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I know, I searched the archives and came away empty handed.  What I’ve been doing for years is Goo Gone with a Q-tip.  Plastic wheels are a pain with the black crud and while the Goo Gone works – well, I’m tired.  I don’t think the Dremel tool on plastic wheel is a good idea because of heat.  Metal wheels aren’t as bad.  What about traction tires?  I found out the hard way you don’t use Goo Gone on rubber.

I am finding like ten hours on a display layout and things get pretty dirty.  And this is starting with super clean track and wheels.  It is all starting to feel like lawn mowing to me.  You just get finished and it’s time to start again…

Is there a better way?  I know a lot of you run Flyer, what do you do?  Maybe I need to rethink this.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

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I first hand "lathe" heavy build-up off plastic and metal wheels with a 3x40 (or other small flat head) screwdriver.  Then I use 91% isopropyl alcohol on Q-tips (not 70% that's 30% water).  Hold the head of the screwdriver against the flat surface of a wheel at about 2 o'clock with one hand at a slight upward angle.  Turn the wheel with your other hand toward the edge of the screwdriver and watch chunks and shims of the old stuff fly off.  Cleaning with the Q-tips in a similar fashion then goes much faster and produces better results.  If you want, then shine up metal wheels with a Dremel, but be careful not to use to course an attachment and/or too high of a speed.   

I have posted in the past how I clean the wheels of the 100+ cars on my S gauge layout. As far as which solvent or cleaner to use, there are a number that will work and to some extent it is personal preference. I use a spray electrical contact cleaner that is plastic safe. Make a 3' long section of track on a workspace. cover it in paper towels and soak the towels with the solvent. Run each car back and forth until no more dirt shows on the paper towels while sliding the towels sideways across the rails to expose clean space. It takes no more than 20 second per car and all the wheels are completely clean when done. There is no flicker with any of the illuminated cars.

I do the scrape technique per Dave's instructions only when I buy a new collectable that has 50+ years of crud buildup.

Thanks for sharing the article Lehigh74.  I wonder if the IPA they refer to is 30% water or 70% IPA as opposed to 91% IPA which is only 9% water.  That's what I use.  I also use CRC QD Contact Cleaner.  I used to use mineral spirits, but the fumes are much greater and my wife would always say "what are you doing down there (basement) or what's that smell on you hands".  When momma's happy, we're all more happy.  The fume-less version never seemed to work as well.  Then there's the age old debate about whether to light oil your wheel and track surfaces...  Must be a dozen strings about that somewhere.  I've found it unnecessary and prefer to use green ScotchBrite pad on rails (never sand paper, steel wool, or pumice impregnated blocks - they can score railhead, especially postwar rails and make matters worse faster), then 91% on a rag.  "Lathe" and 91% wheels.  CRC QD when and if required on either of them and/or engine/rolling stock parts.  Aerosol lube wise, never WD-40 -- turns to a tacky varnish like film in about 5 years.  CRC 5-56, CRC-PowerLube, or Blaster General Purpose.  Oils and grease some other time.   

Last edited by Sgaugian
Lehigh74 posted:

I used 91% IPA for years.  After I read this article, I switched to mineral spirits.  If there is thick crud, I scrape first with a knife or screwdriver, like Dave does.

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws...ne/index.html?page=9

Yes, really great article -- thank you.  Did a search on Goo Gone and found this from the article's author:

Goo-Gone lists its major ingredients as petroleum distillates (2.2) and d-Limonene (2.26). Therefore, the dielectric constant for Goo-Gone is 2.26, making it non-polar.

However, just because a solvent is non-polar isn’t the only consideration. Goo-gone and all citrus solvent turn into a thick pitch-like material as they age. I have heard many horror stories about people using Goo-gone to clean their track later to regret it because the residue gums things up badly.

No more Goo gone for me.  There still is the question of which ones are okay for plastic wheels.  And what to clean traction tires with?

Tom Stoltz

Goo Gone says not to use on rubber and I lost two traction tires after using it… clean first, read instructions second.  So, with that in mind, do I go after the plastic wheels with the non-polar kerosene? 

I remember from the tape-recording days that rubbing alcohol was used to clean the rubber capstan roller.  What do you think about traction tires? -- except it's polar...

