Guide to RC Cars – Essential For Beginners
Guide to RC Cars – Essential For Beginners
- The 5 main types of Remote Control cars
- How RC cars work
- Scale sizes of Remote controlled cars
- Ready-to-Run (RTR) or Build-Your-Own – Which to opt for
- Toy Grade vs Hobby Grade RC Cars – The Difference
- The Price Range of RC cars – How much do they cost?
- Popular RC Car Brands
- Electric vs. Nitro powered RC cars – Which is better?
- RC Car motors – The Two Types
- Drive Systems – 2WD or 4WD
- Batteries of RC Cars – Which type to choose
- How to Select Your First RC Car
- Maintenance of an RC Car
It is an arduous task to decide which RC (remote control) car is right for you when you’re subject to the plethora of manufacturers and the different sorts of cars, buggies and trucks in a store.
Choosing the best product for your application can soon become daunting as it is well-neigh impossible to narrow down the field to one vehicle that fits your needs.
In this guide to RC cars, we will throw light on the types of RC cars, how they work and everything else that you may need to know before pursuing your hobby. And, tell you what to consider when buying your first RC car.
The 5 main types of Remote Control cars
RC cars usually come in different sizes and shapes. While some are built for speed, some are built for power.
Before choosing the one that is perfect for you, evaluate the way you’re going to use it. Let’s take a quick look at the types of RC cars.
1. Street RC Cars
Do you wish to run your remote control car on roads or pavements? If yes, you should go with the standard RC cars as they are built with a hybrid off-road tire and suspension due to which they can drive on any surface without facing any obstacle.
2. RC Drift cars
The art of negotiating a smooth turn with over-steer within a controlled course through a series of turns can be done only with the RC Drift cars.
You may need an electric-powered 4-wheel drive RC car for this purpose.
3. RC Buggies & Truggies
The hybrid of a truck and a car is a buggy and it is an off-road car that can bear the brunt of tough roads.
You can have fewer stoppages while flipping your car as the buggies have an in-built roll cage. For those who wish to drive a truck with increased speed for off-road races, this is a good choice.
4. RC Trucks
Trucks dominate the off-road choices and they look exactly like real-life trucks.
They are good for making big jumps and some great stunts due to better suspension capabilities.
5. Rock Crawlers
These remote control cars are different because of the amazing feats they accomplish using raw power and design.
They tend to be smaller than RC Monster trucks but have similar suspensions and power. They are made to conquer any type of terrain like a boss.
Then you also have RC Touring cars that are 4WD powerhouses of the full-scale versions of popular brands of cars you see on the TV channels.
These are built with independent suspension systems, adjustable shocks and put together using high-end materials like carbon fiber, aluminium and even titanium.
How RC cars work
Although the mechanisms of operation of different remote-controlled toys may vary but the basic principle that fuels them is the same.
The toys with a remote control have 4 pivotal parts:
- Transmitter: This is the part that you operate in your hands in order to control the car. The transmitter sends radio waves to the receiver
- Receiver: There is a circuit board and an antenna within the toy that accepts the signals that are sent by the transmitter and instantly activates the toy’s motors.
- Motor: It is the motor(s) that can steer the car, turn the wheels and help the propellers to operate.
- Power source: Without a source of power, the entire process is impossible.
With the help of radio waves, the transmitter sends control signals to the remote control car’s receiver which in turn drives the motor leading to action.
Now if you press a button on the transmitter to make the car move forward or backward, there is a contact between a pair of electrical devices.
The receiver again identifies these signals and sends them to the circuit board.
The work of the circuit board is to translate the electrical signals into action. The source of power is usually a rechargeable battery or even normal ones.
Scale sizes of Remote controlled cars
The remote-controlled cars are modelled after trucks, full-size cars, aircraft and boats.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll tell you about the size of the cars as against their full-size counterparts.
If you consider a 1:10 scale Formula 1 RC car, it is 1/10th of the size of the real car. As you’re new into the market of remote-controlled vehicles, you have to know that they usually come in different sizes and scales like 1:6, 1:8, 1:10 and 1:12.
Among these four scales, the most common one is the 1:8 scale. However the mini-RCs usually come in even smaller sizes like 1:28 and 1:64.
