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Guide to Upgrading R/C Cars

08/12/2007 Specialist Radio Controlled Gamer Article
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Guide to Upgrading R/C Cars

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Once you have purchased, built and raced your Radio Controlled car at some point you may like to upgrade it. The benefit of taking the Hobby-grade route is the plethora of options available to you. The performance of your car can be enhanced by an improved chassis, ball racing, better shock absorbers, faster servos, better batteries and chargers.


Cheaper cars will have less exotic materials included to keep the costs down. Plastic or composite chassis are cheaper to manufacture, and will flex more than the more expensive versions, such as graphite or carbon fibre which are found in the more expensive chassis. Apart from looking better, because graphite and carbon fibre flex less than plastic, the cars handling is more precise.

Ball Raced

Ball races are metal balls housed within a cage. This makes the drive train carry less friction, resulting in a longer lasting operation and less wear. A ball raced car is instantly identifiable by spinning the wheels and seeing how long they turn for.

Shock Absorbers

Dampers, suspension or shock absorbers all refer to the units that absorb impacts from uneven ground and jumps. They come in different materials with thecheaper versions usually plastic or composite. The more expensive varients are usually alloy or some similar light metal. Plastic shocks are lighter and usually found in the starter R/C kits/models, but are less durable.

Oil filled dampers respond better, and are essential to good performance. Without oil in the dampers, jumping of bumps would result in the spring rebounding too quickly as there is less friction with no oil inside them and the car would be more difficult to control. Most hobby grade R/C models will have oil filled damper.


Servos are the small units that sit in the car and respond to your movements on the acceleration and steer sticks of the controls. The reception range and response times of Servos differs greatly from one model to the next. While newcomers don't need a dramatically rapid reponse to their controls, this can make all the difference in competitive races. Therefore upgrading servos can be a good way to improve performance for professionals.


For electric cars, batteries provide the power into the system. A good battery should combine with an Electronic Speed Control and Brushless motor to provide optimum performace. Different types of battery are available - NiMH, NiCad or Lipo. Lipo batteries are more reliable than either NiMH or NiCad because they self discharge very slowly by comparison. They are also much lighter than NiMH or NiCad batterys, which makes them ideal for expert racers. Also, Lipo battery's hard casing makes them safer.

You must ensure you have the right charger to match the battery. When upgrading to a Lipo battery ensure your charger can charge it.

Slow vs Fast Chargers

Slow chargers are an inexpensive way of getting into the hobby of R/C cars, but ultimately a fast charger is the better buy. Slow chargers typically can take 14-16 hours to charge one set of batteries, which is too long to wait if you want to use your model often. Fast chargers will have more features included within them too, such as the charging rate and the ability to charge different types of cell. (NiMH, NiCad or Lipo).

Also, consider what input voltage is better for you, mains chargers may not be suitable if you're using your model somewhere that there is nowhere to plug it in, where as a charger with a 12volt input voltage can be connected to a full size 12volt car battery, or a transformer, which can then be plugged into a typical mains socket.


Beginners may benefit from being to race more often with a Fast Charger, as well as some of the cheaper upgrades like Oil Filled Shock Absorbers and Ball Racing.

Intermediates are more likey to want higher performance. A more powerful Brushless motor or enhanced chassis are not cheap options but will make a big difference to the car's performance.

Professionals win by extracted every last ounce of speed from their cars. This makes upgrades like high performance and cost servos and lighter batteries a compelling option.

Written by Rupert Stelling

You can support Rupert by buying Guide to Upgrading R/C Cars

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Rupert Stelling writes the Radio Controlled Gamer column.

"Having grown up racing Tamiya radio and remote controlled cars and trucks I was keen to get my kids started on the same hobby. Here, I share my R/C reviews and guides to getting started in this electric and petrol powered world."

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