Carbon is durable, but over time it can fatigue due to softening of the epoxy resin. Naturally, the more the bike is used, the faster it will deteriorate. The specific structural design, tube thickness, type of riding it is used for, and the degree of care it receives can also affect how long the bike will last before showing signs of aging.
Carbonized frames tend to be inert or unreactive by nature so they will not produce a chemical reaction such as corrosion or salt damage with most types of cleaners. However, the whole frame is not made from this same material, many parts are aluminum which is prone to rusting when exposed to harsh solvents, so care still must be taken when cleaning the bike.
A bike made from carbon fiber can be found to have manufacturing faults the same as any other type can, in most cases this will be in the form of bent dropouts or broken drink bottle cage lugs, but these issues are normally covered under the manufacturer's warranty. Surface scrapes generally don't pose any problem other than aesthetic ones, but if a crack is detected in the carbon's matrix this calls for immediate attention before it worsens.
A weak spot can spell disaster unless it is dealt with early on, it can result in issues such as bent rear derailleur hangers, a cracked seat or seat post, or even a break in the frame. Not all serious frame damage is apparent to the untrained eye, which is why it is risky to buy used bikes of this kind.
If a bike has been involved in a traumatic event but still seems salvageable, it is best to take it to a bike mechanic for evaluation. A skilled expert will scan the bike for structural frame damage the naked eye cannot pick up using special UV or ultrasound scanning equipment. It's a wise choice to take the bicycle in for routine maintenance every six months or so and to always make note of any unusual sounds it may be making so they can be further investigated.
Most damage is repairable, however, that which is more extensive should only be handled by an expert who specializes in fixing this particular type of bike. Simple repairs on the exterior can usually be handled sufficiently by most bike shops, but more serious frame compromise needs the knowledge of someone well-versed in these repairs.
Sometimes it makes more sense to replace a damaged part rather than get it fixed. Repairing can take a long time and be rather costly in some instances, and it may actually be cheaper and faster to simply order and install a replacement part. It all depends on where the damage is located and how extensive it is.
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