Getting Started With Remote Control Cars

In the last decade or so, the radio-controlled (RC) car industry has experienced tremendous technological growth, with the cars and trucks category recording the fastest advancement. However, that is not to say that RC boats and RC aircraft have been left behind. No. The entire industry has been very attractive for inventive creators of various remote control gadgets and machines.

RC machines are fast and exciting, with people of all ages and walks of life being able to take part in this hobby. For RC land vehicles, there are four main categories: on-road rc cars, rc monster trucks, off-road rc buggies and rc stadium racers. All of these can either be powered using electricity or by using nitro/gas.

Let’s have a closer look at each of the four below:

  1. On-Road RC CarIn recent years, the on-road RC cars category has surpassed off-road in popularity. Today, on-road RC racing is divided into two streams of activity: the smooth surface racing (normally conducted on paved outdoor surfaces or carpet indoor tracks) and the newer parking lot racing (also called sedan or touring car racing). On-road cars can attain very high speeds, with both road racing and oval track racing being popular. Electric-powered on-road cars are usually in scales of 1/12 and 1/10 while nitro versions come in scales of 1/10 and 1/8. However, in recent times, micro-size 1/18 scale vehicles have also been introduced.
  2. Off-Road RC BuggiesThese are the RC cars that begun this craze. They’re open-wheeled with a lot of ground clearance and knobby tires for firmer grip. They’re the best on rough terrains and come in both 2WD and 4WD. The most popular scale is 1/10 though 1/8s and 1/4s are also available. Off-road buggies can either be nitro- or electric-powered, with larger versions tending to go for gas.
  3. RC Monster TrucksThese are the big boys in off-road RC racing. Although they can’t march the buggies in speed, monster trucks can pull, climb and crush on any terrain. Reminiscent of original on-road RC cars, these are extremely low to the ground. They’re modeled on full-size NASCAR and Indy-style cars. They’re normally 4WD-configured, with some being four-wheel steered as well. Electric versions, with two high-torque motors are very popular and are even surpassing nitro ones nowadays. Common sizes include 1/10 scale though the larger 1/8 is also gaining ground rapidly.
  4. RC Stadium-Race TrucksThese combine off-road buggy and monster truck features. They’ve truck bodies and knobby tires in 1/10 size off-road cars and can be nitro- or electric-powered. The electric machines performance is comparable to that of buggies. Today, nitro versions are more popular than electrics. Generally, stadium racers are quite dependable, rugged and quite speedy.

Electric RC Cars: What Do You Need?

The Vehicle: These are available pre-built and come with a radio system package (or in kit form) requiring assembly. Some kits, more so for on-road cars, may require you to buy the motor, body and electronic speed control system separately. However, there are also ready-to-run (RTR) packages that come with just about every item you need. Buying yours in kit form is beneficial since you learn how the vehicle works as you assemble it, an invaluable experience when it comes to the maintenance and tuning of your model.

The Radio: Most radio systems used for RC cars and RC trucks are simple, two-channel units much less pricey than those for aircraft. However, you’ll normally have to buy batteries to power the transmitter separately. Most units today come with a Battery Eliminator Circuit (BEC) in their receivers, leaving the radio in the vehicle to be powered by battery pack in the motor. If you need a rechargeable NiCd for the transmitter, you can also buy them separately.

The Battery Pack: You need a rechargeable battery pack to run almost any electric car or truck. Typically, these are made up of 6-7 connected NiCd cells. Most RC cars and RC trucks will have multiple battery packs, with alternating charge times of about 20 minutes. There are also matched battery packs in the market, with these providing more power till the end of the entire pack’s discharge

The Charger: Many types of chargers are available for RC car/truck packs, with most of them being powered from either 110VAC or 12VDC power sources. Affordable overnight chargers are also available and give a good charge that equalize the cells in the pack. Indeed, each pack should be slow-charged at an overnight rate about every 4 to 6 charges. However, due to their slowness — taking 10 to 15 hours to completely charge — they aren’t very practical for use while at the track unless you’ve many charged and on standby. Peak detection chargers are popular and have electronic circuitry to detect when the battery is fully charged.

The Motor: Most electric motors for RC trucks and cars in the market today are of the “Mabuchi 540” design with two main categories: stock and modified. Stock motors are run as they are and should never be opened for any modifications. On the other hand, modified motors can have their timing changed, as well as any other modifications you wish to make. Although modified motors generally do provide more power than stock ones, they drain the battery faster.

Speed Controls: Two basic speed control systems exist for RC vehicles: mechanical and electronic. Many kits do come with mechanical units. These are normally 3-speed forward and 3-speed reverse, and are generally less expensive than electronic versions. On the other hand, electronic speed controls are far superior to their mechanical counterparts since they give precision control of the current going to the motor. They are fully proportional from zero to full speed and almost always come with brakes. They may or may not contain reverse, with some also being available with radio systems as substitutes for one of the servos.

Nitro RC Car Versions: What You Need

The Vehicle: Just as is the case with the electric RC cars and trucks, you can have your vehicle pre-assembled or in kit form. These models are created very similarly to electric versions, with the main exception being that their transmission and gear trains are often sturdier to withstand the extra stress of the much more powerful glow or gas engines. When you buy such a model, the engine may come with it or be purchased separately.

The Radio: Here, your requirements for a radio system will be similar to those in electric models, with the exception being that you will need to have batteries for powering the radio in your RC truck or car. No battery pack available for the motor to run a BEC. Another decision you will have to make is either to go for a stick control or a pistol grip set-up.

The Engine: Most combustion-powered RC vehicles in use today are equipped with two-cycle glow engines. However, for 1/6 sizes or higher, gas motors are much more common. The operation of glow car engines is similar to that in model aircraft engines.

Tracking Equipment: Nitro-powered RC cars and trucks are quite similar to model aircraft machines in the way their support equipment are operated. First you need fuel and a method to get it into the fuel tank from its container. This can be as simple as using a bulb fuel pump or a hand-pump, or as complex as using a battery-powered electric fuel pump. Secondly, you need power for your glow plug. A glow engine needs current to run through its glow plug so that it can start running. This is supplied by a 1.2V to 1.5V battery or by a specially-designed adjustable circuit known as a glow driver that is frequently found on power panels. You may also need an electric starter.

True gas-powered RC vehicles will always be equipped with a recoil pull starter and therefore need very little alterations when it comes to field equipment. Most of the time, having gas available and a way to get it into you vehicle’s tank is all that you need.

Finally, Spare Parts

Almost all individual parts are available in the market for purchase in case you need to do a repair for your vehicle. All types of RC trucks and cars are taken care of, with elaborate designs and guides to help you do any kind of repair you need at the comfort of your home.

Some of the most common stock replacement vehicle parts for RC vehicles include wheels and tires, body parts, suspension equipment, steering assembly parts, transmissions, decals, etc. While some of these are designed for specific cars and trucks, many of them are generic and can fit almost any model you may be having.

Many of the aftermarket parts available are also designed to enhance the performance of your RC car or truck in one way or another. So, when you go for a spare part, look also for options of improving your vehicle so that the next time you are going out to have fun, you have the best of the best kind of vehicle you need!