Want to explore the benefits of using carbon fiber on a car? Are you looking for ways to enhance the looks of your ride without adding extra weight, or do you want to make it faster and more efficient?
You’re on the right path. Carbon fiber is so popular among auto enthusiasts because of the wide range of customizations and lighter individual components. From BMWs to Teslas, carbon fiber parts and accessories are a big trend.
How do I know?
- I do a ton of research daily, as my blog is all about automotive customization.
- I’ve used plenty of carbon fiber mods on my vehicles for the last five years.
I’ll answer the most common questions and dive deeper to familiarize you with all the information about using carbon fiber in cars.
Let’s get into the world of carbon fibers by looking at the top benefits of the material.
Carbon Fiber Material Benefits
In most cases, the material used is carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP). A strand of it is more thin than a human hair. I could write a whole essay on the benefits of the different automotive applications. But I don’t want you to get bored, so I’ll start by answering a straightforward question:
What Are the Three Main Reasons for Using Carbon Fiber?
Carbon fiber is one of the lightest materials used in the automotive industry. According to CarbonFiberGear.com, replacing aluminum with carbon fiber in a component of the exact dimensions reduces its weight by approximately 50%.
Let me clarify if you’re wondering what that means. The lighter your car is, the faster it can go and the better it can be in terms of fuel consumption.
Please don’t confuse light with weak. In fact, carbon fiber’s tensile strength is several times greater than that of steel. In other words, carbon fiber components can withstand high levels of stress and pressure without breaking or deforming.
And because of its strength and density, it’s used to manufacture thinner and lighter parts than their steel or aluminum counterparts without sacrificing durability or safety.
Unlike metals, carbon fiber can flex and bend without breaking. It is an ideal material for critical components that absorb impact and resist deformation. You probably guessed it: I’m talking about body mods like lips, bumpers, and spoilers.
Being so flexible makes it one of the favorite materials of designers. They can play with it and mold it into different shapes and sizes to create car parts that are both functional and stylish.
What Does Carbon Fiber Do for Cars?
Carbon fiber is used in a wide variety of ways in cars. Automakers, tuners, and race car builders utilize its benefits to improve efficiency, enhance the style, and boost the performance of vehicles.
I’ll touch on the automobile manufacturing later on. In this section, we’ll talk about the applications for the street and the race track.
Why is Carbon Fiber Good for Street Cars?
When it comes to street car modifications, carbon fiber is good for aesthetic and aerodynamic improvements. There are some other lightweight components like aftermarket wheels, but in my opinion, these are way too expensive to install on your daily driver.
With that being said, the most popular carbon fiber mods to use on a street car are:
- For the exterior – lip spoilers, side skirts, rear diffusers, and hoods give your ride a sporty look and improve its aerodynamics by adding minimal weight.
- For the interior – steering wheels, shifter knobs, and all kinds of trim pieces are available as interior car mods to add a sense of luxury when combined with other materials.
What is the Purpose of Carbon Fiber in Race Cars?
In addition to weight reduction and aerodynamics, the purpose of carbon fiber in race cars is to improve the vehicle’s stiffness and rigidity. It translates to better handling and less body roll, allowing racers to utilize more of the power their cars produce.
When Did F1 Start Using Carbon Fiber?
The first F1 car to use a carbon fiber composite monocoque debuted in the Argentina Grand Prix in April of 1981. That’s the McLaren MP4/1 designed by John Barnard and driven by John Watson and Andrea de Cesaris.
Here is what Watson says in an article for the McLaren Group’s in-house magazine in 2006, which was later published on F1technical.net
“It’s easy to take a new material and apply old thinking, and many people didn’t understand the technology at first. But John Barnard and his team weren’t into gambles – they knew exactly what the materials would give them. The MP4-1 was born out of incredible vision.”
Are Carbon Fiber Car Parts Worth It?
Carbon fiber car parts are worth it for those looking to improve performance and aesthetics. While it comes at a higher cost, the less weight and more strength will give you great value for the money spent on upgrades.
Before deciding to use it on your car, set the right expectations. Get familiar with the maintenance and durability. See some examples of how professional custom car builders utilize it on the interior and exterior.
Is Carbon Fiber Hard to Maintain?
Carbon fiber is not hard to maintain as long as you use the right cleaning products. It doesn’t require any special techniques or skills. Use gentle soap rather than harsh chemicals, and if you wash your vehicle under the sun, don’t leave water on carbon items for too long.
Is Carbon Fiber Easy to Damage?
High-quality carbon fiber parts won’t crack easily or get damaged quickly by extreme temperature, UV radiation, and other environmental factors. On the other hand, fibers that aren’t produced using the best technology are less durable even when adequately taken care of.
Should You Put Carbon Fiber on a Car?
Carbon fiber parts or wraps are a very effective customization option. The decision to use carbon fiber on a car should be based on your individual goals and budget. If you have the right expectations and can afford a high-quality product, the chances of disappointment are slim.
Carbon Fiber in Automobile Manufacturing
Carbon fiber is gaining momentum in automotive manufacturing. Quite a few brands are incorporating it into their vehicle designs, and it’s safe to assume the others will follow. Let me give you a few examples.
Ford – Ford has been using carbon fiber in combination with lightweight aluminum in their GT sports cars for years. Their limited edition 2023 GT Mk IV track car, which Ford calls “The last of its kind,” has a striking full carbon fiber body.
Tesla – About two decades ago, Tesla faced some tough challenges during the development of their first electric vehicle. As you probably figured, I refer to the Roadster. Carbon fiber was the only solution, allowing them to reduce drag and improve efficiency without giving up on power-to-weight ratio and acceleration.
Lamborghini – The Italian manufacturer of supercars takes advantage of the versatile material in many ways. Body panels, spoilers, seats, steering wheels, etc., you can see carbon fiber all over the Lambos. It helps the company build faster, more comfortable, luxurious vehicles.
Wrapping it Up
Automakers are always on the lookout to make their vehicles more efficient. At the time of writing, carbon fiber is still a niche material in the automotive industry, but its benefits are clear. I think we’ll see it make its way to mass production in the near future.