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HQ 951279

July 22, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:F 951279 ALS


TARIFF NO.: 4016.99.5050

District Director of Customs
Patrick V. McNamara Building
477 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, Michigan 48266

RE: Request for Further Review of Protest 3801-1-103044, dated November 7, 1991, Concerning Neoprene Rubber Boot Seal Kits for Constant Velocity Joints of Front-Wheel-Drive Automobiles

Dear Mr. Morandini:

This ruling is on a protest that was filed against your decision of October 6, 1991, in the liquidation of an entry covering the referenced article.


The article under consideration is described as "boot kits to clamp on the ends of axles of front-wheel-drive cars to keep out dust and dirt, of synthetic rubber...part number 244.8510RA." Each kit contains a neoprene boot, two steel clamps, one or two steel circlips (wire rings to retain the constant velocity (CV) joint on the shaft), one or two packets of grease.


What is the classification of synthetic rubber boot kit used in connection with a CV joint on a front-wheel-drive automobile?


Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) taken in order.

GRI 1 provides that the classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the heading and any relative section and chapter notes. If GRI 1 fails to classify the goods and if the heading and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI's are applied, taken in order.

The article under consideration was classified under subheading 4016.99.5050, HTSUSA, the provision for other articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber, other. The protestant states that the article should be classified under subheading 4016.93.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for other articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber...gaskets, washers and other seals. The protestant states that the boots are clamped into position to seal in grease and seal out environmental contaminants such as dirt and water.

In considering this matter, we consulted automotive industry representatives and publications of The Engineering Society For Advancing Mobility Land Sea Air and Space, SAE International Inc. Based on these discussions and a consideration of the SAE Standard in SAE J901 MAR85 concerning universal joints and driveshafts, we have concluded that the rubber portion of the article under consideration is best described as a boot seal and the remaining items, mounting and installation hardware. Section of Standard J901 describes a boot seal as a flexible member which prevents the escape of lubricant from or entry of foreign matter into the universal joint. In discussions with industry representatives, we learned that the most important property of the boot seal is its dynamic characteristic, i.e., the fact that it can bend, twist, etc., in connection with the movement of the CV joint which it covers. A boot seal must be of good quality, be capable of operating at different angles and flexing 1000 times a minute without distortion while operating at high speed. It is the dynamic aspect of a boot seal, which meet industry standards, that causes it to differ from a normal seal which fits between two non- flexible members, does not flex and is inside the members being joined. Thus, while both seals and boot seals share several similar properties, i.e., they keep grease in and keep dirt out, they differ in their primary functional uses. The industry considers a seal and a boot seal to be different items used for different purposes.

We also discussed other items referred to as boots with the automotive industry representatives. These items are used to cover such items as a gear shift lever, the steering rack and pinion, and spark plugs where they join the spark plugs wires. We were advised that the industry considers these items to be dust covers.

Based on the above information, we next considered what subheading might be applicable to the boot seal kit. The alternative possibilities, as previously noted, were subheading 4016.99.5050, HTSUSA, providing for other articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber, other, and subheading 4019.93.0000, HTSUSA, providing for other articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber...gaskets, washers and other seals. We also noted that it might be appropriate to consider subheading 4016.99.1500, HTSUSA, which provides for articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber, other...caps, lids, seals, stoppers and other closures.

We felt that the boot seals are not associated with caps, lids, stoppers and closures and that subheading 4016.99.1500, HTSUSA, is clearly inapplicable to the article under consideration. We next considered the applicability of subheading 4016.93.0000, HTSUSA, as suggested by the protestant. While we noted that the boot kit seal had many of the characteristics similar to seals, gaskets, etc., we noted significant differences between the two groupings. The seal was internal and fixed in relation to the operation of non-flexible members while the boot seal was external and dynamic in relation to the operation of flexible members.

Since neither of the subheadings under consideration specifically covered the total kit, which is a composite of materials, it is, pursuant to GRI 2(b), to be classified according to the principles of GRI 3. Classification under GRI 3(a) is not possible because the two subheadings are equally specific in view of the aforementioned distinction between seals and boot seals. We next considered the classification of the product under GRI 3(b), which calls for classification based on essential character.

According to the Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized System, which represent the opinion of the international classification experts, essential character may be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of the constituent material in relation to the use of the goods. While the article is composed of rubber, metal and grease components, it is clear that the rubber boot is the primary operative component of the kit and that the other items are merely installation and mounting hardware. We, therefore, have concluded that the rubber boot seal is the item which gives the kit its essential character and that it should govern the classification of the subject article.


A rubber boot seal kit composed of a rubber boot seal, along with installation and mounting hardware, which is designed to be used in connection with a constant velocity joint on a front- wheel-drive automobile and to keep in grease in while keeping out dirt and other contaminants, is classifiable under subheading 4016.99.5050, HTSUSA. Merchandise so classifiable is subject to a general rate of duty of 5.3 percent ad valorem.

Since the rate of duty under the classification indicated above is the same as the liquidated rate, you are instructed to deny the protest in full.

A copy of this decision should be attached to the Customs Form 19 and provided to the protestant as part of the notice of action on the protest.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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