Ideal Mk1 & Mk2: How to maintain, clean, lubricate, rebuild and repair
The early Ideal cars are easy and rewarding to work on and maintain. It is one of the joys of the hobby. Minimal tools, household solvents and usually no replacement parts (except rear tires) are needed to make a complete undamaged car run better than new. In comparison to other slot cars at the time, the early Ideal cars are very well built. Think of them as the “Thunderjets” of slotless cars, not only a classic design, but the most durable of all, easiest to work on and highest quality. Like a fine watch or vintage car, they can be “restored”. It only takes about 10 Minutes to properly disassemble, clean, lubricate and reassemble a slotless car.
Basic tools and solvents you will need:
- Precision Flat head and Philips head screwdrivers
- Soft Bristle Brush (or "Acid brush", typically used for cleaning solder flux, see picture)
- Q-Tips (stock up on them, they are cheap and very useful)
- Pencil (or Pen) eraser
- Medium weight synthetic Oil
- Rubbing Alcohol (use a push dispenser for easy use)
- Window Cleaner (Like Windex, use a push dispenser for easy use)
- A new set of rear tires (the only parts you will normally need, they can be found online from vendors and eBay)
Body cleanup and shine:
- Remove the 2 screws (for Mk1) holding the body together with the Philips head screwdriver and note the different lengths (if they are not the same). For Mk2 you simply pull the sides of the body apart slightly to release the chassis.
- Inspect the body for damage, wear and cracks. It’s not really possible to fix a broken body, but if you can’t replace at least you can try model glue to fix cracks and be aware of damage or wear that can impact performance
- If the car body is very dirty you can simply wash with soap and water in the sink using an old toothbrush (not recommended if the body has decals)
- Using Window Cleaner on a Q-Tip, clean the underside of the body first, then the top of body with a fresh cleaner soaked Q-Tip. Window Cleaner will clean any dirt and oils on the body well and make it shine without dissolving paint. However avoid the decals and be aware that the painted surfaces are delicate, paint can rub off, even with your fingers, so avoid excessive cleaning in the sensitive areas (like numbers painted on the doors and roof).
- Only use Rubbing Alcohol on stubborn stains on the body where there are no paint or decals. Be aware that Rubbing Alcohol will dissolve paint (but is safe on unpainted colored plastic)!
Chassis inspection, disassembly and cleaning:
Once you have the Chassis off the body, inspect for any damage or missing parts. The Chassis on the MK1 and MK2 cars are durable and not typically damaged, but big cracks or broken pickup posts can ruin a chassis.
- Remove the old rear tires. If they are crusty and caked on (common), simply use your flat head screwdriver to push a cut in them and peal them off the hub. Use Rubbing Alcohol to clean up any old rubber pieces stuck on the hubs.
- Remove the pickup shoes. This is done using the flat head screwdriver, hold the pickup steady with a finger while pulling the end of the shoe end so it can move past the chassis peg. As you lift it up away from the chassis, make sure the pickup springs are saved and removed as well. It is rare for the springs to go bad or the shoe to be completely worn out (a hole in it). As long as there is no hole in the shoe and the springs are not stretched or bent, you do not need to replace them, they will work just fine. If the shoe is bent, it can be reformed using a needle nose plyers. Both shoes should be shaped the same and site straight, that is the most important thing to look for. Both the shoes and springs need to be cleaned with Rubbing Alcohol. This will not only ensure proper electrical operation, but also mechanical, a shoe or spring with dirt or grease on it can stick to the chassis!
- From the underside of the chassis, using the toothpick, push the pinion shaft of the top drive gear out. You can also possibly pull it out with your fingernails from the top, but often it is too difficult. When you have the pinion shaft, gear and transaxle assembly removed, clean them well using the Rubbing Alcohol on the Bristle Brush, removing all dirt, oils and grease that may be on them. Set aside.
- Remove the motor by using the Flat head screwdriver, simply releasing it by pulling it away from the side metal contact strips and lifting it up. Clean the outside of the motor only with Rubbing Alcohol and a Q-Tip, including the gear. Spin the gear to feel for any excessive friction. If there is excessive friction, oiling the bearings later may help free it up. Motor failure is very rare in these cars. You may find one out of 50 used cars with a bad motor.
- Now clean the entire skeleton of the chassis with a liberal amount of Rubbing Alcohol on the Bristle Brush. Get every nook and cranny!
