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How To Prep a Ready-to-Run RC Car or Truck


RTR means minor assembly and prep

RTR means minor assembly and prep

Photo © M. James
A RTR or Ready to Run RC isn't necessarily ready to roll right out of the box. You generally won't have a lot of assembly to do but there is some must-do as well as nice-to-do prep work needed before you hit the floor, street, or dirt track with your RTR radio controlled car or truck.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 15-45 minutes excluding the break-in period to have your RTR ready for use

Here's How:

  1. Read the manual.
    The manual or included video contains essential information from the manufacturer specific to your vehicle. Save yourself and your vehicle unnecessary repairs by reading the instructions before you try to run your new RC. This may well be one of the most overlooked but most important steps in preparing to run a radio controlled vehicle. If purchased used, without a manual, check the manufacturer's site for downloads or ordering information for owner's manuals.

  2. Do an overall visual inspection.
    Check the packing list and the manual against what you take out of the box to make sure nothing is missing and that there are no broken pieces. Mistakes do happen during manufacturing and packaging so be sure you have the right vehicle, body, controller, and other parts.

  3. Inspect the tires.
    Even if your tires come pre-glued, check to be sure each tire is evenly glued all around. Glue or re-glue the tires. Make sure the tires are properly balanced according to the manual.

  4. Check the shock oil.
    Oil-filled shocks give RC vehicles more stability over rough terrain. Without the oil the shocks compress and rebound too quickly and fail to absorb or dampen the bumps in the road. Your RTR vehicle should come with properly filled shocks but it's always a good idea to check the shock oil level before you run the car the first time.

  5. Check all screws.
    Screws can come loose during transport or might not be fully tightened during initial assembly. Inspect all screws, nuts, and bolts for a snug fit and carefully tighten any loose ones.

  6. Charge the batteries.
    Read and follow the recommended charging methods for your battery pack(s). For best performance, use fully charged batteries.

  7. 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.

  8. Complete the assembly.
    Perform whatever other prep is necessary such as assembling the antenna, installing the battery packs, adding fuel (nitro), and putting the body on the vehicle (you may want to break-in a nitro engine without the body on it).

  9. Add essentials that aren't in the box.
    Your RTR may come with everything you need to get started but there are some essentials that might not be in the box such as fuel or a starter box (for bump starts) for your nitro engine. Batteries might not be supplied as well so find out what kind you'll need. Other nice-to-have options include a peak charger and a fail safe device

  10. 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.

  11. Run your RC.
    It may seem like a lot of work to get an RTR car or truck ready but it's loads faster than building a vehicle from a kit or from scratch. However, following these basic prep steps as well as performing after-run maintenance will help insure that your RC is ready to run every day.


  1. Be safe.
    You may be itching to put your new RC to the test but take the time to read and understand any safety tips and precautions provided by the manufacturer. Hobby-grade vehicles -- electric or nitro -- are complex, fast, and can be dangerous if mishandled.

  2. Get a Nitro Starter Kit
    You can purchase items separately or get a kit with the most used extras such as a fuel bottle, glow wrench, extra battery pack. Kit contents vary by manufacturer.
    • Compare PricesTrinity 1:16 Scale Nitro Starter Kit
    • Compare PricesTraxxas Trinity Electric Start/Nitro Starter Kit
    • Compare PricesTrinity Pull/Bump Start Nitro Starter Kit
    • Buy Direct Traxxas Car Starter Kit with Fuel
    • Buy Direct Dynamite Car Starter Kit with Fuel

  3. Share your own RTR tips.
    Comment on RTR and the Prep Work Required

  4. Test Your RC Maintenance Knowledge.
    Take the After-Run Maintenance Quiz because taking care of your RC after each use will give you many more months, even years of fun.

What You Need

  • Ready-to-Run Electric or Nitro RC Vehicle
  • Owner's manual or instruction sheets
  • Basic tools such as screw drivers, hex wrenches
  • CA glue for tires
  • Shock oil
  • Batteries / Battery packs
  • Nitro fuel (if needed)
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