RC – Essentials

Say you got an RC car for Christmas. Cool. Hopefully it was accompanied by appropriate batteries, and you are ready to run.

Soon, you will figure out that you need additional accessories. This post is intended to help you plan your descent into the hobby, and to hopefully short circuit some of the frustrations.

Upgrades

It will be super tempting to order some new goodies. Perhaps better wheels and tires, or you want a better remote transmitter. Or searching the internet will point out that people recommend some things.

My recommendation is to wait until you break things. Sure, you might want to hop it up, and you might be a gear head, but really, resist whipping out the credit card and buying all the goodies that you lust for…

Spare parts

While above I say to not buy upgrades right away, there are spares that you need to add to your toolbox. This is a small list:

  • Wheels nuts. You will lose some, and they are amazingly hard to find when they do come off. Typically sold in a set of 4, and worth buying.
  • Body clips. Those little buggers are a pain in the arse, and fall to the floor, and bounce far away. Cheap, often you can buy a small bag of 25 for like $4.
  • Cyanoacrylate cement. RTR tires come pre glued, usually done poorly, so you will be “patching” up your tires. You can buy the branded ones (AKA tires is a popular one), but I usually go to the local big-box home improvement store and buy either Locktite, or Gorilla brand. Not really cheaper, but it is easy to find.
  • Screw kits. Most major cars will have screw kits available for them from a variety of sellers. The one I bought for my Losi 8ight E was $14. Sure, you can buy the screws individually, but that is stupid expensive. You can go to a local hardware store and buy them individually, but a kit is inexpensive, and will have all you ever need.

Consumables

Start thinking about things that wear out. Tires, bearings, bodies, wings, etc. But there are a few that you can lay in a supply of.

  • Tires and wheels. There are tires that are better for different surfaces, and if you are an aggressive basher, you will (too frequently) tear or wreck tires. They split, the foam blows out, etc. Having spares on hand can help you continue your day of driving. Keep some spares on hand.
  • Shock and differential fluids. As you get better, you likely will want to adjust the dampening in the shocks to tune the performance. Likewise for the differentials. Different viscosity fluids can help improve the handling and performance. You do not need to be a pro level racer to get benefits from it. The forums of the various brands will give you hints on how to help. Read and then buy.
  • Grease and lubricants. Red wheel bearing grease is great to keep on hand, and 3 in 1 oil for bearings. Help things go around smoothly.
  • Cleaner. Many different thoughts on how best to clean, but it seems that foaming simple green is a popular choice. Be sure to dry well, and use compressed air to blow out the water to prevent corrosion. Plenty of YouTube videos on how to clean and maintain. Additionally, Brake cleaner, or contact cleaner. Spray cans. This is handy to have around to help degrease parts, to remove finger oils (if you are painting a body shell).
  • Battery/Device connectors. If you are a single brand owner, this might not be needed, but if you have several brands, you will likely want to have the same connectors. Many people like the XT90’s, I like the EC-5’s. Regardless, lay in a supply. Buy in bulk.
  • Wire. 8, 10, or 12 gauge wire, silicon insulated. Buy a roll of red and black, and you will have a lifetime supply.

Tools

You probably have some tools, but I am going to recommend buying some dedicated tools to use. Especially the allen head wrenches. We all have the “L” wrenches, and most RTR kits have them tossed in. But I am going to recommend to buy some better quality ones.

  • Hex Drivers – Manual: The MIP tools are expensive, but they are ultra high quality. An investment, and worth every penny. I bought a cheap set of Bondhus handled drivers and they are a poor substitute.
  • Hex Drivers – For a power driver: MIP again, but there are others. If you go hunting on Banggood, you will find some good ones as well. I like the MIP ones because the fight is tight, and will not strip out the heads out of your screws.
  • Power driver: There are a LOT of screws, and you will cramp your hand removing and replacing them. Think about buying a power driver. I bought an $80 DeWalt unit that works a charm. Worth every penny.
  • Wheel nut wrench. One will come with your car, likely a combo tool with 2.5 and 5mm, as well as sockets to hold a couple of glowplugs (a holdover from the Nitro days), that work, but a purpose built wrench will make it much easier to use. Not a must have, but a nice to have.
  • Soldering Iron: If you are like me, you probably had a precision soldering iron, that was designed for soldering in parts on a PCB. However, you will need a much higher wattage to solder connectors for batteries, and ESC’s. You will not need this immediately, but $20 will buy you a good Weller unit.
  • Car stand. Something to hold the car off the bench is nice. You can buy a $20 – $50 one, but I bought a pair of Yoga blocks that work great, and two cost me a mere $8.

You do not need all of this to start, but you will be building this out. Plan for it, and invest as needed.

Summary

This is far from a complete list, but it will get you started. I am at a point in my life where I appreciate high quality tools, and will spend the money to get it. However, there are plenty of lower cost options that work just as well.

RC is an expensive hobby. Don’t cheap out. Learn to wrench on your own. Buy some spares, drive, break, repair.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Product Manager in Tech. Guitar player. Bicycle Rider. Dog rescuer. Techie.