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The Complete Introduction Guide to RC Cars

Electric RC Cars are known as some of the highest selling products among remote-controlled vehicles and aircraft. The Traxxas models sold nearly 3,000,000 vehicles in the last 3 years alone. RC Cars on a grand scale outsell airplanes 25:1 and boat models 100:1.

Whether you’re completely new to the experience or you’re re-discovering this interest from your childhood, you’ll need to understand the basics. This guide will show you all you need to know to get your first new hobby grade remote controlled car up and running.

Type of Terrain

There is a large selection of RC cars that are available to build. But, the first question you should ask is: where are you going to drive the car? The terrain makes a huge difference when selecting a car.

Perhaps you are considering driving the car on a nearby basketball court. Conversely, you might be in the countryside which contains more off-road gravely terrain. Regardless of your choice, different electric RC cars require different surfaces.

An F1 model RC Car with a lower suspension would not bode well on bumpy terrain. As it would require a longer flat surface to take advantage of its speed.

On the other hand, a slower, more bulky off-road truck would be less exciting on a flat and plain tennis court. These off-road vehicles are more suitable in an environment with more challenging obstacles.

So first-time buyers must understand what exactly they desire when purchasing an RC Car. There are several types of RC Cars, and even more kinds of upgradeable parts, understanding their racing plans will help narrow down their vehicle of choice.

Mechanical Experience

Since there are many different levels of kits to choose from, one must first understand their own level of experience. Racers with novice engineering skills that are not familiar with certain tools will have difficulty modifying more expensive cars.

Considering Budget

Budget can also make a considerable difference in car selection. Things like electronic modifications and batteries can become expensive when building. We recommend a lower-cost introductory kit for beginners that you can upgrade at a later time.

Perhaps, your interest lies in modifications and customizations. Certain pre-packaged RC cars come with base matching parts that are modifiable to increase the following:

  • Speed
  • Traction
  • Handling
  • Acceleration
  • Weight
  • Traction

These are dependant on the direction you wish to take your car build. The best RC Cars come with two beneficial packages to the novice driver. The first and most common kit is ready-to-run vehicles and electric.

RTR RC Cars

Ready-to-Run cars or trucks come with everything in a pre-packaged accessible form. These cars are simple to assemble straight from the box, complete with every component needed. After a few simple steps, you’ll car will be ready-to-go.

Electric RC Cars

Certain cars require nitro fuel, Electric RC Cars run off of a simple battery pack. Not only is it much safer and accessible for a beginner, but it also requires less assembly and preparation.

Simple Aesthetics

Another big but manageable factor is simply aesthetics. The size and look of your car are factors that can also increase the price. A small vintage buggy from Tamiya will be far cheaper than an F1 racing replica or a hefty fuel-based monster truck.

Certain kits may only provide the minimum requirements to run the vehicle. But, several hobby shops may provide different modifications that promote both detailing and performance.

Shopping for Builds

The hobby shops around the world are dwindling in numbers, but the shops that have remained open will provide suitable knowledge from experts in the field. These shopkeepers are well-versed in individual parts and can compile the proper kits.

Like computers, certain pre-packaged bundles can provide adequate power but will be minimal in dynamic range. These pre-packaged bundles are easier to use straight from the box. But, similar to parts-picking the perfect PC, carefully selecting these parts will provide you with a long-lasting build.

Although it may seem daunting at first, selecting these parts can actually be fun! Especially if you have the advantage of customizing your kit with the help of a technician at your local RC Cars Store.

Controlling Your Car

One of the most popular ways in which we control RC cars is the trigger style. These remotes are more modern in design and are easily accessible.

These less expensive models usually have a wheel attached to help control movements. These transmitters emit signals to a receiver which is sometimes sold separately. So, it’s usually simpler to buy these controllers in a packaged bundle with the receiver. Additionally, transmitters and receivers purchased in the same bundle will be easier to pair than third party items.

The more vintage setup is what is known as the stick design. These remotes are more similar to a game controller in that they provide two joysticks that control movement. While these designs are great for nostalgia purposes, they are more difficult to obtain than trigger-style remotes.

Either way, regardless of what you decide on, make sure your controller can be fitted for multiple cars. So, if you decide to buy more kits, you can easily program the transmitters for your new cars.

The controller’s price should be relative to what you are purchasing. Certain transmitters can be upwards of $500. But, since you can buy these items for cheap, a novice buyer can rely on any model averaging $40-$60.

Electronic Speed Controller

The transmitter sends signals to your receiver, which connects to what is known as the electronic speed controller. This controller acts as the center of your unit. Once the signal is received, your electronic speed controller begins to control your battery and your motor.

When purchasing Electronic Speed Controllers, you’ll want to know what is the motor maximum power. This specification will determine the power it can deliver to the motor. If you buy an incompatible Controller, the motor may draw too much power from it.

The HobbyWing QUICRUN is a great beginner’s controller. It’s a simple to use electronic speed controller and is waterproof as well.

