RC tires should be relatively soft. But that is just not always the case, now, is it?
If you are here, you are probably having the same problem. Luckily, there are a few ways you can soften up RC tires.
How to soften RC car tires? To soften RC tires use WD-40 or Liquid Wrench (LW). Soaking RC car tires in LW or WD-40 has been proven to soften up RC tires. All you have to do to soften RC tires is; (1) spray them with LW or WD-40 and (2) leave them to soak in it for about 2 to 48 hours.
After doing my research on this topic, I have come up with some interesting information. If you are curious to find out more, continue reading below.
See the best selection of products for RC tires from Amazon by clicking here
How to Make RC Tires Softer
Generally speaking, there are four fundamental steps that you need to follow in order to make RC tires softer.
1. Apply the Product on to the RC Tire
Apply generous amounts of the product of your product of choice to the tire. I recommend using Liquid Wrench lubricating oil (the blue can) or WD-40 for the best results.
2. Put the RC Tires in a Plastic Bag
Take a few ziplocked plastic bags.
I like to put each tire in a separate bag so that I can be sure that each tire gets properly covered in the product.
Spay generous amounts of the compound in the bag as well.
Press gently on the plastic bag to get most of the air out and close the ziplock. Leave the tires to soak.
3. Leave the RC Tires to Soak in the Solution of Choice
The amount of time you will need to leave the tires to soak in the compound will vary depending on three different factors, (1) the ambient temperature, (2) the type of the tire, and (3) the type of compound used.
Some products may be very aggressive, while others may need a lot of time to start working. I will talk about this in a bit.
And if you are using a WD-40 or LW, you may need to leave the tires to soak overnight or up to two days to soften the tires up properly.
4. When the Desired Level of Softness Is Reached Remove and Wash the RC Tires
Keep an eye on the tires. Check them every few hours and give them a little squeeze to see how soft they are. When they reach the desired level of softness, remove them from the plastic bag, and thoroughly wash them. (In fact, you can use Simple Green to wash away the WD-40 and stop the softening process.)
Make sure that all tires are left to soak for the same amount of time. This will ensure that all tires have the same level of softness.
As you can see, softening up an RC tire is not very hard, you really don’t need any special skills or experience. However, choosing the right product is a different matter. Below you will see the most commonly recommended chemical compounds and solution and how effective they are at softening tires.
What Products and Methods You Can Use to Soften RC Tires?
Liquid Wrench or WD-40
Both Liquid Wrench (LW) and WD-40 are some of the most efficient products used by the majority of people.
WD-40 is a simple product that has a lot of different uses. Basically, this is a water-displacing (hence the WD in the name) spray. It is used for lubrication, water and moisture displacement, removal, and displacement.
Best of all, it is considered safe for almost all types of materials, including rubber. This means that the WD-40 can be used on RC tires as well, and as a matter of fact, it didn’t take too long before it turned into one of the most often used and recommended products for RC tire softening.
This is the most effective, affordable, and available way to soften stiff RC tires.
There are no signs of damage, deformation, or excessive wearing out of the tires as a result of using the WD-40 on them. They become softer and more grippy, too.
The only downside to WD-40 and other oil-based compounds is that they may leave a nasty mess on the track.
Another thing worth pointing out is that you need to keep an eye on the tires and not leave them to soak in the WD-40 for too long (not more than two days). Some tires will start to swell if left in the WD-40 for too long.
LW has the same qualities and characteristics as the WD-40, and in fact, it is slightly more preferred by the majority of racers.
You can’t go wrong with both the LW and the WD-40. They can be found online on Amazon, Home Depot, bike shops, and other similar places.
There are different tire treatment products that are designed to improve the life expectancy and the durability of RC tires.
Hot Lap is a product used by many people. It is designed for full-scale cars and tires and will usually come in larger quantities, which could end up being more expensive than necessary.
However, it can work wonders on rubber tires as it can also be used for softening up the rubber. Hot Lap products are one of the very few products intended to affect the softness of the tire directly and not just increase its stickiness like other products. (Part of the reason why it is frequently applied on both the inside and outside of the tire.)
Check Hot Laps price on Amazon here
This is probably the best completely free way to soften up RC tires. You do not have to buy anything or use any type of product or gadget. All you need is some time, a strong pair of hands and a little elbow grease.
I know how it sounds, but let me explain.
Massaging the RC tire will help loosen up the rubber. The only downside is that it takes time.
You need to take each tire off the wheel and massage it for about 2 hours or so.
There is no particular method or technique for doing this. You can turn it inside out, bend every part of it, squish it, pull it apart, or squeeze it vigorously.
After a while, you will notice that the rubber starts to loosen up and soften.
Overall this can turn into a good hand and wrist workout, but it is definitely an effective and clean way to soften up rubber RC tires. Best of all, it is completely free, and the results are excellent.
Some people are recommending using multipurpose degreasers, which work like the above-mentioned WD-40 and LW.
If you are looking for ways to soften up RC tires, you are guaranteed you will be recommended Simple Green at least once.
It can be found in Home Depot and other similar stores, including online, too.
You can check Simple Greens price on Amazon by clicking here
Simple Green is a very powerful degreaser and cleaner. It is intended as a good eco-friendly alternative to many other products with a similar function. (In fact, it is even considered orally non-toxic.)
It is designed for cleaning countertops, different types of fabric, carpets, flooring, and even vehicles and electronic gadgets. It will remove dirt, grease, and any stains.
So far, so good, but how does it perform when it comes to softening up RC tires?
Simple Green does not seem to be nearly as effective at softening up RC tires as the WD-40 is.
Related post: Is This Why RC Tires Are So Expensive?
