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Hints and Tips

This page simply contains some tips and techniques for cleaning, servicing and restoring Scalextric cars I have picked up over the years, either through practical experience, the experience of others, or from other internet sites.

    1. Stripping Paint from Cars
    2. Repairing Breaks and Holes
    3. Fixing Slow, Noisy or Grinding Motors
    4. Slippery Track

1. Stripping Paint From Cars

A common problem with many cars you pick up in bulk lots, or on the cheap, is that they have been painted, usually badly, by a previous owner. You may want to strip it back to the original colour for show, or to increase its value, or you may want to just strip it back so you can repaint it yourself.

If the paint used is an enamel paint, its actually quite easy. Poorly applied and peeling paint can generally be wiped off with liberal amounts of Mineral turps, BUT NEVER use turps on clear plastic windows/screens!!! (as I learnt from bitter experience). In fact, as turps can soften some plastics, I prefer using a caustic type Oven Cleaner (the non-caustic type is safer for your hands, but is nowhere near effective). This will remove good or bad, thick or thin paint, eventually, off any type of plastic, including the clears window sections, and has never harmed any of the plastic bodies or components of the cars I have used it on (and I have used it often).

Thinly applied and peeling paint will usually come off with a single application. Good quality paint that has been applied properly and has been on for years may take several applications. My best advice is patience! Its most effective on good paint if left on for a few hours, preferably overnight. Stubborn paint can also generally be wiped off with Mineral Turps once the Oven Cleaner has softened the paint (after one or two applications).

A few words of warning though:

  • Strip off all chrome or other painted components you don't want stripped. The oven cleaner will remove all enamel based paints or substances. It should be OK on most tampo printing, but I'd be very cautious with those and test it out on an unseen section or unwanted body first.
  • Its hard on your hands, so either use gloves or wash thoroughly afterwards.
  • You can wipe the oven cleaner off (a rough surfaced rag or nonmetallic scourer work well), but I generally find it just as effective and less messy to wash the softened paint and Oven Cleaner off using a toothbrush and hot soapy water. (Do this in the laundry or preferably outside, or you'll get into BIG trouble with "she who must be obeyed"! - And don't use a good toothbrush for the same reason!) BTW - The tooth brush lets you get into little corners and embossed/mesh/grill sections.
  • If you want to repaint the car, the oven cleaner NEEDS to be COMPLETELY remove from all surfaces of the car, as it will repel the paint. After thoroughly washing the car, I usually find it a good precaution to wipe the car over with a little mineral turps and dry it thoroughly just before painting.

So, what do you do if the paint is a plastic based paint (I hear you ask)? Not much is the short answer. I did strip a plastic based paint once, but it took me days of sanding to get it off, and the plastic lost its shine, and some of the detail. I was going to try a plastic paint stripper, but was told that will affect the plastic body, so I don't know whether or not that is an alternative. The moral to this story is that if you want to paint a slot car, with the intention of maybe stripping it back eventually for any reason, don't use plastic paints.

I have also been asked what sort of paints I use, as many people have been impressed with my paint jobs. I use whatever enamel based spray paint I can find that has the colour I want. Cheap stuff seems to do almost as good a job as the dearer stuff, the main difference I usually find is in the gloss level. The better quality paints usually give a glossier finish.

 

2. Repairing Breaks and Holes

It can be frustrating having a perfectly good working car marred by cracks, breaks, holes chew marks (yes, I actually had a car with bite marks!), or whatever. As cars tend to take a bit of a bashing sometimes when being raced, you need something with a bit of strength.

For filling holes and even making small parts, I tried a couple of modeling putties, and found the best was an epoxy based compound (a 2-part compound you knead together and mould into the shape you want). These takes a long time to cure, but sticks to the plastic very well and is very hard and strong. It can be molded for quite a while after applying, and can be glued, scraped, sanded and painted. My red GT40 had a 2 cm section chewed off the rear bib spoiler on the left hand side when I first got it a couple of years ago. I used the epoxy putty to overbuild it at first, then cut and scraped and eventually sanded it down to match the other side. I painted it red to hide the repair, but I had wanted to paint one red anyway, so I chose the one with something to hide. It has seen a fair bit of use since then, and has even been stripped back and repainted, and the putty had held up through it all.

For fixing broken sections, particularly anything that has to hold in axles motors or other parts, you need an epoxy glue. If you are just refitting plastic trim such as headlights, drivers heads, etc, any sort of contact glue will do. But for true strength, you need something like araldite (a commonly used 2-part epoxy glue).

 

3. Fixing Slow and/or Noisy Motors

The older style big can motors and Johnson J111 motors have replaceable brushes and an open design that can easily accumulate grime and dust over the years, particularly if not used very often. I was put onto a product called "Electro Lube" by another enthusiast (sorry, but I can't remember his name or his web site). In Australia, I was able to get it from my local Dick Smiths store. They had the original ElectroLube product and a cheaper store version. I bought the store version and have used it successfully ever since.

This stuff provides an electricity conducting lubricant that will fix most slow noisy engines with one or two applications. The only thing I will say is that once you use it, you need to keep using it. It probably allows any original to burn off with the increased revs you'll get, and if you haven't used it for a while, will need another burst. Just spray the stuff into the bell end where the brushes meet the armature, and rev the motor up. You will hear and see the difference almost immediately in most cases. Some really dirty engines may take a few applications and several minutes to clean themselves up. A BIG WORD OF WARNING - If the motor is still struggling for revs and smoking a bit and heating up quickly, you will need to do this in bursts. If it overheats, you can melt parts of the end-bell where the brushes sit, or even cook the armature, and then the motor is stuffed.