Tom -- you mention "As far as which solvent or cleaner to use, there are a number that will work and to some extent it is personal preference. I use a spray electrical contact cleaner that is plastic safe. "  Which one do you find best?

Ray, you have a large fleet, what do you do?

Tom Stoltz -- feeling bi-polar

in Maine

Tom, for cleaning the plastic and metal wheels on the rolling stock Goo Gone or CitraSolv will work but I use a spray contact cleaner that is plastic safe. I spray it on the paper towels as described above. The one I have is made by CAIG Laboratories Inc. Fry's had it on sale in six packs. Fry's is a SoCal Electronics big box store.

I also use this to clean the track. That way it has completely evaporated before any engines with traction tires run over it. I am sure there are may other products that will safely clean the track and wheels, I found this works so I have stayed with it.

The DeoxIT DS on the dielectric constant list as non-polar is made by Caig.  I have their contact lubricant and it seems to be good stuff.  I checked their website and as usual there is a ton of products to choose from.  I’m assuming their DeoxIT D-series is the one mentioned in the article.  There is a DeoxIT D5 spray on Amazon Prime, $14.29 for 5 oz – seems pricey.

I too have used Goo Gone for years, however after reading the supplement to Joe Fugate’s article about GG, I’m thinking that is the reasons things get dirty so quickly.  Anyway, I think it is time to try something else or maybe a new hobby.

Tom Stoltz

@Tom Stoltz  I have a can of the Deoxit D5 and yes, it was expensive.  It's gotten great reviews for marine uses, electronics, and audio equipment in particular.  I haven't tried it as a track cleaner, but I did use it on a Flyonel Geep.  The geep ran poorly even after cleaning the wheels and contacts so I applied some of the Deoxit and it made a huge difference.  Throttle became responsive and it started running very smoothly.

Mike A.

Mine is part #DCC-V510, called a Val-U Series Wash. It was not expensive and has worked great for the past 4 years on my layout. Once all the wheels are clean and all the track is clean the cars seem to be good for a year, judging from when I see slight flickering of illuminated cars. The high traffic areas of the track need a quick cleaning about every 3 months. I am using the MTH nickle silver flex track.

I estimate I operate the layout on average about 5 hours/week. Not having to clean the track frequently is a major improvement from when I was using the citrus based cleaners. It did not matter on my 5'x9' seasonal layouts with Gilbert track but on this layout I have 700' of track of which 40% is hidden.

PH1975 posted:

Sgaugian - I note you said to (you) never use WD-40, but in the chart part of the article it showed a WD-40 Contact Cleaner (which I've never used or heard of) rated much higher than 'Regular WD-40'. Perhaps the Contact Cleaner product has different qualities than the Regular? (eg. Dry Lube)

Thanks PH1975, I noticed that too and was assuming the the contact cleaner is different.  I also have not used it.  

New, out of the box, Atlas RS1 had issues.  Eventually, with lacquer thinner, and a Q-tip, I removed a lot of factory paint from the wheels/wheel flanges.  Metal exposed, without the paint, I had good common rail connection.  Who would-a-thunk.   Atlas track, black center rail also had issues with third rail pick-up rollers, requiring frequent roller cleaning. 

AmFlyer posted:

Mine is part #DCC-V510, called a Val-U Series Wash. It was not expensive and has worked great for the past 4 years on my layout. Once all the wheels are clean and all the track is clean the cars seem to be good for a year, judging from when I see slight flickering of illuminated cars. The high traffic areas of the track need a quick cleaning about every 3 months. I am using the MTH nickle silver flex track.

 

I though this would be easy... DCC-V510 is no longer available. there is now: contact cleaner wash DCC-V511 or electronic cleaner wash DCC-V611.  The V611 is for "machinery and metal parts -- heavy duty cleaning"  Both V511 & V611 are safe on most plastics, both have naphtha in them.  Not really much info on the website.

I am a little surprised no one way has jumped out as the best way to clean wheels and track.  As I said before, I am pretty sure I am done with Goo Gone -- it is too labor intensive.  And I am talking a seasonal layout.

