Coupler Problems H O Gauge

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by planeshavings42, May 26, 2002.

  1. I'm nearly done setting my inital layout, so I put an engine (Athearn) F-7 and some passenger cars (all Athearn) on and low and behold, no electrical problems, but am having problems with couplers, they just won't stay coupled. I had forgotten, that when I first bought this set 3 years ago, the salesman told me not to use the original couplers, but to replace them with Kay Dee couplers, which I did, and have had nothing but problems with them. Anything better on the market in couplers in the last three years?? Thanx in advance AT&SF Duey :confused: :confused:
  2. IMRL393

    IMRL393 Member

    Duey -

    Kadee couplers are the best on the market !!!

    You DO need to make sure that the couplers are at the same height (this is true of any coupler) - buy a Kadee gauge, and use Kadee washers to adjust the coupler height if needed. See the instructions with the gauge for more details.

    Good luck!

    - George
  3. Vic

    Vic Active Member


    1. Sometimes the Kadee couplers will have just a tiny bit of flash on the knuckle and shank especially the #5 with the metal knuckle and shank. Take the smooth end of a drill bit and polish them up.

    2. Make sure that the coupler swings freely in the coupler box and returns to center against the centering spring. Adding a "puff" of powdered graphite into the coupler box works wonders!!! Make sure there is no flash or rough edge on the lips of the coupler box.

    3. Be sure the knuckle spring is correctly in place.

    4. If you are using a cast on coupler box on the car make sure there is no flash in it. Also, if it has a "screw on lid" make sure that the screw is not too tight and binding the coupler. If it is the Atheran type with the snap on metal lid make sure that that it is seated properly so that the coupler doesn't "droop" down towards the rails and ties.

    5. If you used the Kadee box make sure that you didn't get any glue on the inside of the box. I never glue them together. I "weld" the back corners together by just touching them ever so lightly with a hot 15 watt soldering iron.

    6. Check your track work at the point where the false uncoupling occurs. A sudden "dip" in the track will cause the problem too as the lead car gets lower than the trailing car.

    7. Ditto on the the Kadee Gauge....An absolute must if you use Kadee couplers. The height must be exactly right.

    Hope this helped out!:) :D
  4. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hi Gents
    Couplers are an issue I haven't gotten into yet but before I get too much track down....
    What are your thoughts on magnetic un-couplers? MR had a recent detailed article on hiding them under the track.
    Vic & George, I hear you on the quality of the Kadee couplers, but at the same time, you mention how unforgiving they may be
    to misalignment, and that they might need cleaning up to be reliable. I see a number of coupler brands advertised.

    :confused: :confused:
  5. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    The research I've done indicates these are kind of hit-and-miss; they usually work, but sometimes they work too good, esp. if you've got the uncoupler on a mainline or something like that.

    As such, I will not be using any of 'em.
  6. BillD53A

    BillD53A Member

    Kadee Kadee Kadee Kadee ...thats all I can say. Horn hook couplers are garbage and thats where they go. The plastic clone couplers that some manufacturers have been using recently, go with them. Some people like the Accumate coupler, especially the scale-size ones. I have tried them all and wound up throwing them away.
    I dont use the magnetic uncoupling feature, I cut the 'hoses' off. My layout exists for switching freight cars, and the big kids dont have to wander off a quarter mile down the track to find an uncoupler. They uncouple where ever they need to.
    Pick a coupler NOW to adopt as your standard, and learn how to install it properly. As metioned, Kadee makes a height gauge for their couplers, so if you choose Kadee couplers, you need the gauge from the beginning. They also sell a sampler pack to help you see which coupler you need for your application.
    It is all too easy to install a centering spring upside down(or something)...and it won't work right. Check the installation every step of the way. The Kadee #5 coupler was designed to be used in a lot of situations, but it wont work in EVERY one. Thats the reason Kadee makes all those other couplers. They are NOT a drop-in fit for the Athearn F7. You either need to dis-assemble the mechanism and file the mounting pads,then drill and tap a hole and use a screw to fasten it, or use a coupler with an offset head, like the #7. Check Kadee's website; they have a list of which couplers to use, where.
  7. IMRL393

    IMRL393 Member

    Even if you choose another coupler than Kadee

    (a major mistake, IMHO)

    you STILL need the Kadee coupler height gauge to standardize WHATEVER coupler you do choose!

    (You might make do with the NMRA gauge, but it is not as easy to use.)

    Misaligned couplers uncouple. Worse, couplers at the wrong height can cause derailments - or even flip the car or loco off the table if the "hose" catches on a turnout or part of the track!


    I know!

    I lost a beautiful Rock Island E8A in Rocket scheme in this way !!!

    Totally destroyed when it hit the floor !!!!

    Shell AND motor drive !!!!!!!!!!

    USE THE GAUGE !!!!!!!!!!!!

