Care and Maintenance of Your RC Car
For RC car and truck enthusiasts, maintenance plays a crucial role in keeping your vehicle running smoothly and performing at the best levels. What many people do not realize is that maintenance is required on most RC vehicles just like the full-size vehicles we use for transport.
This article will give a brief overview of the three types of RC cars, electric, nitro and gas as well as address several points that cover basic maintenance tips of each type of vehicle.
There are two types of RC vehicle grades: toy-grade and hobby-grade.
Toy grade vehicles are mass-produced and usually very difficult to repair once the vehicle has some sort of problem. People love to buy these because they are more affordable. The problem is that toy-grade vehicles are made with non-replaceable, non-interchangeable parts. This usually makes them worthless to operate once there is severe damage or if an electrical or mechanical failure occurs. The rules and basic practices mentioned from hereon are specifically for hobby-grade RC vehicles
The first thing you should do when you purchase your new RC vehicle is to carefully read the owner’s manual. Not only is this one of the most important things to hold on to in regards to everything about your RC vehicle, it provides all the maintenance information needed to keep your vehicle running smoothly and performing at peak condition. Also watch any videos (DVDs) provided with the owner’s manual if they are included.
You will no doubt be doing your own maintenance and thus you will require some basic tools. These may include Phillips and flat blade screwdrivers, nut and hex wrenches and clean rag. Alternatively you can buy some very good starter tool kits from Amazon and eBay.
Depending on the type of RC Car you purchased will depend on how you should initially run it in.
Electric – these require charging of the batteries and a careful few minutes first running just to make sure everything is working as it should.
The motors in these cars are brushless or brushed type motors. Brushless motors are becoming more of a factory fitted item than an aftermarket accessory these days.
When the battery has gone flat in the car, put the car up on a work bench with its wheels off the ground and run the motor until the battery is fully discharged. This prevents battery memory. Remember once your battery is charged you should let it cool before running it in your RC car.
Electric powered cars are the most maintenance free RC cars compared to the other types.
Nitro – correct nitro engine break-in is very important to future performance of your RC. New nitro engines require a break-in procedure. You should follow the procedure out lined in your owners manual but here is a quick guide as to how it can be done.
Using the correct nitro fuel for the car, prime the engine and start it.
For the first couple of tanks of fuel do not exceed half throttle and do not use constant speed. Use a varying degree of throttle input. Ideally you should do this on a clean paved area with the body off.
Let the engine cool down between refuelling the tank.
After the first couple of tanks you can hold the speed at half throttle for a short periods. Remember try to avoid flipping the car or doing any aerial acrobatics (jumps). By about your fifth tank you can increase to full throttle for short periods using the brakes to bring your speed down so you can accelerate up smoothly again.
After each time you run your nitro RC you should do your after-run maintenance
- Drain whatever fuel is left in the tank out
- Clean and re-oil the air filter
- Add after run oil
Gas (petrol) – the basic break-in principles for these are the same as a nitro engine. Again refer to your owners manual for their method of break-in. In regards to the part about letting your 2 stroke engine idle for long periods or for the first tank of gas – I wouldn’t! Just don’t idle it and don’t use full throttle.
After run maintenance for you gas RC
- Clean and re-oil the air filter
- Draining the fuel tank is recommended
Fuel Ratio – the mix ratio for Nitro cars is relatively simple because you buy it from your local hobby shop, pre-mixed, at the ratio specified for your car. eg. 10% – 25%
Gas or petrol remote cars are a different story because you can choose different types of two stroke oil to mix with your pump gas. The ratio for mix can vary from 25:1 – 50:1. Your owners manual will guide you on the manufacturers specifications for the type of oil and the mix ratio. But if you choose to run a different oil like a synthetic type be guided by the oil manufacturers specs. A word of caution, make sure the oil is designed for small air cooled engines and is not made for outboard motors or motorcycles.
Using fuel safety is very important to prevent injuries and the event of a fire. The fuel used in both gas powered RC vehicles as well as Nitro cars use highly flammable fuels. These fuels should always be stored in gas cans or other safe fuel containers that are capped tightly to avoid leakage. They should never be stored in a damp location or near an open flame. Where possible wear appropriate hand protection to avoid contact with these fuels. Always use in an adequately ventilated area.
General Cleaning and Inspection
For general cleaning of both the interior and exterior of the RC vehicle, there are a variety of cleaners that can be purchased. There are also a variety of concoctions recommended on the internet to clean your vehicle properly. Always make sure to spot test a small area that you intend to clean to ensure that the cleaning solution does not damage the vehicle. For tight places around the interior and exterior, using a small cotton bud dipped in cleaning solution is a good way to reach these hard-to-reach places. Compressed air and a long haired paint brush are very good for removing most under body debris.
Cleaning an electric brushless motor is quite simple. Since these motors do not carry a lot of dirt, a simple brushing of the motor parts is all that is required. Make sure to remove any dirt and debris from outside the motor and you are ready to ride again.
There is a 2 min video on another post here showing – How to clean a brushless motor.
There is more to a RC car than its engine or motor. Other parts that require regular attention are…
- Differentials – check for leaks.
- Dog Bones – inspect for bends or breaks
- Drive Belts – check for wear and tension
- Shocks – check for leaks and mounting points
- Bearings – major source of problems, check, clean and lube (many RC Cars now have rubber sealed bearings and these give less problems)
- Disc Brakes – check operation and condition of discs and pads
- Gear Mesh – pinion to spur
Hex wrenches and screwdrivers come in handy when it comes to checking for loose nuts and screws and removing parts that need replacing or attention. Normal wear and tear of RC vehicles causes parts to loosen. It is important to inspect your vehicle regularly and tighten any loose parts to avoid damage or loss.
Owning an electric, nitro or gas powered RC can be a whole lot of fun for the entire family. Proper maintenance of the vehicle is extremely important and prevents excessive repair costs. For a RC vehicle that runs in tip-top shape, it is important to follow the steps mentioned in this article. Always remember, safety comes first. Take the time to do proper maintenance and safety checks in order to get the most out of your RC experience.