Lionel motor Brush replacement

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  • Member since
    July 2014
  • 151 posts
Lionel motor Brush replacement
Posted by irontooth on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 12:37 PM

This is for all the Lionel Folk. How and when do you decide to replace motor brushes? What is considered to short?




  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 4:06 PM

That's a little tough to say.  I'm tempting to say "as needed" since that's what I do.

If I notice a falling-off of the locomotive's performance and/or the brushes are "old, moldy and crusty" I'll replace them. But for the most part I have a "If it ain't broke don't fix it!" attitude.

What I DO pay attention to are the copper plates on the motor armature. If the locomotive's not performing well I'll clean them using alcohol on Q-tips, then a rubbing with a pencil eraser until they shine, then a chaser with more Q-tips. 

The armature plates CAN tolerate a bit of dirt so you don't need to go after them very often.  

One thing I've noticed with my post-wars is when the locomotives are cold they tend to need a bit more power to get going, when they "warm-up" and hit their stride I back off on the power. 

  • Member since
    February 2014
  • 520 posts
Posted by Leverettrailfan on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 6:48 PM

I'll weigh in too- in my case, I compare with a brand new motor brush, and if it looks significantly worn down, I'll probably replace it. If it's anywhere near half the length of a new brush, it's in dire need of replacement- but other than that, personal preference. I have found that some trains, which didn't have all that much wear to the brushes, would perform noticably better if I replaced the brushes. I've also kept using brushes that were somewhat worn, and found the performance of locomotives to be a-ok. 
I will say this- I always, always replace the brushes AND brush springs for whistle tenders. Why? Because it makes 'em work better, and the more efficiently those motors run, the less they're going to slow down the engine when you activate the whistle.
That's my thoughts- I will say, if you have a diesel locomotive for example, which runs better one way than the other, replacing the brushes is sometimes the solution. 

Wayne (Flintlock) makes some excellent points- it always pays to clean up the armature. Swab up all the carbon dust with a Q tip and 99% alcohol (or whatever is the highest percentage you can easily procure), and if you want to polish up the plates, pencil erasers, track erasers, and fiberglass pencils are all very helpful. Take a toothpick and carefully clean carbon dust and gunk out from the gaps between the commutator plates.

I also like to use a Q-Tip and alcohol to clean out the inside of the 'tube' that the brush sits in, aka the brush holder.

At the end of the day, unless the brushes look brand new, replacing them can’t hurt. But unless your motor is running really rough and drawing way too much current, you'll be ok keeping the old brushes- just remember to clean them before you put 'em back in after cleaning up the motor Smile, Wink & Grin


"Unless bought from a known and trusted dealer who can vouch otherwise, assume every train for sale requires servicing before use"

  • Member since
    July 2014
  • 151 posts
Posted by irontooth on Saturday, October 29, 2022 3:12 PM

Thank you all for the information, I enjoy finding postwar Lionel Diesels and Steamer and bring them back to orginial shape as I can. I am always very picky about cleaning the motors up and getting them as clean and properly lubed as I can, but have always questioned myself about brush replacement



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