    - George
  8. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Cid...More On Kadee Couplers

    Good Morning Cid, I wouldn't say that Kadees are unforgiving. They are just one of those kind of things that do require some some practice, patience and expertise in installing to get them to work right the first time every time. :D Once properly installed they work right from then on. Low maintaince!!! :D

    There are other brands of knuckle couplers but they are just copies to a great extent of the Kadees. I've had no experience with them and can't speak to them. Kadee invented the working magnetic knucke coupler for HO and later on added other scales and and special applications. To this day there is no other coupler availabable to my knowledge that has the wide range of applications both in scale and special fits as does Kadee.

    Whichever brand you may choose to go with, any will require some skill in getting them to work. Its just the "nature of the beast":D :D
  9. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    I use Kadee #5's on most of my rolling stock but changed to the Bachmann EZ-mate (Same as Kadee) which has the coil spring attached. I find this one works very well indeed, and is now the only one I buy. saves the bronze strip being used.
  10. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    First, I won't use anything but Kadee couplers, except the "exact scale".

    That stated, are you using the "truck mount" coupler boxes that Athearn passenger cars come with ?? The "arms" can warp,or sag, and cause coupler mismatch. You may want to think about bodymounting the couplers.

    Do the cars uncouple consistently at the same place on the layout?? The longer the car, the more vertical movement of the coupler face due to humps or dips in the track. You'll find this with auto racks, 89' hicube box cars, and 85' flats.

    Magnetic "hoses" uncoupling pins; When I had them (I'm clipping all of them as I use the rolling stock. When you have to remove 40' of train from the layout quickly, as I do on the modular layout, at shows, the pins get in the way.), I always adjusted them higher than the gauge just to insure they didn't snag.

    Coupler height adjustment is a must! The tighter control you maintain on coupler height, the less chance of uncoupling.

    Kadee clones. On the modules I run long trains, and the drawbar pull will cause the plastic shank couplers to work vertically, and uncouple even with the height set correctly, and the track as level as possible. I will only use metal couplers, with coil springs on the knuckles.

    I have "operated" on several club layouts, with my own rolling stock, and have never had any problems with uncoupling, or derailing. The effort pays off.
  11. Uncouple Problems

    Thank You all for all the good advise,

    I've noticed that the same cars are repeatedly giving the problems, and yes they are not alligned correctly, i've ordered the heigth gauge and many parts , including shims etc. from Kadee, I also noticed that not all the couplers are exactly the same, some are plastic, that I bought at a train show, three years ago and thought I was getting Kadee, but they were in a clear plastic bag, and I suspect they are Knock Off's, I will change all of these to Kadee, and properly allign them all, and check for Flash on the Knuckles and shanks, also will use a puff of dry graphite on all. Also I'm running Athearn F-7's so will order a couple of the Kadee # 7's for those.

    Wow what great advise, Again I sure feel fortunate that I found the gauge, I'm indebted to you all, and hope I can return the courtesy some day. Thanks,Thanks, Thanks. AT&SF Duey :) :)
  12. BillD53A

    BillD53A Member

    Kadee has a list at their website that gives conversion info on just about everything made in HO. I believe they give the #37 as the right coupler for the F7. The list is at :
  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    If you need a quick height gauge, take a new Athearn boxcar kit and put a #5 in it. If there are no problems with the kit, you should have an adequate height gauge. Test it against a few others for consensus.

    Also, make sure the trip pins are high enough but not too high. (I once suggested clipping them off, but that was a joke!!) There are at least 2 brands of trip pin adjusters on the market (one's Kadee, the other isn't.) You can also use pliers (long nose) but it's easy to go too far.
  14. IMRL393

    IMRL393 Member

    It should be pointed out that the Kadee gauge also measues the minimum hose height, too!

    Kadee also makes a neat tool (a speciality type of pliers) to bend the hoses, when needed.

    Myself, the only boxcar I would trust to have the correct height would be a Kadee car. But even then the hose height will not be measured - and that can lead to disaster !!!

    - George
  15. BillD53A

    BillD53A Member

    The top of the Kadee gauge also establishes the floor height for the car. I have never seen an Athearn box car whose coupler height was right, straight from the box!
  16. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hey Duey
    They all convinced me too. I picked up a few couplers and shims yesterday. Of course, the gauge was out-of-stock.
    I'm still going to try one of those Kadee magnetic uncouplers, the coil type (requires a switch or pushbutton). That MR article got me interested. Has anyone tried that under-track mounting modification and had success?? I like that invisible look
    Thanx to all from Olive Branch
  17. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Cid, A friend of mine modified the Kadee's, I think a little differently than the article but close enough and they work fine. I also use elctro magnetic uncouplers but built my own several years ago. Eliminating unwanted uncouplings really helped my enjoyment! Go for it, it should work no problem.

  18. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Thanks, Gary
    I picked one up yesterday and will give it a shot.
    From Olive Branch
  19. fvracer85

    fvracer85 Member


    Kadee is the word I've always been given, although I find that the McHenerys are easier to change out when upgrading older rolling stock and I have had just as much luck with them as I have with the Kadees.....

  20. fvracer85

    fvracer85 Member


    My *(^%&(*( sig did not work!


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