Tuesday, March 21, 2023

What You Need For A Clean Car

How do you keep your car clean? I suppose the most simple and basic answer to this would be to just leave it at home… on the shelf… where it’s dusted regularly… But, somehow I feel that our editor had a bit more in mind about this article so I guess I’ll take it a different direction in search of a ‘good guy’ award.

By Chris Kovachevich

Experience tells us that if you run a car on dirt or pavement or carpet (In spite of what some of the carpet guys say!) your car is going to get dirty. How dirty depends a lot on staying out of the muck (puddles or the dusty area on the outside of turns we know as ‘fluff’). If you’re anything like me though, it’s only a dream to stay out of the mess with your car. So, let’s focus this a bit on cleaning your car and keeping it clean!

If you have ever been to a big race or crawling event, you immediately notice that the ‘pros’ cars don’t seem to get nearly as dirty as the ones that belong to us mortals do. But, you will also notice the big names are pretty much in a constant mode of cleaning and keeping their equipment looking good. As with most things in life, there are a number of different products that will hasten this process and keep your ride looking brand new.


Air compressors and canned air are your friends for the initial removal of what we’ll kindly refer to as the ‘big chunks’. Certainly you need to be ever vigilant about getting dirt, crud and junk into your bearings. Make every effort to blow away from these areas and you’ll notice that your bearing replacement expense goes down. Of course, this initial process is best accomplished after you have removed the body along with wheels/tires and set them off to the side. We’ll address this later!


Most experienced RC folk have a bit of a brush fetish which is exhibited mostly by owning a brush for every crack and crevice of your car/truck. Some of my favorites are well worn tooth brushes, the ‘acid brushes’ found at the hardware store, a long bristle one-inch paint brush and a short bristle one-inch paint brush. The short bristle brush is created by cutting 50 – 75% of the bristles off (over a trash can), leaving a ‘stubby’ but firm bristle. The cut bristle brushes are great for that extra push to remove stubborn dirt and dust and yet they retain enough strength to get down into cracks and crevasses.


There are lots of different types of cleaners available for cleaning our vehicles. My all time favorite is one of the ‘pink’ colored spray bottles that most hobby shops and race tracks sell. I’m not sure what is in these products to make them work as well as they do without any form of obnoxious odor or fumes. They’re not too expensive ($6.00 to $10.00 range) and a bottle goes a long ways! Again, as with air you don’t want to spray these products into bearings or electronics (receivers, servos, speed controls and motors) as they’re not designed to clean those areas. Just lightly saturate the chassis and arms, give it a couple of minutes to work and then either wipe or use air (being very careful to not blow the product onto other folks’ pits, work areas, vehicles) and remove the majority. After that, a quick touch up with a towel (paper or bath) and your vehicle is, for the most part, spotless.


Of course the details for this purpose will be the wheels & tires along with the body. Most racing facilities have a tire washing area which confines the mud and other junk on your tires to a safe area. Do not just take your wheels and tires into the rest room and expect: (a) the junk to go down the drain and (b) to retain the friendship of the track owner. If there isn’t a specific area for this, it’s best to fill an old pop bottle or other container with water and then head out to the parking lot (away from traffic and other peoples’ vehicles) to gently brush and wash off the mud and junk from your tires and wheels. Some people like to use Simple Green for this task but please, make sure you’ve got some nitrile or vinyl gloves to keep the product off of your hands. Full strength Simple Green is an awesome cleaner but will cause drying and cracking of your hands.

For the body, a quick spritz with the ‘pink stuff’ will remove dust, dirt and other junk in short order. Be sure to test to make sure that the cleaner won’t react with your new, $150.00 paint job before you apply the cleaner.

And of course, not to be ‘Mr. Obvious’ here but when you’re finished cleaning it’s always good to reassemble your vehicle (after you have installed your next battery pack) to impress the other folks you’re racing/crawling/bashing with who will be amazed at the great care you give your vehicles. There’s nothing like kicking back with a nice cool water or soda and watching your hard work being admired.

There are a million different ways to clean our vehicles and what I’ve outlined here will work well with off road and crawling electric vehicles. However, at the top of the “special circumstances” list would be nitro and gas powered vehicles. These powerful and impressive beasts get really dirty and not all cleaners work well for removing the grunge. Both on road and off road nitro and gas vehicles respond really well to just plain old denatured alcohol. It works so well because it’s the basis for the nitro fuels and contained in a lot of our gasoline and therefore will cut through the oil and other junk that is a by product of the combustion process. Obviously alcohol should be handled with care, using nitrile or vinyl gloves and never used close to any form of open fire or flame or on a vehicle that has not cooled fully from being run. Since alcohol burns with almost no color to the flame, it can be particularly  dangerous when ignited.

Another caution would be to never get denatured alcohol near the body or paint of your vehicle. Alcohol is used as a solvent with many types of paint and if it gets on your paint job it could possibly dissolve the paint and cause it to run together.

What I have provided here are some very general and basic instructions on What You Need For A Clean Car. No one cleaner or product will be 100% compatible with all forms of paint and plastic we use. A bit of testing is always in order before major damage is done. Oh, and remember how I made a comment about the amount of dirt and such that can get on a car when it’s operated on carpet? It will simply amaze you the first time you see it. Plus, carpet fibers can get wound into your axles and bearings along with tire compound all over your chassis and body. It’s not mud and crud, but nonetheless, it is a bit difficult to clean!

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