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Consider your budget and consider your skills.
A simpler, slower vehicle may not be your dream, but it IS the best way to get started. And remember: You can add hop-ups (performance parts) later to boost its speed and power. Knowing what you're getting into helps, too. Many Books are available to help you understand and master your car, hop-up options, performing stunts, custom painting, racing techniques, etc. Check out our selection of Great Starter Cars & Trucks. And perhaps one of the best sources of info is your own racing buds. Ask your friends!
Let Tower Hobbies Help.
Tower Hobbies Phone Sales Staff and Technical Support Staff give you access to years of R/C modeling experience and information. Just call our toll-free number, 1-800-637-6050. They'll help you select an R/C Car or Truck.
Racing Basic — Speed
How fast does an R/C car go? The most accurate answer is: It depends. Does your model have a nitro (glow) engine or an electric motor? Is it engineered for sport use (fun) or for racing? Is it stock or modified for higher speeds? What was it meant to do? A monster truck designed for hill-climbing moves at about "walking speed." But some R/C drivers have pushed their race cars to speeds in excess of 80 mph! Fast cars are fun. Unless you're an experienced driver, however, choosing a car for its speed alone is not a good idea. For a very rough estimate of the speeds you can expect from different models, see the chart below. But remember: Your actual miles-per-hour will vary!
|Off-Road - Electric||15-60 mph|
|Off-Road - Nitro||20-60 mph|
|On-Road - Electric||20-100 mph|
|On-Road - Nitro||20-70 mph|
|Monster Truck -Electric||10-40 mph|
|Monster Truck - Nitro||20-40 mph|
Electric or Nitro?
Quick, quiet and easy to afford, build and drive, Electric Vehicles are a popular choice in R/C power for first-time modelers. Equipped with a rechargeable battery pack, a vehicle with a stock motor will provide about 8-10 minutes of run time. With multiple packs and a quick charger, an electric vehicle is ready for hours of use. Interest in Nitro (Glow-Engine) Vehicles has grown enormously. Vast improvements in glow engine technology have simplified tuning and maintenance, enabling many more modelers to enjoy the realistic sound and smell that goes along with Nitro power's acceleration and speed.
What else do I need?
There's more to running an R/C car or truck than the vehicle itself. Electric vehicles require a 2-or 3-Channel radio, motor(s), speed control and battery. Nitro vehicles require a radio, engine, fuel and muffler. Some or all of these items may be included with the vehicle, so read the product description carefully for details.
Your model may also require items such as pinion, tires, wheels and body. Again, follow the Accessories Required links for the model you choose to see a list of the items needed. If you order by phone, our friendly Sales and Service reps can also tell you exactly what you'll need for each specific car or truck.
Most R/C vehicles use 2-Channel or 3-Channel radio systems. They will usually not include batteries, so you'll need to buy alkaline cells or rechargeable NiCds to power the transmitter and the receiver. If you drive an electric model and have a BEC (Battery Eliminator Circuitry) equipped radio system, you can power the receiver from your motor's battery pack.
Another consideration when choosing an R/C car or truck is making sure that you'll be able to get replacement parts quickly and easily—that way, if anything breaks, you won't be stuck in neutral for very long.
Tower Hobbies carries just about every individual part you might need for any vehicle that we offer. And along with direct replacement parts, we also have many "aftermarket" parts—such as wheels, tires, bodies, suspension and steering components, decals, and so on—that you can use to improve your model's performance and customize its looks.
To get replacement parts quickly, take advantage of the R/C Parts Superstore section of our website. There, you'll find convenient, comprehensive parts listings for many of our most popular cars and truck...plus, you'll enjoy LOWER THAN RETAIL prices and reduced rates on postage and handling with items that qualify for Parts Saver!
What If I Want to Compete?
The main organization in R/C racing is ROAR (Radio Operated Auto Racing). Visit their website for information on racing classes, as well as upcoming regional and national racing events.
