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Cleaning Dial Indicators

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porthos

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#1
i have a bunch of dial indicators; most are old. federal, standard , brown &sharp and starrett. some have sticky plungers that take a while to return to "0". how can I clean these to loosen them up. I was thinking of lighter fluid or naptha. any advice??? and afterwards; lubrication???

porthos
 

awander

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#2
it's best to carefully disassemble them, clean the sticking surfaces, and reassemble with a non-gumming lubricant.

I've heard that a small ultrasonic cleaner filled with odorless mineral spirits can be used on a fully-assembled movement, but I have never done that.
 

Andre

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#3
My grandfather took apart a .0005" Mahr-Federal indicator. He never got it back together, and he was an engineer for GM. I recently got a .0001" Mahr-Federal indicator and it's real sticky. I've lubed the spindle and gear rack with light oils but nothing has worked. I've also adjusted the rack/pinion clearance. I'll be watching this thread!
 

Bishop

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#4
I had a few Federal guages that I got online, they were very sticky and sat in a drawer for years until I finally dripped a few drops of mineral spirits inside and gave them a light blast with compressed air. Now they sit in the same drawer but work quite well.
 

18w

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#5
Lubricating dial indicators usually creates more problems. The internals and the stem need to be clean and only the slightest and I mean miniscule dab of a fine clock grade oil on the internal pivot. If a indicator sticks it usually means oil or dirt has gotten inside if there is no physical damage. Only solution is dis assembly and cleaning Speaking of watches, a old style watch you had to wind (for you old enough to remember) ran without additional lubrication and think how many revolutions they made as compared to a dial indicator. Never had to oil a watch. If you want a interesting read on metrology quality and repair. Got to http://longislandindicator.com/ A real eye opener on what their opinions are on the quality of different brands of dial indicators, calipers, ect.

Darrell
 
Last edited:

bleonard

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thank you Darrell for bringing that up
I go to Logislandindacater all the time and now I collect Horses [Etalons].
Bob
 

Mac1

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#7
I have been told that kerosene is good to clean the workings of gages and indicators. It leaves an adequate film of lubrication.
 

porthos

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while waiting on suggestions for my post on cleaning indicators; here's what I did. I took a federal .001 indicator that didn't stick but was slow for the whole return of the dial. took back off, took lens and number ring off. flushed inside out with spray bottle of mineral spirits . blowed out with low pressure air. flushed out again with lighter fluid ( I had heard that it has some lubricity; true or not I don't know ) re assembled and now the dial is not slow. did the same to a standard indicator .0001. I think its better but is + - .0001. anyway I don't think that I did anything to hurt them. anyone know anything about the lubricity or not of lighter fluid??

porthos
 

Mark in Indiana

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#9
In a pinch, I've lubricated the plunger with silicon spray. I won't say that's the best way, but it works in the short term.
 

Holescreek

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#10
My grandfather took apart a .0005" Mahr-Federal indicator. He never got it back together, and he was an engineer for GM. I recently got a .0001" Mahr-Federal indicator and it's real sticky. I've lubed the spindle and gear rack with light oils but nothing has worked. I've also adjusted the rack/pinion clearance. I'll be watching this thread!
The Mahr's can be a PITA the first time, everything has to be just right to get the roller in the correct position to get it back together.

I R&R all kinds of gauges every week, I have a few indicators on my bench tonight. After disassembly I clean the parts in an ultrasonic parts cleaner with either Branson cleaning solution or a Dawn dish soap solution in it. I never lubricate the inner workings.
 

Andre

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#11
The Mahr's can be a PITA the first time, everything has to be just right to get the roller in the correct position to get it back together.

I R&R all kinds of gauges every week, I have a few indicators on my bench tonight. After disassembly I clean the parts in an ultrasonic parts cleaner with either Branson cleaning solution or a Dawn dish soap solution in it. I never lubricate the inner workings.
Do you think you could shoot a little video showing how you do it? I'd be lost if I took it apart and couldn't get it back together. It's DODGE branded, made for ignition work on diesel engines. (I think)
 

Holescreek

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#12
Not sure what you mean by "how you do it". If you mean repairing an indicator, they are all a little different. I only make videos of my hobbies, gauge repair isn't one of those. Fixing them isn't hard at all but can be intimidating the first time. If you don't have access to replacement/repair parts it's kind of senseless to crack them open unless you're sure they're just grimy inside. I repair several a week in a manufacturing plant that machines cast iron on 20 machine lines and I've yet to find one that's dirty inside the case. Most of the "cleaning" needed to loosen up a shaft consists of squirting isopropyl alcohol on the joint/shafts to flush the grit out. Most repairs result from the gauge being dropped and involve replacing one or more gears or just resetting the mainspring tension. Every gauge that I repair is also calibrated afterwards on an Indi-check.

Indicators are instruments that don't come lubed from the factory. Oil attracts dirt and collects it exactly where you don't want it.
 

rrjohnso2000

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#13
Indicator internals should be treated like mechanical watches. They have jeweled bearing surfaces that are lubed with specific weight oils not just any oil.

Naphtha, lighter fluid, is a very common cleaning solution. Complete disassembly, cleaning of parts, and using peg wood to clean jewels is the proper manner for service followed by the proper lubrication and assembly.

Excess application of oil will attract unwanted dirt and cause issues. The amount of oil applied is very small but without it the parts will wear and reduce the service life.

Keep in mind that this is only for dirty gummed up works. A true watch repair shop charges in the neighborhood of $100 to clean, lube, and test most basic mechanical watches. Indicators are much simpler, one might be able to get one serviced for a better price.
 

18w

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#16
Thanks Terry. Your link is the correct one. Perhaps the mods can fix my link so no one goes on a wild goose chase.

Darrell
 

4gsr

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#17
Be careful using aerosol cleaners like Brake Clean, they work but too much will distort plastic and remove the numbers and marks from the face.
Ask me how I know...
 

astjp2

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#18
Well I just sent my indicator repair guy 10 calipers, three 3d tasters, and an bunch of other misc indicators that I pulled out of the scrap bin. Hopefully I can use it for trading to get 2 DTI's fixed along with some other items I sent him. I just shake too bad to take small things apart. Tim
 

ybyo

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#20
Hello, i have an USSR made 0.01mm/0.0005" 12.4mm/0.5" range dial indicator and it was sticky. I decided to part it of because i didnt like to use it since it is not reliable. Biggest problem was removing pointers (1st for 0.01mm 2nd for 0-1 mm ) they were glued not hard pressed. Anyway i just washed all parts with %99 pure isopropyl alcohol. It removes dirts perfectly. Used tooth picks to clean holes. Reassembling was a bit stressed job but managed it anyway and it is working nice and smooth after all. I noticed that plunger has a spring, tension can be adjusted by remeshing rack-pinion but there is another worm spring in mine, it should be adjusted also which has key role on pointer returning to 0.
I wouldn't use any kind of lubricant. All critical parts usually has 'jewelled' beds. Any kind of lub tends to get dirts anyway. Since mine is Soviet made lol it should be work for another 20 years with this condition.
Actually i watched metal tips and tricks related video (which he doesnt suggest to do) and whole process took about 45 min at all. 0.01mm dial indicator is not hard as it seems but i would not mess with 0.002mm/0.0001" dial indicator which i dont have mechanical one, because as far as i know spring pressure is very important for them.
 
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