RC Cars and RC Trucks

Intro

Most of us play with toy cars and trucks at some point in our lives–and some of us never want to stop! If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how to make RC cars and trucks one of your hobbies. The good news?  Getting started with RC cars and trucks is easy. Some people worry that there’s too much to learn. They have trouble deciding what sort of car or truck they want to buy. But don’t worry–we don’t think you’re one of those people. At least, not anymore. Seriously, all it takes is a bit of information and a desire to have a lot fun and you’ll be ready to race in no time.

Whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced racer, this guide will have something for you. But if you’re a beginner, this guide is essential. We’ll answer some of the most common questions beginners ask, such as: “Nitro or Electric?” and “Should I build my own or buy one that’s RTR (ready to run)?” This guide is broken up into five categories:  choosing a car or truck, parts, racing your RC car or truck, and links for more information on RC cars and trucks.

But first, let’s answer one very important question:

What is an RC car, anyway?

RC stands for radio-controlled. An RC car or truck comes in either toy or hobby grade. Let’s take a look at the difference:

Toy grade RC cars are less expensive and can be found at most electronics stores.  But if you’re serious about making RC cars one of your hobbies, they aren’t your best bet. If you’re really interested in RC cars, you’ll want the hobby grade car or truck. There are lots of advantages to the hobby grade car. For instance, they have tons of available spare parts and upgrades. For a lot of people, they don’t just love racing their RC cars–they also love building and fixing it up.

Now that you know the basics of RC cars, it’s time to decide what kind of car or truck you want to buy.

Choosing a Car or Truck

The first thing you’ll want to decide is whether you want to buy a car or a truck. Honestly, this is just personal preference. Take a look at everything from your standard RC car to your monster truck and see what appeals to you most. And of course, the following information applies to both cars and trucks.

The next thing you’ll want to decide is whether you want an RTR (ready to run) or to build your own. It really depends on what you’re wanting out of the hobby. Let’s compare the two:

Ready to Run (RTR) –  These cars are ready to go out of the box with very little preparation. They’re great for beginners because you don’t have to spend a lot of time on prep work. If you’re in a hurry to race, buy an RTR.

Building your own – Some people want to bond with their cars. They don’t mind spending time working on it because they feel this is actually one of the best parts of the hobby. So if building your own sounds good to you, don’t hesitate to get one of these–yes, even if you’re a beginner.

If you have the money, you could always get both an RTR and another to build while you race. And if this isn’t plausible, just go with whatever sounds best to you. Honestly–it’s your hobby, so do whatever works best for you.

The next question on a lot of people’s minds is “Electric or Nitro ?” Well, the answer isn’t black and white. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to both electric and nitro.

Electric

For the beginner, electric remote control cars are recommended for a variety of reasons. Why? For one thing, they’re easier to care for and maintain. They’re also generally cheaper than nitro cars. Electric RC cars can be bought on almost any budget, so pick a car that’s suitable for you.

So why don’t some people like electric cars? Well, they’re typically slower than nitro cars. The cool factor definitely matters to a lot of people, which is understandable. Of course, you can buy electric cars that achieve higher speeds, but some people still feel that the nitro cars are better. So, really, it depends what you care about. In general, electric cars are a good beginner car, but nitro cars definitely have their advantages.

A few notes about electric cars:

Remember that you’ll need batteries. These come in rechargeable battery packs, which is a great money saver, but some people find it time consuming and annoying to have to recharge. If this matters to you, you might want to invest in a spare battery pack.

The last thing to remember is to break the motor in slowly so that you extend the motor life. To do this, simply start running the car at a slower speed and then bring it up to speed. If you get a RTR car, of course, this isn’t a worry as the motor will likely already be broken in.

Nitro

Nitro cars are popular–and they’re also pretty awesome. Having a nitro car means you can focus more on speed and performance. You can buy the cool tracks that will allow your car to make big jumps or drive off road. Electric cars are safe and easier to maintain, yes, but some people feel nitro cars are more fun.

Most nitro vehicles have a pull start engine. This is similar to a lawnmower. Make sure you follow the instructions when using your nitro car since it’s a bit more complicated than electric. Again, if you don’t buy an RTR kit, make sure to break in your engine.

Parts

When you’ve decided whether you want electric or nitro, it’s important to know a little bit about RC cars. Here are some of the essentials of both electric and nitro cars.

Electric Parts

Radio System – A radio system is obviously an essential part of the all of the RC hobbies. Let’s just say you’re not getting very far without it. A radio system has three main components: transmitter, servos, and receiver.

