Driving through water constantly will cause many of the parts to fail. The ball bearings will be the first to stop working and it only gets worse from there. So let’s look at exactly how wet they can get, along with some ways to protect against liquid damage.
Can RC Cars Get Wet?
Most hobby-grade RC cars can handle massive splashes of water without a problem if they have waterproof electronics. The most important being the ESC and servos. Electrical motors are already quite water-resistant and can handle water splashing over and through them.
Usually it’s not the amount of water that damages the parts, rather, it’s how dirty the water is. For example, clean water from the garden hose won’t corrode metal parts as salt water will. Muddy water will get between the moving parts of your RC and scratch away at it. So the more dirty or salty the water, the more time you need to spend cleaning the RC afterward to avoid long-term damage. Salt will destroy moving parts and corrode metal.
Brushed motors will get dirty quickly when exposed to water. Sensorless and sensored motors will need a thorough cleaning if water gets on them even though they might not malfunction immediately. They will corrode and build up with dirt, which will cause problems later on.
What Happens If An RC Car Gets Wet?
An RC car can suffer from various problems if it gets wet. Wet servos might malfunction by twitching when they’re not supposed to. The receiver box is also at risk of getting water inside and short-circuiting. All the metal parts will be at risk of corrosion, which is especially bad for parts like the transmission.
Foam inserts inside the tires will increase in weight and overheat the motor. It will also cause the foam to get mouldy and deteriorate.
Getting an RC car wet usually means that it’s going to get extremely dirty from sand in the water. So if you don’t take it apart and clean every part, the dirt will damage any moving parts and also cause overheating in the motor. If you leave dirty water in the motor and it dries, it can cause it to stop turning. (the motor could seize)
If you get your RC wet often, the screws, bearings, and other small metal parts will rust and cause things to stop moving. Other metal parts, like shocks and axles, are the most waterproof and will normally work again after a good cleaning with hot soapy water. Bearings and other small metal parts will have to be replaced after rusting.
Are Nitro RC Cars Waterproof?
Nitro RC cars aren’t waterproof, although they have fewer electronics to short-circuit, there are still many parts that don’t fare well with water and dirt. The engine needs to breathe and there’s a lot more that can get damaged by water, like the glow plug. All the metal parts are at risk of corroding, especially if you don’t dry them off quickly.
Check out my related posts; Can Nitro RC Cars Run In Cold Weather?
Can A Nitro RC Car Be Run In The Rain?
How To Make An RC Car Water Resistant
There are many DIY methods of making an RC car more waterproof. I cover them in a bit more depth in my article: Can RC Cars Run On Water? The key takeaway is that exposing your RC car to water regularly will result in problems if you don’t clean it quickly and keep the bearings greased.
You can wrap a balloon around some ESC boxes to waterproof them, but be careful not to overheat them in the process.
Tape the wheels up so that water doesn’t get in to prevent the motor from straining. You will also lose power and speed, resulting in the motor overheating because of the extra weight in the tires.
Here’s a step by step guide for how to waterproof your RC truck.
Extra o-rings in the axles will help protect against water damage. Sometimes there are extras included in the box, but if you aren’t so fortunate, they’re affordable at your local hobby shop.
Grease is the best type of lubricant to protect against liquid, so apply extra grease to all the bearings if your car gets wet often.
Will Rain Damage An RC Car?
Rain will damage an RC car if you don’t clean it off. If you’re driving on pavement, at least there shouldn’t be much mud grinding the parts of the RC, but you still need to wash the car off afterward because there’s usually a lot of oil from exhaust smoke on pavements or parking lots, and that mixes with the rainwater and sticks to the car.
If the servos and ESCs aren’t waterproof, they’ll short circuit with even the smallest amount of water, so rainwater will damage it.
Waterproof electronics will handle splashes of water without a problem, but shouldn’t be submerged in water. As soon as they’re submerged in water, pressure occurs and water can leak in. Most waterproof cars can survive a quick dip, but it’s better to avoid it.
Can RC Cars Run Safely On Water?
RC cars can run safely on water if they can get up to the right speed before hitting the surface of the water. I’d estimate you need to travel at least 20mph and have paddle wheels to tread on water effectively. RC cars that can go this fast usually have waterproof electronics, but if you lose speed and the car sinks deep into the water, you’re likely to end up with motor and bearing problems.
Considering the above, most RC cars can’t run on water safely, because most of them aren’t fast enough and don’t have waterproof electronics like hobby-grade cars. I should also mention that submerging LiPo batteries into water is very dangerous. Even though they’re sealed, if they fail with water around them, it will pollute the water and destroy the rest of the car.
Which RC Cars Can Run On Water?
Hobby-grade RC cars that have powerful motors like the Traxxas Sledge or any equivalent can run on water if they have paddle wheels and high-torque motors fitted. Other examples of cars like these are the Traxxas X-MAXX or even the Arrma Kraton.
See my review of the Traxxas X-Maxx
Washing Your RC Car With Water
Clean water is what most people use to clean off their RC cars. Just dry it off immediately after cleaning. You don’t need to add soap or make it warm if there is no oil to clean off the car. If you normally use WD40 to clean your car, you’ll need to clean it off after every run and then re-apply.
See my related article about using WD40 on RC Cars
Before you wash the RC, tape the vent holes closed on the tires so they don’t get any water in. If they already have water in them, leave them in the sun or use a hair dryer to get the water out. Also, remove the batteries and clean them off separately with a damp cloth. Too much water flowing around LiPo batteries is dangerous.
Use a brush with the water to loosen the dirt on the car while paying special attention to cleaning out the smaller crevasses where it’s most likely to build up.
If you feel that the water alone isn’t getting the job done, you can use most types of “all-purpose-cleaners” like these on amazon: All-purpose-cleaner
Rinse everything off with fresh water and then blow it off with compressed air to ensure there’s no water lying around inside.
Once it’s all dried off, spray everything off with WD40. This will disperse any remaining moisture and provide a temporary layer of protection against corrosion. Leave the WD40 on the parts for at least 5 minutes and then blow the car off again. This will remove excess oil while leaving the layer of protection behind.
If you drive in wet conditions regularly, keep all the bearings of the car greased with bearing grease, as WD40 is no good for long-term lubrication. Here are some examples on amazon.com
RC cars can get very wet if they have waterproof electronics. They’re built to handle puddles, rain, or wet grass. But you shouldn’t submerge the car in water due to water depth pressure and the fact that everything is going to be filled with water, like the bearing and the motor. The water will leave dirt behind and damage the parts if not cleaned quickly.
Dirty or salty water will destroy your RC no matter how “waterproof” it is. The sand will wear down moving parts like sandpaper. Salt corrodes all the metal parts, including the motor and ball bearings. If you can’t avoid running through this type of water, take fresh water with you to rinse the car off before you pack it in your trunk, and then give it a full wash when you get home.
RC cars that don’t have waterproof electronics must be kept away from the slightest amount of water. Even dew on grass can mess with the circuitry if it’s not waterproof.
Here are some other articles related to this topic:
Can a Brushed RC Motor get Wet?