How to Build RC Cars
Remote-controlled cars are perfect for makers. In the old days, remote control enthusiasts not only had to build their vehicles, but they even had to build the radio equipment. Things have come a long way, and there are tons of kits and premade vehicles you can buy. Technological advances have also made great strides in the industry.
An RC car is a great way to get started with a remote control hobby. Unlike flying an RC helicopter, most of us have experienced driving a car. Most of us also have the wide open spaces needed to drive an RC car.
If you want to build your own RC car, there’s quite a bit of pre-planning that goes into it. One of the many things you need to decide before you get started is the scale. Your options are 1/12, 1/10, and 1/8. 1/10 is the most popular.
You’ll also need to decide on a brushed motor or a brushless motor. Brushless motors are better, but they are more expensive. Most hobby cars can be customized, but when you build your own, everything is custom. This is part of the fun and part of the challenge.
One of the easiest ways to build your own RC car, without having to agonize over all of the parts, is to purchase a kit. With a kit, you get everything that goes together, and you can still upgrade and make changes down the line. This is an excellent way to dip your toe in the water, and find out what it is that you really like.
Even with the kit, you’ll have a lot of small parts, and it will take time to get everything put together properly. Having your own work area that’s well-lit and has a smooth surface will make your job so much easier. Having containers and holders for small parts is also a perfect idea. Keep in mind that screws that go into metal will loosen over time. If you want the one you build to last, use thread locking-glue on these screws.
To get started, put your axles together first. Secure the gears in the back axle using a non-electric screwdriver. The reason you want to avoid an electric screwdriver is that it may strip the gears. Once you have your axles together, you can move on to the shocks. These will support the chassis and attach to your wheels. The shocks will need to be filled with shock oil. Attach the shocks to the axle with your screwdriver.
Now, it’s time to attach the servos, the battery, and the electric motor. In case you’re wondering what a servo is, it’s the transmitter for the signal that tells your car which way to turn. These will be attached to the front axle. The electric motor goes on the back axle, and is attached to the gears. Meanwhile, the battery sits on top of the chassis and has attached wires.
You’ll clip the body of your car onto the top of the chassis. You can remove the body by removing the clips. This will be necessary for checking the battery, and for routine maintenance like cleaning and lubricating.
If you’re building your remote-controlled car without using a kit, the steps are about the same. You just need to take the time to find compatible components. Choose the scale you want, and start adding all of the best components.
One of the things you’ll need to get is a remote control. You can’t operate your RC car without a controller. Your remote control will come with a receiver. You’ll plug your servos and your motor controllers into this receiver. You can’t plug a servo into your receiver unless you get one. You’ll need a servo for steering your vehicle.
You’ll need a battery pack and charger. Li-Po costs more. But then, it gives you more speed and performance. You’ll also need an electronic speed controller. The ESC passes battery power to your brushless motor. You can get a less expensive brushed motor, and you won’t need an ESC. You really need to weigh the cost versus your desired performance.
You’ll also need an RC gear differential with wheel shafts that connect to your wheels. When you build your own RC car, you also get to completely customize the type, size, and color of your wheels and tires. Your chassis will often include the differential and the wheels. Another fun thing you get to choose is the body. You get to decide on the color, style, and material.
We only touched on building electric RC cars. If you’re interested in fuel-powered RC cars like a nitro, the steps are similar. You’ll just need different components. Building your own car is a great way to really understand this hobby.