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A Beginner's Guide to Radio Controlled Cars

By Charles Hopkins Published 08/1/2007 | Hobbies

Remember the exhilaration of driving your first car? How about watching Kyle Busch take the checkered flag as he crosses the finish line? Wouldn't you have wished that you were in the driver's seat, feeling the power of your car, as you speed down the racetrack? However, owning a race car, much less driving one, is not within the financial means of most. But don't fret, for having a radio controlled (RC) car may be the next best thing in being another Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

How does one start with the hobby? Here are a few guidelines in helping a newbie:

1. Start with toy grade RC cars.

There are two kinds of RC cars: toy types and hobby grade cars. Toy types are cheaper; hence it is a good place to start. If, later, you think that the hobby is for you, you may upgrade to hobby grade RC cars. The latter are higher in quality but more expensive. You also need to have more expertise, as hobby grade cars need assembling and maintenance.

2. Buy ready to run (RTR) cars.

RTR cars are pre-assembled; hence you won't need to build the car from scratch. These kinds of cars will let you know how an RC car really works. You can learn how you can control and maneuver your car. Although these are already assembled, you can still upgrade and replace some parts to soup up your car.

After you have gained experience, you may want to build your car from ground up. There is a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in assembling your own car and making it run. It is as if you are building a real one.

3. Choose battery-powered cars.

Two types of power source are available for RC cars: electric and fuel. Electric-powered cars have rechargeable battery packs as their main source of energy. On the other hand, fuel-powered cars use a special kind of fuel, called nitro. This fuel is NOT gasoline, but a mixture of three main components: nitromethane, methanol, and oil.

Electric-powered cars are easy to maintain, and, thus, are suitable for beginners. You only have to clean the dust, check any damaged parts, and replace worn-out parts. The batteries only need to be recharged and you are ready to run the RC car once more. These cars also weigh less hence they accelerate faster.

Fuel-powered cars run much faster, reaching speeds of over 70 mph. They can give the feeling of a "real" car, emitting gas fumes and engine roars. However, maintenance of the cars is much more involved. Like real cars, fuel-powered RC cars also need tune-ups and maintenance, such as oil changes and electrical tuning.

Later, as you become more adept, you may enter races pitting against other RC cars, adding excitement to your hobby.

Having radio controlled cars as a hobby can provide you with endless fun and satisfaction. But you have to start small, for the hobby may involve much time and money. Buying simple and cheap cars will not be a waste of money, since you can learn from them, upgrading your RC cars as you become more experienced.