Why Your RC Car Won’t Go In Reverse And How To Fix It.

It may surprise you to see how many reasons there could be as to why your RC won’t go in reverse. Don’t worry though, we’ll go through all the main reasons and explain how to fix it.

These are the most common reasons why your RC won’t go in reverse:

  1. A faulty ESC.
  2. Your drive mode is not set to allow reversing. (Race Mode)
  3. You’re not giving enough time between shifts.
  4. Your idle speed might be too high.
  5. The transmission could be overloaded.
  6. Incorrect trim settings.
  7. Your transmission could have damaged gears.
  8. Your radio might have moisture buildup inside.

Now let’s go through the ways in which you can fix these potential problems to get your RC reversing again.

A Faulty ESC

Sometimes it could just need a fresh calibration to get you going in reverse again. This is how you calibrate your ESC:

  1. Connect your fully charged battery to the ESC.
  2. Turn the transmitter on with the throttle at neutral.
  3. Now, press and hold the EZ-Set button until the LED turns green for a moment and then red. Release the EZ-Set button when this happens.
  4. When the LED blinks once, squeeze the trigger to the full throttle position and hold.
  5. Once the LED blinks twice, push the trigger up into the full reverse position and hold.
  6. The LED should start blinking green multiple times you can release the trigger.
  7. The calibration is done and your LED will remain on solid green if Low-Voltage-Detection is on or solid red if it’s not.

Your ESC might be damaged by a bit of moisture. Let it dry out for a day or two and re-test it. Although in most cases it can be permanently damaged if it got wet.

Related post: 13 Reasons Why RC Motors And ESC’s Burn Up

If your ESC is damaged due to a heavy impact or has some faulty wiring. You’ll need to repair or replace your ESC. Take a look at my article: How To Tell If Your ESC Is Bad

Test the RC with another ESC just to be sure and if it still doesn’t reverse, keep reading for more solutions.

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Some Drive Modes Don’t Have A Reverse (Race Mode)

Some RC cars have different drive modes which you can set on the ESC. “Race Mode” does not use reverse and so your RC won’t react when you try to trigger the reverse on your radio. 

You need to set your ESC to Sport Mode to have 100% Forward, 100% Brakes, and 100% Reverse. This is the default setting from the factory but if you’ve lent your RC out or haven’t been keeping an eye on it 24/7, someone might have changed it. To change it back to Sport Mode, follow the steps below:

  1. Connect your battery pack to your ESC and turn your transmitter on. (Make sure battery is fully charged)
  2. Press and hold down the EZ-Set button while the ESC is still off. The LED will turn solid green for a moment and then solid red. Then it will start flashing red once, then twice, and then three times. One red flash for Sport Mode, two red flashes for Race Mode, and three red flashes for Training Mode.
  3. Just after the LED flashes once for Sport Mode, release the button.
  4. The LED will flash one more time and then turn solid green if Low-Voltage Detection is active or solid red if Low-Voltage Detection is disabled.
  5. Your RC is now in Sport Mode and you should be able to reverse.

Not Giving Enough Time Between Shifts

Trying to reverse immediately after driving forward could prevent your RC from reversing. To test whether or not this is the problem, drive the RC forward, stop the car, push the shift button upwards, count “one thousand and one” in your head, and then try reversing.

Your Idle Speed Might Be Too High (Nitro RC)

If your idle speed is set too high it can prevent you from shifting to reverse. To lower the idling speed, follow the following instructions:

  1. Run your motor until it reaches its normal operating temperature.
  2. Apply the brakes by turning the throttle trim on your transmitter to make sure the throttle slide is up against the idle adjustment screw.
  3. If you need to, remove the air-filter to access the idle adjustment screw.
  4. To decrease the idle speed, turn the adjustment screw counterclockwise. It should be as low as possible while still sounding and running freely.
  5. Now reset the throttle trim on your transmitter and test the reverse again after putting the air filter back.

The Transmission Might Be Overloaded

If you’re struggling to get your RC into reverse in low-speed, off-road conditions, the transmission could be under too much pressure to shift the gears. This can happen very easily on steep inclines and rocky paths as it can get wedged between different debris.

Reset your RC on level ground without any obstacles around it and then try the reverse again.

Incorrect Trim Settings

The shift servo that the RC comes with is set by the factory and doesn’t normally need adjustments but if you’ve bought a different shift servo, you might need to adjust the trim. Since this can be done in different ways depending on your make and model, it’s best to refer to your owner’s manual for steps on how to set your forward/reverse trim on your specific RC.

Related post: Why Your RC Car Is Stuck In Reverse And How To Fix It

Your Transmission Could Have Damaged Gears

If there are damaged gears in your transmission, it can prevent you from being able to reverse. You could take the transmission apart and inspect all the gears if you have the confidence or just take it to a hobby shop for inspection. The gears can be replaced or even the entire transmission to get your RC running in reverse again.

Gears can be damaged by heavy impacts and bashing. They can also be damaged by putting too much strain on them trying to climb large obstacles or pulling sleds and trailers.

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Faulty Binding Shift Fork-Shaft

Your shift servo might not be working correctly. To check it, turn off the engine and transmitter. Then move the shift servo with your fingers from forward to reverse a few times to feel if it’s moving freely. If it’s not moving freely, you can try to resolve the problem by adjusting the linkage. You can also adjust the third channel trim that’s on the back of the transmitter.

Incorrect Throttle Trim

If the throttle trim isn’t on zero, it could affect your reversing capabilities. You can set your throttle trim to zero by lifting the RC off the ground and then adjusting the throttle trim until the wheels stop spinning.

Moisture Inside Radio Box

If there’s some moisture buildup in your radio, it can cause all sorts of strange RC behaviors. You’ll have to open up the radio and let it dry out properly before testing the RC reverse again.

Related post: How To Waterproof An RC Truck: Step By Step

One common technique used to dry out electronics is to leave the whole thing in a bowl of rice so that the moisture can be completely soaked up and dried.


These are the most common causes of an RC not being able to reverse. If you’ve gone through everything on the list with no luck, you’ll have to take the RC to the professionals to check it out for you.

I hope you found this article helpful. Here are more articles that may be of interest;

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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