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Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Track Surfaces

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  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Track Surfaces

    I thought it would be interesting to get your opinions on various track surfaces. I am going to limit this discussion to rubber tires running on latex paint on mdf, although I realize there are a good many other types of track surfaces and tire types out there. My observations are based on running rubber tires on these tracks. Most often NSR SuperGrips, but sometimes UltraGrips, Slot.It F compounds, and occasionally Ninco rubber (on Ninco Classics).

    I'll describe the surfaces of three of the tracks we regularly race on at SCANC - OFI, SlotZuka, and Woodland Trace Raceway.


    The surface of OFI has a rough finish. If you run your fingers over the track, it has the feel of coarse sandpaper. I can't speak to the method used to build this track, as it was purchased from and built by another slot racer outside our local group.

    Observations: 1.) Cars get very good grip. 2.)The rough surface is hard on rubber tires.

    Woodland Trace Raceway

    When I built WTR, I painted the mdf surface with three coats of semi-gloss latex paint. I sanded the first two coats lightly before apply subsequent coats, then sanded the final coat to a smooth finish. The track is not glass-smooth, but has a very fine finish.

    Observations: 1.) Cars got good grip from Day One. 2.) The track is easy on tires.


    Leadfinger and I built SlotZuka using the same paint as I used on WTR, but we didn't sand until the final coat, and then we didn't sand it completely smooth. SlotZuka has a surface texture kind of like that of very shallow paving stones. It's by no means a rough surface like OFI, but it's not as smooth as WTR either.

    Observations: 1) Cars did not initially get optimal grip, but as the surface rubbered-in grip improved substantially.

    What do you guys think?
    Last edited by Fast Co.; July 9, 2020, 12:21 PM.
    Team SCANC
    Woodland Trace Raceway - SlotZuka - Bent Tree Raceway
    OFI - Buena Vista Motorsports Park - Slotkins Glen
    Leadfinger Raceway

  • #2
    Thanks Steve, great helpful post!


    • #3
      Nice analysis! There's another paint to consider as well, it's called UMA. This is a white primer that is formulated for hard to paint surfaces, and needs to be tinted to get a nice grey color. But the urethane in the paint provides good group and my experience is that it is very tolerant of different tire materials. I can run silicones followed immediately by rubber with no loss of grip for either, and I have often run foam tires as well. It's a very good paint for painting plastic tracks to, as it sticks better than the regular latex.
      Dennis Samson

      Scratchbuilding is life
      Life is scratchbuilt


      • #4
        Dennis, I have thought often of some kind of paint with a silicone base. The paint you use with urethane content may offer that type of advantage. I also considered that a truly adhesive paint and truly adhesive tires might end up being like running with magnets and not provide traditional slot car handling. Too much grip.

        I have always painted my wood tracks with semi gloss latex. I realize epoxy is probably stronger, but I've never had issues with latex and have never put any kind of chemical on it. I have always run silicone tires of some kind, home made, vintage 60's, George's old Indy Grips, back in the 80's the old American Line coated sponge. The only track prep has always just been a dusting to remove dust, but not the rubber that has been laid down.

        I have always just brush painted the track surface in the direction of travel. Usually a light sanding after 1 coat, then a 2nd coat. This has always been great for the informal/half a** racing and playing like we do. Following all the conversations on the forum, I think we would have the same results if we ran urethane tires exclusively. I've run a urethane tire a few times just testing a shelf queen. Grip is less, because of the silicone buildup, I guess. If the build up was urethane I would think the grip would be excellent.

        In the old slot car mags the guys liked to use blackboard paint, I guess it had a slightly gritty surface. We've seen guys use texture paint and paint with sand in it. I am sure grip would be fine, but tire wear probably a big factor.

        Urethane paint and tires does seem the way to go if you are starting from scratch, or latex and urethane tires.
        Matt B
        So. In


        • #5
          UMA = urethane modified acrylic. Should be very hard once cured, very durable. Sounds like fantastic grip as well. An interesting option for sure.

