Myth #34,723: "plastic-compatible" lubrication

Folks, I'm here to bust another of those persistent myths that linger around the world of model railroading. Today's target:
"plastic-compatible oil". I've heard this said enough around here recently that this myth deserves to be put to rest, again.
This seems to be another of those claims made by the manufacturers of certain products, which strikes enough fear in the heart of the consumer for them to choose their product over someone else's.
I challenge anyone to find an oil that will actually damage the plastics used in model railroad drives, which are mostly so-called acetal or "engineering" plastic (strictly speaking, polyoxymethylene). This material is by nature resistant to all oils, greases and most solvents except the very strongest (like acetone, MEK, etc.) This stands to reason, since this plastic is formulated for use as gears and cams, which typically need lubrication.
I've used ordinary oil and grease on plastic gears for years with no ill effects. No oil or grease is going to dissolve or break down your Athearn or Kato (or even Overland) gearboxes. (For grease, I keep a can of white lithium wheel bearing grease handy: works like a charm.)
This is not to say that there are better and worse oils: one reason to use expensive oils like LaBelle is that they're purer and cleaner and don't leave residue behind. But you can even use WD-40, if you separate the lighter lubricant from the other ingredients (which do tend to produce gunk after the lubricant evaporates). The key thing is to find an oil that doesn't leave crud when it evaporates, as all oils do eventually.
The moral, once again, is that just because something is produced as an Official Model Railroading product doesn't mean that you can't use a non-offical product with just as good results. And usually for cheaper, too.
--
The French Revolutionary Calendar (in use 1793-1806):

* Vendmiaire (from Latin vindemia "vintage") Starting Sept 22, 23 or 24
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

Try Lucas Red 'N Tacky - even better.

I've used 0W-15 Mobil 1 oil in Labelle applicator bottles for years now. It's super slippery, lasts forever, and is a fraction of the cost of "hobby" oils... $4.09 for 32 oz. It does not even mention that it's "plastic compatible". It does have good detergency, too, which you must be aware of if you are lubing up equipment that has caked on gunk in hard-to-clean areas. It will loosen that stuff up for your cleaning convenience...

Which is why we use 100' $5.00 extension cords from Walmart for speaker wire instead of Monster Cable...

You're a little too critical. I can't blame the makers/marketers for saying "plastic compatible". It's just marketing, like all the so-called "standard features" on a new car window sticker... "space-saving spare tire"(when we really would rather have a full-size)... "leatherette wrapped steering wheel"... "color coordinated seat belts"... "radial tires"... "impact absorbing front & rear bumpers"... "gasoline engine"... etc.
Rob
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snipped-for-privacy@usdatanet.net says...

None of the items you mentioned are marketing terms. They indentify the specific type of product as opposed to other types of the product. For example:
"space-saving spare tire" vs. full sized spare tire
"leatherette wrapped steering wheel" vs. leather wrapped steeing wheel
"color coordinated seat belts" vs. non-color coordinated seat belts
"radial tires" vs. bias ply tires
"impact absorbing front & rear bumpers" vs. old style bumpers
"gasoline engine" vs. diesel, steam or electric engines
--
Ken Rice -=:=- kennrice (AT) erols (DOT) com
http://users.erols.com/kennrice - Lego Compatible Flex Track,
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Ken Rice wrote:

What car do you buy these days w/ "old style bumpers" or bias plys? Maybe Suzuki/Daewoo or Hyundai? I'm not familiar w/ these.
Rob
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says...

Antique cars.
At the time those terms were introduced, the older style products were readily available. The point is, these are not strictly marketing terms. they describe a physically different product.
--
Ken Rice -=:=- kennrice (AT) erols (DOT) com
http://users.erols.com/kennrice - Lego Compatible Flex Track,
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trainfan1 spake thus:

Monster Cable (and all that other gold-plated crap marketed to anal audio freaks) has got to be the biggest ripoff since patent medicine. (Of course, those fanatics claim they can hear the difference between it and ordinary speaker cable.)
--
The French Revolutionary Calendar (in use 1793-1806):

* Vendmiaire (from Latin vindemia "vintage") Starting Sept 22, 23 or 24
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On Sun, 04 Dec 2005 00:54:30 GMT, David Nebenzahl wrote:

