Liquid Tire Chain: No traction? Snow problem!

For those living in colder climes, winter presents its share of driving challenges. Once upon a time, General Motors took a novel approach to improving winter traction with the Liquid Tire Chain Traction Dispenser.

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The onboard system promised, at the push of a button, improved traction through chemistry. As option V75, it launched in 1969 on everything from full-size Chevrolets and sporty Chevelles to the economical and compact Chevy II. Liquid Tire Chain joined a group of other late-’60s wintery options such headlight washers, a rear-window defroster, and an engine block heater.

The Liquid Tire Chain theory was sound. A control on the instrument panel activated a pair of aerosol canisters mounted above the rear tires that contained a chemical compound labeled Liquid Tire Chain Traction Improver. Inside the canisters was a space-age polymer ready to coat the rear tires and turn slip into grip. Press the button and presto! Evaporating solvent left a traction-improving chemical compound on the tires that resulted in instant winter traction, even on ice. Whether or not the system worked in practice is a matter of historical debate.

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Just over 2,600 Liquid Tire Chain systems made it onto the road across the 1969 Chevrolet lineup, with the vast majority installed on full-size Chevrolets. For reasons unknown, the V75 Liquid Tire Chain lasted for only a single year. Jaded and perhaps frozen-solid snow and rust belt winter drivers were evidently not convinced that two aerosol cans of anything, not even space-age polymers, could loosen winter’s icy grip on traction, even if the skull and crossbones were right there on the can.

The idea of incorporating winter-traction control into the automobile itself—in the form of liquid or physical tire chains, dedicated snow tires, or all-wheel drive—certainly has merit compared with the corrosive assault from millions of tons of road salt spread onto roads.

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Even though V75 Liquid Tire Chain chemical traction might not have taken hold with consumers, relief came in the form of electronically controlled (and thankfully less-toxic) traction assist. Traction and stability control are today ubiquitous features, and advances in tire compound technology and tread design have made putting rubber to road safer than ever, especially in winter.

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