7 Helpful Tips for RC Cars Beginner (2024 Updated)

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Starting a new hobby can be exciting and challenging at the same time, especially when it comes to RC cars.

To help beginners navigate this exciting world, I have compiled a quick list of essential tools and tips to keep your RC car in tip-top condition.

This post is intended for absolute beginners; if you’re an enthusiast or professional, feel free to explore other posts.

Let’s take a look at number one.

1. Turn the Transmitter on First

This is probably our most elementary tip for you, but many people don’t know.

Traxxas' TQi 2.4GHz 4-Channel Radio System
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When you’re ready to turn everything on and drive, you always turn the transmitter on first and the vehicle on second. This way, your transmitter sends signals the moment your vehicle is turned on.

If you have a nitro model and try to turn it on without the transmitter, your throttle linkage and all that could be set wide open. It’s just a terrible idea.

The next tip is simple but can often be overlooked in the rush of excitement: just reading the manual.

2. Read the Manual

The instruction manual that came with your vehicle has tons of great information about the vehicle, the transmitter, batteries, the engine if it’s a nitro model, and a lot of other really useful info.

Schumacher Mi5evo manual amain hobbies
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If you did pick up a nitro vehicle, it would have information about how to properly break in that nitro engine, which you’re going to really want to follow.

It’s crucial to break in that engine to ensure that it lasts you a long time and runs well.

The last thing about the manual is the importance of the exploded parts diagram.

The parts diagram is a great resource for understanding how the parts stack together on your vehicle. If you need to disassemble or reassemble something, that parts diagram can be really helpful.

Stihl KM 56 RC-E Engine parts diagram
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The diagram also lists all the part numbers of the parts used in your vehicle, so you can use that as a reference later if you break apart, and you can search for that part number to find that part later.

When you’re done and want to turn everything off, you should always turn the vehicle off first and then the transmitter second. This is a really simple and great habit to develop.

3. Thread lock / Glues / Oils + More!

We move on now to some items that are definitely worth keeping handy around your workshop.

Thread lock

Thread lock is a strong adhesive that helps prevent bolts and screws from loosening due to vibration and constant impacts. It is often used on grub screws, motor mount screws, and other screws prone to loosening.

You have to be careful with the amount used, as too much will make removing the screw or bolt very difficult, and heat may be required to remove stuck screws.

Red thread lock is bad blue right
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Also, avoid the red thread lock because it is solid and challenging to remove. In most cases, blue will get the job done just fine.

Shock oils and grease

It’s always worth having spare shock oils of various weights, as hard bashing can sometimes cause a shock cap to pop and spill the oil.

RC thread lock glues shock oils and more
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Grease is another thing you want to keep handy, especially when servicing diffs or working on gearing.

I like automotive grease, which costs nothing, but some prefer RC-branded grease. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the cheaper stuff.

You can also find different weight differential oils, but not all suit your specific RC car.

Adhesives and fasteners

Sealed or super glue is always worth having around, especially when gluing tires back to rims or quick fixes.

Cable or zip ties are useful for securing wiring, tidying messy cables, or temporarily fixing broken parts. Servo tape and double-sided tape can secure ESCs and receivers to a chassis.

Spare body clips

Lastly, body clips can easily be lost or damaged, so keeping spares in various sizes is essential. As you collect different RC models, you’ll appreciate having the right size body clip when needed.

4. Dedicated battery charger

USB chargers are a great way to get you up and running.

But if RC is definitely for you and you have no intention of leaving the hobby, upgrading to a dedicated mains power charger will be your best and safest option.

hobbyking turnigy quad 4x6s lithium polymer charger 400w dc only charger
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Why do I say that?

In my experience with RC cars, I have found that USB chargers do not always balance a LiPo pack properly, which can reduce your electronics and potentially cause damage to your LiPo.

Proper chargers will have added safety features and will even tell you if there is a voltage issue, potentially indicating that there may be a damaged cell.

