Liquid Tire Chain Was Pure GM Innovation

Nov 21, 2022 3 min read
Liquid Tire Chain Was Pure GM Innovation

So why did it go away?

Driving in colder climates where snow, slush, and ice are a constant reality during the winter months can prove treacherous without the right equipment. GM thought it had a magical solution to vexing problem of insufficient traction using regular street tires in winter wonderlands: Liquid Tire Chain. Introduced to the market in 1969 as option V75, shoppers could get the Liquid Tire Chain Traction Dispenser on pretty much the full Chevrolet model lineup.

The way the Liquid Tire Chain Traction Dispenser system worked was actually pretty advanced for the time. The driver could activate a control on the instrument panel, which would turn on two aerosol canisters, each mounted over the rear tires. Contained in those canisters was a polymer developed in the wonders of the space age, designed to make the tire tread pliable enough to grip the cold, slippery surface again.

You might be wondering why people back then didn’t just buy snow tires, which today is the sensible thing. Well, if you lived back then you already know snow tires weren’t all that desirable, or so we’ve been told, and that meant a lot of people skipped them. GM though the Liquid Tire Chain would appeal to people as a viable alternative.

If you don’t know, the key to modern winter tires is the compound they’re made of. Contrary to what most might believe, winter tires are softer than all-season or summer tires, which is why driving with them in warmer temperatures means they’ll wear much faster. They also don’t freeze easily, so the tires stay nice and pliable even when water on the road hardens, which in turn means they still grip instead of slipping uselessly. Snow tires also have different tread patterns, extra siping, and other designs to address the challenges of driving in the wintertime.

It’s not entirely clear whether GM’s Liquid Tire Chain solvent actually improved the grip of regular tires in winter conditions. Some claim it was a marvelous invention, but others say it was just snake oil. You should know only about 2,600 people ordered option V75 for the 1969 Chevrolet model year. Not shockingly, it was those buying full-size models who paid extra for the luxury.

When the 1970 model year debuted, the Liquid Tire Chain Traction Dispenser was nowhere to be found on the options list. Nobody seems to know why the technology was dropped, but it was mostly forgotten. Had GM forged ahead with the concept, would we have banished road salt entirely, saving untold numbers of car chassis and rocker panels? We’ll never know.

Today, people who must deal with snow, slush, and ice on the road might simply depend on government snow plows which spread salt or maybe something else gritty like sand on the road. Others rely on four-wheel or all-wheel drive, but that doesn’t really address traction. Many modern cars have traction control onboard, and while that does help a little, nothing really substitutes for some snow tires, unless you happen to have a magic solvent to spray on your other tires.

Photos credit: GM Archive, Facebook

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