What is the Life Expectancy of Polyurea?
Pure polyurea offers a range of benefits, from ease of installation to zero VOC outgassing to food contact capability. Many of these benefits are important in industrial applications, but matter less when talking about vehicle protection. Hybrid polyureas or polyurethanes are just as good or better in some cases. That’s when it’s wise to know the other factors that contribute to the life expectancy of polyurea. These are common things such as good surface preparation, how and where you’ll use it (the environment), and any ongoing maintenance required.
Polyurea is a technology, which means it’s a way of combining certain compounds to form a substance that can be used to coat stuff. We use the term “polyurea” to describe a spray-on coating that uses two liquid components, typically by-products of the petroleum industry, to form inert, long lasting, extremely durable coatings.
However, many “hybrid” polyurea formulations would truly be classified as modified polyurethanes. But of course that doesn’t matter to the end user who’s just looking for a tough, good looking protective coating for their vehicle that will last no matter what they throw at it.
The following information provides insight into the life expectancy of polyurea and the external factors that affect its durability and longevity.
Getting Started – Surface Prep
“A coating only truly protects something if it stays stuck to it.” -wise applicator
It may seem like common sense, but you’re not going to consider a bed liner to still be working if it detaches from the surface — even if the coating stays all in one piece because it’s unbelievably tough. Therefore, an easy way to increase the longevity of your polyurea spray liner is to make sure it’s bonded correctly to the substrate by scuffing and sanding to get the proper profile on the metal surface.
A well-bonded coating prevents moisture from sneaking in and rusting out the bed beneath. This is one reason why drop-in bed liners are always less than ideal, since they will never be customized to your vehicle specifically.
A coating only truly protects something if it stays stuck to it.
Weathering the Environment
The life expectancy of polyurea depends on more than just the surface preparation process. For example, a polyurea spray liner must withstand dings, dents, and gouges from cargo – these happen even when you’re super careful. They also protect against abrasion from the occasional thing sliding around in the back. But the real opponent for any bed liner is all around, all the time – UV from the environment.
The sun is a massive source of energy, and some of that comes to us in the form of UV (ultraviolet) light. UV light does funny stuff to materials exposed to it, especially to substances like paint, epoxies, or polyurea / polyurethanes. The chemical bonds tend to break down faster based on the amount of UV light a coating is exposed to. This means the physical properties of the cured coating can begin to change. You can see this in epoxies when they get hard, brittle, and chalky. Once this happens, the integrity of the coating is compromised.
Since all surfaces get at least some UV light, every coating needs to be able to withstand it as much as possible. Polyurea does a good job of staying flexible and adhered to the substrate without becoming chalky or brittle in high UV conditions. However, it still weathers away from UV exposure over time like all other coatings.
Therefore, it’s important to consider where your vehicle spends most of its time. Is it out on the job site in west Texas where the sun is punishingly constant? Or is it a garage-kept show truck that barely sees the light of day? One of these will require a heavier / thicker application initially. If they were both specified/sprayed at the same thickness, the work truck would be back for a re-spray within a fraction of the time of the show truck because of the steady UV exposure.
Maintaining Polyurea Made Simple
The maintenance process for polyurea is remarkably simple. Soap and hot water will remove nearly any dirt or debris. This is due in part to the chemical composition of the coating, which bonds to itself and doesn’t let anything else attach easily. A quick spray out is often all that’s required.
How long, you ask?
So, the somewhat less-than-helpful short answer is, “It varies, and it depends on lots of factors.” What makes a good solution for one application may not necessarily be the best for all uses. Therefore, knowing the environmental factors at play can help you determine the longest lasting, most cost-effective option for your vehicle.
All variables aside, in the examples given above, a work truck spending all its time outside might expect a 5-7 year period of full protection from the spray liner before needing a re-coat to the specified thickness. On the other hand, the garage-kept show truck might not need a re-coat for 25-30 years or more, if even then.
Phoenix Protective Coatings is an industrial coating supplier that prides itself on listening to customers and providing you with top-tier technical knowledge and support. Explore our broad range of products and contact our expert team for additional information today.