How To Make RC Trucks Faster: A Step By Step Guide

Source: Lawrence Stonge

I know one thing for sure—an RC truck is never fast enough.

And as a fellow RC enthusiast, I know that tingling sensation that begs you to see if you can do something to improve your RC truck’s speed.

The good news is that there are certainly plenty of ways to make an RC truck go faster. And in this article, I will walk you through everything you need to know to add more oomph to your RC truck.

How to Make an RC Truck Faster

1.Change the Motor

Changing the motor should be done only if you want to make your RC truck as fast as possible.

If you are looking for as much gain in top speed and acceleration as possible, then starting with the motor is a good idea. By changing the motor, though, you will also have to change other parts of your RC truck like the ESC, battery pack, and gearing. 

All parts are designed to work as a unit, so they need to be appropriately matched. This can also end up being fairly expensive, so you will have to keep this in mind. (You don’t want to run out of budget halfway through.)

Related post: Can Any Motor Be Used In Any RC Car?

It is also worth mentioning that a newer motor will nearly always perform better than one that is a few years or generations older.

However, if you are currently looking for a smaller increase in speed, then changing the motor may be going too far. In which case, you may want to skip this step for now.

Brushed vs. Brushless Motors

If your RC truck uses a brushed motor, you should move to a brushless one.

Brushless motors have several advantages over brushed motors. They are smaller, have less internal friction (because they do not have brushes), and thus have a higher output and generate less heat.

This means that a brushless motor will keep your RC truck lighter while at the same time producing more torque and keeping the temperatures low enough to really push those RPMs.

Compared to brushed motors, brushless motors are believed to be between 5 to 15% more efficient.

Turns and kV

Motors will also be categorized by their Turns (T) or kV rating.

  • There is a positive correlation between the kV rating and the power output of the motor. The kV rating determines the RPMs a motor can reach per Volt. Generally speaking, all else being equal, higher RPMs means more power and more speed. So a 7000 kV motor will be faster than a 2000 kV motor.
  • On the other hand, there is a negative correlation between the Turns (T) of a motor and its power output. The Turns indicate how many times the wire has been wound around the armature. A motor with higher Turns has more torque, but it is slower than a motor with fewer Turns.

Different motors that have the same kV may not have the same number of Turns and vice versa.

For example, some of the fastest motors for 1/10 to 1/12 scale vehicles are around 3.5 T. (Which can reach up to 9,000 or 10,000 kV.) However, if we talk about competitive racing, you will find that 13.5 T and 17.5 T motors are normally used.

2-Pole Motors vs. 4-Pole Motors

There seems to be a lot of controversy about how two-pole and four-pole motors work. Some people believe that a four-pole motor will be slower or even run at half the RPMs of a two-pole motor, while others do not agree.

However, this is highly dependent on the ESC’s capabilities (and its switching frequency), a problem that we do not stumble upon with modern-day ESC’s which can handle a four-pole motor in most cases. (Keep in mind that still some ESC’s may not be capable of running a four-pole motor.)

Generally speaking, a two-pole and a four-pole motor with the same kV rating will not be that different. Nonetheless, the four-pole should have a little higher RPMs and torque—or in other words, should be a little faster.

A four-pole motor is a better choice for heavier RC trucks. But, some changes in the gearing may also be necessary.

Motor Timing

Adjusting the motor timing can be a neat way to add extra oomph to your RC truck. But, it can be a little tricky to get it done right.

Adjusting the motor timing can be done manually, but ideally, you want to use a motor dynamo or a motor analyzer. 

For example, a motor analyzer will display the kV, the amp draw, RPM, voltage, and more. 

The timing of the motor is adjusted by turning the motor’s end bell. by using the dial-like marking found on the side of the motor. (However, keep in mind that some motors are non-adjustable and have fixed motor timing.)

Overall, it comes down to a bit of trial and error to find the right timing.

Related post: Will A Lipo Battery Make My RC Car Faster?

The timing determines at what RPM range you will get the maximum horsepower. Thus a motor with higher timing will achieve the maximum horsepower at higher RPMs, and a motor with lower timing will achieve maximum horsepower at lower RPM.

In adjusting your motor’s timing, you should consider the RPM ranges you are most likely to use your RC truck. But be careful how much you increase your motor’s timing—the higher the timing, the hotter and more inefficient the motor will get. Generally speaking, you do not want the motor to go above 150°F. (You can check the temperatures of the motor by using a temp gun.)

