Mechanical timer cleaning

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    After almost losing a model at Maxman due to failed timer, does anyone has a good tip on how to clean and maintin a mechanical timer? any thoughts on process, timing and material will be highly appreciated.

    Kind regards, Ranan


    Hi Ranan,

    I guess after cleaning a mechanical 3-pos. wingwiggler, I can say something about cleaning a mechanical timer. I’m assuming that the timer is easily removed with a couple screws on the back of the fuselage from its timer box.

    Take a good size plastic container larger than the timer and fill it with isopropyl alcohol so that the timer can be submersed. Immerse the timer in the alcohol and mix the alcohol around so that dirt can fall loose. Wash several times.

    Once fairly clean, let the timer dry. Use an air-in-a-can spray duster to blow out any unwanted particles.

    Finally, oil the gears with some machine oil. (EDIT: I guess oil can be used in several ways after checking out what the Texas Timer guys have to say–they are the timer experts after all. I happened to oil the wingwiggler, which is totally different from a timer.)

    On maintenance….I haven’t owned a plane long enough yet. Some experts tell me they take out their timer before each contest to clean, which is a good habit. I tend not to mess around with mechanical parts since I’m afraid I’ll break something or change a setting.

    Good luck,


    Ed Hardin

    go to the Texas Timer link and under hints you will find everything you need to know about mechanical timers. One thing Hank says about his timers is to never use any oil on them, it tends to collect dust and gum up the works.


    Oliver and Ed,

    thanks for the insight! hopefully it will stop me from chasing models in a thermal in the middle of a contest becuase the timer got stuck. Cheers, Ranan 🙂

    Lee Hines

    Hi Ranan,
    Congrats on your good luck getting an non-DTed bird back.
    Guess you had a xmitter in it…or blind luck!
    Back when I used springloaded windup timers[seems like an eon!],
    I found several cleaners that worked well.
    Naptha, good auto paint thinner, kerosene, Toluol, etc, should do it.
    One thing I always did was wind the timer, then submerge it in
    the cleaning container.
    I always oiled the jewels and mainspring with Labelle train oil #10
    or Marvel Mystery Oil.
    Doug Galbreath suggested the latter when I was using Seeligs.
    Model race car oils like Norvey’s Turbine oil are great, too.
    Maybe Hank’s ‘no oil’ idea is fine, but M&K & V. Stamov advised me
    to oil mine after cleaning, as I related above.

    The hidden point here is: E-Timers don’t need oiling…
    just good batts, servos, switches, etc, and remember to turn it on
    before flights!


    Timer Guy

    If I may, let me jump in here. It is very important to remember that I can only address the cleaning requirements for the Texas Timers line, although any of the East European timers using the same mechanisms should be the same or similar. Seelig tiemrs are entirely different.

    The gears run in fairly loose bearing in the brass frame. Oil is not needed at the pivot points, but having said that, very thin and non gumming oil can be applied to the bearing points. It will have its best impact at the end of the gear train at the wiggler and last gear that run much faster than other gears. Still, too much at these points will mess up the timer. Blow it out real well with high pressure air.

    Cleaning is very important. And, contrary to what some say, ultrasonic cleaning for a minute or two while running the timer is good. I use Gunk aerosol engine cleaner to get the worst stuff loosened up from the internals. Then ultrasonic clean and wash with warm water, and follow with high pressure air. Kerosene is OK, as is Coleman’s fluid.You should not immerse the faceplate as you can loosen the paint.

    What really causes trouble is spraying the mechanism with oil. That is a sure way to have a timer failure.

    The timers with the round spring case for long running times, must have oil on the spring for proper operation. The leaves have to be able to slip and slide on each other. Let the timer fully unwind so you can see the spring in the slot/ Add thin oil through the small slot in the cover. Excess will drain out. After adding oil, wind it up to distribute the oil over the length of the spring.

    Hope this helps.

    Dean McGinnes


    Brand & source for the correct weight oil?

    Timer Guy

    Gosh, I donna know, Dean. It is not like there is only one good oil. I use Dukies fron Doug Galbreath. he dose not make oil, I am sure he repackages something. Outers Gun oil is good. So is Labelles. Just no 3 in 1, no WD 40. No motor oil, no caster oil. (that brings up a good point. the oil from our engines gets in the timer, and that stuff really gums them up.) You want oil that is synthetic and real thin. Go see your local watch repair shop. Stay away from the Ethanol crap! Oops, that is gas. Still crap. You are supposed to drink corn alky, not drive with it.

    And, I repeat for the zilliionth time. Just a fraction of a drop on the pivot points. Never on the gears. Any type of lube is bad there.

    And blow the timer out with high pressure air. A glop of even thin oil on a pivot is bad. I can stop a timer just with oil.

    Keeping the clock works clean is far more important than any oil. (Except the spring that likes top be be slobbering wet.) You can not believe what I find inside timers sent to me.

    A tiny fleck of balsa dust or a weed seed can get stuck in a gear land and packed in as the gear works against a pinion. Normal cleaning will frequently not get it out. Takes an eye lope to find it and a needle to pick it out. Building good sealed boxes in the fuselage for the timer, or using the cover with my install kits is the best way to help prevent this.

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