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Owning a Nitro RC

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Own a Nitro?

Are You a Nitro Owner?

Photo © M. James
There's nothing like the glow of a nitro. Strictly hobby-grade, nitro-powered RCs cost more and require a larger commitment of time and skill but many hobbiests would have nothing less. Here's what you need to know about buying, running, and maintaining nitro RC cars, trucks, and other radio controlled vehicles.

Nitro RC Basics:

Even if you already own a nitro RC, you might not be familiar with all the terminology. Get a grip on these nitro terms

Buying a Nitro RC:

Nitro RCs are fun to have but are also a serious hobby. If you are considering buying a nitro-powered RC vehicle you need to know that there are significant differences between nitro and electric RCs.
Before You Buy Your First Nitro RC

Prepping a Nitro RC:

Many of the steps to getting your nitro RC ready to run are the same for electric RCs but there are some extras such as adjusting engine fuel settings and breaking in your nitro engine.
  • Adjust engine fuel settings.
    Double-check the engine needle settings on your nitro RC. The manual will tell you the manufacturer's recommended settings. If this is your first nitro vehicle, those are the best settings to use during break-in and until you are more familiar with your RC.

  • Start your nitro engine.
    There are three main ways to start a nitro engine. If you prefer one method over another, it may require you to retrofit your RC with a particular engine/start system and/or acquire additional accessories.
  • Break-in your nitro engine.
    For nitro engines, RTR does not mean ready-to-run all out. Your nitro RC manual will probably provide specific recommended break-in instructions for your vehicle. In general, nitro engine break-in involves varying the engine speed while also avoiding running at top speed for the first 3 to 5 tanks of fuel. Break-in also means not letting the engine get too hot and letting it cool down between runs.

Running a Nitro RC:

Nitromethane or nitro fuel is highly flammable and nitro RCs are often much faster than their electric counterparts - even at the same speed just having nitro in the tank makes them more dangerous to be around. For these reasons, running a nitro RC requires a little extra attention to safety.
  • Handle and store nitro fuel safely.
    Nitro fuel requires special handling including keeping away from flames and avoiding evaporation or the introduction of water to the fuel.

  • Use a fail safe device.
    These little lifesavers can provide peace of mind and are a fairly cheap way to avoid costly repairs that result from runaways and crashes due to signal problems.

Maintaining a Nitro RC:

Just like a real car, RC cars and trucks require regular maintenance. After running your RC for a while you have to perform after-run maintenance. All radio controlled vehicles -- electric and nitro -- need after-run maintenance but there are a few extras with a nitro RC:
  • Drain the fuel tank.
    Not draining the fuel tank can cause condensation to build up inside the fuel tank resulting in serious damage to your nitro engine. Nitro fuel is alcohol-based and it is susceptible to moisture (water) mixing with the nitro fuel.

  • Clean and oil the air filter.
    Whether racing on the race track or running around with your buddies, dirt and other debris can get stuck in the air filter. Clean your air filter periodically to keep your nitro engine at optimum performance.

  • Add after-burn oil.
    After a hard day at the track you're ready to put your nitro RC to bed. Don't forget to add after-burn oil to the cylinder head to keep everything lubricated and ready for the next time you decide to race. Not doing so can cause serious damage to the cylinder head and your pocketbook.

  • Troubleshoot and repair nitro RC problems.
    When your nitro engine won't run, you'll need to do some troubleshooting to isolate and fix the problem. You don't have to be a master mechanic but it can take time and patience to keep your nitro RC engine in peak condition.

  • Upgrade your RC.
    Beyond running it, hop-ups and mods are the fun part of RC ownership. While it's not something you'll absolutely have to do unless your engine or other parts fail, a little upgrading is probably something you'll want to do at some point.

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