With any new hobby information overload is a huge problem with people firing off recommendations and advice right and left. While everyone has good intentions, sometimes it can be quite overwhelming and frankly scary. I strongly believe that the radio control hobby is one of the best in the world with some of the brightest and involves some of the most innovative and creative people you will ever meet. I was sitting here thinking how I can introduce people to our great hobby, all while letting them know what the future may hold. I came up with this list, 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Get Into RC, a great read for anyone newly entering our hobby, and even has some ideas for experts as well.
1. There is an RC vehicle/niche for everyone
One of the best aspects about the radio control hobby in general is there is something for everyone to enjoy. Helicopters, drift cars, semi trucks are just some examples of how diverse this hobby can be. Pretty much everyone I know into R/C is into a different niche, but we can all get together and spend some time showing our vehicles or skills and generally have an all around great time. Personally I love building just as much, if not more than driving and I know some hardcore racers that are the complete opposite. Try to find what piques your interest, and if you have been in one R/C segment for awhile, don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new.
2. Safety First! RC =/= Toys
While some consider R/C “toys for grownups,” they are far from it. Radio control vehicles can be as dangerous, or as safe as you make it. We have behemoth 40 lb 1/5th scale trucks that can hit 40MPH in the blink of an eye, or some airplanes that have props spinning at the speed of sound. As long as proper safety measures are being used, a trouble free experience can be had. We have all read the stories of drones crashing into people in major cities, but often this is simply a case of an uninformed pilot. Safety must be observed everywhere, from soldering to charging high powered lithium batteries. I find radio control is great to introduce to younger people, but parental guidance is heavily suggested.
3. There is more cost associated than just the RTR/RTF package
Great, so you bought your very first RC car or aircraft. The box says it comes with everything you need, so you should be good to go right? Well, yes and no. Often all inclusive kits come with very inexpensive components that ill get you up and running, but sometimes aren’t ideal if you plan to stick around. If the vehicle is battery powered, you may want an extra pack to keep out there or a better charger to charge the batteries faster. Leave some headroom for high quality tools as well, they pay off in the long run by not messing up your screws and other parts (and less frustration = better experience). And of course there are wearable items like tires, clutches and more that just plan need to be replaced over time.
4. RC Vehicles Break Sometimes, but don’t return it!
In hobby shops something we see time and time again is someone who buys a nice new expensive rig, and a part breaks so they pack it up and try to return it. While I understand you may have just spent a lot of money, but something that makes hobby grade radio control vehicles much better than their cheaper toy counterparts is that every part can be replaced (usually for cheap). You have to remember that we live in a day where 100 mph speeds are achievable out of the box, so of course something will break when you crash into the curb at full speed after doing 8 cartwheels in the air. You may think that just ground based vehicles fall under this category, but aircraft can be repaired just as easily. Many airplanes now are made out of high quality foams that can be repaired with every day CA (or super glue), and quad copter parts are readily available from nearly every manufacturer. Take the time and learn how to repair your vehicle, it will save you hundreds of dollars and countless headaches.
5. Plan to do some research
As mentioned earlier, there are so many facets to this hobby, that you may get information overload when you decide what to buy first. You are on the right track if you are reading this article, but be prepared to read tons of material. Obviously there is a large difference between aircraft and cars, but it goes beyond that. If you are interested in building a scale off-roader with working winches, you will need to focus in different areas then an on-road racer. Thankfully there is tons of information online check out our RCDriver YouTube channel for some nice tips to get you going. Read user reviews and gather all the information you can before taking the plunge. An even better option is to head to your local hobby shop if you have one, they have tons of hands on experience and can help steer you in the direction you need. Often they have demo vehicles as well for you to try if you are still having difficulty deciding.
6. Stick to the name brand stuff
While it may be tempting to hop online and order something on the slow boat from overseas, plan on entering this hobby with one of the larger better known brands. These companies have done all of the hard work for you already, worked out the bugs and also offer life-saving support usually just a call or an email away. Not to mention with the name brands, there usually is a gigantic aftermarket support from countless companies. My first “real” RC was an old HPI Savage and because I had such a great experience it really turned me onto the hobby in general. Make it easy on yourself, even if it costs a few extra bucks.
