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It’s common knowledge that WD-40 refers to the 40th iteration of this water-displacing chemical. What most don’t know is the impressive history and insanely versatile applications of WD-40. Pretty much everyone has used it once (at least) to cut through rust, unstick a hinge, or repair a part. It works so well that it quickly becomes the go-to solution for most tasks. 

With that iconic blue label and red application straw, WD-40 is a staple in just about every garage. However, even though it’s so well-known, the details around its history and many applications remain shrouded in mystery like a mechanic’s folk story. 

Car Bibles thinks you deserve to get the most out of your WD-40, along with offering what we know about the company’s backstory and whether or not it’s actually meant for cars. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about this chemical below!  

What Is WD-40 and Is It Actually Meant for Cars?
What’s in you? Jonathon Klein

What Is WD-40 and What Is It Made Of? 

WD-40 is a chemical formula that displaces water, cutting through rust and debris while lubricating surfaces. The 40 refers to its iteration since the manufacturers went through 39 different formulas before finding that perfect solution.

As for what’s inside that WD-40 can, its formula is well-guarded and shrouded in secrecy.

Okay, so we might not be able to go full mad-scientist in our workshop there are, however, some details we do know. The specifics, according to WD-40 itself, are hidden. Despite this, we know some general chemicals it features. 

According to MSDS standards, it must disclose some information for safety reasons. This doesn’t remove the confusion, since the lists are different in Europe, Australia, and the USA. In the United States, it consists of isoparaffin, a petrol base, and higher-pressure aliphatic hydrocarbons. In Europe, it’s listed as mainly alkaline hydrocarbons. Australia lists the formula as petrol, base oils, benzene, and mixed isomers. All these places list the propellant as carbon dioxide. 

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates the use of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemicals in the workplace. The WD-40 MSDS sheet lists it as a pressurized flammable whose vapors can cause dizziness or drowsiness. 

Basically, WD-40 tells us only what it must, keeping the exact formula a mystery. Apparently, it’s locked somewhere in a vault in California, protecting the intellectual property of its creators. 

What Is WD-40 and Is It Actually Meant for Cars?
Tell us your secrets! Jonathon Klein

What’s WD-40 Origin Story? 

WD-40 is such an everyday staple that it’s easy to forget its impressive origin story. It is literally the fortieth attempt at perfection—talk about perseverance. Originally called the Rocket Chemical Company, this business was founded by Norm Larsen. It started with only three people looking to manufacture degreasers and corrosion-preventing solutions for the aerospace industry. 

It went from use as rust-prevention on the SM-65 Atlas missile to store shelves in 1958, when it first appeared in San Diego. The multiple cans in your garage tell you the rest of the story. 

How Has WD-40 Changed Over the Years? 

The reason for WD-40’s continued popularity is the fact that it hasn’t changed, not really. In order to get that ideal performance, it went through 39 rounds of trial and error. On that journey, the company had to encounter pitfalls in the formula; and, after that much work, who wants to turn back? 

That said, it has diversified its offerings, using its good repute internationally to foster the success of other WD-40 products. While WD-40 can be used in tons of (often strange) ways, it doesn’t work literally everywhere. It can cause issues on hinges by attracting dust, can damage the material in seals, and isn’t great on bike chains. The other product lines are there to address these shortcomings. 

WD-40 recently introduced its set of products for bicycles, primarily for maintenance purposes. The other line that it features is the 3-In-One line that is meant for home and office work. The items are compact and built for workplace-specific needs like window care and seal conditioning. Its final line of products is for RV upkeep, working on things like trailer hitches, windows, and doors. 

What Is WD-40 and Is It Actually Meant for Cars?
ha, nozzle Jonathon Klein

So Can You Use WD-40 On Your Car? 

Yes, you can safely use WD-40 Multi-Use Lubricant to get rid of built-on dust, grime, and dirt. It can also help you get through stuck-together parts, lubricating those now-solid masses of metal.  

And, though it might be a surprise, tons of vehicle owners rely on WD-40 as car wax, touting its ability to improve shine. It helps repel water, and many auto enthusiasts swear by WD-40 to eliminate small scratches. 

Sure, if you took any one of WD-40’s ingredients alone, it would definitely harm the paint. However, since WD-40 is so carefully mixed, it’s safe (and effective) when used on car paint. Pretty cool, hey?

The Car Bibles Questionnaire

Car Bibles answers all your burning questions!

Q: Is WD-40 toxic?

A: WD-40 does have a low-grade toxicity toward humans if ingested. It’s not fatal, but could be mildly discomforting. You also don’t want to breathe it in. 

Q: Is WD-40 bad to touch?

A: The most you’ll get from touching WD-40 is a mild irritation. It’s fairly safe, though.

Q: What is WD-40 actually good for? 

A:  The WD in the name refers to its water-displacing property. As a result, it’s an excellent hydrophobic chemical that works to cut through rust, grime, and debris. You can use it to loosen a rusty chain, protect metal surfaces, and restore the shine on your car’s surface. 

Q: Where should you not use WD-40?

A: While you can use WD-40 safely in most applications, there are some no-nos. For starters, don’t use it on technology. That’s asking for trouble. Also, while it can rid the squeak from your hinges, it might draw in dust. The same is true for your bike chain. Basically, if there’s rust, WD-40 works; however, if you’re worried about debris and grime building up, be aware that this lubricant is a magnet for dust.

WD-40 Facts You Need to Know

You know you want more WD-40 facts!

  • WD-40 became famous as “the can with a thousand uses”. To this day, people communicate with the company to detail their impressive feats achieved with the help of this degreaser. 
  • There’s an urban legend suggesting that WD-40 features fish oil (which is definitely not the case). People used this lubricant to protect fish hooks; and, since they had so much success, they just assumed fish oil was in it. The story grew roots, but WD-40 refutes the claim. 
  • Crayola, another household name, actually lists WD-40 as one of its recommended products to remove crayon. It works on a whole host of surfaces and can get other hydrophobic (non-water-soluble) debris off walls, floors, and more. 
  • WD-40 has some strange uses. In Asia, it was once used to remove a python that attached itself to the bottom of a bus. It doesn’t stop with snakes, though. Police once had to use this degreaser to remove an undressed thief from an air vent.

How to Use WD-40

Go straight to the source and learn exactly how to apply WD-40. Trust the experts (they made this high-grade lubricant, after all). Discover the multiple uses of WD-40 while Dr. Bernarducci discusses new developments in lubrication technology. Learn how WD-40 can make your life easier

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Pack of three 12-ounce WD-40 Aerosol Cans

WD-40 Water Resistant Silicone Lubricant

EZ-Reach WD-40 14-Ounce Aerosol Spray

WD-40 Continuous Action Toilet Bowl Cleaner

One-Gallon WD-40 Multi-Use Lubricant 

Simpli-Magic Shop Towels

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