Racing RC cars is allot of fun, there is always something to tweak or a new track to attend. It doesn’t matter if your main objective is to win or have fun. Eventually you will want to become faster. Over the years I have accumulated various different types of tools. Some I use more than others, so I thought I would put together a list of tools I use for racing.
In short as you start getting more involved in racing. The tools you will need are setup tools, hex driver set and a hauler bag.
This could be put down as an accessory however It’s a very important part to have. As you grow your selection of tools it makes sense to have somewhere to keep them. Hauler bags are fantastic they are designed to hold your car, wheels & tyres, shock oils, tools etc – this list goes on.
You could use a tool box instead. That’s exactly what I did for the first 2 years of racing. I piled my car and tools into a Stanley fat max tool box.
They do come in different sizes and styles. The more common hauler bags have your tools laid out in the top. Then several draws of various sizes underneath. The other style is essentially the same the draws are often larger. You have no area at the top for your tools.
Hex driver set.
RTR cars sometimes still come with positive/phillips screw fittings. When you get into the racing scene you would be hard pushed to find a kit that doesn’t have hex fittings.
The common sizes on rc kits are 1.5 mm, 2 mm, 2.5 mm and 3 mm (metric sizes). Your hex driver set will be your most common used tools. It’s important to go with a reputable brand. There are many cheap sets on the Internet which won’t last long. This is an area in RC where you get what you pay for.
It took me a very long time to fully understand the benefit of a setup station. Once you have one and use it properly it can be a very valuable tool to have. It is a specialized tool which is why they are expensive for what you get.
A 1/10th scale setup station will be in the regions of $80 – $110, 1/8th setup stations will be $100 – $180. A setup station is used for:
- Camber & camber rise. – This is the lean angle of your wheels. If your wheel is pointing or leaning in towards your car then you have negative camber. If your wheel is pointing or leaning out then you can positive camber. I don’t know anyone in the racing scene that chooses to use positive camber. It drastically effects the cars handling.
- Toe in/out. – This is similar to camber but instead of the lean its where your wheels are pointing. If all 4 wheels are perfectly straight then you have 0 toe in and out. Personally I like to have a little toe in on the rear wheels (wheels pointing in a little) and a little toe out on the front wheels.
- Steering throw. – Measuring steering throw helps when you are trying different Ackermann settings. We measure how far the wheels turn left and right.
- Steering symmetry. – Very similar to steering throw. You need to make sure your wheels are tuning the equal amount in both directions.
Other setup tools.
- Ride height gauge. – Ride height plays a big role in how your car will handle humps, bumps and Jumps. If you have accurate measurements it helps when you are trying new setup changes. In off road racing I like to have the rear of the car just a little higher than than the front.
- Vernier Caliper. – These are nice to have I wouldn’t say you need it. However they are great for measuring shock shafts and length.
- Turnbuckle Wrench. – When you start adjusting toe and camber these little wrenches are fantastic. The amount of times I have butchered my turn buckles with long nose pliers. Save yourself the stress and money of replacing turnbuckles.
- Shock shaft pliers. – Building shocks can be very frustrating. Using standard pliers and a cloth to hold the shaft still can score or damage it. This is a tool designed specifically for the job.
Some people may shy away from soldering wires. You get a far better connection than any other form of electrical connection. There are many reasons why you would need a soldering iron. Here are the 4 most common uses I get from my soldering iron:
- Connecting motor to speed controller.
- Changing or fitting connectors on batteries.
- Repairing snags or damages to wires.
- Changing or fitting connectors to chargers.
Screw driver set.
Who doesn’t love a good set of screw drivers. Granted in the RC car industry you won’t be using them as much as your hex driver set. However screw drivers come in handy for, repairing chargers, changing batteries on transmitters, tuning nitro engines and changing parts on starter boxes.
Wheel removal tool.
Once you get into the racing scene. You will change wheels and tires more than any other part on your car. Different tracks require different tire choices. Some tracks also lay rules down on what tires can and cannot be used. Tires offer a quick change and make more difference than any other setup change.
Common size for 1/10th is 7 mm. Common size for 1/8th is 17 mm (metric sizes) you can use a ratchet and socket for this.
For the nitro racers out there these tools come with almost every nitro starter kit on the market.
You have the option to purchase pre mounted and glued tires. When you are starting out I would opt for this option you will be on track much faster. Once you start looking into tire choices more. You will notice tires come in various compounds. Wheels come in various styles and tires also have different inserts. This gives you more choices for fine tuning your wheels grip levels.
Gluing tires can be a right pain, if you make a mistake you could ruin a brand new tire. Tire bands help maintain even pressure around the rim.
Yes you can balance wheels exactly like you can on your full scale vehicle. In full scale vehicles on the road, when you have a new tire or a puncture repaired. You often also need wheel balancing. If a wheel is not correctly balanced you get a strong vibration through the steering wheel at high speeds.
The same concept applies to your RC car. When your wheels are vibrating these vibrations unsettle the suspension and make handling more difficult than with balanced wheels.
It doesn’t matter what surface you race on carpet, astro or dirt. Dust, sand and carpet fluff build up quickly! I won’t go into the reasons why its important to keep your car clean. What I will say is using an air compressor makes the job stress free and less time consuming.
I originally used my rotary tool for removing a stripped screw. Cut a slot in the screw head and use a flat blade screwdriver. Then I started using it to trim tires for astro turf tracks (another tire tuning option). I just keep finding it useful, fantastic for making modifications or smoothing parts like a body shell.
You can easily get by with just your hex driver set and not bother with an electric screw driver. It won’t make or break your rc racing career. What it will do for you is speed up the process of stripping down your car and re-oiling differentials. I have known racers to use drills instead. The problem with a drill is you have allot more torque available. It won’t take much to strip out a plastic thread.
Nitro specific tools.
- Starter box. – only way to start race spec nitro engines. I wrote an article on how to pick the best one.
- Glow plug starter.
- Fuel bottle.
- Glow plug removal tool.
Electric specific tools.
- Lipo charger.
- ESC program card. – You can tune the settings on most speed controllers without a program card. They make the job easier and you can change settings quicker. Here is a list of the basic tuning options on RC speed controllers.
- GT85. – I use this for cleaning purposes.
- Shock oil.
- Diff oil.
- Air filter oil.
- Super glue.
This is by no means an extensive list of all the tools you will ever need. That would be a very long article indeed. You may find other tools which you need and use more than I do. For example my racing friends highly rate body reamers. This is a tool used for making holes in your body shell by hand. Personally I use a drill for that. The list above is the tools I find myself using the most when racing. Most of these are in my hauler bag or come to every race with me.
The cars I work on are have metric size fittings some race kits use imperial. Look into the fitting sizes on your RC kit before you go buying tools.
- Is Remote Control Car Racing A Sport?
- How Much Does RC Car Racing Cost With Examples
- 16 things you need to know before racing rc cars.
I’m the owner of racingrccar.com. I am currently 29 years of age, and enjoy racing remote control cars. My favorite classes are 1/8th & 1/10th off road electric. I do also like to dabble with 1/10th touring cars and 1/12th pan cars.