What Causes Our Dashboards to Crack?

Not as common in newer cars but still a problem for many older used cars, is a cracked dashboard. While it may be more of a cosmetic problem than any issue with safety, having a cracked dashboard can be rather annoying. Especially because the dashboard sits immediately in our range of sight, potentially leading you to stare at a giant crack across the plastic every time you get in the car. Besides the materials used, there can be several factors that cause a dashboard to crack, and knowing what those are can help us prevent it from happening as general maintenance.

Sunlight — your car’s worst enemy

The UV rays produced by the sun are one of your car’s biggest enemies. It can cause your car’s paint to fade, the clear coat to fail, and a handful of other problems. Among those problems the UV rays can also cause the dashboard to crack, especially if it is plastic. The sun’s harmful rays affect the structural integrity of the plastic over time, leaving them dried and brittle, and therefore more likely to crack.

slightly dated, but still nice enough considering the Nissan NV is the cheapest van you can buy
Nissan NV interior | Nissan Media

Heat doesn’t help

While we associate sun exposure with heat, the UV ray causes different problems then heat does. Sun exposure can be reduced or minimized by using a sunshade when parked. Heat is a little bit more difficult to avoid, especially if you live in harsher, hotter climates. Like the sun, heat can alter the plastic of the dashboard chemically, causing it to turn gray and ashy, and eventually crack.

2020 Infiniti QX60 dashboard
2020 Infiniti QX60 dashboard | Infiniti

Repairs and prevention

In some instances, smaller cracks can be repaired either with some at-home kits that you can buy at your local auto parts stores. For more serious damage, sometimes an entire dashboard needs to be replaced, and that cost can range pretty greatly. Then, of course, if you just don’t care, you could leave the dashboard cracked and go about your day.

For prevention, there isn’t much you can do to help keep the temperature in your car down, but a sunshade on the dash could help the temperature from spiking inside. Either way, having a sunshade will protect the dashboard from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Bonus, if you live in hotter climates it will also make your car slightly more pleasant to get into.

The inside of the 2017 86 features a black interior.
2017 Toyota 86 | Cheat Sheet

Three Do-It-Yourself Car Maintenance Projects to Try Next

Even the toughest plastics can get brittle with heat and exposure to UV rays, and the dashboard of your car probably receives a lot of both. While we can minimize the risk of our dashboards cracking, sometimes it can’t be prevented altogether.