If you’re an RC enthusiast, you probably know by now that maintaining your RC vehicle and keeping it clean is essential. You simply can’t avoid getting dirt, mud or water on your RC car, no matter how hard you try. And I’m not just talking about your off-road RC buggy or monster truck, I mean every type of RC car, even the on-road ones, which pick up grit and dust from the asphalt.
Not cleaning your RC car can cause long-term damage. So accept the fact that spending some time cleaning your little toy car is simply inevitable. The best thing you can do is to get organized and develop a cleaning routine. This will make the whole cleaning process a lot faster, in time.
In the following pages, you’ll find the answer to every question about keeping your RC car clean. You’ll learn how to make your own RC cleaner, take good care of your RC body, clean and maintain your chassis, tires and other components. Last, but not least, this book will show you a few tips and tricks on how to protect your car from large amounts of dirt.
Make your own cleaning solution
You’ll find many types of cleaning products for your RC car. Some are very good, while others are actually the same as normal car or domestic cleaning solutions. In the end, it all depends on how much you’re willing to spend. If you don’t mind paying for a special cleaning solution, then you should definitely go with the better ones.
On the other hand, if you want a cheaper solution, you can use the following RC cleaning spray “recipe”:
- A splash of WD40
- Denatured Alcohol – 2 parts
- Regular bleach free cleaner
Mix all of these in an empty spray bottle and shake it gently.
How to use it
Before you start cleaning your RC car, remove all your batteries. Spray the cleaning solution all over your RC car chassis, but make sure it doesn’t reach your electronic devices. Leave the cleaner on for a couple of minutes, then grab a cleaning rag and wipe away all the dirt accumulated on your RC car. Soon enough, it’ll look like a brand new car!
Tools you need to clean your RC car
You don’t need any special tools to properly clean your RC car, but you might find it useful to put together a small cleaning kit. Here are a few “tools” that will always come in handy:
- Q-tips or cotton buds – these help you reach corners and tight places
- A toothbrush – helps remove bigger chunks of dirt or mud. You can also use this to scrub your wheels and gearbox
- A few rags – used for wiping your car chassis
- Paper towels – to dry off your RC body shell
Work area protection
Once you’ve dedicated yourself to RC cars as a hobby, you should know that cleaning and maintaining your vehicle come with the package. Soon enough, you’ll develop a cleaning routine and everything will be a lot easier.
Protecting your working area is one of the important steps in the whole cleaning process. No matter where you decide to clean your RC car, the area has to be neat and organized. You’ll find that, this way, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle.
RC dirt bags were designed for this exact purpose. They’re water, nitro and oil proof and they’re made from a very good type of fabric. They help your work area stay clean, dry and tidy. Also, they give you plenty of room, so you can move around your RC car. Meanwhile, the dirt and mud you removed from your RC car will stay off from your table, carpet and clothes.
Cleaning and polishing your RC body
Every time you take your RC car out for a ride, the RC body gets more or less dirt on it. It can be mud, dirt or just dust. It doesn’t really matter. Even the slightest traces of dust need to be cleaned; otherwise the dirt and dust particles will accumulate and end up damaging your RC car.
However, cleaning your RC body isn’t really a big deal. You can simply rinse it with some cold water, to clean off most of the dirt. After you’ve removed the bigger chunks of dirt, wash the body in hot water, using a regular cleaning solution. This will remove grease, fuel and the remaining dirt. Rinse it off and let it dry.
Every once in a while you’ll want to polish your RC body, to make it look clean and shiny again. You can do this by using a regular glass cleaning agent and a piece of soft fabric. For painted ABS body shells, use special car polish, designed for acrylic paints.
Cleaning your RC chassis
This is probably the part that takes up most of your time, but it’s also the most important. Remember that it is possible to properly clean your chassis without stripping it down, but make sure you remove all the dirt. Otherwise, it can build up and end up damaging your RC car.
Here are some of the best methods to clean your RC chassis:
Use an air compressor – Sure, it’s expensive, but it saves you a lot of time and hassle. Compressed air helps you remove a lot of dirt, gravel or grit in practically no time. Generally, air compressors come with an air gun. Useful tip: denatured alcohol helps loosen the mud and dirt on your chassis, so try using some beforehand.
Water and soap – Before using water, make sure the electronic parts in your RC car are 100% waterproof. If they are, you can clean your RC chassis with hot water and some detergent. Never submerge the chassis in water! Otherwise, you might damage some very vulnerable parts, like the gear box or differentials. Useful tip: For places that are hard to reach, try using a toothbrush or a painter brush. After you’re done, rinse off the soap with cold water.
Brush- This is a quick option that you can try, when you don’t have any cleaning agents at hand. Make sure your brush is dry though. You’ll notice a lot of dirt comes off by simply brushing it off really well.
Wet wipes – Another thing you can use to clean your RC chassis are baby wipes or wet wipes. They’re not too expensive and they do a pretty good job at removing grease, dirt and everything else. You’ll never know when you need them, so it’s good to always carry a pack of them in your kit bag.
Special cleaners – there are many proprietary cleaners available on the market, so you can always just pick one of those to give your RC chassis a good clean. Before using these, it’s best to remove all the loose mud and gravel on your chassis using a compressor or just a brush. Be very careful when spraying this cleaner onto exposed wires or electric parts. Let it soak for a while, then wipe it off with a clean rag.
Cleaning the engine
A clean motor is essential if you want your RC car to be in excellent running condition. Most RC vehicles come with sealed engines, often referred to as “silver cans”. You can’t dismantle them and you cannot replace the brushes either, so maintenance is minimal with these motors. Just spray them with some motor spray and let it dry. Afterwards, oil the bearings or bushings.
