Build a Stronger Radio Controlled (RC) Truck
By Matt E Higgins
Considering what we subject them to, today's RC trucks are amazingly durable right out of the box. That said, we know all too well that the reality is that if it can be bashed, it can be broken. How often and how severely your truck needs to be repaired is largely based on how crazy you drive, but it is also heavily influenced by how well prepared your RC rig is. Read on to find the no nonsense scoop on how to build a better RC basher.
ENERGY IS THE ENEMY
When we smash into something like the ground or a tree, energy moves through the truck. This is what breaks stuff, but it is also why having some flexible plastic parts is good and why having a big nylon bumper from RPM or T-Bone Racing is so beneficial. The flexible bumper "absorbs" a lot of the energy. The energy technically gets transferred into heat, but this isn't a physics lesson. The point is a big flexible bumper protects your truck by limiting how much energy reaches the rest of the vehicle. This is why aluminum bumpers-despite how cool they can look-are not a good choice for a bumper. Aluminum will allow the energy from the impact to pass through the truck.
ALUMINUM OR NOT TO ALUMINUM
Many people bolt on every piece of aluminum they can find for their truck only to be disappointed that the end result is a slow, heavy beast that really isn't any more durable. They key is to choose your aluminum accessories wisely. Too much aluminum will make the truck too heavy and cheap aluminum parts will just fail and take other parts down with them. So, be selective and realize you get what you pay for. Aluminum parts that are usually wise investments include shocks, bulkheads and shock towers. Suspension arms are a toss up. Nylon suspension arms do a great job of surviving those impacts that catch one wheel, but when the nylon suspension arm does its job and bends, other components can't bend such as drive axles and shock shocks. If you're bending these parts, consider aluminum arms.
Real vehicles have roll cages to protect the occupants. Since no one is on board your RC rig (that action figure in your Axial Wraith doesn't really count), you may wonder why a roll cage would be necessary. The truth is most people buy them for looks. Roll cages can, however, be seriously helpful in keeping your truck in one piece. The key is to go with a cage that covers the shock towers and one that mounts securely. If you're bashing, a cage built to be a cosmetic addition is a waste of time and money. Again, make sure the cage provides a lot of coverage and securely mounts to the chassis.
SHOCKS & SPRINGS
When you start beefing up your trucks, odds are it's going to be heavier than when you started. You will most likely have to increase your shock fluid weight. You may also need to use stiffer springs. The springs will be especially necessary if you're going for big air. The heavy truck will quickly overload the stock springs upon landing and the truck's suspension will bottom out. This often results in a wild crash even if you landed well. When it comes to shocks, if you have plastic shocks, aluminum bodies and caps may be available. If they are, they are money well spent. Another option is looking into up grading into 1/8-scale shocks. Check out the selection of shocks at your hobby shop. 1/8-scale truggy shocks are pretty close to indestructible and there will be a wide variety of spring rates available. Regardless of what shocks you go with, your spring and fluid combo should allow you to test drop your truck from a foot off the ground without it loudly bottoming out. Remember: shocks absorb energy just like that big front bumper we were just trying to talk you into.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
Most of us want more power. If you have a nitro vehicle, you can try a higher nitro percentage fuel, or removing the carb restrictor if your engine has one, or installing a higher tooth-count clutchbell-or if the budget allows, you can upgrade to a bigger engine. For electric, the best way to get more speed-and a lot of it-is to add volts. If you're running a 6-cell NiMH pack (7.2 volts), try a 3S LiPo (11.1 volts) pack if your speed control is rated for it. If you do need to upgrade your system, it is far, far better to go with a setup that runs a lot of volts and low Kv. A system that gets its power from a high voltage pack with a low Kv motor and small pinion will outlast a system that gets its speed from a high Kv motor and/or big pinion.
Matt Higgins from RCTruckStop.com is an expert in RC and has been writing articles for hobbyists for over a decade. If you have an RC truck, check out this article on how to make your truck a faster, stronger and simply better basher. You can find even more great RC articles at http://RCTruckstop.com