Maintenace of your ARRMA, LOSI, Traxxas RC Car!
Hello model building friends, great to see you here again, and let's start this year fresh! Let's also start with a good beginning of the year by giving our RC cars the maintenance they need! Of course, these Tips & Tricks are not only meant for the aforementioned brands but can be applied to all remote-controlled cars and even mountain bikes and bicycles!
But it's the most important maintenance for your RC car – a clean car lasts much longer than one full of dirt and blades of grass between the axles. Thankfully, cleaning is much easier than it seems. Many cars are water-resistant these days, and we like to take advantage of that. Do note that water-resistant is not the same as high-pressure water-resistant!
When cleaning, it's important to detach the wheels from your model as this makes cleaning much easier and prevents sand and water from getting into your tires. If you often drive in sand or wet conditions, watch out for small holes on the inside of the rims in many RC cars. These small holes let air out of the tire but also allow sand and water to enter. If you've had several remote-controlled cars you may have encountered one with wheels so heavy that the entire car shook while driving. This can be extreme – we've seen RC cars with up to 1000 grams of sand in one wheel. This is not only bad for the wheels but eventually, your entire car shakes, causing worn bearings, broken arms, a defective steering servo, and much more.
What kind of dirt are we dealing with?
The cleaning also largely depends on how dirty the car really is. If you've only driven on dry sand, you'll mostly have dust to deal with. But if you've gone all out in a watery mud bath, you have a tougher task to get everything tidy again. When driving on grass, the car usually stays quite clean, however, long grass blades get everywhere, increasing the load on the drivetrain. If you've driven in the snow, it's important to dry the car off and provide a few drops of bearing oil to prevent it from rusting quickly. If you've driven on the beach by the sea, immediate rinsing with clean tap water is advisable and also to clean the car thoroughly. Saltwater corrodes your model very quickly!
Dry Sand/ Dust
This is by far the easiest to clean, often an air compressor is a very convenient tool but otherwise, a painter's brush often works perfectly. The dirt can easily be removed by rubbing/blowing over it. After removing the dust and sand, it's important to give the rotating parts a few drops of bearing oil to keep the dirt out and ensure your bearings last much longer. For maintenance, you can suffice by giving the visible bearings a drop of oil and manually turning the drivetrain.
Wet Sand/ Wet Grass Field
This can be tackled in two ways; you can try, while the sand/mud is still wet, to rinse it off as thoroughly as possible with a soft stream from the garden hose. Be careful that your car is really water-resistant and never aim directly at the electronics; this can still lead to damage to your model! If rinsing doesn't work, it's better to let the car sit for a day, then you'll notice that it's often dried out and you can remove much of the dirt by hand. Afterward, you can further clean the car easily with a sturdy brush such as those from MUC-OFF. If you really want to make your car shine again, you can use MUC-OFF to even get the last bit of dirt loose from your car. MUC-OFF is great for loosening stubborn dirt and makes cleaning a lot easier. After you've got your car clean again, it's important to provide all bearings with a drop of oil.
These are always very annoying, they completely wrap around the drive shafts and rotating parts. Luckily, removal is simple, often you just pull it off again. In some cases, you can also wait a few days until it has dried out and it comes off even more easily. However, make sure you try to remove as much as possible because wet grass often quickly causes rust formation on your model due to the moisture.
Stuck Dirt/ Mud Bath
If you really went crazy in the mud, you'll notice that this dirt quickly really cakes on your model. Removal thus really requires some elbow grease. The best is to start with a stiff washing-up brush or brush from MUC-OFF. These brushes are specially made for cleaning mountain bikes but also perfect for our own RC cars. Spray your model with the MUC-OFF Fast Action BikeCleaner. After you've rinsed your model with the garden hose, spray it with MUC-OFF. Let it soak for 3-5 minutes and then go over all the stubborn dirt with the brush. Then let it sink in again for 1-2 minutes and rinse your RC car again with the garden hose. Cleaning has never been so easy! Don't forget to provide your ball bearings with a new drop of oil afterward!
If you have to take your car home before you can clean it, then use a handy transport bag – it saves cleaning your trunk! The dirtbags by robitronic are affordable and do exactly what they need to do: keeping all the dirt out of your trunk!
Snow/ Rain or in the ditch?
Now I hear you thinking, but snow and rain are just water and they evaporate again, right? Yes, that's true, but the annoying thing is that it often is dirty water. In the case of snow, try to remove as much snow as possible from your model. If possible, rinse your model with the garden hose so that most of the dirt is gone. Then you can provide the rotating parts with a drop of bearing oil and place your model upside down on a towel or old newspapers to dry. Preferably rotate the model occasionally so that all the water can really run out of your model. To prevent rust formation, it's important to spray your model with, for example, MUC-OFF MO94, or of course with the well-known WD40 PTFE Spray. Be aware not to use the regular WD40, as it leaves a sticky layer that dirt clings to even more!
