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Using WD40 on Model Railroads – Right or Wrong?

wd40 on model trainsBenjamin W sent in this question:

“I’d like to know if WD-40 is suitable for lubricating the engine gears? Also is WD-40 ok for oiling trucks on the freight cars and track? I’ve had a go and it appears to be working ok for the moving parts and smoother runs on my track, but am I really using the right product and going about it the right way?”

Add your comments below.

53 Responses to Using WD40 on Model Railroads – Right or Wrong?

  • samuel colmansays:

    wd40 is a light lubricant for gears you would want something that will last longer, white grease or grease some light grease is what most people i know put on the loc, gears, same goes with model cars or big cars.
    wd40 has a solvent in it, so it will lub and clean the part too.

    • Stephen Hayessays:

      And the solvents will melt your plastic parts, plus when it drys it will harden and gnm up the gears. Your better with 3 in 1 oil the none spray version.

  • Robert Wm. DeFayettesays:

    I use this. It has enough surface tension to stick to where you put it. Little dab will do ya. If it’s good enough for my grandfather clocks it’s good enough for my trains. The Needle applicator is another plus. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CD7IWEO/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  • Jimsays:

    I would have to say no. WD40 is great stuff but it’s downfall is that it doesn’t evaporate. Stays kind of sticky and the more you use it the worse it gets. It would probably attract all sorts of dust and debris plus it would eventually gum things up. It does that on the wheels and gears of a bike so imagine what it might do to a train.

    • Sheldon Clarksays:

      I agree.

      • Gerrysays:

        I agree 100%.

    • Sid Vissays:

      WD 40 is NOT a lubricant by design. WD stands for water displacement. Although it does have some lubricating properties, they won`t last.

      • Gerrysays:

        You’re exactly right, WD-40 is not and never was sold as a lubricant. It’s O.K. for some lubing uses but works best as a parts cleaner.

    • Brian Byrnesays:

      I agree with Jim, WD 40, is fine for general household use. For model railways you need something more refined and won’t attract dust, dirt or become tacky. Your model store will stock a product that has been designed for model use, and it will not be too expensive.

  • bob aullsays:

    Horrible stuff for any Train , leaves a milky Residue behind over to time and will interfere with electrical Contacts , Use aLight Machine Oil for small Jobs OR the Best automotive grease you can find [ if it is good enough for a Ferrari it is OK for your toy Trains , I have Fixed sold and Repaired over 2 Million $$ in Lionel Prewar & Postwar Trains

    • Andy Stockdillsays:

      John Stockdill
      That’s a lot of trains were you able to have a life ( O.k. I’m sorry just some off the wall Brit Humour)
      A product I have used for sensitive lubrication is called Fluid Film

  • Derek Dreversays:

    WD-40 is a water displacing penetrant. While it does have lubricating properties, it will eventually dry up and become a sticky mess that attracts dirt which will lead to premature wear on locomotive gears and parts.

  • Andrew Tebelaksays:

    Axles and gears .. fine BUT watch the over-spray (a lot with WD-40 in my experience) especially getting on the running part of the wheels. Slick and a task to get completely clean before you run. Cover what you don’t want sprayed; small rag, easy-remove tape.

  • Billsays:

    WD-40 isn’t a particularly good lubricant. It’s most useful in parts that are used relatively infrequently and are lightly loaded (think squeaky door hinges). Light oil works for the truck bearings but the gears really need some type of grease as they are generally inaccessible and contact forces are high. Just keep in mind that a little goes a long way and excess will get squeezed or thrown out. Tooth picks make good applicators.

  • Gustavosays:

    Hi, Benjamin. I’d been a marklin HO hobbyist for more than 50 years now and I couldn’t agree more with Jim and Bob. WD40 is a great product, specially when you’ve to deal with rusty parts but it’s definitively not for gears. I don’t have any experience with light grease but I suggest a very light oil. If you don’t have access to the oil sold by known train manufacturers, then I suggest to use oil for sewing machines that, of course, are sold by sewing machine manufacturers. This type of oil is extremely light, leaving no residues and covers the surface with a very thin layer that last for years.
    Hope it helps……

    • steven neelysays:

      My wife’s sewing machine repair guy said the best oil for lubricating sewing machines is ” Lucas Gun Oil ” I’ll have to try it on my trains

  • Bob Mathewssays:

    I have pretty good luck with Liquid Moli. Molybdenum Disulfide in mineral spirits. The mineral spirits flashes away leaving the dry grease behind. I apply it with a tooth pick to the bearing point. There is a spray lock grease that is basically the same stuff it’s just messier

  • Matthew Jerabeksays:

    Please use oil made fro model trains sparingly. Using anything else will lead to damage to your locomotives.

