HomeCar CultureIt’s elemental: Automotive Periodic Table

It’s elemental: Automotive Periodic Table


Remember having to use the Periodic Table when you took chemistry in high school? Automotive supplier GMB North America shares an automotive version of that chart to show how the elements are used in vehicle production.

The chart, by Spork Marketing, is color-coded to indicate usage (click on the chart above to see the entire image).

“Every new vehicle has thousands of parts, from individual nuts and bolts to plastic trim and body panels,” Sarah Porter, GMB North America marketing manager, is quoted in the news release. “While a lot of these parts are made from the same groups of elements, there are some surprises.

“We thought it would be fun to show how various elements are used by the auto industry in a familiar format.”

GMB North America notes that aluminum not only is used for body panels and wheels, but to reduce weight in engine blocks, cylinder heads, control arms and battery cables.

Ever hear of bismuth? It’s a pearl pigment of bismuth oxychloride and was used in automotive paint from 1998-2000, but since has gone the way of lead and uranium, though some bismuth still is used in the steel used in some engine parts.

Calcium, in the form of calcium carbide, is another ingredient in steel.

Carbon has many uses, among them in carbon fiber.

Chlorine is used to make PVC used for moldings, trim pieces, etc.

There’s not only gold in them thar hills, but in electrical system components such as the circuitry that fires airbags in a collision.

Remember mag wheels? Magnesium also is used in subframes, rear suspension arms, oil pans, hoods, lift gates and other components.

Platinum is a key component in catalytic converters. In fact, says GMB North America, in the U.S. the auto industry uses more platinum than any other industry.

GMB produces original-equipment and aftermarket parts including universal joints, water pumps, tensioner and idler bearings, wheel bearings and hub assemblies, fuel pumps and more. To learn more, visit the GMB website.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. I Larry, great article. I love the chart and the point that there are so many elements in consumer goods that we don’t think about. It’s not always obvious which elements a product requires.
    Nicely done. One point I think might be a little off is that about Bi. Bi is still used for the "pearlessence" in the coatings and for yellow. It also is used in the glass frit that goes onto the windscreen. Bi prices spiked in the earlier part of this century, and you may have noticed a movement away from colors that had that shimmer, but rest assured, they are back. In fact, Bi is a Pb replacement, and a safe alternative to Pb, so its use is increasing rather than going "the way of lead and uranium" as stated in your article.


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