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Buying RC
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Buying RC
This section features a detailed look at each item you need to get your RC going. This includes explaining why one product is better then another and the reason it will affect the overall performance of the vehicle. It is highly recommended that you read ALL of this pages' content.
The content of this guide was written relative to the year 2000

1.1 Intro
Before you read any further, you must decide if you are just going to be a typical guy playing with his/her car on the street OR a straight out serious TOURNAMENT racer. Either way, this guide is for you, but take note some section of this guide are reserved only for the serious racer types. Don't worry, I will mark those section off.
First lets begin with a break down of the different types of RC (Remote Controlled Cars) there are.



1.2 Types of RC
Remote Controlled Cars can be divided using 3 different ways. Lets get to know them! They are:
  • By their Scale (size): 1/10 or 1/8 or 1/12. 1/10 Scale are the most popular.
  • By their Power source: Gasoline engine (Nitro) or Electric motor (Electric)
  • By their Chassis Type: Touring, F1, Buggy, Truck, Monster Truck
Here are diagrams of the above 3 categories.


Scale: are written as 1/10 , 1/12 , 1/8 , 1/1 ..... etc. For example, 1/10 would mean all the measurements on the model car are only 1 tenth of what the real car's measurement is. So logically, a 1/12 scaled model would mean the model is one twelfth of the size of the real car. Today 1/10 scale are the most popular class.


picture of an enginepicture of a electric motor
Power Source : includes only 2 selection, #1 is gasoline engines on the left. The popular word for engines is Nitro and they are rated by their horsepower (e.g. 0.15, 0.16, 0.17 etc. ) Higher the better. #2 On the right hand side we have an electrical motor powered usually by a six cell battery package combined to provide 7.2 + volts of power. These motors are rated by the length of wire they have wrapped inside them. The unit TURN is used to indicate that. (e.g. 10 Turn, 11 Turn, 16 Turn, 24 Turn, etc.) The less TURN the faster the motor goes.
Chassis Type : First of all, Chassis is the back bone of a RC. It holds what ever is needed to make your RC move. Different chassis serve different purposes on different racing areas.
F1 Chassis - Made especially for high speed racing on perfectly flat areas (2 wheel drive)
Buggies - With moderate speed, they are designed to be driven in dirt and is capable of jumping off ramps (2 Wheel Drive)
Trucks - Similar to Buggies except they have a higher ground clearance (4 wheel drive)
Monster Truck - Recognized by their ability to climb over anything with their big wheels and are capable of running on any surfaces (2 or 4 wheel drive)
Touring Cars - These cars can only run on flat surfaces and offer the best steering capability as of today (4 wheel drive)
Bellow are Pictures of each type of Chassis listed above: A Formula 1 (F1) Chassis A Buggy Chassis (no such things in real life) A Truck shaped Chassis A monster Truck Chassis
A Touring car Chassis


1.3 Gas vs Electric
I know many people who does RC have regretted spending money on the wrong type of RC. They see something cool and just buy them, but in fact, what they have bought was imagination out of their own mind. People who have this kind of trouble forgot to do one thing in their buying process, research! There for I will now detail you on the function and characteristic of each type of RC.
First Lets Start by comparing the Advantages and Disadvantages between a Nitro (gasoline engine) vehicle and an Electric powered vehicle.

Nitro Powered:
Nitro vehicles are relatively faster than Electric vehicles, at peak, they can reach speeds exceeding 50 mph. However, if you are not careful, one bad crash at 50mph into a brick wall is all it takes to ruin your entire car for good. Nitro Engines are one cylinder 2 stroke engines that run on Gasoline, this means they drink GAS! The type of gasoline nitro engines use are not the same as the ones in your car, they are treated with different chemicals to reduce combustion power. All this comes down to the cost of buying the specialized fuel. Typically, a bottle of Nitro Fuel (special fuel used by Nitro Engines) costs around $40 US dollars per Liter. The good news is that you can play with your car forever and ever, just keep adding fuel! Last but not lease, Nitro vehicles are expansive to purchase due to the price of their engines. Nitro Vehicles prices cost at lease $100 US dollars more than electric RC.

Electric Powered:
Disadvantage #1 Electric Vehicles drains battery power fast! You are looking at no more than 15 minutes of non-stop racing before your batteries die out on you. Besides vehicle run time and top speed, just about everything is an advantage! However, the equipment needed to operate an Electric RC is costly. In order to run an Electric RC, you will need Batteries and a charger to charge them. These batteries that go into your car are around $30 US Dollars each for a low end one. The higher the performance of the batteries, the higher the price, often doubles easily. Then there is the charger which plugs into either your car, or your home power outlet. This items cost about the same as one battery, around $30 to $50 US dollars each. The main advantage about Electric RC is that it is very quiet and its acceleration is far faster than Nitro RC.