Tom Stoltz

@Lehigh74 posted:

I used 91% IPA for years.  After I read this article, I switched to mineral spirits.  If there is thick crud, I scrape first with a knife or screwdriver, like Dave does.

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws...ne/index.html?page=9

Lehigh74,

I can't thank you enough for this article.  I read it last March when you posted it, but this week I've been back to cleaning wheels and re-read it.  Then went to the comments and for there found many related threads.  The discussions on Model Railroad Hobbyist are the best I've seen on this topic.

There is currently, a similar, ongoing thread on OGF:

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...9#152759000111752129

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

@dan 77 posted:

After reading this article I bought the WD-40 Specialist contact cleaner on Amazon for less than $7 for an 11 ounce can.   It is non polar and the only product on the list marginally better is kerosene.  I do not want to deal with the odor of kerosene so WD-40 is the winner for me.

But how well does it clean?  It is certainly a good after cleaning choice.  I found regular WD-40 worthless as a cleaner.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Ron, the good thing about BPRC is you can take an engine off the track and put it upside down in a cradle to clean the wheels if need be, without having any wiring to worry about.

I still clean my wheels, but only when I see a lot of gunk build up on the wheels.  Stuff in the air settles on the track then the wheels on every car pick it up.  Usually it's not a problem but if you have cats/pets like I do they like to deposit their fur on the layout, which eventually gets wrapped around every moving part.  I think I've had 1 caboose derail due to a larger amount of gunk on one wheel.  If I run trains often I tend to see less gunk.

@dan 77 posted:

Tom, I will  post my results after it arrives and I actually use it.  The regular WD-40 was not designed to be a cleaner, so it is no surprise that it was not effective.

Greetings of the Season,

I received the CRC contact cleaner & protectant.  Well, it might clean contacts however it did not make a dent in the black gunk.  It has naphtha as an ingredient, but that doesn’t work anyway. Very disappointing.  Still waiting on the Benzyl Alcohol - it is supposed to remove electrostatically applied powder coatings, which is how the black gunk is generated.

I did discover that Easy Off oven cleaner does dissolve most of the gunk, but quite often leaves a bit behind which tends to be totally impermeable to any known solvent.

I have been pouring over related articles and comments in Model Railroad Hobbyist and found the statement that no liquid is effective to clean the gunk.  That certainly has been my experience. Goo-gone does sort of work with a lot of elbow grease – for me – but needs to be followed up with a non-polar solvent.  Not a big deal, I’ve been using mineral spirits.

Keeping you track clean after you have cleaned the wheels and track is another matter.  There seems to be two main schools of thought and your choice is largely determined by the environmental conditions of you layout room.  Dust free, or not.  If you are dust free, use NO-OX-ID A Special (a small tube is available from Amazon – a life-time supply) sparingly on your track.  If the conditions are dusty, then the graphite treatment is preferred.

Good luck,

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

@martind posted:

I clean  wheels with a dremel  with 3M polishing wheels which you can get on Amazon.  Use a medium grit.   It eliminates the need for chemicals, removes the gunk and if you put a paper towel between the wheels and the bottom of the car no mess.   

Marty

Hey Marty,

I found the Swpeet 66pcs set on Amazon.  Have you tried the 600 or 1000 grits?  One thing I learned from the MRH articles is abrasives gritter than 600 are a no,no.  That includes my old favorite, Bright Boy.

@Strummer posted:

Tom in Maine

I've always had great success with plain ol' rubbing alcohol...70 or 100%.

Mark in (my brother lives in Maine) Oregon 

Strummer, I have found the IPAs to be ineffective.  Perhaps it's elbow grease that is cleaning your wheels?  Have tried 70% & 91%.  I'm afraid the Benzyl Alcohol will be more of the same.  Also, the IPAs leave your track too dry, leading to more micro arcing, the cause of our troubles in the first place.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

I had been using goo gone and used to clean the track every week. Then switched to wd-40 contact cleaner and track cleaning chore has been reduced at least in half. However I am thinking there may be more to this issue than just the cleaner. It may be that operating conditions play a role. My operating conditions are as follows Atlas track, level platform, short trains and slow speeds. Just wondering what are the operating conditions of the guys who have a lot of trouble with gunk on their wheels and track. And I only run metal wheels but do use traction tires

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