As the scale of an RC car is relative to the entire size of the car, two vehicles of the same scale are different in size. For example, a 1:8 scale sports car is smaller than 1:8 Army tank.
When we use the words ‘scale RC’ or ‘scale model’ or ‘large scale RC’ we actually speak of an RC vehicle that is not just a scaled-down version of another vehicle in terms of size but also a realistic clone in terms of performance, job and styling.
Ready-to-Run (RTR) or Build-Your-Own – Which to opt for
Basically, there are 2 types of remote-controlled cars in the market – the RTR or Ready-to-Run kit and the Build Your Own kits.
We’re here to figure out the characteristics of both the types so that you can choose the best one for you.
Ready-To-Run or the RTR Kit
Are you someone who loves to take his vehicle for a ride directly out of the box?
If yes, the Ready-to-Run kit is tailored for you. With this type, after you buy the RC car and bring it home, all you have to do is unpack it, install the batteries after charging them and you’re good to go!
The RTR kits don’t have any installation time and they’re more like other plug-and-play devices. As they are designed by engineers, they have some specific default configurations.
Build-your-own RC car kit
This kit will be in all ways similar to that which is mentioned in the description of the product.
The users get an opportunity to design their own car with the features, tools and add-ons that are available.
Not to mention that this can be an intimidating task for a rookie who doesn’t have any previous experience of building an RC car.
The user has to follow definite procedures and subtle measurements while building the car from the scratch.
Nevertheless, it needs mention that this option opens up new opportunities for the users to personalize the RC cars according to their personal preferences.
Toy Grade vs Hobby Grade RC Cars – The Difference
Briefly, a toy grade RC car is relatively less powerful, not as sturdy, and is not meant to be taken apart.
If it breaks, then you may have to replace the whole car. A hobby grade RC car, in comparison, offers the option to replace the parts of the car to last them longer over time.
A hobby grade is more expensive as it comes with a transmitter that may have more channels that is different frequencies that control the steering, lights, throttle etc.
And as it allows easy replacements, it is also easier to upgrade, if required.
The Price Range of RC cars – How much do they cost?
There are several websites that sell both toy-grade RC cars as well as hobby-grade RC cars.
When you get a hobby RC car, you use it for recreational activities that are carried out daily and you have a goal of developing a skill by operating them.
The beginner hobby-grade cars have lot more power as compared to toy-grade cars and hence they’re costlier.
They range from $100-$900; toy-grade RC cars are available at a range of $35-$70.
When you’re eager to pursue your hobby of driving RC cars, you certainly need to have a clear idea on the prices of these remote-controlled toys.
Here is a random selection of models with an indicative pricing :
- Double E RC Monster Truck - $49.99
- Maisto Rock Crawler Extreme RC Car - $47.79
- Redcat Racing EPX Drift Car - $149.99
- Tamiya Lancia Delta Racing Car - $148.91
- Hosim High-speed 4WD RC Truck - $111.88
- Redcat Racing Volcano EPX RC Truck - $149.99
Each of these models has their own specifications, pros and cons and you have to do a comprehensive research on them before you invest your dollars.
Popular RC Car Brands
As far as the best RC cars are concerned, they come from a lineage of the most established brands in the market.
Take into account the brand, the price, the reviews of the users and the type of the vehicle before finalising one. Here are few mentionable brands.
This brand has its lineage in the pages of history. This brand offered fully assembled RC car for hobby-class.
They are an example for Ready-to-Run and they have a colorful body and can be used right after taking it out of the box. They have replaceable parts and a good quality component radio system.
Even the most seasoned RC veterans appreciate this brand called Losi as they are known to make great cars.
Losi focuses on designing cars that help beginners start off with driving very easily. They offer you a wide range of accessories and tools as well and the user can customize accordingly.
3. Redcat Racing
With Redcat, racing has always been not only fun but affordable as well.
Since the year 2005, Redcat Racing became the premier source for delivering affordable, fast, mid-level and hobby-grade electric/nitro powered RC vehicles at the most competitive prices.
One of the most noteworthy assets of HPI is the immensely creative nature of its designing team.