Time for Maintenance!
Now that your model is all clean and fresh, we've actually already done a big part of the maintenance. But of course, I'm going to give you some tips to really make your model shine and keep it in prime condition.
Do you like a matte-shiny remote-controlled car that looks like new? Then you can spray your model with MUC-OFF Silicone Shine, which applies a matte-shiny layer to your model as if it just came new out of the box. This way, it looks like your car is just brand new every day!
Besides cleaning and making the model look neat, it's wise to test the functioning of various essential parts. Just like a real car, your remote-controlled car needs maintenance. Many parts are subject to wear, and timely replacement of the part can often prevent a lot of damage.
Always check if your shock absorbers are still working properly; you can often quickly see if your shock absorbers are leaking as then you also find the silicone oil outside the shock absorber itself. If they leak, it's time to replace the O-rings and seals of the shock absorber. It's also possible that you've had a crash that bent the shock absorber rod. A bent rod causes extra wear and can even damage your housing.
The gears are essential for the driving force of your gears, so regularly check if everything is still running smoothly and no strange noises are audible in your model. With your Spur and Pinion gears, it's important that the top of the gear has a flat side. If your gears look more like shark fins, they're at the end of their life. If gears go bad, you often hear that more noise comes from them. With differential gears, it often starts with the well-known cracking sound of gears clashing.
Nothing is as dangerous as a stuck ball bearing in your model; it quickly becomes red hot from the resistance and then melts other plastic parts away in your model. Just like with the gears, you recognize it often because the car rolls much harder and the wheels turn more heavily. If you notice this, don't continue driving as this directly causes more damage to your model, and possibly even the motor and controller. Replacing ball bearings is affordable and often done quickly. If you hear screeching or scraping sounds while driving, you know it's time for maintenance on the ball bearings.
The arms themselves are not susceptible to wear but are sensitive to damage such as deep scratches or even breaks in the arms. Especially with cold outdoor temperatures, the plastic becomes harder and therefore more vulnerable to fracture. With a quick inspection, you ensure that you won't face surprises during your next ride.
While you check your arms, also take a quick look at your hinge pins and all tie rods. The tie rods ensure stable handling and especially with cheaper cars, plastic balls are used which will wear out quickly. If the play is too big, this can lead to various problems, but especially the stability of the car becomes much worse.
Oops! Common Mistakes
Maintenance and cleaning of your RC car is not complicated, and anyone can do it. However, it's important to do it the right way. So, take your time for this as it saves you a lot of frustration and irritation. If you're new to the hobby, use the diagrams that the manufacturer included with your car – you quickly see how your car is put together and therefore also must be disassembled. If you need a part you can order a new part with this number and make sure it's the right part for your car. Of course, we also have the parts sorted by model, but sometimes the differences between the models are very small.
Continuing to drive with a stuck bearing
We still see this regularly in our shop; the bearing itself often isn't the problem anymore, as it's already completely dead. But the result is often that the part where the bearing is located is also unnecessarily damaged. With some models, these are large parts of the chassis, which makes replacement suddenly a lot of work and also turns out to be very costly. So, never continue driving with bearings that aren't working properly!
Inappropriate Cleaning Products
Grandma knows best! But not always, we see the strangest means to clean a remote-controlled car come by. WD-40, for example, seems to work perfectly but leaves a sticky substance behind, and cleaning your car afterward is really much more work. The same goes for various types of oil available on the market. It's important that your car is not sticky after cleaning because sand loves that, but you won't after driving!
Often we all know that our gears are not very good anymore, but we try just that one more time, and then it goes wrong; the teeth break off or even worse, it completely jams in the differential. The gears themselves are cheap, but the metal gray gets everywhere and if the car suddenly jams, this can even damage your motor and controller. So, ensure a well-maintained car as this brings much more joy to your hobby!
Oops, just that one post was in the way!
When we sell a new car to the customer, we always say, "Watch out for crossing posts and curbs". These are the objects that invariably can cause the most damage to your remote-controlled car. No matter how careful you are if they are there, you will encounter them while driving. It's better to find a location where you have plenty of space and such troublesome objects do not occur.
Storing the car with the batteries still connected or completely empty
Maybe the most important tip of this whole blog! Never ever store your batteries when they have been driven to completely empty. Especially the modern LiPo batteries do poorly with being completely discharged. If you've been driving, always disconnect the batteries because even if your car is off, it still uses a tiny bit of power from the battery. When you get home, it's wise to charge the batteries a bit, even if it's just for 10-15 minutes; this ensures there is at least a good base voltage present. If you're not going to use the car for several weeks/months, then put the batteries in storage mode to ensure they last as long as possible, and you can continue enjoying the hobby as soon as the weather gets better outside.