Motors and Battery

The 540 motor is the standard motor for RC cars. Although there are several different types of motors, the novice should focus on acquiring the standard 540 model motor. These standard brush motors can be easily upgraded in the future.

Like motors, there are several different models of batteries. While some are arguably better than others, the standard 7.2 battery will be more than adequate for the standard-issue electronic RC cars. But, different batteries require different adapters according to their respective kits.

The 7.2 batteries have a descriptor on the packaging called entitled mAh. This simply refers to the amount of charge the battery can hold, this represents the battery life. While the voltage, such as 7.4 volts, depicts the amount of charge each battery gives out.

Chargers and Lipo

To charge a battery, you must buy a separate charger. A variety of batteries charge in different ways, so there is a large selection of chargers. A standard NiMH iMAX B6 battery charger will charge more advanced Lipo batteries as well as NiMH batteries. But, the Imax B6 will require programming before being used. The instruction manual will demonstrate this process.

So while there is a wide range of batteries and motors, most electronic RC cars have a pretty standard battery model. But, if you decide to upgrade to more high-grade models like the Traxxis 3785 motor or a Lipo battery, make sure their respective adapters and connections are compatible with your electronic speed controller.

If you end up buying two different adapters when upgrading, there are options to fix these errors via soldering. But the advantage of buying pre-arranged Electronic Speed Controllers packages is avoiding this time-consuming process.

Type of Servo

The Servo is a motor that is plugged into your receiver that controls the steering. Usually, the servo plugs into channel one while the electronic speed controller plugs into channel two.

When you steer left or right on the controller, it will communicate with the servo motor, thus steering your RC car in the direction you wish. There are hundreds of servos available on the market. Each dependent on what you prefer, but we recommend the standard size for novice level racers.

Types of Manufacturer

There are several different types of manufacturers specializing in various cars. Additionally, 2 wheel drives are for novice engineers whereas 4 wheel drives are more popular among experienced drivers. Novice level racers may consider a car like a Grasshopper from Tamiya or a vintage racing buggy like the Cat XlS from Schumacher.

Tamiya is an older Japanese company known for building not only modern racing builds but older vintage buggies. The Traxxas RC Cars are a Texas founded company that is known for more monster truck pioneer and extreme off-road terrain kits.

Types of RC Cars

RC Grasshopper $100-200

The RC Grasshopper is a great entry-level car for beginners. It’s a lightweight kit that offers a range of parts compatibility. It has a durable plastic body that is simple to assemble. The coil spring dampers, independent swing axle front, and rigid axle rear suspension make it a fun easy-to-use offroad RC car.

It is also well with the budget, averaging at around $100-$150. It also provides a wide range of option parts including ball bearings and a 540 motor.

Tamiya Hornet Model $100-200

The Tamiya Hornet Model is another great choice for a beginner. It’s another model that does not consume time building and adding aesthetical features like stickers etc. Since then, the model has only increased in popularity and improved in build. It’s a starter build that offers insight into handling rear-wheel drive which is beneficial to understanding the basic driver skillset.

Traxxas TRX-4 – $150-450

The opposite to consider is the burly and rigid Traxxas TRX-4 kits. These were recently released by Traxxas and are a little more expensive, ranging anywhere from $470-$500 plus. Considering that these cars are a bit more technical, they would be used by people with quite a little more experience as well.

Redcat Racing Shredder XTE – $150-350

This truck is a well-known beginner’s model, it offers a large scale RC Car experience, weighing in at 15.2 pounds, at a great value. Despite its hefty tires, this large scale vehicle offers great traction and acceleration.

The motor itself is also easily upgradeable, offering speeds of up to 40mph in its original form. It is also waterproof and durable in any weather condition.

Redcat Racing Everest – $150-300

The steering and speed provide a great alternative for beginners interested in off-road durability. Even though its speeds only reach up to around 10mph, this RC Car’s fun derives from scaling challenging obstacles.

The various types of tires that enhance its crawling capabilities are numerous. The durable exterior allows its body to withstand harsh rocks, and the waterproofing material makes it easy to use in any type of weather.

Traxxas Rustler Stadium Truck – $200-300

The Traxxas Rustler Stadium Truck, with its bulbous exterior, can reach speeds of up to 35mph. It’s a great mixture between a thick and durable off-road truck and a sleek sporty four-wheeler.

Once you become used to its ease of control, the experience level can make for a more engaging and challenging experience down the road. There’s also an optional 28-tooth pinion gear for added speed.

Beyond that, you can add a bellcrank steering system to increase traction and maneuverability. The speed may also increase with the aforementioned Lipo battery. This Truck gives you a great combination of off-road tension and upgrades compatibility.

On Your Mark

Before you hit the starting line, make sure you research the various models and upgrade options. When you’re looking for your next upgrade, keep in mind that there are tons of replacement parts and enhancements available.

There is a vast assortment of options for any budget. There are tons of factory OEM parts and an assortment of aftermarket accessories. So, once you’ve gained the opportunity to run a few races, you may consider building a more dependable vehicle.

Ready for your next race? Come visit us on our Science and Technology page see how you can upgrade your next RC Car!