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RT3 Tonewheel Generator Squeal

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  • RT3 Tonewheel Generator Squeal

    I salvaged a mid 60s RT3 from a church that was being renovated last March. As I did not know the last time it was oiled, I filled both cups (funnels that lead to brass lines) with Hammond TWG oil on my birthday (April 1) as I figured I would remember that day. Everything has been running great (with help from people on this forum) until mid-December when the squeal started from the left side (run motor) of tone generator. I was playing one day and after about 1 hour of playing, the generator started to squeal. It was instantaneous. There were no other warning signs that I was aware of or a gradual increase in the volume of the squeal. It just happened. I instantly shut the organ down, got on The Organ Forum and seemed like a lubrication issue. I then filled the right funnel again (not the scanner and run motor funnel) and shuttered the old girl up so the oil would have time to work its way into the bearings.

    I waited until New Years (about 2 weeks) and checked it. Squeal still there. I filled right side funnel 2/3 full again. Let it sit another week. Squeal still there. I went in the back and spun generator shaft by hand. Spins freely with no resistance. Worked it back and forth by hand. Fired it up, no squeal. Rejoiced, played for about 1/2 hour, squeal came back (instantaneously, just like before). Shut it off, cried a little. Worked generator back and forth by hand about 50 times. Fired it up, ran good. Played for about 10 minutes. Shut it off. Thought I was out of the woods. Woke up early next day to finally be able to sit down and play again, squeal was back.

    The squeal is definitely coming from the far left side of the generator. It seems like it is just on the other side of the left wall of the tone generator. Maybe the first bin on the back left. Hard to tell with green felt and cover on the generator. The squeal is never there when I initially fire up the start motor. It comes in after it starts to spin up to speed. Sometimes it waits until full speed, sometimes at 1/2 speed and anywhere in between. It does not change when I engage run motor (slight change in sound because speed change, but nothing major). Once squealing, it will not go away. I will turn it off and the squeal will stay consistent with the spindown off the generator (it will change pitch as the generator slows down) until it slows down enough for the squeal to stop. The generator will still spin quietly for about 3-5 seconds after the squeal stops.
    The spindown time of the generator does not change whether the squeal is present or not. It is always right around 18 seconds. All tonewheels I can see from the back of generator are spinning.

    Is this normal bearing squeal and I just need to leave it alone for another few weeks or is there something else going on?

    Thanks to the Organ Forum and all that make it what it is.

  • #2
    To locate an offending wheel/bearing I lift the generator up enough so I can slide my hand under. I can stop the wheels a pair at a time with my finger. Once I stop the squealing pair, well, the squeal stops. Then, I spray some WD-40 on that wheel pair and the squeal goes away. Always follow up with Hammond oil. Don't run it very long while it's squealing. That will cause excessive wear on the bearings. However, running it long enough to locate it at least allows you to fix the problem and enjoy the organ.



    • #3
      Nice, Geo.

      I know that this sounds heretical, but after days of waiting for the squeal to disappear after I bought the 55 B3 and oiled it thoroughly with Hammond oil, I finally sprayed the TG with WD 40 and it has never recurred in the past 3 years. I didn't want to bring this up here, because of the arguments against using WD 40, but it worked.

      The other thing I was prepared to do was use one of my stethoscopes to pinpoint the location closest to the squeal. I didn't need to. But it's a thought.
      1955 B3, Leslie 21H and 147. Hammond A100 with weird Leslie 205. 1976 Rhodes. Wurlitzer 200A. Yamaha DX7/TX7. Korg M1. Yamaha C3 grand, 67 Tele blond neck, Les Paul Standard, PRS 24, Gibson classical electric, Breedlove acoustic electric, Strat, P Bass, Rogers drum kit, Roland TD 12 digital drums, Apollo quad, older blackfaced Fender Twin, other amps, mics and bits and pieces cluttering up the "studio."


      • #4
        It is almost heretical! :)

        'Days of waiting' usually isn't enough to fix stuck or squealing wheels, as I'm sure you will have read! I assume that after using the WD, you flushed it through and then oiled the genny, and have done so each year since then!
        It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

        New website now live -

        Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha Genos, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
        Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
        Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
        Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1


        • #5
          I never use WD40 because it is not recommended by the manufacturer for use on sintered bronze bearings. It has things in it that can contaminate the bearings, ingredients meant to repel water from garden tools.

          As I understand it, WD40's main ingredient is kerosene, so you're just spraying a solvent on the bearing to break up deposits of old oil. Most any petroleum solvent will do the same thing.
          I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.


          • #6
            I've used WD40 is on an M3 that was really stubborn.Followed by naptha flush and oil.Organ sounds great now,no squeals.
            Had the genny right apart on that one.Replaced a pickup.Inspected the bearings etc. with a magnifier/light and stethoscope.
            Located the offenders and dealt with them.#87 has been 'flutter free' ever since this procedure,and #60 works again.
            I've played full consoles with less tone than this M3.....

            Have used WD40 sparingly on L100 gennys too.On a console I'll use naptha followed by oil.Have freed up a dozen gennys this way.
            All of my gennys coast down to stop in about 20 seconds so I know this works.

            WD40 and naptha evap quite fast,within a week usually.
            Any un-evapped WD might be an issue so the naptha is a certain way to deal with it.
            Never spent more than a few days dealing with this issue.
            A100/251 A100/147 A102/222 B2/142 BV/147 BCV/145 M3/145 M102/145 M111/770 L101/760 T222/HL722 M111/770 no B3/C3!