Go to dansdata.com for some great rants on various scam products like those. Ever see the magnetic bottle neck ring that's supposed to make your $3 Chilean plonk taste like Mendocino Pinot Noir? If those folks can make back the price or putting up a web page, no wonder Scientology has no end of credulous patsies.
--
Steve

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You mean you can't hear the difference? I used to agree with you about cables -- until I got a set of Canare video cables for our DVD player. There is a difference.
David Nebenzahl wrote:

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harrym spake thus:

If we're going to have this discussion, we'll have to take it elsewhere. But let me just say, with all due respect, that if you think there's a difference in sound due to audio cables (unless they're noisy), you're imagining things. And a good sucker^H^H^H^H^H^Hcustomer for the "high-end" cable manufacturers, I might add.

--
God willing, the many crimes of the Bush Administration
will eventually be printed in a nice leatherbound,
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Wow. You can HEAR the difference in VIDEO CABLES. Pretty neat trick!
Jeff
harrym wrote:

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Folks:
Of course you can hear the difference. The thicker cable makes a lower tone when you stretch it across the doorway to trip the Jehovah's Witnesses and vacuum cleaner salesmen.
...
What?
Cordially yours, Gerard P.
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On 7 Dec 2005 06:57:55 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gannon.edu wrote:

And once they're across the threshold you can shoot them, and hopefully they will fall back out on the porch. The blood spatter should show the police that they were inside when they caught both barrels of double-ought. The chalked body outline on the porch can be renewed as necessary with paint. Coupled with a small spilled pile of Watchtowers (or a copy of Dianetics or the Book of Mormon, depending on the nature of the pest problem in your locality) this will have a marked and lasting deterrent effect.
--
Steve

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Ya know, Steve. Even though it might be gratifying to actually DO what you suggest, I would propose a 'non violent' way.
Just have a friend lay down on the porch and draw the outline. Use white spray paint in a very fine 'chalk' line and red spray for the blood. Less fuss, same muss, no prison time. YTMV (G)
wrote:

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Remember the movie "Support Your Local Sheriff" and the jail cells with no doors<VBG>.
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Not really intended to mean anything -- but it does loosely reconnect this thread to it's subject line.
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I believe the fear was with synthetic oils. To my knowledge these oils are ok on the plastics you mention. There was an article in MR many, many years ago which showed gears expanding in certain oils. Can remember the year or month, but it was probably in the range of 20 years ago. Probably before the time of good plastics.
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Have you considered what happens to styrene in contact to any host of things?
"Plastic compatible" to me means they will not harm my loco shells, not that they are jus OK for the gears!
--
Brian Ehni



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I've used a multitude of different lubricants over the years and most weren't considered plastic compatible. I never had any damage from them or had a problem of getting the lubricants on loco shells. Even if you did get some splatter and it did happen to cause some superficial damage to the surface of the inside of the shell -- so what? One of the best ones I have used on Athearn type drives has been STP -- you know, the stuff that they used to put on a screwdriver so it became so slippery you couldn't hold it in your fingers. I have heard that non-compatible oils are what make the axle gears crack -- I have had many more crack where I have used the compatible lubricants.
Jim Bright

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jhbright wrote:

While improper oil might contribute to gear cracking, I think that's mainly a design or manufacturing fault. Some gears are pressed too tightly on their metal shafts, are improperly designed (too small a core), or are made from improper plastics.
Many plastics shrink with age. This is especially true of plastic soon after it is cast ... it shrinks a lot at first, then nearly stabilizes for a long period. Thus, machined CUT gears are often best made from AGED (pre-shrunk) plastic. However, many plastic gears are just cast, and not actually cut, and many don't use metal shafts.
And, most plastics expand/contract a LOT with changes in temperature (and sometimes moisture, like Nylon), far more so than metals. A plastic gear on a metal shaft will contract more than the shaft, and thus may experience excessive stress under temperature change.
Dan Mitchell ===========
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Folks:
I think the trouble was with synthetic lubes like Labelle 101. Petroleum motor oil shouldn't hurt plastic. Chuck Yungkurth did some tests for his article in the 12/70 RMC, "Precautions with Plastics". He found that styrene parts turned rubbery when soaked in Labelle 101, and sheet styrene that had accidentally had some of that oil on it for a few months delaminated easily.
Somebody out there want to soak a Kato shell in Labelle 101 in the interests of scientific research?
Cordially yours, Gerard P.
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