  • Donsays:

    I’m just new to trains but I know of W-D40 use to displace water and not be a lubricant. It will dissolve what you had on their previously but will not remain as a lubricant. It will accumulate a sticky substance over prolonged use.

  • Joe Lacinaksays:

    WD 40, glorified kerosene! Has been banned by the manufactures of aircraft, automobiles, precision instruments and etc. for 39 years. It is an athletic hydrocarbon.with a chlorinated synthetic lanolin base. Never should be used on firearms, penetrates into primers, retains carbon, dust, and grit. WD40 becomes gummy and attacks dirt and cause excessive wear. WD40 causes hairline fractures in high tensile strength metals, destroys plastics and epoxies, because of is chlorinated nature.
    The only product that can be used safely is LPS#1. leaves behind an organic, non-silicone, rust inhibitor lubricant that penetrates but dries totally so it never picks up dirt or layers or gums. used by all the airlines, great for guns. hard to find. I order mine from my local Ace hardware store.

  • Kevin Chingsays:

    I use Automatic transmission fluid very sparingly apply with a tooth pick just to the surface that you want to lubricate to much will attract all sorts of debris into the working of your loco same with rolling stock trucks and axles WD40 is a cleaner as well as a lubricant it will after some time gum up and then you will have a bigger problem on your hands a couple of drops on a soft cloth will clean your tracks amd give a better electrical contact as well be sure to clean off with a dry soft cloth as well dirt will stick to the track if left there.

  • Sheldon Clarksays:

    Use the lubricant(s) recommended by the manufacturer of the piece of rolling stock, as stated in the instructions or their website.

  • Gene Godboldsays:

    WD 40 can be used, just in very limited amounts. Spray is way to much. A drop or half drop is still to much. Take a little drop, dip in a paper towel corner or q tip and apply very very sparingly. WD 40 is a displacing light oil and will spread everywhere, that’s what it’s designed to do. After a few years of using it myself, I switched to gear grease made for model trains. It is easier to use, with a lot less mess. No more cleaning up WD 40 that’s got into places not desired. IMHO WD 40 is an outside tool, and is located in my tractor’s tool box.

  • steven neelysays:

    the only good use I heard of for WD 40 from a repair guy was for freeing up sticking parts or motors , with the comment that after letting seized up parts soak in it , to clean it off with alcohol , and when using any spray cleaner or lube to be very careful not to get any on plastic or painted parts , so you don’t damage or discolor the paints or plastic body

  • Madhu Gubby Nagarajusays:

    Like others mentioned, I use sewing machine oil. A great transparent lubricant. Use a syringe and use a minutest amount possible to lubricate the part in question.

  • Greg H.says:

    Wahl Clipper Oil works great for me and my locos, and just about any other small electric motor or mechanism you can think of.

  • W Rusty Lanesays:

    I would NOT recommend WD-40 on model trains, no matter what. I use Labelle oil that is safe for plastics. WD-40 attacks plastics and will ruin your models. Sewing machine oil is fine if you don’t want to get a plastic oil which does not attack the plastic. I would use sewing machine oil in a pinch but prefer the Labelle oil. For gears I would suggest you use some sorta grease on the locomotive or even some dry graphite. You have to be careful with dry graphite because it does conduct electricity.

  • chris lesebergsays:

    Wd 40 is a no no. If you want an over the counter lubricant I would recommend sewing machine oil.
    Better than 3 in 1 is not as heavy and the sewing machine oil has a needle applicator. Last for a while and is not as expensive of some of the “train oil” on Amazon. Also the “white grease” is a good way for the gears but go sparingly.

  • Peter Glensays:

    you could use the type of grease used in fishing reels as i am sure it is compatable with plastics.

