A Basic Guide To RC Trucks
Ever wanted to have a scale model truck but did not know where to start? You’ve probably seen someone tackling the terrain with a RC truck and wondered what it would be like to drive your own. Perhaps you owned a remote control truck from years ago and want to know what has changed about the hobby. Whatever your situation, it is easy to get involved in the ever addictive remote control truck hobby.
A lot of people have RC trucks as kids but give up the hobby as they get older and busier. Now might be the time to reignite that hobby and remember how much fun it was.
The Different Styles
RC trucks range from the generic toys you normally see in toy stores to custom built models. They can be normal trucks, off-road buggies, street trucks, monster trucks, and more.
They come in two main types: the toy style trucks that you typically see in cartoon adverts on television – usually sold in toy and electronics stores – and the kit style trucks that are exclusively sold at select hobby stores. You can get the latter type as a complete DIY kit or ready-to-run model. Most hardcore RC enthusiasts find that the DIY kit model is more gratifying because of the added thrill of building the car by yourself.
Toy style RC trucks are typically branded as remote control’ trucks whereas hobbyists like to refer to their trucks as radio control trucks. The former are mostly electric models while the latter are typically fuel powered.
Kit style RC trucks cost slightly more than toy style cars but they are sturdier, faster, and more durable. You can also do your own maintenance with kit style trucks (repairs), something that is very hard or even impossible with many models of toy-style RC cars but for this Kit style RC trucks that will be always possible to do.
Truck kits are very popular because they can run pretty much anywhere. Their large tires allow them to easily run on any terrain – street asphalt, grass, dirt, mud, and many more. They have stronger shock absorbers and high ground clearance that allows them to easily take jumps, bumps, and dips.
Radio control trucks come in different models depending on how they are powered: typically electric, nitro, and petrol trucks. If you are new to RC trucks you may be wondering whether this should even matter.
The truth is that the way an RC truck is powered does matter a lot and you need to know why before buying any model. Simply choosing any model at random and trying it out is an expensive way to figure out what best suits your needs. So here is the lowdown on the different models.
Electric RC models are powered by rechargeable batteries. The truck will run until the charge on the battery is depleted, much like how any battery-powered electric gadget works.
Nitro RC models are powered by a nitro’ fuel, a methanol based liquid that contains nitromethane (hence the name nitro).
Finally there are petrol RC trucks that use petrol. As you might have guessed by now, both nitro and petrol powered RC trucks have miniature fuel burning engines, so you can expect some real motor engine noise and exhaust fumes when running these trucks along the road.
Which Type/Model is Best For You?
So which radio control truck will bring you the most pleasure? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each model.
It’s obvious that electric models are the easiest to get up and running. They typically come in ready to drive toy’ style and running them is as easy as plugging in a charged battery and flipping the power switch.
As you’d expect, electric models are also easier to drive. Since there’s no fuel sloshing around when the tank is half-full, these trucks tend to maintain a stable center of gravity, making them easy to drive. Since they don’t burn any fuels, electric models are considered clean’ to run. However, for all their simplicity and ease of use, electric models lack a certain thrill.
Nitro and Petrol Models
Nitro and petrol models, however, are a different story. They need some bit of work to get them ready and you also need to do some performance tinkering so as to get the most out of your truck.
These models work similar to real cars. They use engines (rather than motors), have a drive-train, a chassis, and also generate a realistic sound of a car.
That said, these models are obviously not suitable for indoor use. In fact they may not even be fit for use in your local neighborhood unless your neighbors are very tolerant. And since they use fuel, they may be dirtier’ to run.
Note that although petrol and nitro have many similarities, it does not mean they are exactly the same. Enthusiasts view petrol models as being a notch up from nitro; the closeness to real-life cars in terms of fuel source, engine operation, and speed. Obviously they are a bit more difficult but more rewarding too.
Which type or model should you buy?
It all boils down to two things:
1. The amount of work you are willing to put into tweaking the truck and getting it ready for the road.
2. Your level of enthusiasm.
Nitro and petrol models are not a newbie friendly, so if you are just getting started with radio control trucks, it is wise to go with electric models.
If it is the hands-on experience you are after, then the fuel-burning models beat the electric types hands down. It takes real time commitment and interest to get a nitro or petrol model up and going. That is why they are not recommended for newbies.
The Bottom Line
RC trucks are fun. Regardless of age, there’s a truck for everyone. Don’t rely only on power system to decide which model to buy. Other factors matter, such as where you want to use it and whether you will be participating in hobbyists races, among others.
Click the links below to see my top 3 picks in each category.