Electric R/C cars and trucks have several advantages for new hobbyists. They're clean-running. They make relatively little noise. And they're easier to operate than "gas" models. You don't have to buy fuel, heat glow plugs or fuss over engine adjustments. Just charge your batteries and connect wires properly—then, your electric car should work. You have a huge variety to choose from: trucks, semis, buggies, sedans, stock cars and more. Many cars come in "sport" or "competition" versions. First-timers might prefer the sport models for their lower cost and simplicity, though if you're set on racing you may want some competition features, such as ball bearings and oil shocks.
When you choose a car, make sure you understand what it does and does not include. Some kits already come with the motor and a mechanical speed control. Competition-level cars provide the basic rolling chassis, but often require you to purchase everything else (motor, battery, electronic speed control, body) separately. Follow the Accessories Required links for the model you choose to see a list of the items you'll need.
Speed controls give you command over when and how fast your electric R/C vehicle moves. Working together with your radio system, they deliver current to the motor based on signals you send from the transmitter.
ESCs don't slow down there though. They come in two versions, brushed and brushless, that are designed to work with either brushed or brushless motors. Brushed ESCs deliver power input through two wires to the motor which causes the rotor to turn. Brushless ESCs deliver power through three wires in a sequential pattern which causes a brushless motor to turn.
Before you get stalled out on the technical data, just filter this into your command matrix: brushed is simple and inexpensive, brushless delivers more power and more precise control. So if you want to bash in your backyard, by all means go brushed, but if you want to beat out the competition you need a brushless ESC.
Technology has advanced to the point where you have almost as many choices in ESCs as you do cars themselves. Even if you purchase a ready-to-run model that comes with an electronic speed control, you may eventually want to upgrade to another ESC — weighing such features as:
In R/C, there are two basic classes of motors:
Stock: If your model comes with a motor, it's most likely the stock variety. Stock motors must be run as is...you cannot open them to make modifications (which few beginners should attempt anyway).
Modified: Modified motors require additional current to operate and should be used only with an electronic speed control. Equipped with such features as ball bearings and adjustable timing, they generally offer more power and greater torque than stock motors—but also drain your battery pack faster.
A rechargeable battery pack is required to run virtually all electric cars and trucks. These are typically made of NiCd, NiMH LiPo cells, wired together and covered in a plastic film or case. Most drivers keep several packs on hand, using one to race while another is recharging (which usually takes about 20 minutes).Battery Shopping Tips
Various types of chargers are available for R/C car batteries. Most beginners choose a basic, affordable AC/DC charger that can be powered either from a 110V AC household current or from an 11-15V DC car battery at trackside. They might also look for a charger with a "trickle" charge mode—these let you charge packs slowly overnight. Competitors often use a "peak detection charger." These units have electronic circuitry that can detect when a battery has reached its maximum charge, and then it automatically switches to a slow trickle charge.Charger Shopping Tips
What else do I need?
You have the car or truck, a motor and a speed control. That covers the equipment that makes an assembled electric model ready to race. But you need a few additional items to transform it from a static machine to one with the power to move at your command. Those include a 2-Channel or 3-Channel radio system, with "AA" batteries to power the transmitterplus some Field Accessories, including battery packs, a charger, and a field bag.
And, if you purchased a kit rather than an RTR (Ready-to-Run) model, you'll also need a few tools and finishing supplies to put your new vehicle togethersuch as: Paint Brush, Paint, Body Scissors, Masking Tape, Cyanoacrylate Glue, Modeling Knife, 4-Way Wrench, Motor Leads with Connector, Threadlocking Compound
While electric models may be less expensive and easier to operate, "nitro"-powered R/C cars and trucks have the definite edge when it comes to realism and performance. They are NOT powered by gasoline—they use a special fuel, commonly referred to as "glow fuel" or "nitro." But they do capture the sights and sounds of real, full-size racing like no electric can. The engines roar powerfully...exhaust vapors trail your machine...and the speeds are unbelievable! You have a huge variety to choose from: trucks, buggies, sedans, stock cars, truggies and more. Many come in "sport" or "competition" versions. First-timers might prefer the sport models for their lower cost, though if you're set on racing you may want some competition features, such as ball bearings and oil shocks.