2.Change or Calibrate the ESC

If you will be changing the motor, there is a good chance you will also have to change the ESC to match it. Usually, RC trucks are equipped with stock—read budget—motors and ESCs, which are a good way to keep costs down but may not suffice for those of us who want a faster vehicle.

That being said, some ESC’s will not work without being calibrated, while others may work but not as optimally as they can if properly calibrated.

The good news is that calibrating an ESC is very easy to do. While calibrating an ESC, you are essentially telling the ESC where the full braking, neutral, and full-throttle points are.

3.Change the Gearing

Changing the gearing is easily the best and cheap way to make your RC truck faster.

On your RC truck, you will find two gears; the pinion gear and the spur gear. The pinion gear is the smaller gear, and the spur is the larger one.

The pinion is attached to the motor and transfers power from the motor to the spur gear, which is attached to the driveshaft and on to the wheels.

The Spur and the Pinion Gears

You can change each one of the gears or both gears at the same time going up or down in tooth count. The general rule of thumb is:

  • A larger spur gear or a smaller pinion gear will give you more torque and acceleration but less top speed.
  • A smaller spur gear or a larger pinion gear will provide you with more top speed but less acceleration and torque (or low torque and high RPM). In addition to that, the motor and the ESC are subjected to more strain and may overheat.

The Pitch of the Gears

However, when choosing new spur and pinion gears for your RC truck, you need to make sure you match their pitch or module. But it is important to know that the pitch should match between the two gears. For example, two 30-tooth pinion gears can be of different sizes simply because of the size, height, and gap between the teeth.

Related post: How Much do RC Trucks Cost? Best Models for the Money

This means that you can play around with your RC truck’s gear ratios a lot. You are not necessarily limited by the stock gear ratio; you can change the gear ratio and keep the pitch or even change the pitch for some finer adjustments in the gear ratio.

However, gears with finer teeth will usually be less durable. For an RC truck, it is not recommended to go with gears with smaller teeth as they will absorb a lot of stress and be easier to break. In most 10/1 vehicles, you will find 48 pitch gears—for RC trucks, it is recommended to go with 48 pitch gears as well (or less).

The Gear Ratio

It is all about the relationship or the number of teeth between the pinion and spur gear. By dividing the number of teeth on spur gear by the number of teeth on the pinion gear, you will get the gear ratio between the two.

For example, the gear ratio between a 70 tooth spur gear and a 35 tooth pinion gear will be 2. Or in other words, for every rotation of the spur gear, the pinion gear will make two rotations.

There will be a second set of (three to four) gears found in the transmission on some RC trucks. The transmission gears usually cannot be changed. The gear ratio of the transmission setup should also be calculated, after which the two gear ratios should be multiplied together to find the final drive ratio.

All that sounds good, but how do you choose the right gearing? Unfortunately, nobody can give you a definite one-size-fits-all answer since the gearing works in combination with the other parts of the RC truck.

Generally speaking, a lower turn motor (below 10 T) will perform better with a larger spur and a smaller pinion gear, while a higher turn motor (13+ T) will work better with a smaller spur and a larger pinion gear.

Make sure to always refer to your user’s manual guide for detailed information about the right gearing for your particular RC truck. It all comes down to testing and experimenting in order to see what works and what doesn’t work.

4.Change the Battery

There are different types of batteries that RC trucks are being sold with.

The two factors of interest here are the voltage (or the number of cells) and the battery type.

The most popular types of batteries are NiMH and LiPo batteries.

  • Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries will usually have several cells. Each cell on a NiMH battery is rated at 1.2 Volts. So a four-cell NiMH battery is 4.8 Volts, and a six-cell is 7.2 Volts.
  • Lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries are made from several cells, too. Each cell on the LiPo battery is about 3.4 Volts. This means that a four-cell LiPo battery can deliver 13.6 Volts and six-cell, 20.4 Volts.

LiPo batteries are not only capable of delivering more power but are also lighter compared to NiMH batteries of similar Voltage.

Batteries, however, come in different sizes, especially if they have more cells. So not all batteries may fit your RC truck.

Swapping your old battery with a more powerful one can make an RC truck go faster. However, there are some important details here that you need to consider first.

If you switch to a more powerful battery, you need to make sure that the ESC, the motor, and the wiring can work with the higher voltage.