HPI has never been scared of raking risks in the designing field. Thankfully, all their risks have paid off in a positive way thereby allowing them to stand out among their competitors.
This company too is responsible for designing some of the most awesome cars like the DXR8-E Pro Roller.
You can depend on them for delivering cars with speed and also those that can withstand tough weather and road conditions.
Take into account the brand, the price, the reviews of the users and the type of the vehicle before finalising one.
Here are a few popular rc car models for reference.
1. Double E 1:12 RC Monster Truck
This is an off-road monster truck and can operate on any terrain in a stable and easy way due to the fact that it is powered by front and rear dual motors. It also has shock absorbers that safeguard the electrical components of the car.
2. Hosim 1:10 Cross-country car
This RC car is designed for anyone above 8 years and it is one of the best RC drifts available in the market. It is armed with 2 independent motors that provide high level of power as against the ones with single engine.
3. Redcat Racing Everest 10
Racing is an interesting sport and so racing your RC car will also be exciting. Say hello to the brand new Redcat Racing Everest trucks as the user can challenge the gravitational force with this beast.
4. Traxxas RTR 1:10 Rustler
The Traxxas RTR Rustler is deemed to be one of the most popular vehicles among the users. This particular car can give you endless hours of rugged enjoyment which is impossible for any other brand to provide.
5. TOZO C5031 Off-road truck
This is an amazingly speedy nitro RC car that you can ever own. This car is designed for off-road adventures and it is equipped with a powerful motor that can attain a maximum speed up to 35 km/h.
Electric vs. Nitro powered RC cars – Which is better?
Benefits of Nitro RC Cars
- Nitro RC cars are best for advanced and intermediate operators who prefer tweaking the vehicle and overhauling it. The engine needs a combination of fuel and oil and the seasoned hobbyists derive great pleasure in running nitro motors.
- You can fine-tune the engine to convert the ride into its utmost potential. You will require minimum skill to even turn on the power of the engine.
- The loud sound of the engine is one more benefit as it adds on to the excitement and thrill of running the car. A roaring engine is always a big ‘Yes’!
- You can drive the nitro powered card for 30-45 minutes without any refill.
- These cars run on fuel and produce acceleration sound and exhaust fumes.
Benefits of Electric RC Cars
- Considering the beginners, electric RC cars are friendlier. You don’t need any major tuning or a time-taking set-up. Even without mechanical skills, you can pursue your hobby. The only thing you need to do is charge the battery.
- In terms of maintenance, these are easier to maintain.
- In case you break any suspension part, this is the only repair that you may need.
- Apart from being durable, electric RC cars are also waterproof.
- They are quite and cleaner and won’t disturb your neighbours.
- The high-specification electric cars are even speedier than nitro cars.
RC Car motors – The Two Types
The two types of motors that powers electric RC Cars are brushed RC car motors and brushless RC car motors.
While the internal mechanism of operation is similar for both types, there is still a difference between them. Scroll down to know what separates brushed motors from brushless ones.
Brushed RC Motor
These motors have wire windings which are attached to a central shaft. As the current is applied, the windings spin with the shaft.
Moreover, the magnets are also permanent and fixed on the inside portions of the brushed motor.
The electric power is accepted by the motor windings via the 2 negative and positive brushes which are made of silver or copper or graphite.
The frictional force is generated between the brush and the commutator and this makes the motor less effective with time.
The brushed motor wears off faster than a motor that is less powerful. Nevertheless, these motors are affordable.
Brushless RC motor
Brushless motors don’t need physical commutator and this is one of the biggest reasons why buyers opt for this type.
Due to no commutator, RC cars can be maintained easily as it saves you on maintenance costs. The bearings can even last for a longer time.
Besides, there is also a sensor that has the power of detecting the position of the motor.
The coils of the motor are triggered in a synchronised manner and hence this electronic drive can be initiated with the help of sensors.
Brushless motors are costlier than brushed-motor RC cars but they’re much more effective than them.
Electronic Speed Controls for an RC Car
An electronic speed controller (ESC) is a device which lets the user exercise his control on the power and speed of an electric motor.
The modern brushless and brushed ESCs include a circuit to regulate a voltage that runs the receiver. This eliminates the need of carrying an extra battery pack.
