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Using Automatic Transmission Fluid on Trains and Track?

Kerry shares this question and is hoping for answers:

“A friend swears by using automatic transmission fluid on his tracks to reduce the need to clean his rails and for better conductivity. He runs long trains and says there is no loss in traction. He only uses a thin coating of ATF. I am still a bit hesitant to use it because I know ATF can dissolve paint. If it gets on my locos or rolling stock, even from fingerprints, I still think it could damage the paintwork. He doesn’t use it to lube his gears, but he does know someone who uses plastic compatible ATF for that purpose. I would be concerned of the effects if a loco sat around unused for long periods. Am I worrying about nothing?”

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6 Responses to Using Automatic Transmission Fluid on Trains and Track?

  • Morgan Bilbosays:

    That is a valid use. The plastic safe ATF is what to use. I know of people who use it and like it. I also know people who use alcohol and like it. And various other liquids. mineral spirits. I so suggest however, that you rub it on the top of the rail and inside edge carefully. I use acetone, which can ruin plastic. But I’m careful and make sure it don’t get on PECO ties.

  • Kevin Chingsays:

    Hi Kerry
    I use ATF on my rails and just a minute drop every 3 to 6 ft and let the wheels distribute it along the track it lasts up to 3 months and eliminates the use of a track rubber every time before you run the trains.

  • Frank Bsays:

    Basically, ordinary lubricating oil will help prevent corrosion, but will reduce traction. This may not be a problem on fairly level track, but on gradients it might make difference.

    However, modern nickel silver track only needs to be wiped clean, as any oxide is conductive.

    • David Stokessays:

      In interesting observation about the properties of nickel silver track Frank. I use Peco flextrack and points which are nickel silver, and unlike many of my fellow modellers I have very few problems with “dirty” track and I don’t do anything to my rails other than an occasional dusting with a clean paint brush or soft cloth.

  • Franksays:

    I use full synthetic auto fluid. Doesn’t harm plastic etc as new autos have computer blocks inside the transmission and are slashed with oil all the time.

  • tom croftonsays:

    a major study has been done by Joe Fugate and there are electrical properties of some fluids that are good for transmission and reduce oxidation. ATF is a modern one.

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