When you choose a car, make sure you understand what it does and does not include. Some kits already come with an engine. Competition-level cars provide the basic chassis, but often require you to purchase an engine and body separately. Follow the Accessories Required links for the model you choose to see a list of the items you'll need
Radio & Accessories
You can control a nitro R/C vehicle with the same type of 2-Channel or 3-Channel radio systems used for an electric model. The one difference is that you will also need batteries to power the receiver in your vehicle. There is no battery pack for the motor that might also be used to power the receiver.Radio Shopping Tips
Engine & Accessories
Most nitro-powered R/C models are powered by small, 2-cycle, internal combustion "glow" Engines. They burn a nitromethane-based fuel that includes special lubricants for engine protection.
Full-size automobile engines use spark plugs that ignite fuel with a spark...glow engines use a "glow plug" that, once heated with a battery-powered "glow starter," hold that heat to continue igniting the glow fuel as you race.
Your engine may or may not come with a glow plug. Regardless, you will need additional plugs because they do need to be replaced—it's always a good idea to take several spares with you to the track. The glow starter, too, must be purchased separately.
Fuel & Accessories
In addition to glow fuel, a number of fuel accessories are available that make it easier to operate a nitro-powered car. To get the fuel from its container into your model's tank, for example, you can use a Fuel Pump (powered and hand-crank options are available), suction-type Fuel Bulb, or a small Fuel Bottle with specially angled neck for reaching easily into confined areas. And Fuel Filters, installed in the fuel lines, will trap impurities before they can reach and possibly damage your model's engine.
What else do I need?
Tools & Building Supplies: If you purchased a kit rather than an RTR (Ready-to-Run) model, you'll need a few tools and building supplies to put your new vehicle together—such as: Paint Brush, Paint, Body Scissors, Masking Tape, Cyanoacrylate Glue, Modeling Knife, Motor Leads with Connector, 4-Way Wrench, Threadlocking Compound, Latex Foam Rubber (to protect your receiver from engine-induced vibration)
Follow the Accessories Required links for the model you choose to see a list of the items you'll need.
Track Equipment: You have an assembled car or truck, a radio, an engine and fuel. That covers the basic equipment that makes an assembled gas model ready race. But you need a few additional items to transform it from a static machine to one that springs into action at your command.
Those include the following pieces of track equipment. Remember, the vast majority of these are one-time purchases. Buy them once and you're all set for a long, thrilling R/C racing career!
12V 5 Amp Field Battery — to power all of your electric track equipment
12V Charger — to recharge the field battery
Glow Starter or Glow Plug Clip — both of these items provide your glow plug with the initial heat it needs to burn fuel; a Glow Starter (such as the Hobbico Hot-Shot 2 Standard) carries its own battery, while a Glow Plug Clip is powered by your field battery
Starter Box or 12V Starter with Car Adapter — if your engine is not equipped with its own recoil starter, you will need one of these devices to start it
Field Bags: For your own convenience, you'll probably also want to add a Field Bag to your shopping list—it gives you a handy method of transporting your model and equipment to and from the track. Follow the Accessories Required links for the model you choose to see a list of the items you'll need.
RTRs vs. Kits
Picking out your first vehicle is perhaps the most exciting part of R/C racing. Many of today's most popular choices arrive Ready-to-Run. Also known as "RTRs," these vehicles usually come complete with a 2-or 3-Channel radio, motor or engine, ESC, batteries and more. These vehicles are usually targeted at new modelers and "backyard" drivers, rather than racers bent on winning organized competitions.
But that doesn't necessarily mean you're settling for less performance. As your skills grow, you can improve your model's speed and operation with upgrades— for example, by replacing bushings with ball bearings, or adding a hotter motor or engine. In short, RTRs are perfect if you're brand new to the hobby.
Some cars and trucks come in Kit form. You get all the parts necessary to assemble the machine, plus instructions. Often, such "primary accessories" as engine, body, or motor and electronic speed control may be required as additional purchases (follow the Accessories Required links for the model you choose to see a list of the items needed).