If you want to know what an ESC does for the RC car and how it works, it’s very simple.
The ESC accepts a signal from the receiver which is set on the transmitter. The signal is Pulse Position Modulation or PPM. The ESC receives this signal and converts it into a current that can be drawn from the battery.
Hence, it plays the role of a power manager.
Drive Systems – 2WD or 4WD
Before you book your remote-controlled car, you need to know the basic difference between a 2-wheel drive and a 4-wheel drive.
Just as these driving systems work with an actual car, the case is similar with a remote-controlled vehicle as well.
Your decision to buy a car becomes easier when you’re educated about the differences.
When we say a 2WD or a 2-wheel drive, we mean the engine has the capability of powering 2 of the wheels of the vehicle and the remaining 2 are permitted to spin on their own.
As the engine only consumes energy to move 2 wheels and as it doesn’t have to bear the brunt of the weight of 4 wheels, the cars with 2WD are overall lighter.
You can lighten the load and save fuel as well.
Four-wheel drive systems are built into RC trucks and other vehicles which are driven on off-road or low-traction conditions.
With 4WD, the power of the vehicle is split within 4 wheels thereby giving maximum traction to the driver to drive on uneven terrains.
If you want to make your RC truck climb hills or drive over uneven or rocky terrains, you can opt for 4WD driving systems.
It is definitely a common belief that installing the right tires is all that makes a difference.
This is specifically true when you choose to drive your RC car during winter. Install 4 matching winter tires for ensuring a safer and smoother drive.
Batteries of RC Cars – Which type to choose
Batteries are the storage for chemical energy which lets you drive through dirt tracks and uneven terrains with ease and enjoy a few extra minutes of ride.
Majority of the batteries have a sticker attached to them that has printed markings which speak of the technology that are being used. Few of the relevant battery chemistries are mentioned here.
- Alkaline: This type is non-rechargeable and they are used in AA batteries and TV remotes and transmitters.
- NiMH: The full form of this acronym is Nickel Metal Hydride. This is rechargeable and can be maintained easily.
- Ni-Cd: Nickel Cadmium. These are rechargeable and this type is said to be non eco-friendly and they suffer from a memory effect.
- LiPo: The full form of this is Lithium-ion polymer. These types are light in weight but higher in energy density. They have a shorter lifetime as compared to NiMH. This chemical improves the volatility as compared to other intelligent chargers.
The low-end RC cars usually come with a cheap NiMH battery and the high-class models usually don’t come with chargers and batteries.
This lets the users refurbish the hardware or buy new items that are meant especially for their requirements.
How to Select Your First RC Car
While this all may seem a bit overwhelming, the three things that you need to consider are:
- Nitro power or electric
- Ready-to-run or kit
- On-road or off-road
Nitro power or electric
We recommend you start with an electric car or truck. Simply because, they are more affordable, quieter and require less maintenance that nitro-engined models.
Once you gain confidence, you can always add a nitro car or a truck to your collection.
Though if you have decided to start with a nitro powered car, there are suitable models in the stores aimed at beginners.
Ready-to-run or kit
If you love building things then you may enjoy putting together a kit model, which can be quite satisfying and you will know your RC car from inside out.
However, if screwdrivers and building manuals are not your kind of things, you may find it easy to go for an RTR model where they come pre-assembled and you could start driving them right out-of-the-box.
On-road or off-road
While an off-road car can be driven on the pavement, the on-road models are not sturdy enough to be used anywhere else besides the pavements.
There are genuine on-road performance cars that you can enjoy driving and playing around with.
However, if you want a car that is multi-terrain then you should select off-road!
Maintenance of an RC Car
Finally, we come to maintaining a car! The first step that you should take is to select the right remote control vehicle keeping in mind the surface on which you’re going to operate the vehicle.
Make sure you inspect your remote control before starting the RC car, check whether or not the screws are tight and the accessories are recalibrated.
Clean and check the tires regularly and change them according to the change of surface.
Brush off any dirt or mud with warm water and toothbrush. Don’t forget to clean the motor with proper care as there can be dirt too.
Remember, cleaning your RC car is of paramount significance to extend the lifetime of the car.