When it comes to perceived engineering and design quality, it is sometimes the simple things that can make a big difference. To that end, Ford of Europe has come up with a component called the Door Edge Protector (DEP) that was designed by a Ford team in Germany. The technology will be used on the production Focus models from January 2012.
When any of the car’s side doors open, a protective flap deploys to operate as a buffer to protect the car’s paintwork in parking lots or narrow streets where it might make contact with another vehicle or static object.
Matthias Tensing, Ford Product Development System Engineer based in Cologne, said: “The Door Edge Protector is one of those features that we think will make customers say, ‘Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?’ It will help anyone who needs to park in a confined situation.”
The DEP extends when a door is opened beyond 150 mm (5.9 in) and retracts in 60 ms to cope with doors being quickly slammed shut. The system incorporates a clutch mechanism that prevents damage if the flap is obstructed when returning to its folded position.
A challenge was to achieve operation with minimal noise, to ensure a very long in-service life with no effect on associated door mechanisms, and not to detract from side-impact safety performance.
It was also important to ensure that no collateral damage was caused and that vehicle aesthetics would not be compromised. Some past efforts at aftermarket door protectors could involve the use of unsightly plastic or rubber pads fitted to door trailing edges, and if screws were used to position them, the result could be surface coating breakthrough and subsequent rusting requiring remedial work.
The flap is fully extended at a door opening gap of 150 mm and provides maximum protection from a door opening angle of 18°, which represents a gap of 335 mm (13.2 in) for the front doors and 300 mm (11.8 in) for the rear. It is claimed to defend against more than 90% of variously positioned obstructions to the front doors and 85% to the rear.
It comprises 22 components and eight moving parts. Weight is described as minimal. A door-mounted actuator pin controls the deployment and retraction of the flap, using a Bowden cable positioned inside the door.
Tensing explained that a special rubber compound was developed that operates quietly and can withstand “many thousands” of usage cycles. Replacement flaps can be simply clipped into position.
Ford reveals that its research discovered that some 72% of car-owning households in Germany, the U.K., Italy, Spain, and France have damage to the doors of their vehicles. Spanish car owners are most likely (83%) to suffer car door damage, with those in the U.K. particularly careful at 53%.
Repair costs for a dented door are put at a typical €300, which may be below the level to claim on vehicle insurance but represents a significant amount for a car owner to spend.
Matthew Avery, Crash and Safety Research Manager at Thatcham, the U.K. Motor Insurance Repair Center, said: “Ford’s new Door Edge Protector is an excellent innovation for preventing annoying dents and scratches.” He added that a system that operated effectively without affecting a vehicle’s looks or performance was “particularly noteworthy.”