            • #7
              I knew this would happen!

              Actually, while I was negotiating over the phone at over 200 miles away, the owner re-oiled the B3 with Hammond oil, and I didn't get the B3 for over a week, then it sat for days after I re-oiled it. But I do have a(n) heretical streak. I had a wobbly faith that the Hammond oil behind the WD40 area would find its way across that patch. And I have oiled annually. But I didn't flush because I had not as yet discovered this site. I repent, for I have sinned.

              There are some things in life (the unsophisticated, unwashed, Subneanderthal cave dweller that I am) that I love to have around: WD40 (whatever happened to the guy who invented WD39?), duct tape, JB Weld epoxy, Goo Gone, and Sweet Baby Ray's Original barbecue sauce....

              1955 B3, Leslie 21H and 147. Hammond A100 with weird Leslie 205. 1976 Rhodes. Wurlitzer 200A. Yamaha DX7/TX7. Korg M1. Yamaha C3 grand, 67 Tele blond neck, Les Paul Standard, PRS 24, Gibson classical electric, Breedlove acoustic electric, Strat, P Bass, Rogers drum kit, Roland TD 12 digital drums, Apollo quad, older blackfaced Fender Twin, other amps, mics and bits and pieces cluttering up the "studio."


              • #8
                I have filled the generator funnel four times (over a few days, at least 2 oz) and let the organ sit for another two weeks, but still getting a squeal when the generator gets up to speed. It appears that oil and time is not going to solve this one. The generator spins freely by hand (as far as I know), but this is the only tonewheel generator I have ever touched. Spindown seems acceptable at 18 seconds, but could improve. The squeal goes away for the last 3-5 seconds of spindown. Does this sound like the symptoms of bearing squeal or is there something else going on? Sticky clutch/spring?

                I have no clue what this organ went through before I found it abandoned at the Baptist church last March. It ran, I put fresh oil from TWG hospital in the funnels and have been enjoying it ever since. The Leslie had a blown fuse (and it was the wrong one) and a bad E-cap which leads me to believe they were not serious about maintaining the organ. Maybe it sat for longer than I realized and the oil that I put in back in April (only filled funnels once like the instructions say) just was not enough. There were about 6 or seven long handled cotton swabs in the cabinet when I opened it and, from everything I have read, those are bad new for generators. Not sure what they were doing with them. Maybe cleaning tube pins.

                I would prefer not having to remove the generator and having a hard time seeing how I could access the underside of the generator while in the cabinet of the RT3. I have soldered a few wires, but am no expert. My father in-law was in the navy in the early 70s and worked on electronics/radios. He worked with a lot of transistor radios, but also came across a few with tube amplifiers as he stated "The Army would throw them away, but the Navy would repair them". He does stained glass now so he can handle a soldering iron. He would help me to remove it if necessary, but I would rather not.

                Anyway, going forward, am I overthinking this and it just needs a Naphtha flush?
                If so, could anyone please guide me as to how to flush it properly or guide me to a thread that details this.

                I want to enjoy this vintage instrument for the rest of my life and am willing to dedicate some time to making it right. It is winter here in Maine, so I have some time to tinker.

                Thanks to everyone who shares their knowledge here.


                • #9
                  If I had one squealing bearing, I would find it, spray it with solvent, and then oil it directly. Or you may have a case where one oiling thread is broken, so no oil will get there, no matter how much you pour in.

                  These instruments are at least 45 years old at this point, and sometimes you do have to get into the generator to service it or desolder the generator. I had to do it on a Hammond BC where I had to desolder and remove the chorus generator and then the main generator. It's not easy to learn how to do this stuff successfully.

                  I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.


                  • #10
                    I am hoping I can solve this one without desoldering the generator, but, if it comes down to it, I will enlist the help of a professional. I have gone into enough projects with good intentions and end up causing more problems on the backside due to lack of experience. I believe I will try a few things while it is still in place.

                    What solvent should I use on the bearings if not WD-40?

                    Any tips for raising the manuals on an RT3 to access the tonewheels/bearings on backside of generator?

                    I would like to try the Naphtha flush, but not sure where to source. I see VM&P Naphtha in the hardware store, not sure what else it might have in it. People on this forum have stated that Ronsonol has changed it's formula. Zippo lighter fluid? White Gas?

                    Thanks for your help.


                    • #11
                      CRC makes a solvent called QD in the red can. It's a no-residue cleaner.

                      VM&P Naphtha is made for "Varnish Makers and Painters," as I understand it, and is actually more refined than other types. What probably does the job in WD-40 is the kerosene base. All these are various petroleum fractions.

                      Even fresh oil will dissolve old oil.
                      I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.


                      • #12
                        The conventional advice is to add about a thimble full of Hammond oil per year, but that assumes the organ has been oiled regularly since new,how much oil was added at the factory? probably about a cup full with an annual top up sufficient to maintain oil levels
                        So any organ that has been not maintained or had irregular servicing will need to have oil levels restored to factory condition!

                        It should not be necessary to unbolt the generator or start unsoldering wires unless there's a big hurry to resolve the squeal,giving the organ heaps of oil will not hurt it, but there may be a few drips of oil to mop up, further down the track


                        • #13
                          I'd also like to do a napatha flush on my B3 so if anyone knows of a video of how to do this, I'd appreciate it.