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Building Your Own Remote Control Car: A Comprehensive DIY Guide

Remote control cars have been a popular toy for decades, providing endless fun for people of all ages. However, store-bought RC cars can be expensive. By building your own remote control car from scratch, you can save money while learning new skills and having a truly unique creation.

Table of Contents

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Choosing a Chassis and Motors

The foundation of any RC car is the chassis – the frame that holds all the components together. For a DIY build, it’s best to start with a ready-made chassis that provides mounting points for wheels, motors, and electronics. Some good options for beginners include:

Buggy Chassis

Buggy chassis are lightweight and offer excellent handling for on-road and off-road use. They have independent suspension on all four wheels for a smooth ride. A plastic buggy chassis can be found for around $20.

Truck Chassis

Truck chassis are more rugged than buggies, with solid axles front and rear rather than independent suspension. They are well suited to bashing and handling rough terrain. Expect to pay $25-30 for a basic plastic truck chassis.
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Once you’ve selected a chassis, it’s time to choose motors. The two main types are:

Brushless Motors

Brushless motors are more powerful and efficient than brushed motors, giving better speed and runtime. However, they require an electronic speed controller (ESC) capable of handling brushless motors. Expect to pay $25-30 per motor.

Brushed Motors

Brushed motors are simpler and cheaper than brushless, around $15-20 each. But they are less powerful and have brushes that will eventually wear out. Brushed motors work with most basic ESCs. For a beginner electric RC car, I’d recommend starting with a plastic buggy or truck chassis and pairing it with two 550-sized brushed motors, one for each of the rear wheels. This keeps costs reasonable while allowing you to learn handling and driving techniques.

Designing and Mounting Electronics

Now it’s time to add the brains of the operation – the electronic speed controllers and receiver that allow the driver to control the motors remotely. Here are the key components:

Electronic Speed Controller (ESC)

The ESC controls motor speed and direction. It connects between the receiver, battery, and motors. Basic brushed motor ESCs start around $15 each.

Receiver

The receiver interprets signals from the transmitter and sends instructions to the ESC. Choose one compatible with your transmitter’s frequency (2.4GHz recommended). Budget $20-30.

Servos (optional)

Servos move control surfaces like steering. Most basic RC cars only need steering servos up front. Waterproof metal gear servos start at $5 each.

Battery and Charger

For a beginner electric RC car, a 2S 7.4V 1500mAh lithium polymer (LiPo) battery provides a good power-to-weight ratio. Spend $15-20. Also, buy a balanced charger for $20-30.
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Carefully mount all electronics in the chassis using double-sided foam tape or velcro straps. The receiver antenna should extend straight up from the body. Connect the ESCs to motors, receiver, and battery according to polarity markings. Heat shrink tubing is used to cover solder joints.

Constructing the Body

To complete the remote control car’s protective shell, you’ll need:

Body Panels

Choose a style that suits your chassis – buggy, truck, sports car, etc. Plastic bodies start around $10-15.

Body Clips/Screws

Plastic clips or metal screws secure body panels in place. Buy assorted clips or screws for $2-5.

Paint/Decals (optional)

Add personalization with spray paint, vinyl decals, or custom graphics. Budget $10-15 extra. Cut any panels as needed for component clearance. Drill holes in the correct positions. Clip or screw panels together firmly. Sand and prime any cut areas before painting the body shell. Apply decals last after clear coat.

Finishing Touches

Nearly done! Just a few more steps:

Wheels and Tires

Rubber tires provide better traction than hard plastic. Foam inserts dampen impacts. $10-15 per set.

Steering Linkage

Connect the servo arm to steering parts like rods or bellcranks. Fine-tune for smooth response.

Body Mounts

Foam mounting pads protect components from body clip pressure.

Transmitter Batteries

Install AA/AAA batteries in the transmitter according to the manual.

Test Drive!

Charge the LiPo fully, then have fun driving and tuning your new DIY RC car. Congrats!

Common Issues and Troubleshooting

No matter how carefully you build and set up your remote control car, there may be hiccups along the way. Here are some potential problems and solutions:
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Won’t Respond to Transmitter

  • Check all connections between the receiver and ESC/servos
  • Ensure transmitter and receiver use the same frequency
  • Make sure receiver antennas extend straight up
  • Replace receiver or transmitter batteries

Not Enough Power/Speed

  • Fully charge the LiPo battery before each use
  • Look for bad motor connections or blown motor
  • Use a larger capacity battery or brushless upgrade

Steering Issues

  • Adjust the servo horn position on the servo arm
  • Tighten steering linkage screws/parts
  • Lubricate steering parts for smoother action

Odd Noises or Vibrations

  • Balance motor timing and belt tension
  • Add wheel weights for uneven tires
  • Check for loose screws or worn-out bearings
With care and maintenance, your DIY remote control car build should provide many hours of fun. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Common Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about building a DIY remote control car:

How fast can a DIY RC car go?

Speed depends on motor and battery power. A brushed motor setup on a 2S LiPo may reach 30 mph tops. Brushless upgrades can reach 50+ mph but require more advanced skills.

Is it difficult to assemble?

Building a basic RC car from a kit requires mainly screwing parts together following instructions. More complex custom builds involve soldering, cutting, and problem-solving. Taking your time makes it quite achievable.

Can I upgrade parts later?

Yes, all the main components like motors, ESC, receiver, and battery can usually be swapped out later for upgrades. This allows you to enhance performance and handling over time.

How durable are DIY builds?

A DIY car’s durability depends on materials and construction quality. Plastic chassis take more abuse than aluminum or carbon fiber. Proper bracing and gluing joints add strength. Drive carefully at first to test limits.

How much maintenance is required?

Regular RC car maintenance involves charging batteries, tightening screws, lubricating moving parts, and replacing worn tires. Crashes may require more repairs. Brushless motors need almost no maintenance versus brushed motors’ brushes.
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