7. Electric or Nitro?
All radio control vehicles run on either electric or nitro. Electric is the more popular choice as of late because they offer less maintenance and are a truly plug and play experience. Nitro gives you the benefit of having a real combustion engine and the sound and smell is an experience like no other. For your first RC, I would recommend an electric model because there are less things to worry about. Nitro is great and all, but it adds another layer of complexity with tuning, fuel types, and glow plugs. One of the best things is nowadays almost all vehicles have more power than you need, whether it be electric or nitro, so don’t fret too much over your decision!
8. Don’t be limited with your surroundings
No matter what environment or location you live in, there is fun to be had with radio control. Don’t feel limited if you are in the concrete jungle of an urban environment. Often there are clubs that race indoors, go drifting together, or just bash around outside. In every form, whether is be surface or air there are also micro vehicles that can be used indoors, even in small apartments. I often take out some of my mini drones and fly them in my small workplace just to unwind and have some fun. I have even seen people make trick obstacle courses from everyday items to run their micro rock crawlers. They even have micro boats if you want to get wet and use that small stream nearby, the opportunities are endless!
9. Plan to get down and dirty with maintenance
Radio control in all forms require maintenance to help extend the life of the lifetime of your vehicles. I find this especially apparent in ground based vehicles. Starting with my off-road trucks, I inspect each one after any heavy use to make sure the drivetrain still spins freely and there are no apparent broken parts. It goes beyond that as shocks may lose oil over time, or differentials need to be services and re greased. Something I found quite remarkable is how similar RC cars are to our full scale counterparts. I actually learned how full scale vehicle’s suspension setups worked from my experience tuning RC cars. Just like real cars, some other components like wheel bearings are good to inspect. This isn’t just limited to cars, boats and aircraft need some constant care as well to make sure everything is running perfectly. I am sure this goes without saying, but if you plant on running your monster trucks in dirty environments, be prepared to clean your vehicle afterwards. Your truck will thank you later with less wear and tear on many components.
10. This hobby will provide the most fun you have had in ages!
I just realized that my list has a lot of scary information, but getting into radio control is one of the most fun things you can do. There is something to be said to heading out to your favorite trail and bringing an RC Jeep along with you to run the trails. Just take a look on YouTube to see some of the crazy builds and adventures people go on. Not to mention if you have any nearby clubs, RC peeps are some of the nicest people you will meet. Everyone is willing to lend a hand to teach you about your vehicle, how to wrench on them, and how to use them. All of the information I have learned over the years has come from our great community and some of the most fun times I have had is out with buddies racing or bashing my trucks.
I hope this list helps out and provides direction in your newly discovered hobby. Keep at it and remember that radio control is a world of endless possibilities, your mind is the limit. I get excited when I see people making custom vehicles with 3D printers and designing upgrades right at home on their computer. RC has never been better, so what are you waiting for?
11: that $350 Axial SCX10.2 kit will quickly turn into a $1,400 pile of cash as soon as you start adding on third party upgrades!
I totally understand going with “big name” brands, especially for those just getting into the hobby since big name brands have great support (parts / service).
However, I also believe some overseas cheaper lesser known (at least to the states) brands have a lot to offer, as well, especially considering how much cheaper they can be (and more and more often becoming the better value as the quality gets better and better). This is of course as long as you’re willing to get more mechanically skilled, if not already, so you can figure things out without much U.S. based support and you’re the type that enjoys fiddling with things.
I’ve had many brand name RC kits and RTRs of various types, and one of my favorite RC to date is a Drift Star by Exceed (HSP / RedCat sell the same chassis under different names). First – it’s dirt cheap. Second – it’s durable for the most part. Third – if something broke, I could replace it for ~$4-5 + $2-3 shipping from ebay or upgrade to nice aluminum parts for maybe $15 (name brand aluminum upgrades are usually A LOT more expensive). Fourth – it’s so cheap (relatively) that I don’t mind playing rough with it, breaking it, fixing it, scratching it, fiddling with it. I’d say it was a great way for me to get more skilled in customizing it not just by buying upgrade parts, but coming up with your own modifications to make it your own RC.
Yes! I just love the fact that you can get a pretty fun, fast and durable car for less than $100. Sure, it won’t be Traxxas or Losi or even Tamaya but it won’t suck. As long as you do some research. Some are better than others. I have a BSD, which should totally have been at least $100 more and I’m pretty sure that I have just as fun as the Losi and Traxxas kids are.
When I have all the upgrades on my Destroyer/Caldera, it will be a beast for half the price of a name brand car.