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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.

This page was written over 15 years ago, and I must admit some of the information is out of date, or just plain wrong. I have decided to start refreshing this page with more up to date information and techniques.

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

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)? My original answer was "Not much", but we live and learn, and after talking to fellow enthusiasts, I have come across a couple of products that will strip both acrylic and enamel paint without damaging the plastic. Methylated Spirits will soften acrylic paint, but it will take a lot of soaking, however don't leave it soaking for too long or it will soften the plastic as well. It will need a couple of hours at least, but don't leave it overnight, so maybe no more than 3 or 4 hours at most. The paint will not loosen as easily as enamel, so you may need to scrape it off with fingernails or plastic or wooden scrapers, something that won't scratch the plastic underneath. It may take a a few baths to get the last of it off, and you may need something pointy to scrape the paint out of fine grooves. Brake fluid can also be used in a similar way, but it tends to be a lot more expensive. It is used in the same way, but you can generally leave things soaking for much longer.

I have also been asked what sort of paints I use, as many people have been impressed with my paint jobs. I used to use whatever enamel based spray paint I can find that has the colour I want. But after comparing my results to other people, I switched to good quality acrylic paints some time back (Tamiya mostly, but the Dulux acrylic sprays are good enough for basic colours such as black and white). I find I get more consistent results with Tamiya and it doesn't go on as thickly and hide fine detailing. I also now clear coat all my painted cars, after applying the decals, but before painting or attaching chrome parts.


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.

I recently found an even better product, called INOX-3. Its available as both an aerosol and a pump spray, and is quite economical. It also is great on your track rails, and does a better job than WD40, and leaves less of a residue. It can also be used as a general lubricant for axles, etc.

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.


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