Geek Trivia

WD-40 Was Invented To Protect What?

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Answer: Nuclear Missiles

WD-40, that ubiquitous penetrating oil and water-displacing spray, is useful for so many things we can hardly blame you if you had a bit of trouble guessing what it was originally invented for. Long before WD-40 was a household name and a can resided in practically every garage across America, it was an obscure product invented for a singular purpose.

Back in 1953, Norman Larsen, founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, created WD-40 for the Convair aeronautical company to protect the SM-65 Atlas missile–the American military’s first operational intercontinental ballistic missile. In order to reduce its weight, the Atlas had a very thin steel skin and even thinner steel balloon-style fuel tanks. It was critical to protect the skin and the paper-thin steel fuel tanks from corrosion and WD-40 accomplished that task by both displacing water molecules on the metal and penetrating into the pores of the metal surface.

Although the SM-65 Atlas missile was briefly put into service, as a nuclear missile platform it was, thankfully, never deployed as such. After retirement as a military missile system in the mid 1960s, the de-weaponized Atlas system had a long and fruitful career as NASA’s launch platform of choice–sending countless satellites, the Mercury missions, and the Gemini missions¬†into space.

Although we know that WD-40 is comprised of compounds like hydrocarbons and petroleum, the formula of WD-40 is a trade secret and the product was never patented in order to avoid disclosing the formula.

Image courtesy of NASA.