Simply changing the battery without considering what the other electrical components and wiring in your RC truck are rated for and can safely handle can lead to overheating or various kinds of damage.

That being said, some professional RC racers will sometimes charge and discharge their batteries at a much higher amperage than what the battery is rated for.

This allows the batteries to have less internal resistance and gives the RC truck a little bit of a speed boost but will reduce the battery’s lifespan.

On top of that, this method can also be considered dangerous, and no manufacturer will ever recommend doing it as it can severely damage the battery. Doing this will also void any warranty the battery may have.

5.Reduce the Rolling Resistance

You want your vehicle to move freely. However, some bearings can create resistance that can slow it down.

Not all RC trucks will come with the same type of bearings. The cheaper RC trucks can come with lower quality brass bushings, which create more friction and resistance than quality ball bearings.

The good news is that ball bearings are easy to install and inexpensive.

6.Change and Adjust the Tires

The tires on your RC truck can significantly affect how fast it moves.

Generally speaking, there are several things that you should consider.

  • The type of the tires: There are different types of RC tires, and you should make sure you are using the kind that is most suitable for the terrain you are using your RC truck on. Spiked tires perform best on mud, dirt, or wet grass. Mini pins are excellent for carpet and astroturf. For sand, you should consider using paddle tires. You should use slick tires for asphalt, tarmac, pavement, and general on the road racing.
  • The compound of the tires: Harder tires will last longer and are generally speaking better for racing on hotter days. In contrast, softer tires will perform better on wet and overall low-grip surfaces, and medium tires are best for general dry terrain use.
  • Tire profile: A taller or a wider tire can make an RC truck go a little faster, but this puts more strain on the motor and can cause it to overheat.
  • Tire alignment: Using a camber gauge, check the alignment of all tires. Even a single slightly misaligned tire can drastically affect how fast the RC truck moves and how it behaves. The general rule of thumb is to go for -1 camber.

7.Adjust the Suspension

The suspension on your RC truck shouldn’t be overlooked. Suspension tuning will affect how the RC truck moves and handles on and off the track, which can affect how fast the RC trucks move.

One of the first things you need to ensure is that the suspension arms are kept clean and move tight and freely.

Change the shock oil if it hasn’t been changed recently. Shock oils will vary in weight or thickness. A thicker shock oil will produce more resistance on the suspension. And if your RC truck is too bouncy or bottoming out, you may need to go with a thicker oil or even different springs.

The stroke length should be the same across all the shocks.

The spring preload or the RC truck’s height is crucial as it can affect how the vehicle behaves on the ground. (You can use an RC ride height gauge to check the ground clearance.) The rule of thumb is to have the same height at both the front and the back of the RC truck.

8.Reduce the Weight of the RC Truck

Not all RC trucks are made for racing or high-speeds in mind; thus, lightning your RC truck up may be a required step if you want to make sure it runs as fast as possible.

The correlation is simple—a lighter RC truck will move faster than a heavier RC truck. This is why if you are not worried about the looks of your RC truck, you can opt for replacing all of the heavier metal and plastic parts with ones made from lightweight aluminum, graphite, or carbon fiber.

If you race, you will also find that there may often be a weight minimum that you must meet and cannot go below that. Depending on how much your RC truck weighs, you may need to add some extra weight to it. Try playing around, adding more weight to different parts of the vehicle, and seeing what feels best.

9.Maintenance and Care

Last but not least is proper maintenance and care. You can follow all the steps so far, but if you are not taking good care of your RC truck, it will either start to lose its power and speed over time or not work properly.

Make sure all moving parts on the RC truck are well lubricated and clean. Everything should move freely and smoothly. There shouldn’t be any loose parts.

10.Improve the Aerodynamics of the Rc Truck

If you really want to get the most of your RC truck, you should also consider the design of the outer shell it has. RC trucks will usually be bulkier and not what we can consider aerodynamic.

A bulkier shell will create more drag, which will negatively affect the vehicle’s top speed capabilities.

Unless you are doing speed or drag runs and using a speed gun to keep track of the speed and looking to get every little bit of advantage possible, you will probably not notice any significant difference. (So this step may not be worth it.)

How to Make Nitro RC Trucks Go Faster

You can make a nitro RC truck go faster using some of the tips mentioned above. However, not all of them will help, simply because you are dealing with a nitro engine and not an electric motor anymore.

