life of an automotive seal or gasket, such as changing the vehicle coolant and oil at recommended levels, using manufacturer-recommended coolants, maintaining proper torque on head bolts, and watching for any signs of failure. While seals and gaskets are not very expensive, replacing them can be costly because of how long it may take a technician to get to the damaged piece.

What are Common Types of Automotive Seals and Gaskets?

While there are many types of seals and gaskets out there, five are more common than the rest:

Differential Gaskets
The first are differential gaskets and seals, which are designed to prevent dirt, grime, and other unwanted materials from getting into the axle tube and damaging the vehicle’s transmission components. Differential gaskets and seals are typically very flexible and hold gear oil in, while throwing out leftover impurities.

Cooling System Gaskets
Cooling systemgaskets are used to seal or fix matched components and pipe joints so gasses and liquids do not leak. These gaskets and seals are commonly made from soft sheet metals, but they may also be made out of bullet steel, stainless steel, graphite, silicone, and neoprene. Acting as a powerful barrier between the cylinder head and block of an engine, cooling system gaskets are installed with the purpose of ensuring fluids and grease do not leak into unwanted areas.

Engine Gaskets
Engine gasketsand seals are essential to a vehicle as they help prevent oil, fluids, coolants, and air from leaking internally. These gaskets allow for maximum compression to take place. The engine head gasket in particular is the most critical of all gaskets and seals used for an engine, as it absorbs all of the heat and compression produced by the engine.

Fuel Supply Gaskets
Fuel supply gaskets act as a strong seal between two static surfaces and are mostly used for obstructing fluid leakages. They help maintain appropriate pressure in an engine enclosure and are placed between the fuel pump space block and fuel pump mounting surface.

Transmission Gaskets
Transmission gasketsand seals typically come in the form of a ring or sheet and are made of flexible materials. Transmission gaskets and seals create pressure-tight connections between a vehicle's transmission components and generally come in two types. Internal gaskets and seals prevent and obstruct leaks in accumulators, whereas external gaskets and seals prevent fluid leaks from taking place outside of the transmission axle case.
Designed with the purpose of preventing fluids and gases from mixing while under compression, automotive gaskets and seals form inseparable bonds between surfaces. While they are the most prevalent components of a car, they commonly go unnoticed until one of them 'blows' or fails. Regular maintenance and using manufacturer recommended coolants and fluids are two of the many ways that the life of a gasket or seal can be prolonged.

Whether you're looking for parts and know-how to do-it-yourself or would like an ASE-certified technician to do the work for you, Pep Boys has everything you need to get the job done right. Drop by your local store today to discover the best deals on gaskets, seals, and more.