  • Rick Savianosays:

    I use Excelle Lubricants, specifically the XL Ultra-lite. It is plastic compatible and has a viscosity of 44.9 sus at 100 degrees (F). Excelle is owned by the son of the former owner of LaBelle (there is a sad and bitter story here), which had a great reputation here in the U.S.A. in regards to model railroad lubricants. The bottle states that the company is a division of Phoenix Industries. I don’t use a lot, but when I need to buy it, I go to to the “Great Midwest Train Show” which comes in my area once a month. I model in Z, and this lubricant works better than Marklin’s (which is a little gummy and freezes up my engines if I don’t run them weekly). I know that a lot of the readers of this blog are in different countries, but a quick Google should get enough information to place an order.


  • David Stokessays:

    Depends on where you are applying the WD40, and why. Use light machine oil (Singer) for lubrication of loco axles and other moving parts. Do not lubricate wagon wheel axles, it just encourages gunk, and the Delron plastic the trucks are made of is self lubricating . Oil on track or wheels is not recommended although at a shove and in an emergency I have sprayed a bit of WD40 on my track, and then spent too much time cleaning it off later. Wahl clipper oil is a recommended product for on rails as it doesn’t seem to go “gummy” and conducts electricity well.

  • Dani VMsays:

    In all honesty, the only time I use WD40 on model trains is when I have a car or locomotive with really dirty wheels that prevent it from making contact with the rails .

    And even then, I do not use the “spray-on” version of WD40 !! I use a more recent version, the “WD40 no-mess pen” (google that one ! ) which is a “felt marker” filled with WD40 so you can apply it more precisely.

    The let it soak in for a minute , and run the wheels of the loco or car over a ppiece of track with a paper towel in between track and wheels… push it back and forth a ferw times by hand over a distance of about 10″, and you will see the dirt literally transferring to the paper towel.

    However, with locomotives that use worm gear transmissions, this will not work as the wheels won’t run freely.

    But apart from that, I do not use WD40 on model trains, ever ! I use Märklin oil for lubricating gears , or white grease for worm drives.

  • Tom Richardssays:

    Hi I would not us wd 45 or car grease on my trains all are asking for is a bigger problem. I use LaBelle 106 lubricating grease with Teflon it comes in a 1/2 tub. I take the trucks off and lube the main gear and put it back together. For the wheels on the rail cars I would recommend a dry Teflon.

  • Keith Brownsays:

    I use sewing machine oil as it is better for the engine components as wd40 rots parts after a while

  • Mike Brousseausays:

    I’ve used wd40 in conjunction with rubbing alcohol to clean all my track.

    I’ll make a couple of passes with a rag or paper towel that has wd40 on it to get all the real knarley stuff, by the time I come back around its usually dry & ready for round 2.

    Round 2 only difference is now its rubbing alcohol, this will get the rest of the shiza off the track & any left over residue left via the wd40.

  • Brett Tidlersays:

    I have used WD40 on my Lionel trains since thr 70’s and it never gummed up the gears, caused then to melt collect dust or any of those so called wives tales. Just. little dab will work just fine. On my N scale engine I spray some in small cup or soda cap (cleaned of course) then use a toothpick to plave a fab on the geats.

  • Jorge Regosays:

    For me WD-40 is ideal for lubricating my trains.

  • Ken Bsays:

    WD 40 is a water displacement fluid as has been said, banned in aircraft industry for 30+ years, it may promote corrosion as it evaporates and has very few lubricating properties. If you want to use the best, use Labelle oils as these are plastic compatible. Do not use grease as it causes drag and that is the last thing you need with a model loco or other rolling stock. The only grease to use is Teflon based as suggested above.

  • Bruce Webbsays:

    you won’t go wrong with any teflon based light grease or light oil Teflon is extreamley slick and wont melt plastic or rubber. It’s kinda hard to find and you will pay for it but well worth it in the long or short run. Tom Richards is right on target with his answer. example: take 2 pine derby cars lube the wheels of one with feflon based oil and the other with something like sewing machine oil let them go and see what happens (i’m betting on the teflon oil)

  • Richardsays:

    The best type of grease for Motors. gears, or wheels I’ve ever used Is white lithium Grease apply with a tooth pick in small amount. I run G gauge Trains and back in the late 90’s I added white lithium grease to all my engine gears. and wheel to this day I still have no squeaks. Of course I do need to clean off the many years of dust etc.from the wheels and reply new grease. I also use it on my O and N Gauge Trains as well Never had any problem.Back in the 70’s I use white Lithium grease apply a heavy amount to breakin a new camshaft and lifters in a car engine. The end result was perfect. I’am a believer in White Lithium Grease.