Transmitter – This is the part you hold in your hands and what you use to control the car.

Receiver – This is inside your RC car. Its job is to catch the signal from the transmitter and send it to the servos.

Servos – This is plugged into the receiver, which tells the servos which way to move and how far to go.

Nitro Parts

Nitro cars require the same basics as the electric cars, but they also have a few unique parts.

Glow-Plug Igniter – The glow-plug igniter’s job is to heat the engine’s glow plug. Simple enough, right? (If you’re confused, here’s a hint: the glow plug is equivalent to the spark plug in an actual car). You remove the glow-plug igniter once the engine is running.

Electric Starter – As mentioned earlier, most kits include their own starters, but there are a few that don’t. If it doesn’t have a starter already, you’ll need to look into getting either an electric starter box, 12v starter, or a hand-held.

Fuel Bottle – The fuel bottle will make your life a lot easier. It’s just what it sounds like–a bottle with a long neck that you use to fill your gas tank. It might seem simple, but if you don’t get one, you’ll probably be wishing you did.

Nitro Fuel – Nitro cars are often called “gas powered,” but the gas in nitro cars is actually a combination of nitro methane and castor oil or synthetic lubricants. Make sure you buy your nitro fuel–or, once again, you’re not getting very far.

ESC – Electronic speed controls are an upgrade from the basic controls. Most kits come with mechanical speed controls, but if you’re ready for ESC, then go for it. There are plenty of advantages to upgrading to ESC. They’re easier to maintain, lighter, and give you more throttle control.

These are some of the basics. There are, of course, all kinds of things you can buy for your car or truck. If you’re ready, take a look at RC Planet. You can find all sorts of practical and fun things to buy for your car or truck–especially if you’re building your own.

Racing

Ah, finally, the opportunity to seize and conquer the open road. Well, on a smaller scale. But it certainly can’t be denied that one of the appeals of the RC car is that it allows you to go a little crazy–maybe a little too fast, maybe be a little (okay a lot) more dangerous than you (hopefully) are when driving an actual car.

So far you’ve made some pretty important decisions: whether to build your own car or buy a ready to race; whether to go for the easier and safer electric car or to spring for the faster nitro. You’ve learned about the basics of the RC world and you know what to buy to get started. So, okay, let’s get to it already–let’s start racing.

Tracks

Most people purchase their own tracks or just use a friend’s track. Don’t want to purchase and use your own track? Don’t have any friends? Well okay, so you probably have some friends, but maybe not any friends who are into RC racing. If this is the case, your first step might be to join an RC Club. Here you can meet like minded people and learn more about local competitions. And hey, who knows–maybe these new friends might have a track they’d let you race on. One can always hope.

If not this, your next step could be to check your local hobby shop. Some of them will have tracks set up right there. If not, they can at least tell you where to find a good track in your area.

And of course, if you’re feeling a bit ambitious, you can always check out How to Build an RC Track

Types of Racing

Oval Track – This is your standard way of racing RC cars–not to say it isn’t awesome, because it’s definitely a lot of fun. Again, check with your local hobby shop or your RC Club for good oval tracks in your area.

Off-Road – A lot of people enjoy the freedom and fun of off-road RC driving. And it’s true–you can go pretty wild with off-road racing. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, check out the Top 10 Off-Road Videos of RC Truck Jumps and Stunts and we’re pretty sure you’ll see what we mean.

Drag Racing – If pure speed is your thing and you don’t care so much about jumps and stunts, drag racing is for you. Drag racing involves a 1/10 replica of a drag strip. You can buy RC drag cars that will rip across the strip in little more than a second. As you might imagine, they’re some of the fastest RC cars out there.

Competitions

If you’ve practiced racing your car and want to amp up your hobby, then definitely enter a competition. They’re a lot of fun and a great way to connect with other RC racers. If you haven’t already, join an RC Club and you’ll know where to compete. If you’re a bit nervous about what to expect, read this user’s story–A Day at the RC Race Track. It’s all about his first time at the races. No doubt you’ll see that there’s nothing to fear about the RC races.

Comments

  1. Marty Cromer says:

    Im looking to start a hobbie with military type RC vehicles. Looking for best web site to start.
    Not sure about electric or nitro though.

    • Hi Marty. Lots of choices out there. Highly recommend starting with electric. New brushless motors and lithium batteries produce as much or more power than nitro these days, but without all the hassle or mess!

  2. I actually found this more enrtetiannig than James Joyce.

  3. RC cars and planes are both equally great hobbies. If you want to get into RC planes, you can’t go wrong with this guide.

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