Modified motors can be fully stripped down. This means you can clean all their components and then reassemble them. You can even replace the parts that are damaged. Here’s how you clean your RC engine:
- Strip the motor down: remove the brushes, slightly loosen the screws in the end bell and twist it until it comes out. Take out the armature and you’re ready to clean the motor.
- To make sure the contact between the brushes and commutator is good, make sure you keep your engine in top shape. Remove the springs and slide the brushes out, so you can clean them. Be careful with them, otherwise they may get chipped or scraped. Inspect them and look for signs of discoloration. If they look purple or blue, it means they warmed up too much during the race. In this case, you’ll have to replace them. If your RC brushes look dull, wipe them off with a cotton bud and motor spray.
- Now for the commutator: this part of the engine needs to be clean and shiny at all times. If the commutator has black marks on it, wipe them off with a cotton bud and motor spray. You can also buy a commutator stick and rub it against the commutator, in order to remove stains. From time to time, it’s recommended that you skim your commutator. In order to do this, you’ll need to buy a Commutator Lathe, which is pretty expensive. With this tool, you can remove a thin layer of copper from the surface of your commutator. After going through this procedure a couple of times, you’ll eventually need to replace it.
- The next step is cleaning the segments. You can do this either by giving them a blow with an air line, or by giving them a good brush. Make sure you remove all the grit and dirt stuck to the segments, then blow some motor spray on them and let them dry.
- Cleaning your RC motor can is probably the simplest task. Remove the loose dirt by gently tapping on your motor can, the dust it off with a dry paintbrush. Don’t forget about your end bearings. If they look dirty, clean them with some motor spray and oil them.
Every RC market carries a variety of motor sprays. These products are created specially for your RC car and can be used to clean plastic components, bearings, motors and all other RC parts.
Cleaning your ball bearings
In order to get your ball bearings properly cleaned, simply put them in a small container and use some special cleaning spray on them. Next, put the bearing on a paper towel, letting the fluid dry off. And finally, oil your bearing with some WD40 or 3-in-1 light oil.
When cleaning completely seized bearings, just let them soak in WD40 overnight. In the morning, use the end of a pencil to give the center bush a spin and see if it’s freed up. When the bearing turns, it should run smoother.
Cleaning your RC car’s wheels
While it is not difficult to clean your RC car wheels, it can take up a lot of your time. Here’s a list of the tools and cleaners you’ll need:
- Cotton buds or q-tips
- Foam or rubber cleaner
- Some washing-up liquid
- Hot water
- A toothbrush
- RC Dirt Bag
Before you start cleaning your RC car’s wheels and tires, take them off and check to see if they have any air vents. If they do, you shouldn’t wash them with water and soap. They might fill up with water. In this case, it’s better to just get a bowl of hot water, pour some washing up liquid and give your tires a good scrub. If some places are harder to reach, use a toothbrush, q-tips or cotton buds. Remove as much mud as possible. In time, the dirt accumulated on your wheels and tires can affect your RC car’s balance.
After you’ve cleaned your wheels, let them dry and use a vinyl or rubber cleaner on them. For tires that are glued to the rims or for those with air vents, proprietary tire foam works best. Simply spray it on, leave it like that for a few minutes, then wipe it off using a clean rag.
Cleaning your RC tires
These aren’t difficult to clean. If your tires don’t have air vents, just sink them in how soapy water and scrub the dirt off with a toothbrush. After they’re dried, use some rubber or vinyl cleaner on them, to make them look like they’re brand new. If your tires have air vents, use some special tire foam. Spray it on, leave it on for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a clean rag. To remove mud, dirt or stones, use a toothbrush.
A clean race
When running an RC car, most of the fun comes from racing on muddy tracks or leaving a trail of dust behind you as you speed off. You cannot avoid making a big mess and getting your RC car dirty, but you can follow these few tips to help keep it cleaner while racing:
With a little effort, you can make your own guards. All you need is some plastic material, like old bottles or tubs and such. Just grab a pair of scissors and start shaping your own mud-guards or flaps. In order to get the best results, you should first see which part of your RC chassis gets dirty and how. Try fitting some flaps or guards where they’re needed.
Another way to protect your chassis from getting too dirty is by using under-trays and under-bodies. You’ll find many models that fit the most popular RC cars. They are ideal for cars that have space between the body and the chassis, namely truggies and short course trucks. Under-trays are basically trays that cover your chassis and electronic components. You can fit them under the body shell. They don’t cost much and they offer great protection against dirt and water.
Another solution is buying a chassis protector. It’s made of high-quality, self-adhesive vinyl. You just stick this chassis protector onto your chassis and it covers the screw heads as well. This way, your RC chassis will be protected from scratches.
Cleaning your RC transmitter
While transmitters don’t really need much maintenance, it is very important that they’re kept in good condition. To clean it, just use a damp micro-fiber cloth. Remove all the dirt and dust from the transmitter by wiping it and use a cotton bud for small places that are hard to reach. If the transmitter has grease or oil on it, remove it with a baby wipe. Always keep the electrical contacts clean.
The most common reason for corroded contacts is leaving your batteries in the transmitter for a long period of time. Eventually, the batteries end up leaking and your electrical contacts get damaged. When this happens, you can try cleaning your corroded contacts with simple acid or alkaline substance, depending on the type of batteries you had in the transmitter. For alkaline batteries, use a cotton bud soaked in lemon juice to neutralize the substance on the terminals. Then, wipe it off with a rag or some kitchen paper. For acid based batteries, it’s the opposite: you have to use an alkaline substance, like bleach. Apply a small amount, using a cotton bud, then wipe it off with a tissue.
Another way to clean the battery contacts is with ink eraser. It will remove all the leakage in just a few seconds.