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).
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.
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
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
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.
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
— 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
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.