Reassembly, Lubrication and testing, then go race!:
Now that the entire chassis is disassembled and cleaned, the fun part of reassembling and lubrication begins:
- Lubricate the bearings on either end of the motor with a drop of oil (one side where the gear is, place the oil between the gear and the motor case). Now snap the motor into the chassis pushing it past the metal side connector strips. Make sure the strips connect to the motor well (if loose, you may need to reform the metal strips by bending them slightly inward).
- With the motor in place you can now lubricate and assemble the drivetrain. The drivetrain, consisting of the pinion shaft, crown gear and transaxle is the single most important part in the chassis to clean and lubricate. Proper lubrication here can make for a faster car and also failure of the drivetrain if over-lubricated or not installed properly. It is essential that you install the transaxle the right way (it can be installed upside down!), the tab sitting flush against the chassis and between the 2 pegs. Lubricate everything with oil EXCEPT the lower part of the pinion shaft where you push it back into the chassis. This lower part of the shaft needs to be clean and dry so it will not slip out of the chassis and cause the gears to become lose and disconnect (resulting in a car that won’t move). Also, try not to get much oil on the teeth of the varoius gears. That is a bit difficult given the amount of lubrication points, but excessive oil on the gears can cause them to slip. Ideally they should have little to no oil on them.
- Reinstall the pickup shoes, placing the springs on firston their perches and after hooking the shoe, rotate downward over the spring and snap into the end, over the shoe chassis peg. Use the pencil eraser on the shoe contact pads. Just a little rubbing is fine. This helps the shoe “break-in” quicker and more evenly on your track and ensures it will operate immediately.
- Lubricate the 4 points of the chassis axle joists with oil. 2 accessible from the top and 2 from the underside.
- Install the new rear tires.
- You can now reinstall the body on your rebuilt and lubricated chassis.
- Now run it on your track! It may take a few laps to start working properly, for the shoes to seat in and the oil into the motor bearings, not to mention warming up your track. If you don’t have a track available you can test operation with a 9V Battery across the pickups.
Generally the Ideal cars are relaible and problem-free. If kept clean and lubricated, they will run for many, many hours, even improve over time as the chassis is broken-in and motors become even more free-reving with use. As Ideal stated in the TCR operating manual, problems usually come from dirt and dust getting into the chassis. Always store your cars in a clean, dry place. If not dirt or neglect, other problems generally come from physical damage or incorrect parts/repairs/modifications.
The following assumes the rear tires have been replaced and are clean (use scotch tape to clean your tires) and the track is clean and in proper working order (verified by another working car)
Car won't move, no sound - Obviously check power to the track and verify the chassis/motor works with a 9V battery. If everything checks out and no movement or sound.. replace the motor.
Motor revs and car doesn't move or moves very slow - This is typical of when the rear tires are slipping. If you replaced and cleaned your tires and verified that's not the problem, your drivetrain could be slipping. Inspect and see whats wrong there. Clean, lubricate and properly assemble again per the above.
Car runs slowly - If all of the above cleaning, lubrication and maintenance have been performed, its possible the body is dragging on the track. A few of the bodystyles are not the greatest for smooth operation (such as the trucks). Try a different body. If still no improvment you could try replacing the motor and drivetrain with one from another car. The drivetrain is the single biggest cause of a speedy or slower running car. In some cases, bad motor bearings (from lack of lubrication) can cause the engine to move slowly with a lot of friction felt when spinning it. You may need to replace the motor if it doesn't improve after oiling.
Car doesn't lane change well or is erratic - Give it a proper warm-up. Run it for at least 3 minutes and see if things improve. It is very common for cars to be erratic until they warm up or break-in with their replaced or reconditioned shoes. If still not working well, make sure the pickup shoes are properly aligned and the springs have the same feel to them on both pickups. If the springs are not correct or not matched, it can cause erratic movement. Also remember the motor drives the rear wheels separately and independantly so slipping gears or failing motor (in one direction) can cause a car to not lane change or run poorly in one lane vs another.
Noisy car - If you hear a whining noise or some other odd noise, first look for something rubbing somewhere, like the drivetrain gears on the body. If you remove the body and still hear it, the problem is likely with the drivetrain itself. Sometimes parts are mixed/matched there and don't work well together, causing friction and noise. Try different drivetrain parts and even a different motor.