Give it a few bursts at first. If it starts singing sweetly and blows out plenty of hot air, the motor is fine and will run smoother, quieter and faster than before. If it doesn't sing and rev hard, and/or starts to heat up immediately, let it cool a bit and try again. The problem with this stuff is that if your motor is on the way out anyway, it will only speed up the process. If the brushes are old and worn or crumbly, they are likely to disintegrate under the pressure, but they would have done so anyway, but might have lasted a bit longer. This is not much good though if the motor is not performing.

If the motor is not responding and is getting hot quickly, you have a few choices:

  • Keep trying to burn the junk off, using short bursts at full speed, and applying more electrolube, being careful not to overheat it. Most engines will come good after a while.
  • If it suddenly dies, you've probably lost one of your brushes (if you haven't melted the end-bell). Take both brushes out by unclipping the springs holding them in. You will find that either one has broken or disintegrated, or the spring has slipped off, or something like that. Replacing the damaged brush or spring will fix the problem, and the motor should run sweetly. Please note that the electrolube did not cause the damage. The damage would have been done some time back, the electrolube simply exacerbated the problem and sped up its eventual demise.
  • If it keeps overheating and won't rev out, its probably time to ditch the motor. The armature might be shot, there could be a short, or some other major issue and you will eventually just melt the end-bell if you keep trying to use the motor. I don't know enough about motors to give you anymore advice than this. The only thing I can suggest is to try replacing the brushes anyway, or maybe swap armatures if you have other engines, to try to isolate the problem. If the armature won't rev up in any motor, its had it and is most likely beyond repair, unless you know how to rewind them.

I don't know how effective this stuff is on the newer mabuchi motors, as none of mine are old enough or have had enough use to be a problem yet, but it should not do them any harm.

One more down side of this stuff, is that it will reduce the natural braking ability of your cars, because the motor is more lubricated and will spin more freely. If you like a motor which pulls you up quickly as you go into a corner, then don;t use this stuff. It should not have as great an effect if you have your controllers wired for brakes, but I don't know for sure, as mine aren't.

PS. If you don't know what I mean when I say the engine will "sing", pull the engine out of your best car, and rev it up. It should not squeal or grind or blow out hot air. It should spin freely, and will give a high pitch whine (what I call singing), and will blow out cool air. That's what you should be expecting from all your motors. If they don't, then they need a shot of lubricant and/or new brushes, or a full rebuild.

 

4. Slippery Track

Most of my track is over 30 years old, and is getting quite worn and slippery, and is also sagging a little. I have tried various methods to improve this, with little or no success. I have tried painting it, scratching it, cleaning it, but nothing was effective. Even brand new tyres did not have a lot of grip on my track.

After talking to someone in the states on a bulletin board I used to belong to, I did find a solution though: SILICONE TYRES. These tyres will grip on any sort of track. I was put onto a guy by the name of Jack Stinson, who was producing his own silicone tyres out of the US at the time, called road monkeys. After speaking to him about my problem, he sent me a sample of a few types of tyres. The difference was absolutely amazing. Suddenly my cars were gripping the track like they used to.

I immediately wanted to equip all my cars with these tyres, but it was going to be expensive, until I found that Jack was interested in a couple of my old rally cars. As I had not particular interest in that style, I was happy to swap two of my cars for about 20 pairs of silicone tyres for my GT and F1 cars. I wish I had given him another car and got 30 or 40 pairs, as I now need more than I have. Unfortunately, the last I heard Jack had dropped out of the business, but I have seen articles from him on the Old Weird Herald, so he is no doubt still around the scene somewhere.

In fact, if you go to the Old Weird herald web site, you can read his articles and make your own Silicone tyres. He goes through the whole process, from making moulds, to pouring the tyres. I may just try it myself one day, but its a bit of an investment to make to buy all the ingredients you need, as you can;t get small lots of the stuff.

However, it is not necessary to go to great expense to get the equivalent performance of silicone tyres. Another article on the Old Weird Herald web site show you how to make "Silongies", which are silicone coated sponge tyres. This method can be used on any type of tyre though, and I use it regularly to silicone coat my old GT and F1 rubber tyres. This is dirt cheap to do. I bought a 200ml tube of auto silicone sealer for about $7 several years ago, and I still haven't used it all up yet, even though i have probably coated the equivalent of about 100 tyres in that time. The only downside is that the silicone coating wears down fairly quickly, unlike the pure silicone tyres. This just means a little more work, as you have to recoat them after awhile. You could alleviate this a little by grinding your old tyres down a few millimetres, so you can build up a much thicker layer of silicone, but the thicker the layer, the harder it is to get a neat finish on the tyres. You also need either a lathe or a drill press, or rig up some other way of clamping a drill in a fixed horizontal or vertical position to get good results. But have a go anyway, it won't cost you much more than time.

 

Do you have any tips or hints you would like to pass onto fellow Scalextric collectors? Send me an email and I'll include it here. You may also want to submit it to some of the Scalextric bulletin boards around, or even to the Old Weird herald site.

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