Traction or “grip” is one of the most important aspects of RC acceleration and handling. If your car is spinning off the start line and sliding off corners, your tires aren’t biting down enough. In this article, I’ll explain exactly which factors affect grip and provide methods on how to maximize your tire grip to the fullest.
Apply WD-40 to your RC tires and let them soak overnight. The next morning, wash them off with water and they’ll be fresh and grippy. Using specialized traction compounds will give similar results at a higher price. Adding weight to your RC will push the tires down for increased grip as well.
Factors That Influence RC Tire Traction
The tires themselves:
The materials that the tires are made of goes a long way in how they react to the surface beneath them. On paved surfaces, slick tires with no knobs or grooves have the most traction as they make complete contact with the ground.
On dirt tracks, aggressively grooved or knobbly tires will perform the best as they dig through the sand and other debris. The same applies to wet off-road conditions.
Paved courses offer the most amount of traction because the tire makes perfect contact with the rough surface. If the course is wet, it changes everything and you’ll need wet weather tires to counter the effects of aquaplaning across the track. Wet weather tires have specially designed grooves in them to channel the water through and out of them effectively.
If you’re on a dirt course, you won’t have much traction because of the sand between the tires and the ground.
If you want your tires to last, check out this post: How Long do RC Tires Last? And How to Maintain them
Compounds that can be added:
There are a number of tire traction compounds available and we’ll cover our favorites in this article. In simple terms, these compounds make the tires clean and soft to provide maximum grip.
Physics that can be changed:
Don’t worry, it’s just basic physics here. What I’ll explain further down is how to add a little weight to certain areas of your RC to increase the downforce and help to improve the traction of the front and/or rear tires.
The age of the tire:
Tires aren’t meant to last forever but by using some of the compounds mentioned below, you can increase their lifespan drastically or even bring an old set of tires back to life.
While this isn’t exactly made specifically for adding grip to RC tires, it’s most definitely the most commonly used method of doing so. That’s because it outperforms most specialized traction compounds and does it at a lower price as well.
For optimal grip, apply the compound and soak the tires overnight. You can even wrap the tires up in plastic and let them soak so that the compound doesn’t evaporate as quickly. After soaking, rinse with water and wipe off any remaining WD-40 on the tires.
It can also work relatively well within minutes of applying if you’re in a hurry. Simply spray the WD-40 on and gently rub it into the rubber. Allow the WD-40 to soak in for 5 to 10 minutes so that the tires can absorb the chemicals. Then use a paper towel or dry cloth to wipe off any excess compound. The traction won’t last as long compared to soaking the tires overnight but will add some temporary grip.
Don’t know why your tires are ballooning? Take a look at this post: This is Why RC Tires Balloon ( And How to Prevent it)
WD-40 has been tested and proven to rejuvenate old dried-out tires. To bring life back to an old set of tires, use the soaking method above. The 5 to 10-minute method won’t soak in deep enough for very dry tires.
SXT Traction Compounds
SXT offers a few different traction compounds depending on the type of terrain you plan to drive on.
SXT 3.0, 3.0 Lite, and 3.0 MAX are all primarily designed to add grip while driving on carpet and asphalt/paved courses. They work for both foam and rubber tires and are ideal for “minimum odor tracks”. Switching between these compounds to determine which one is best for you won’t be a problem as they won’t conflict with each other.
To apply the compound correctly, first wash the tires off with soap and water. Then coat the tire tread and walls with SXT using a brush. Allow drying for around 10 minutes or more. Cleaning the tires before applying the SXT 3.0 compound is important as dirt will interfere with the effectiveness of the compound.
Although there’s a limit to how soft and grippy you can make your tires, the general rule is that the longer you soak the tires, the more traction they’ll gain. Overnight for 8 hours is the most I would do though.
SXT compounds are quite thick so always remember to wipe off any remaining compound on the tires before putting them back on the track.
SXT also offers other compounds named Baja, Baja Max, and Slime to add traction to off-road tires.
If you want to get your hands on some SXT, you can see a selection on Amazon by clicking here.
Trinity Buggy Grip Compound
This compound was primarily designed to add more grip to off-road tires. If you’ve been involved with RC cars for long, you might remember an old version of this tire compound. This is a new and improved formula better suited to the materials in modern-day tire rubber.
Buggy Gripp is available in a 4oz dauber top bottle.
Apply a coat to the tires five to fifteen minutes before a race for results.
This formula has a heavy odour so make sure to apply it and let it dry long before you drive on any “low odour courses”.
Check it out here on Amazon.
Simple Green Cleaner
This is an all-purpose cleaner but was also used widely by RC enthusiasts to add grip to the tires in the early 2000s. Even though many people used to dress their tires with Simple Green a long time ago and some still do today, it’s not advisable as the chemicals inside the cleaner will break down the materials in the rubber and dry them out over time.
However, Simple Green is still perfect for cleaning your tires. It will completely dissolve and remove any oily substances and dirt making the tire super clean and grippy. Just make sure to rinse the tire off thoroughly before using them again.
If the tires are extremely dirty and haven’t been washed for a long time, you can spray Simply Green on them, let them soak and dry for 10 minutes and then wash them off with water so that nothing is left.
Related post: How to Balance RC Tires: An Easy Guide
The days of using Simple Green as a tire dressing are over and you should never leave any of it on the rubber after washing. You may think you have some more traction at first but you’ll start sliding around the course very quickly thereafter.
You can check Simple green’s price on amazon by clicking here.
Adding Some Weight To Your RC
Adding weight to the vehicle is a very controversial way of getting more grip out of your tires. It does work though. To prove that weight adds traction, slide a piece of wood across a tiled floor, then place a book on top of that wood and push it across the tiles again with the same amount of effort. The wood will travel less distance with a book on top because there’s more weight causing more traction between the wood and tiles.
You can buy RC weights like these from Amazon. They sell them in small squares that can be broken apart into 1/4oz increments for you to get the weight preference required.
Break them apart and place them in areas in which you require more traction. For instance, if you need more traction on the back tires, you’ll have to place the weight more towards the back of the car over the back wheels. Likewise, if you need traction on the front tires, place the extra weight over them in the front. The weights I have referenced above have adhesive for easy application.
Adjusting the weight distribution of your car will have a profound impact on how it handles, you might need to adjust the suspension settings after adding the weight.
Keep in mind that the total weight of the RC car will have an impact on the acceleration as well and the motor will be working a bit harder which may cause overheating.
Always start with 1/4oz increments and keep track of the motor temperature with a temp gun often in order to prevent the motor from overheating and burning out.
So in the end, there are many ways to gain extra grip from your RC tires. Compounds work really well in softening the rubber, my personal favorite is WD-40 when it comes to breathing new life into tires. It’s cheaper than most specialized tire traction compounds and it works not only for better grip but also prevents the rubber from drying out over the long term.
WD-40 is prohibited by some tracks so make sure to find out which compounds are allowed on the track you plan to race on so that you can prepare in advance.
General cleaning solutions like Simple Green and dishwashing liquid work well to remove any dirt and oils from the tires giving them the most amount of grip they can offer without adding any compounds or weights. Just make sure to wash the cleaning agent off with a lot of water so that it doesn’t dry the tires out afterward.
Weights also work well as you can create more traction wherever you need it, front, back, or both. Just make sure not to add too much weight, keep an eye on the motor temps and feel the car out well during the testing phases as the handling will change.