1.4 Radio Gear
No matter what type or what scale you chooses, you will need a Remote Control Unit. Some companies sell RTR vehicles. RTR is short for Ready To Run, meaning the Box includes everything you will ever need to start driving (Radio Gear Included). Usually these RTR kits are pre-assembled, so that you won't have to spend another 24 hours putting the parts together. Unfortunately, most companies don't offer many RTR kits, there for I will have to explain to you what to consider when you buy a normal kit that doesn't come with a Remote Control unit.
First, allow me to show you how a Remote Control System works:

Radio Gear for Electric Vehicles

  1. When the driver pushes a button on the remote control, a signal is sent via radio to the receiver on the car.
  2. That receiver receives the signal and processes it to make the car do something. It is the CPU of the car.
  3. If the driver turned the steering wheel, the receiver will send a signal to the servo telling it to turn.
  4. The servo is connected to a steering mechanism that turns the car when the servo moves.
  5. If the driver push on the throttle, the receiver will send a signal to the ESC.
  6. The ESC is short for (Electronic Speed Control), this device regulate the speed of the motor connected to it.
  7. The Motor is connected to some gears and belts that rotate the wheels on the car.
Nitro Vehicle Setup

  1. When the driver pushes a button on the remote control, a signal is sent via radio to the receiver on the car.
  2. That receiver receives the signal and processes it to make the car do something. It is the CPU of the car.
  3. If the driver turned the steering wheel, the receiver will send a signal to SERVO 1 telling it to turn.
  4. SERVO 1 is connected to a steering mechanism that turns the car when SERVO 1 moves.
  5. If the driver push on the throttle, the receiver will send a signal to SERVO 2.
  6. When SERVO 2 turns, it opens a valve on the engine which controls the air/fuel flow.
  7. The battery is used to power the receiver, SERVO 1 and SERVO 2 only.
These items listed above conclude your selection of radio gear. All these items are needed to operate your RC. However, many people prefer to buy the ESC separately from the remote control and servo package. This however is reserved for higher end RC racers. In the mean while, you can either buy a (good) ESC separately so that you won't have to upgrade it later, or you can buy an entire set. Companies like Futaba sells complete packages for both electric and nitro powered vehicles. They usually come with everything you see in the diagrams with the exceptions of batteries.


1.5 Batteries
Battery layout (critical buying decision)
If you are going to purchase an electric vehicle, you will logically need batteries. RC cars typically use 7.2 Volts batteries to power their motors. There are essentially two popular types of battery layout. They are Saddle Packs or Stick Pack. The two types are virtually the same except for some critical difference in the way they deliver electricity. Either type you choose is fine for now, but I suggest going for stick pack batteries because they are easier to handle. However, some chassis is designed such that they will only accept either saddle pack or stick pack. MAKE SURE you purchase the right combination of batteries and chassis. Below are diagrams to show you the physical difference between stick and saddle pack batteries.
Stick Pack BatteriesSaddle Pack Batteries
What are these batteries made of?
These battery packs are both made of 6 separate 1.2 volts cells. (Don't bother counting, it's 6!!). At the time this guide is written, there are two types of existing rechargeable batteries. In the future there may be more. The first type is called Nickel-Cadmium (NiCD for short), the second type is a more powerful version of NiCD called Nickel-Metal (NIMH for short). I won't go into which one is worth buying here. Other types of rechargeable batteries exist, but these two types serves the purpose of RC best. Both of these types have a very special characteristics you should know about. That is they can output a steady amount of energy as the battery is being used up. This is good because the car will not decrease in speed as the battery is being used up. However, when it do run out of battery, the car will literary shut itself off. That is why racers often (time) the number of minutes it takes before the battery is used up.
How are batteries rated....
Batteries are rated in so many different ways such as internal resistance, average voltage, discharge rate , just to name a few of many. The most important item you have to consider before buying is the battery's capacity. Battery capacity is measured in mAH. The higher the mAH, the longer your car will stay on the road. This number can be spotted easily on the surface of each cell as they are printed so large as a form of advertisement. Then of course, the higher the mAH, the higher the price.
How many packs should I buy?
For starters like your self, 2 or 3 packs is the minimum. The brand you choose is not a big deal, this should be dealt with by the store. As in for the # of mAH, don't go for anything less than 1500 mAH. Or else you will find yourself beating yourself because your car only run for 10 minutes.


1.6 Chargers
A charger is a device that recharges (refills) battery packs used on your RC vehicles. Today many chargers allow you to operate them with an AC outlet (plug on your wall) or a car battery (the huge battery that starts a real car). However there are many types of chargers out there and they all have their own functions. It is important to understand what each button on your charger do before you use it. If you are not careful, your charger may over-charge (putting too match electricity into a battery) and result in permanent damages.
The 3 Types of Chargers:
Chargers can be categorized by the methods they use to tell when the batteries are full. "Cut off" refers to the point at which no more electricity is being pumped from the charger to the battery. Each type has their ups and downs. But don't worry, I'll show you which one is best!