  • Macedosays:

    WD, provides a coating to the parts and prevents water/moisture from remaining on a mechanical system.
    Has poor lubricant specs, but can be used as a cleaner, although there are better cleaners available.
    On the case of the trains, locos mainly, can be used for the purpose of preventing corrosion generated by water based substances.

    hoe it was helpful


  • Joe Graffisays:

    The best, and least expensive LUBRICANT out there that is plastic friendly is SYNTHETIC automatic transmission fluid. It is not cheap BUT you will never buy it again! Use a ‘needle’ dispenser and be VERY careful that you do not put too much on.
    I use it on motor bushings, drive gears, etc. Unless you get too much on, it will stay where you put it. For drive gears, put ONE drop on the ‘worm’ gear. As the locomotive runs, it will leave a perfect film of lubricant on all the gears and it won’t make a mess.

  • Petersays:

    I’m supperised no one has mentioned Labelle104. It’s great stuff ! Also, comes in a bottle with a long applicator perfect for placing a small drop just where you want it. I’ve heard you can mix a little 104 with some graphite, and it makes a really good lub for small gear trains.

    • Petersays:

      Surprised not supperised , sorry !

      • Sheldon Clarksays:

        I rather like “supperised”.

  • Perry Doigsays:

    I use mineral oil and apply it with a straightened paper clip. You get just the right amount as a drop on the end and it can be applied directly to the area required with no overage. Should your hand shake clean up is easy with no deterioration to plastic or paint.

  • Frank Dredgesays:

    WD40 used to be called fish oil and any organic based oil is only suitable for items that were ‘living’,eg wood leather.

    A good plastic compatible oil is Labelle 102, which is available at hobby shops.

    All model trains should be oiled very sparingly. Micro Mark have applicators which apply one eighth of a drop of oil, which is enough to lubricate all the gears in a model locomotive.

  • Bob H.says:

    I use 3&1 oil or any good 5 weight motor oil. Nothing heavier for trains.

  • train doctorsays:

    WD40 is
    “WD, water displacement”
    “40 , perfected on the 40’th try.
    it has been used favorably as a rust penetrate but their are better products for that job.
    Their are no good uses for it in the model train world.
    For the gears I use label white lithium grease,,, for the other moving parts I use liquid bearings, found on ebay. or label oil products is also good… Label also has an oil for the electrical contacts .
    And for track cleaning I use nothing but transmission fluid, use all of the lubricants sparingly.

  • Al Pollicksays:

    WD-40 is a lot of solvent, & a little bit of oil. That’s why it penetrates so well. The solvent evaporates off quickly. Once frozen parts are free, they need to be well lubricated, then wiped off.

    • Al Pollicksays:

      WD-40 is a sledgehammer – it’s not for precision mechanisms such as model trains.

  • Chrissays:

    What oil and lubricants NOT to use? But you can’t just use any oil or grease.

    The gears and cogs of model trains are obviously much smaller than those in cars and other mechanical devices found in homes so normal oils won’t work and can even be harmful to the delicate plastics and paintwork of rolling stock.

    They may eat through and dissolve many materials used in buildings and scenery around your layouts, so if you spill some it can be bad news.

    For these reasons never use cooking oil, WD40 or 3-in-1, even though some suggest using it.

    So what is the best oil and grease to use for model trains? Instead, use dedicated oils and greases.

    My personal recommendation for the best lubrication to use on gears Labelle products labelled as plastic safe. In particular, Labelle #107 or #108 and #106 for grease.

    If you can’t get these, check the lubricant is plastic compatible and a light oil. Old style sewing machine oil and fishing reel oils are recommended by many old-school modellers. Alternatively, Gaugemaster’s oil is recommended.

  • Dave Mocksays:

    At a LSR Convention we had a chemist give a clinic and he said the be lubrication to use is Automatic Transmission oil. He said it will not do harm to plastic of any kind.

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