          Like Matt, I have always used the free latex paint I get at the hazmat recycling center.....but I did three coats on my latest routed track. I hated waiting between.....but it's pretty good now.
          Come Race at The Trace!
          Timberline Trace International Raceway - SW of Mpls, MN


          • #6
            Rustoleum Textured spray paint offers great grip and Aged Iron color looks like asphalt. After painting all the track I go over it with a latex glove covered hand and then a vacuum. Then let the cars do their thing. You could sand it with some sandpaper if you think it's too abrasive. This is almost done, just another light dusting here and there for full coverage. I have cars that have urethane tires, rubber of different shore, and silicone - and I know what to expect from each. The silicones have the best grip, followed by low shore rubber and then it's almost a tie between hard rubber and urethane.
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            Last edited by dinglebery; July 9, 2020, 08:43 PM.


            • arroldn
              arroldn commented
              Editing a comment
              After 12 years my Rustoleum paint is starting to flake off of my Scaley Sport track. Looking for a solution.

            • dinglebery
              dinglebery commented
              Editing a comment
              Which paint did you use? From a spray can? Textured? Did you clean the track before painting it at the time?
              I have 15 year old painted Carrera track that's in my layout now - no issues.

          • #7
            Rustoleum a textured gray color. It's been to long ago but I think I cleaned it first. I need to just redo it. Since I host the Forums Cup Proxy I didn't see much difference in lap times in the corners with the textured paint vs just the flat latex. If memory serves me correctly. I may be wrong . Its been to long. May go back to a texture paint. Textured paint was recommended by Bruce RIP.
            Last edited by arroldn; July 10, 2020, 05:31 PM.
            Arrold Martin
            Nashville TN


            • #8
              I did some experimentation on my last track. It was originally copper tape but when I converted it to braid, I put a coat of hardwood floor polyurethane over the latex paint. The club agrees that the grip is better and it was also instant. My experience with latex paint is it takes a few nights of good racing to "rubber" the track in before the grip comes around. Our club uses both urethane and silicone tires and the surface is good with both.

              Click image for larger version

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              The track was taken down in May and a new, bigger one will replace it
              The old was 8x17
              The new will be 8x24
              I hope to start the build thread here on HRW once I start the track in a few weeks.
              Attached Files


              • #9
                Was the polyurethane used as a sealer for the first coast of paint ? I plan on building a plastic track layout of my own and want the track to look like real worn out roadway


                • Fathead59
                  Fathead59 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  And that should have been coats not coast

              • #10
                no, I applied two coats of latex paint and that was the original surface that was raced for 5 years, the Poly was to add extra traction.


                • #11
                  Over the years I have tried several things, none of which were disasters, but a couple were very interesting. I don't know if they still sell it, but there used to be a product (very very fine steel filings), that you mixed with paint and could make a magnetic board like a bulletin board. People tried to use it to make a magnetic slot car surface, and it worked a little, but not enough to become a popular practice. The magnetic pull was a fraction of plastic track, and tricky to paint with. I discovered that if you apply this slightly gritty surface, then sand it lightly with fine sandpaper (I used #400 on a random orbit sander), you get a surface that looks exactly like scale asphalt. The grip is like any latex paint. I liked it so much I kept it for many years.

                  Last edited by waaytoomuchintothis; September 9, 2020, 03:56 PM.


                  • Fast Co.
                    Fast Co. commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I used magnetic bulletin board paint on my first routed track about 10 years ago. It did have a very realistic color and surface texture. The magnetic effect to me seemed kind of negligible but I have no hard numbers to confirm or deny if there was any benefit to it. The only downside was that the paint flaked away along the outer edge of the slot in some curves. I don't know if that's been your experience. Great looking track btw! That's a cool looking rig you're pulling too. Is it a track cleaner?

                • #12
                  Yup. I saw a toy Zamboni in a drug store and built this thing that night, lights and all. Works great.


                  • #13
                    One of the tracks in our group painted his wood track with ‘magnetic’ paint, just in the curves. It was hard to gauge how much to add to the mix. Some areas had more ‘pull’ than others, would throw you off if you weren’t paying attention. It worked well for what it was.

                    I have been testing different magnetic paints to find what products, or combinations of products, work the best for different applications, and I’d like to share some tips. Magnetic paint is …
                    Scott.....War Eagle River......Tampa, Florida, USA