Remote controlled cars are a fun and interesting hobby for all ages, for kids as well as those who are kids at heart. But how do they work? How fast can they go? What parts might you need to keep it running smoothly? In this article, we’re going to answer all of the questions and give you all of the info you ever wanted or needed to know about the exciting, fast-paced hobby of RC (remote controlled) cars. With enough time and experience, you’ll go from a total “newbie” to potentially racing or doing tricks you never thought possible!

What Are The Main Parts Of An RC Car?

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Most RC cars have a similar set of controls and use the same type of technology to work. The most essential components are the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter is located in the remote used to control the car, while the receiver is inside the car itself. When a button or trigger is pushed on the remote, the transmitter sends a certain number of electric impulses through the air, each specific to an action. When the receiver located in the car receives those impulses, the motors in the car will activate to perform the desired action. The average radio systems will encode the control positions with pulse-width modulation and use amplitude modulation for the radio signal. Higher-end radio systems can be purchased, which use the stronger and faster frequency modulation and pulse code modulation.

So now let’s take a quick look at some of the most common questions someone with an interest in RC cars may wish to have answered.

What parts might I need to get started?

The first and best option for those just getting into the RC car scene is to get a “ready to run” kit, which is basically the fully assembled car, which you can pop some batteries into and drive straightaway after you take it out of its box. The second best option for newbies is a kit, which comes with all the parts to assemble the car, and you build the whole thing all by yourself. If you like making things with your hands from scratch, and the feeling of satisfaction at knowing you built your working car from the ground up, the RC kit is the best option for you. If you’re the more impatient type or you just want to quickly get a feel for driving the car, you’ll probably want to opt for the RTR (ready-to-run) cars, many of which even include the AA batteries for the remote!

Now, if you decided to get a car that’s all good to go, than enjoy! However, if the thought of assembling the thing, each and every screw, with your bare hands makes you feel warm and tingly inside, then you have more work to do! Here’s a list of parts you’ll likely need to assemble your car, so do a quick garage check or run to your local hobby store to make sure you have everything you need.

Tools You’ll Need To Assemble An RC Car

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a) Hex drivers, the majority of cars utilize metric fasteners so a set of 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 mm drivers should cover your needs.

b) X-Acto knife, this will come in handy in many ways, such as trimming off excess plastic.

c) Scissors will be needed if your model comes with decorative stickers.

d) Needle-nose pliers are a must, for precisely lifting ans retrieving any tiny parts you may encounter.

What Are The Components Of An RC Car?

First we’ll examine the different ways you can power your car. What you put beneath the (metaphorical) hood of your RC car will give you vastly different performance options, as well as wildly differing startup and maintenance costs.

Recent advancements in technology have made electric motors equal to, and occasionally even surpassing the original top contender for speed and run time, nitro power. So as before, the easiest and least costly option is mentioned first, for all the newcomers to the hobby.

If you have some experience and are willing to spend a bit more as well as get something with more power or specialized ability, you may wish to consider a nitro engine. Electric may be close to nitro power these days, but nitro delivers the authentic rumble and exhaust smell and smoke that electric motors lack. However, seeing as how you’ll be caring for a real, fuel-burning engine (more on the fuel later), you’ll need to be ready to properly tune and maintain it to get the most successful performance and keep your car on the roads you create as long as possible.

The fuel you’ll find in RC cars is a mix of methanol alcohol, oil, and of course, nitromethane, from which this type of car gets its name. The quantity of each ingredient varies depending on the engine. Fuels high in alcohol and nitrous are best suited for racing and speed demons, while a higher concentration of oil can protect against engine failure.

Another key piece of your RC unit is the spur and pinton gears, which can be swapped for gears of varying sizes to change the car’s speed and acceleration. Check your car’s owner’s manual to make sure you get the right gears of the correct pitch; 48 and 32 pitch are the most common.

Servos are an essential part of your car’s front-wheel steering system. They receive the signal your remote sends out and spins a series of gears, which moves the “arm” to the left or right, allowing you to make breakneck split-second turns, or casual changes in direction while rolling along.

You can customize your car’s performance greatly with one simple change: the tires. The change can be merely cosmetic in nature, or it can drastically alter how well your RC car drives on different terrains. Most RC cars have wheels which are permanently glued to the rims, meaning you’ll have to change both the rims and the tire by buying a pre-mounted wheel and rim set.

The body of your car is where you have the greatest creative freedom when it comes to the simple matter of what your car looks like, seeing as how the body is just a piece of plastic which fastens onto the rest of your car, which is completely unaltered by having the “shell” on or not (although using an RC car without a body piece is highly discouraged, due to the danger of parts becoming detached and flying off, or the chance of worse, possibly even unfixable damage to your RC car). So, with a few exceptions, most any car body can fit onto any other car frame, even if it takes a little bit of work. Remember that X-Acto knife we mentioned earlier? Yeah, it’ll come in handy for such a job as this.

Remote Control Cars FAQ:

How fast can they go?

An RC car meant for general hobby purposes will go anywhere from about 25 to 70 mph, depending on if the car is meant for racing or not. RC toys made for children will go much slower, while modified or drag RC’s can reach top speeds of over 100 mph! Nitromethane (nitro) boosted cars were originally the car of choice for speed right out of the box, however, advances in electric models have made them a popular and accessible choice if high speed is important to you.

What is the range? How far can they go?

If you specifically construct your car to get the maximum range, you can get it to go a couple miles away from you, although you’ve got to be careful not to lose control of your car by not being able to see it. The buildings and structures may factor into it, by blocking your signal and limiting your range. Average to lower-end models will give you a range of about 50 meters.

What are the different types of RC cars?

  1. RC cars: The standard, average car for beginners to the hobby or just fans of the classic style. They can navigate pavement and relatively smooth dirt roads well, and customization options allow you to make the vehicle better suited for either.
  2. RC trucks: Perfect for off-road conditions, but no so much on pavement, this style of RC vehicle is best suited for those who know they’ll be spending a lot of time off the beaten path.
  3. RC monster trucks: All brawn, but no hustle, these hulking beasts aren’t going to win any races unless you modify the absolute devil out of them, but climbing and even jumping all types of obstacles make this a fun choice nonetheless.
You can read more about the types of RC cars in our in-depth article: What Are The Main Types Of Remote Control Cars?


And there you have it, now you know the basics of how an RC car works, inside and out. Hopefully this article has shown you what you need to know to satisfy your curiosity, as well as make an informed purchase of the right type of remote controlled car for you if you’re looking to enter this fun and exciting hobby! Happy driving!