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Tire Cleaning Blocks

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  • Tire Cleaning Blocks

    A couple of months ago I built a tire cleaning block for the 1/32nd scale cars I race in the IHSR series. The IHSR rules allow tire cleaning between heats, and most racers do that job before every heat, but they do it manually.

    (I should point out that IHSR races are run on routed MDF tracks, and no tire glue is allowed. The tracks are typically cleaned before race events. Despite that, tires get dirty quickly. I'm not really sure why, but it's a fact.)

    My tire cleaning block was powered. It was cut out of plywood and used an old handkerchief as the material for cleaning the tires. There was a short slot for the car's guide, and two brass contact strips for the pickups. Two 9-volt batteries were wired in parallel to those contact strips, with the voltage reversed so the car's tires would turn backwards. (Why backwards? The car is more stable that way.)

    The idea was that I could spray tire cleaning fluid onto the handkerchief, put the car in place and let the tires run backwards against the cloth, cleaning any debris off the tires.

    I used that block at the last two races, and I was gratified how well and how quickly it cleaned the tires. Oh yes, and how well my cars cornered.

    Unsurprisingly, my tire cleaning block attracted attention. At one race a competitor, who was having an awful time with his car asked if I would clean his tires on my block. I did that, and the change in his car's performance was remarkable. That also got noticed.

    It became obvious I had something I could sell.

    Over a period of about 3 weeks I worked on developing a production version of my tire cleaning block. I won't go into all the changes. Let's just say over seven major revisions I made the block easier to produce, added useful features and improved the quality.

    So let me show you what the production version looks like...

    IMG_2641.jpg IMG_2638.jpg IMG_2640.jpg ​

    The block itself is printed on an Ender 3 Pro 3D printer in PLA plastic. The tire cleaning fabric is now microfiber cloth. It is held in place by Velcro hook tape -- microfiber cloth sticks to it just like the normal Velcro loop tape. The microfiber cloth swatch is 3 x 3 inches and is easily replaced. (They get dirty fast! But then, that's where the dirt is supposed to go.)

    The brass contact strips and two 9-volt batteries are the same, but the batteries are neatly stowed under the block, held in place by O-rings used like rubber bands. There is also storage for a pair of spare batteries.

    A black urethane insulator comes with, to keep the contact strips from accidentally shorting out and draining the batteries during storage. That insulator snaps into the guide slot. It is well retained, but easily removed.

    There is a loop molded into the front of the block where you can attach a carabiner or a lanyard, so you can wear the block rather than having to carry it. A carabiner can hook onto a pant belt loop nicely. A lanyard lets you wear it around your neck.

    It is not real obvious in the first photo, but the blocks are logo'd "Bianchi Specialties". Not "HO RacePro". Do I need to explain the name change?

    As I said, the tire cleaning blocks are 3D printed. It takes 15 hours to print just one, so I can't crank them out very fast. Fortunately the printer can run all day unattended, so my actual labor hours are rather small.

    For now I am hoping to do a small business providing these blocks to individuals. I've already sold two.

    If you have an interest, please send me a private message. Use the "Messages" tab at the top right of this page.

    Maybe sometime in future, if the volume justifies it, I could develop a mass-production version. At that point I'd be looking to sell them through a distributor to retailers.


    Ed Bianchi

    Last edited by HO RacePro; 04-05-2020, 08:51 AM.

  • #2
    Nice Ed! Very slick. I have a similar contraption in my top slot-bench drawer ! ... but it doesnt travel well. A pocket version (more or less) is brilliant.

    Ya didnt exactly solicit comments. My knee jerk reaction was to buy some shares in Duracels. Any thought to a "plug n play" driver station power adaptation?


    • #3
      MM, you know I love comments! Gives me a chance to dive deeper down the particular rabbit hole in question. More importantly, it often surfaces issues and ideas that are worth exploring. (And even better, ideas worth stealing!)