Results seem to vary depending on the type of rubber but are questionable. For the best results with Simple Green, you would need to soak the tires in a Simple Green bath for at least a day or so.
Conversely, Simple Green is better at conditioning the tires—not softening them—so it is an excellent product to use on tires that have already been softened up.
Buggy Grip 1 & 2
Using a traction compound is a great way to make the tires of your RC car stickier.
Traction compounds like the Trinity Buggy Grip or Buggy Grip 2 are one of the frequently recommended products for softening RC tires.
PB is frequently overlooked, but some people in the community do use it to soften up their tires.
It works the same way WD-40 or the LW does. It is applied and used the same way, and the results are usually satisfactory—not the best but not the worst either.
Click here to see price from Amazon.
VHT is another popular product that many racers use to soften stiff RC tires.
It works well, and it is a time-tested product. Although, it doesn’t exactly soften the rubber but adds a good amount of stickiness to it.
See a range of VHT products here
What Products and Methods You Should Not Use to Soften RC Tires?
There are a few other methods and products that people sometimes recommend; however, these, while effective, may do more harm than good.
Diesel fuel is another old trick that RC racers have up their sleeve.
Diesel fuel is very effective at softening up hard RC tires. However, diesel fuel is not allowed in most places because it will contaminate the soil and dirt, making it stickier and slippier.
A good way to, kind of, negate that is to apply diesel fuel to the tire using a simple brush, letting it soak for an hour or so and thoroughly cleaning the tire with Simple Green in order to remove the diesel fuel as much as possible.
The good news is that it takes less than an hour—and sometimes just a few minutes—to see good results.
If you leave the tire to soak in diesel for a really long time—24+ hours—you can, in theory, completely destroy the tire as the fuel will be gradually eating away from the rubber.
Some racers even like to mix diesel fuel with WD-40 or other traction compounds for a combined effect. It is true, these methods do work, but as mentioned, they will leave a mess on the racing track, which is definitely something that you want to avoid. Diesel fuel being illegal will usually mean it is a no go.
And while we are on the subject of fuel, it may be worth mentioning that naphtha is also known for its rubber dissolving and softening capabilities. However, it should not be used as it may damage the tires too much.
Turpentine is a solvent that is obtained from the distillation of tree resin. Turpentine is very effective at softening rubber RC tires, but there is one caveat.
You have to be very careful as to how long you will be soaking the tires as turpentine can make them get bigger.
Usually, 3 to 5 minutes is considered safe. Leaving the tires to soak in turpentine more can really affect their size. (Also turpentine has a very strong smell.)
Related post: RC Tires Cracking: Everything You Need To Know
Lacquer Thinners, Acetone, and Paint Removers
Although acetone, paint thinners, and lacquer thinners can be used to soften up rubber tires, they will also be very detrimental to the rubber. Initially, they may soften the tires, but eventually, they could speed up the wearing out of the tire and even harden it up as they will pull out the natural oils found in the rubber (especially acetone).
Lacquer thinner, in particular, has one distinct problem that not a lot of people may realize. The chemicals found in the lacquer thinners can vary drastically between the different brands. So it may be hard to find a good thinner. And not all thinners will affect the tires the same way.
Paint removers work in a similar way and can be effective at making hard RC tires a little softer—especially removers that contain NMP (N-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidone) and toluene or toluol. However, paint removers may frequently be way too aggressive on the rubber.
I have been told a few times that boiling can be used to soften RC tires.
I have done a few experiments on older and stiffer RC tires, and I have to say that the reality of things is that boiling is not very, if at all, effective in softening up an RC tire. The odds are that you will damage both the rims and the tires. Boiling will sometimes even deform the rims, it can damage the finishing, and it will likely damage the foam inserts, too.
Overall, I consider this to be a dangerous and risky way to soften your tires with zero to no effect.
Another very method that may be brought up is baking the tire.
However, people bake RC tires to unglue them.
I am sure you don’t need me to tell you how dangerous this can be for your tire and wheels. Usually, some guides recommend placing the tires in a preheated oven of anywhere between 300 to 500°F. In fact, some people report having baked tires explode when used at high throttle.
Baking is ineffective and dangerous, and there is a greater risk of damaging and destroying the tires. There are also better ways to unglue tires—if anything baking will make the tires significantly harder.
Should Your RC Tires Be Soft?
The tires of an RC car should be fairly soft. Soft RC tires improve the traction and grip of the tires, which adds better maneuverability and control.
However, the only downside with soft tires is that they are predisposed to wearing out faster. This may be especially true to hard rubber tires that have been softened up with more aggressive chemicals and solutions.
Many of these solutions soften up rubber by essentially breaking it down ever so slightly.
Can RC Tires Be Too Soft?
Although hard RC cart tires are undesirable, there also occasions where they can also be considered too soft. So yes, your RC tires can be too soft as well.
If you can squeeze your RC vehicle’s tires using your two fingers without putting in any pressure or effort into doing so, the chances are your RC car tires are too soft.
An RC tire that is too soft may easily come off the wheel when you give it more gas, in which case it should definitely be glued to the wheel. You will be lucky if you get more than three races with very soft tires, usually medium is your best choice.
Do All RC Tires Need to Be Softened Up?
There is a wide variety of different RC cars and RC tires as well. The quality and hardness or softness of the tires will vary drastically across the whole board.
Interestingly enough, some ready-to-run models often come with tires that are very hard compared to some kit models.
Whether you want to have your RC tires softer or not will depend mainly on where you will be racing your RC car.
There are definitely some upsides and downsides to having stiffer or softer RC tires, and you should consider those before going ahead and softening the RC tires.
Lastly, I want to call your attention to the fact that you will be, potentially, using chemicals and products that can be considered a health hazard if misused. Exercise extra caution if, and when, using them.