R/C model car bodies are usually made of clear Lexan plastic. Some trimming may be necessary to remove excess material. Use specially formulated polycarbonate paints to give them whatever color scheme you desire.
The chassis goes together with ordinary tools such as screwdrivers, nut drivers, pliers and the like. Although building a kit rather than buying an RTR does require extra time, there are advantages. You'll gain an expert understanding of how your machine works, which comes in handy when performing maintenance and tuning.
Two-Wheel Drive Vs. Four-Wheel Drive
In four-wheeled vehicles, there are two main drive types: two-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive (4WD). If you're new to R/C, you may want to consider 2WD. They generally require less overall assembly and maintenance. The trade-off is that 4WD vehicles offer easier driving and a definite handling edge.
"Scale" is a term with two meanings. In one sense, it can refer to the size relationship between a model and an actual vehicle—for instance, the most popular scales of R/C vehicles are 1:8, 1:10, 1:12 and 1:18. The 1:10 scale category definitely provides the most choices for a first-time hobbyist. However, "scale" can also refer to a model's trueness to a real car's appearance and/or features. Many popular street and racing vehicles have been recreated "to scale" for R/C enthusiasts to enjoy.
On-Road, Off-Road and More
There are many basic types of R/C vehicles to choose from. Models suitable for first-time hobbyists are available in every catergory!
Whether you prefer the "charge up a battery and go" simplicity of electric buggies or the roaring realism of nitro-powered R/C off-roaders, one thing is shared by both: the ability to tackle virtually any terrain with ease. In your backyard, on a dirt track, or at the park, they're a great way to kick back and cut loose — in some friendly competition or running just for fun!
On-road cars offer minimal suspensions, sleek, sophisticated looks and foot-to-the-floorboard speed. An on-road car can easily be run on a smooth street, parking lot or any other (relatively) flat, paved surface. And whether you decide to go nitro or electric, 1/10, 1/12, 1/18 or even 1/8 scale, there's impressive variety and authenticity in store.
The undisputed kings of R/C vehicles, Monster Trucks offer the earthshaking excitement of large tires, big power plants, and chassis engineered more for unstoppable torque than all-out speed. Using sheer, brute power, they rumble their way up hills, down slopes — and over unsuspecting cars.
Short Course Trucks
These bashers deliver speed, maneuverability and excitement every time you attack the track. Whether you're just bashing in the backyard or taking your truck to compete, short course trucks look just like their big brothers in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series and other full-scale short course events. More and more people are joining in on the high-powered thrills of short course racing every day, fueling the quickest expansion of any RC line.
Run for backyard fun or head-to-head racing, R/C stadium trucks are the fast masters of "bump and jump" excitement. With their heavy-duty suspensions, oversized shocks and large tires, they're built to take punishment and can survive soaring jumps and crushing touchdowns that would disable most vehicles.
Measuring well under a foot in length, “Mini” R/C vehicles like the RC18B2 shown still have a lot in common with their larger radio-control counterparts. In fact, the chassis components can be just as sophisticated and deliver the same durability, high speeds and smooth handling — just in a smaller size that makes them right for racing almost anywhere, including indoors!
Highly articulated chassis, powerful high-torque motors, and giant tires make Rock Crawlers the ultimate go anywhere vehicle. And when we say go anywhere, we really mean anywhere. Rock crawlers are built to conquer any obstacle mother nature can put in front of them; logs, gravel, rocks, boulders, bluffs— all those obstacles you think twice about crossing, rock crawlers traverse them and come back for more.
They're favorites of Tower Hobbies customers—fast, fun and easy to run!
Ready to join the racing fun, but not quite sure where to begin? Then browse through these popular pre-built models that have earned some of our customers' most complimentary comments. You're sure to find something that suits your budget, your performance goals, and your styling preferences.
Find everything you need to get started right in R/C
The Tower Hobbies web site makes it fun, fast and easy to join the exciting radio-control hobby. With a few clicks of your mouse, you can find a suitable model AND make sure you have everything needed to operate it successfully. No products are added to your shopping cart unless you click on the bright yellow "Buy Now" graphics — and no orders are transmitted until you sign in and complete the checkout process.