      You might want to rethink investing in Duracells. One, because my latest batch of batteries are Ray-O-Vacs. Two, because I've had a lot of Duracell AA and AAA batteries leak -- quality issues. Not the 9-volts though, fortunately.

      I have been pleasantly surprised how long the 9-volts last. I've yet to replace the batteries in my Mark 1.

      As for a 'plug and play' version for driver's stations, I'm not quite sure how to do the electricals. If there are terminals for alligator clips, then the block could clip onto the white and black terminals. Otherwise there'd need to be some kind of powered socket.

      I might want to wire in a resistor. I'm not sure I'd want full power at the block. And yes, I could wire in the controller, but doing everything with just two hands might get awkward.

      One advantage of the portable block is you don't need to go retrieve your car, carry it back to the driver's station, clean the tires there, then trot it back to where the car stopped on the track. In the IHSR events you only have a minute or two between heats. The time saved cleaning the tires in situ is a plus.

      Since you decided to chime in, let me ask you a few questions...

      Do you think it is important to sell the blocks with 4 batteries, or can I get away with just two? Should the spare batteries be an extra-cost option?

      And do you think I should provide a carabiner or a lanyard? Or again, should they be extra-cost options?

      You wouldn't think selling options would make things complicated. But it does. Making sure you fill and bill every order perfectly can be a non-trivial exercise.

      Ed Bianchi


      • #4
        You did not say what sort of tires your club was using. My club runs exclusively on silicone tires and dust sticks to those, however it is quickly removed by rolling the tires over sticky tape.We do run proxy races with either rubber or silicone tires from time to time. Urethane tires do not like being run on a track where silicone tires are normally used, they get coated with silicone goo and loose much of their grip. Washing with water with a little surface cleaner in it or with a mild organic solvent will remove the goo. The sticky tape trick does not work with urethane tires that have goo on them. If you run on a track that has copper tape the carbonate that can form on the surface of the tape and get transferred to urethane tires. Once again sticky tape is not effective, so washing is needed. Last year we ran a race for cars with rubber tires and one car that had been a top competitor in several races was the slowest qualifier when we ran it. When I examined the tires I found that they had become glazed. We had carefully conditioned the track by running thousands of laps using a mule car with rubber tires, in addition none of the other cars had glazed tires. Somehow those tires had gotten glazed before we ran the car. I would have washed the tires with a water based cleaner, but none was available, so I used contact cleaner and the grip was restored.
        Your device would seem to be perfect for quickly cleaning any sort of tire as long as the correct cleaning solution was used. It might be best to avoid flammable solvents, I have seen a person light his car on fire when the solvent got near sparking motor brushes.
        As far as the voltage goes I would expect that 6 volts would be enough, but you would need four 1.5 volt batteries in series to get that. If you use a resistor to drop the voltage of a 9 volt battery you would be wasting a little power, four three amp diodes in series might work better.


        • #5
          IHSR runs everything except silicone. Foam, solid rubber and urethane. All of them clean quickly and thoroughly on the wet microfiber.

          I purposely have not recommended a tire cleaning solution. The product commonly used in IHSR is highly flammable. Your concerns, Rich, are understood. I don't want to be blamed for a fire. Anybody who uses flammable cleaning solutions needs to understand they do so at their own risk.

          Nine volts seems to work well. If the car was a simple resistive load, and the batteries could hold a steady 9 volts, the heat output of the motor would be 56% of what it would be at 12 volts. 'Cept it ain't that simple. If anything the heat load should be lower than that.

          There is enough power to spin the rear wheels vigorously on dampened microfiber. Not so much on dry microfiber. I'm not sure I'd want to go less than 9 volts.

          Ed Bianchi


          • #6
            a three-terminal Voltage regulator would work between track power and 9V. my friends have bought ready-to-go boards on the bay; i build my own.


            • #7
              Pretty darn cool Ed!



              • #8
                Lint brush tape works amazing!


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