The role of predictive life-determination of elastomer components is gaining greater importance, due to shortened development time and increased expectations of quality and durability. The conditions to which the consumer exposes an item, however, are rarely as consistent as conventional laboratory test protocols would suggest. It is particularly difficult to define "aggressive" conditions during test development, as these are not only dependent upon consumer usage patterns, but also upon climate and exposure time. Additionally, several degradation mechanisms may be jointly contributing to overall deterioration of properties. This investigation demonstrates the utility of using established analytical methods of microstructure determination to map the crosslink type and density for a sulfur-vulcanized natural rubber component. This information is then used to establish the importance of the degradation mechanisms incorporated into the predictive laboratory test. Laboratory specimens aged under controlled conditions are compared to real-world specimens in
order to balance the degree of oxidative vs. non-oxidative damage, and to identify regions of heat generation and heat transfer.