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Do Track Cleaning Cars Really Work?

Fred used the ‘ASK A QUESTION’ link to post this question:

“Has anyone used a track cleaning car on N scale? I’ve seen a couple advertised and am wondering if they are worthwhile. I am using unitrack, if that makes any difference.”

11 Responses to Do Track Cleaning Cars Really Work?

  • Andrew Smithsays:

    They may if the pad under the car is soaked in Thinners BUT that can damage the plastic on the model and the paintwork if the track is on a pained surface

  • train doctorsays:

    Hello every one.
    Over the years and all of the tales of track cleaning i’ve heard and my personal experience,,,, the best way i have found to clean any gauge or type of track is to use a good strong paper towel “I use mechanics towels” “you can get them at any auto parts store while You get some transmission Fluid” they are very strong and does not tear and leave pieces on the track to clean up later as bad as regular paper towels.
    Fold and barely wet a corner of towel with regular isopropyl alcohol, then rub a short section of the rails until you do not see any dark dirty on your towel ,,, go all over the track and don’t miss any of it,,,, then clean the wheels on ALL of your engines AND CARS. “ALL OF THEM” if you don’t clean them they will transfer it to your clean rails when you run them. After you get your rails and all of your wheels clean,,,,get some synthetic transmission fluid and wet the tip of a towel then dab a small spot of the fluid every 3 foot or so over the top of each rail
    Do this sparingly!!! all you want is a spot of fluid ,,, “NOT A FULL DROP” then run your engine and a few cars all over the layout,,,,, for a few minutes until the wheels have time to transfer the fluid evenly over the tracks. “make sure you go into your sidings test track etc,’
    This should last you 3 months —100 hours of run time,,,, After then OR if you have any problems before that, just repeat the fluid process again.
    The trains fluid will help with the electrical connections and also keep the track and wheels from building up the black gunk that normally causes the problems.
    The fluid will not harm anything unless you plain spill it over the layout or it may cause wheel spin if you use so much,,, if this happens , just wipe the rail tops and go again.. it is good for any metals and non corrosive to any of the plastics etc.
    and what is so great about it is ,,,, a ounce of fluid will probably cover 100 real miles of track and you can get it FREE. Just stop by any parts store and look through the trash cans. The remainder of fluid in one discarded bottle will last most people a year or more.

    If you have painted the rails,,,, :like a rusty weathering, be careful of any track cleaner,, like the alcohol,, it will effect paint… Just make sure you don’t saturate the towel enough for it to run down the rails or scrub the rail sides where the paint is and you will be OK
    I am an avid MRR since the late 80’s and have worked on engines for myself and the general public since 1999 buy fix install DCC LED’s and sell good used as well as new train items.
    I have used this method for new and old layouts for many years with extremely happy results.
    You can call me for repairs new or used train items or just plain help and info @ 252 686 6527 after lunch til midnight EST. or this email
    Good luck and happy railing

    • Henrysays:

      I read about this method in a magazine a few years ago. I tried it and it really works. It takes a little time to get it right, but when finished you will be amazed at how well your trains will run. But be cautious, do not use to much transmission oil. I apply it with a Q-tip by just touching the track every 3 to 4 feet with a little oil on the Q-tip. I have a very large layout, it takes me a afternoon to use this method, but I only have to do it once every six months.

    • Fred Wagnersays:

      Thanks a lot Doctor! I have a small layout and I should be able to do this in a couple of hours.

      2 additional questions for clarification- do you clean the tracks with alcohol each time? Brand new less than an hour of runtime on track- should I put the drops of transmission fluid on now?

      • train doctorsays:

        No,,, you shouldn’t need to clean the track with alcohol if it is new or after it has been cleaned the first time. If you treat the track every 100 hrs or 3 months,The trains fluid will keep the rails clean so you don’t get the normal buildup. But use your judgement,,, if you clean a small section and it is filthy it won’t hurt to re clean.
        I know of some layouts that have nothing except trans fluid added about once every 3 to 6 month that have been running for years now with no problems.
        I don’t keep a watch here ,,, just get on when I get the time. My number is in the comment above. call me if you need help.

      • train doctorsays:

        ohhh yea. I didn’t get all of your answers in,,,, Just do a quick clean on the new track then treat it each 3 to 6 months should be all you need

    • W Rusty Lanesays:

      Where are you located, Train Doctor? I live in eastern Tennessee and in your post you said to call after lunch until midnight. I just may give you a call sometime. Since retiremet, my hours run as yours do.

  • Billsays:

    I use the CMX Clean Machine on my HO layout. It continues to impress me. The nice thing is you can paint it and it blends into the train as a tank car so you can run trains as you clean. They make them in virtually all scales. The manual also tells you what to use in it to get the best results. All the cleaning products are available at you hardware store so no need to buy anything special.

  • Ralph Cunnninghamsays:

    I’ve had good luck with Centerline track cleaning cars since the late 70’s. I have two which I run in tandem, the lead one wet with track cleaning solution (i use lighter fluid) and the trailer dry. I pull them with a loco. This is for my HO layout but Centerline makes N scale cars as well. I recommend them highly because they work so well for me. They aren’t cheap but well worth the investment.
    You wrap the towelette around the roller, held in place by a thread tied, or I use an elastic because it’s quicker and the thread is a nuisance to tie. Be sure to wrap the towelette so the “end flap” rolls with the direction of travel. The first car cleans the rail with solution and the second dries it. I run the loco in front which eliminates any chance of deposit from the loco wheels. Cleaning loco wheels (and even car wheels) should be a regularly scheduled maintenance operation.
    This needs to be done regularly for good operation.
    If you have any further questions post them and I will respond as I check in regularly.

  • Graemesays:

    I agree with Henry I to have a very large layout, I also use the fluid a few dabs with a cotton bud every metre or so then run the locos with their rakes and allow the wheels to spread the fluid around the layout. Use sparingly and everything should run great my layout is two years old and this is the only method I have used other than that the track is never touched and my locos never loose power even going up rises. I ran it the other day after it had not been used since Christmas didn’t have a problem all locos ran faultlessly. My layout is all Kato track and locos powered by N.C.E. Hope this helps Graeme

  • Bob Esays:

    CMX car with 5% Deoxit and 95% of 91% isopropyl alcohol. Deoxit is great stuff but you need the liquid not the spray. 23 ml to a pint of the iso alcohol. Deoxit is the most used cleaner and lube that electronics repair people will use on switches faders and contacts.

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