Change the Engine

If your RC truck can take a bigger engine, you can change your current engine with a bigger and more powerful one.

Related post: What is RC Nitro Fuel Made of?

Make sure you can fit the new engine inside the truck. In addition to that, you may need to change some other parts of the nitro truck, like the driveshaft, gearing, and more, as they may not be rated for the new power output and easily break.

Tune the Needles

The high-speed and low-speed needles need to be tuned properly. If they are not, you are risking your nitro engine running hot and overheating.

The low-speed needle will affect your RC truck’s zero to mid-speeds and the high-speed needle the mid to top speeds.

Increase the Nitro Percentage

Most nitro RC trucks are using 20% nitro. Racers who want to increase their RC vehicle’s speed will often use 30% nitro fuel.

However, by doing that, you will also need to do some fine-tuning. For example, you may need to adjust the head shims or change the glow plug with a colder one. Generally speaking, the higher the nitro percentage, the more shims you will need.

Change the Headers and Exhaust Pipe

The exhaust pipe and header will affect the engine’s performance. 

A smaller header will usually add more to the top end, while a longer one will improve the low end. And a longer exhaust system, generally speaking, will improve the speed of your RC vehicle.

Additional Considerations When Making An RC Truck Faster

Make Sure the Parts Are Compatible

Often changing one aspect of your RC vehicle may require you to change or adjust something else as well. This provides for tons of different setups and modifications—and even those setups will vary depending on where you are racing.

For example, changing your motor’s timing can lead to a faster RC truck, but the motor may overheat. To combat that, you may need to try and change the gearing.

What will work for a particular RC truck is hard to say without checking its components and testing them. This is why you should experiment and put in the time if you really want to get the most out of your RC truck.

Do One Modification at a Time

Also, make sure you change one thing at a time. This will allow you to see how each change affects your vehicle.

If you do two or three changes simultaneously, you will not know what had the most effect.

Use Readily Available Parts

When considering what parts to use and choose, consider what parts are available and supported by your local hobby shops.

Usually, it is better to stick to the parts your LHS supports as you will have an easier time modifying your RC truck. 

That way, you will also know that there will be somebody at your LHS that should be capable of helping you.

Practice

Just because an RC truck can be fast doesn’t mean it will move fast. The person controlling it and how well they do it will determine how fast the RC truck will go.

If you are bashing and just looking for ways to make your RC truck faster without really caring about lap times and consequences, this may not really apply to you.

However, if you race with other people, things change drastically. As the saying goes, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” This is especially true on the track. There needs to be a balance between maneuverability, traction, control, and speed.

An RC truck may be super fast, but if it is hard to control and moves erratically around corners, it may not even finish the race, and other seemingly slower RC trucks will overtake it very quickly.

The experience of the person driving the RC truck will also affect how fast the model moves, and there is no real substitute for hands-on experience. Make sure you practice as much as possible. This will allow you to get a better feel for your RC truck and how it behaves on the track and in choosing the right movement trajectory and racing lines.

Have Realistic Expectations

RC trucks can go between 10 to 70 mph. Some entry-level RC trucks can have top speeds of 10 to 35+ mph, while the mid to high-end RC trucks can reach 50 to 70+ mph when properly tuned and modded. Generally speaking, you can expect an RC truck to be capable of reaching 20 to 30 mph.

Since we are talking about RC trucks, it is fair to say that many of them may not exactly be built for extreme top speeds.

An RC truck does not have the design to reach some of the top speeds achieved by RC cars that have been specifically designed for speed (Like the Traxxas XO-1 or the “Radio Controlled Bullet”, which can achieve 100+mph and 200+mph respectively.)

Nonetheless, a high-quality RC truck that has been properly upgraded and modded can definitely reach some impressive top speeds.

I know some of you may be wondering, but what about the cheaper RC cars and trucks. The problem with really cheap RC cars and trucks is that you will run into many problems if you try to mod them and make them faster. In most cases, almost everything may be unmoddable unless you break or replace entire parts and sections of the car.

Paul Good

This awesome hobby has something for everyone, whether you like to build your RC from scratch and keep modifying till you've got it to just how you want it, to track racing. You might be out with a boat, or perfecting your skills with a plane. Are you taking some cool pics with your drone? I'm sure my site will help you on your journey.

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