5. Cleaning and maintenance

Cleaning and maintenance are very important parts of owning the best RC vehicle.

Dirt, grime, and dust have a way of working themselves into some of the suspension components and into the drivetrain. This can cause premature wear to components and extra stress on the drivetrain.

Dirty black RC crawler car
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Using purpose-made RC brushes or toothbrushes is an ideal way to eliminate dust and dirt from your RC model immediately after use.

Preparing some old towels. If you are getting your vehicle wet, wipe it down or spray it with an air compressor to dry it. Moisture is bad for your foam tire and the chassis.

Step 5: Clean the RC car body
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Also, I always stock up on maintenance sprays such as WD-40 and GT85, as they come in handy when servicing metal components such as hinge pins and transmission parts.

Once you’ve finished cleaning up your car, it’s good to inspect it and see if anything looks loose or if any screws are backing out.

Take a shock off of the suspension arm and the shock tower if it’s an independent suspension, and that way, you can see if the suspension arm assembly freely drops under its own weight to ensure there’s no binding.

inspect your RC car
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Binding in your suspension will be really bad and alter the vehicle’s performance.

Every now and then, it’s also a great idea to remove the motor or engine from the vehicle and just ensure that the drivetrain spins freely under its own weight. Any resistance in the drivetrain or binding will put a lot of unnecessary stress and heat on your electronics.

PS: A well-cleaned and serviced car is much nicer to use.

6. Invest in a good set of basic tools

When it’s time to do some serious tinkering and tuning on your vehicle, a good set of basic tools is a must.

When I started the RC hobby, I often relied on free and included tools like L-shaped Allen wrenches that get in RTR(ready-to-run) boxes.

But those tools are pretty cumbersome to use. They’re not up to stripping an RC down and rebuilding it, maintaining diffs, or changing out gearing. And eventually, they really dig into your hand and palm.

Using cheap tools will likewise make your life miserable as you’re likely to round very tight screw heads and potentially ruin all the hardware on the RC car.

So, I highly recommend investing in a quality set of tools, and you’ll find that you can do the same work in half the time.

hobbyking 16pc tool set with carry case

You don’t need to spend a fortune. I recently picked up a good set of hex drivers from Amazon for very little money and was pleasantly surprised by their quality and feel.

This is a list of the essential tools to take apart an RC car:

  • needle-nose pliers
  • wire cutters
  • flathead and Phillips screwdrivers of various sizes
  • a good set of hex drivers
  • a metal cross wrench

Get yourself a good set of basic tools, and you should be good to go.

7. Soldering Iron

A soldering iron is a very important thing to have, especially if you run electric RC cars.

I can guarantee that there will be a time when you need to make an adapter or change battery connectors.

Soldering can appear to be a daunting task for most people, but it’s actually very simple, and there are many tutorials available online.

Good quality solder and Iron will make the process much more accessible than some cheap solder and irons on eBay and Target. I would advise checking out some reviews and getting yourself the best soldering set you can afford.

I currently use a Weller SP 80, an 80-watt soldering iron.

It has a huge tip that may be a little overkill for standard applications, but considering I solder XT 90 connectors and some very thick gauge wire, it’s ideal for me.

Again, for everything I just said, please don’t think it has a high degree of difficulty. Many tutorials are available online for you to follow.

Final words

That is my list of essential items every RC beginner should have when getting into the RC hobby or starting.

I’m not saying go out and buy all these things now, as you probably don’t need everything mentioned, but I think it’s a good start. Have I missed anything if you plan on staying in the hobby long term?

If I have, feel free to comment and let me know.

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Written By Ted Dulles

I'm Ted Dulles, an avid RC hobbyist extraordinaire! My passion for the world of remote-controlled (RC) models ignited in 2018. Just a year later, fueled by this passion, I took a bold step and opened my own RC shop in California. I have a deep fascination with all kinds of RC models – be it cars, planes, or boats. I'm always eager to take on new challenges and absolutely love the thrill and excitement that come with this hobby.

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