Type 1: Timed Chargers. They simply work by constantly inputting electricity until something stops it. A human with a watch, or a built in timer in the charger itself can accomplish this.

Type 2: Thermal Chargers. These chargers automatically cut off as soon as the battery they are charging reaches a certain temperature. This is done by placing a temperature probe on the battery which tells the charger how hot the battery is.

Type 3: Peak Chargers. These work on the basis that when the battery has been fully charged the voltage actually drops fractionally. These chargers detect that and cut off at that point.
A Timed charger with built in timer Typical Peak Charger

Ok, so which type should I go for?
A timed charger is great for beginners and here is why. It is cheap, safer (only with a built in timer) and effective at its job. Your second pick (if you got money burning a hole in your pocket) is the peak charger. They are even more safe and are does a better job at protecting your batteries. So, spend the extra bucks and get a Peak-charger if you can, then if not, don't settle for anything less then a Timed-Charger with a built in timer.


1.7 Fuel
Glow Fuel
Glow engines (another term for the engines used in RC Cars) cannot be operated with the same gasoline you’d get at a filling station pump. They require a special fuel, called "glow fuel". It contains methanol as the base, with varying amounts of nitro methane to increase the energy that the fuel can provide. Oil, pre-mixed into the fuel, lubricate and protects your tiny engine as it pounds out amazing power. When selecting a bottle of Glow fuel from your local hobby shop, ask them which mixture (usually measured as a percentage) you should buy. Note that the mixture percentage varies depending the model of your Glow Engine.


1.8 Lexan Bodies
Lexan Bodies (Poly Carbonate)
Lexan body is a piece of molded plastic that covers your chassis to protect it and reduce air friction. The word "Lexan" refers to the material they are made of. Some kits come with this item and some don't. You must make sure that you know if the kit you buy includes a lexan body or not. If they do not come with one, then you could purchase one from various companies, some are pre-painted, and some are not.
Clear vs Pre-painted
A typical 1/10 scale Touring Car "clear" body sells for around $30 Canadian. A typical 1/10 scale Touring Car "pre-painted" body sells for around $130 Canadian.
Fragile vs Detail
When purchasing a lexan body, you should know that different companies make their body out of different materials. Some make them very detailed, but fragile. Some make them not as detailed, but flexible and impact resistant. For a beginner like yourself, purchase one that is flexible because you may be crashing your car more often then you think.
picture of a lexan body + picture of a chassis with a lexan body OFF = picture of a chassis with a lexan body ON


1.9 Paint
Why need paint?
One answer, to make your Touring Car Lexan Body look really good. There are no "kits" out on the market today which comes with a clear body AND paint. So you have to buy spray paint to paint them yourself.
What should I get?
For your first Lexan Body, you would want to paint it one color only. The reason is simply because you will use the F word very often when you crash your car hard and ruin a great multi-colored paint job. The choice of color is yours, but if the color is on the "light" side, you will need another color to "back" it. In total, you will need 1 to 2 cans of spray paints, one for your main color, then another one to back it. Note, the spray paint used to paint on POLY CARBONATE body is specialized, ask any hobby store for the right type of paint.
What does "back" mean?
Backing a color means that the first layer coat of paint you sprayed is too light and too thin. When paint are thin and the color is light, they tend to show up rather transparent even though you have used up the entire can of spray paint. So the second can of paint with a darker color will make the first color more opaque, meaning not as transparent. For example, you would want to back a yellow layer of paint with silver paint. Silver paint is more opaque then yellow paint.

Related links:
- Gallery for some of the coolest lexan body ever painted!


1.10 Check List
No "guide" is complete without a checklist. So here you go! Enjoy your shopping!
For Nitro RC Vehicles
  - Chassis (purchase one that includes an Engine)
  - Fuel (Mixture % determined by engine type)
  - Radio Stuff (Purchase a package that includes, 1 Remote Control, 1 Receiver, 2 Servo)
  - Batteries (Used to power the radio equipment on the RC Car)
  - Lexan Body (Only if the Chassis kit does not come with one)
  - Paint (Purchase a second color if your prime color is light)

For Electric RC Vehicles
  - Chassis
  - Radio Stuff (Purchase a package that includes, 1 Remote Control, 1 Receiver, 1 Servo)
  - ESC (Often Dependent on what motor you use, ask hobby store)
  - Batteries (Buy no less then 2 sets, each must be at lease 1500 mAH)
  - Charger (A peak or timed Charger is most recommended)
  - Lexan Body (Only if the Chassis kit does not come with one)
  - Paint (Purchase a second color if your prime color is light)

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