When building a radio controlled car, one of the most critical areas to get right is installing the radio gear. Whilst the technology behind any Radio Control system for any RC model is quite complex, the installation is in fact very simple indeed if you follow the instructions. The following tips and guidance applies to the majority of battery powered RC Cars from manufacturers such as Tamiya, Traxxas, Ansmann and HPI etc. Whilst they’re predominantly aimed at RC Kit builders, owners of Ready To Run models may also at some point need to install new radio gear or fit replacement parts, so I’d recommend bookmarking this page for future reference.
Most basic cars use 2 channel radio systems: Channel 1 for steering, Channel 2 for Forward & Reverse
You’ll therefore have around half a dozen cables to connect up at most to get your radio system wired up to your speed controller (mechanical or electronic), and invariably ALL of them use a standardised array of different plugs and sockets for the different connections so you can’t really get it wrong, or at least if you don’t you’re unlikely to do any serious damage.
Typical Connectors & Cables
- Servo signal/control lead
- ESC signal/control lead
- Battery Connector
- Receiver Power Lead
- Motor Wires (2 or 3)
- Power Switch
The following tips should help you complete a successful radio system installation everytime:
Where plugs and sockets are used, make sure all connections are clean and fit together tightly. If you’re using an older, second-hand radio system it may be prudent to use a suitable connection cleaner spray to make sure all contacts are as clean as possible before fitting.
Keep all radio system wires neatly bound using tie-wraps or wrap the spare wire round the shaft of a screwdriver to form a telephone-cord style coil to keep loose wires to a minimum.
Make sure the aerial cable goes as directly up and out of the car as possible. This applies to both older 27 & 40Mhz systems as well as new 2.4Ghz systems. This will minimize interference from other components within the car.
Never trim the aerial cable. Its length has been set by the manufacturer to give optimum performance, so never be tempted to “neaten” it. If it’s longer than the aerial tube, simply wrap it back round the outside of the aerial tube and secure it with tape.
Whilst servos are a mechanical component, they’re supplied as part of most radio systems and must be firmly installed into the car to operate properly. Depending on the age of the car you’re using, you could have one or two or more servos. Servos are usually fixed into position using small plastic blocks supplied with your kit called servo-mounts. Steering servos are often protected from the stresses of running and inevitable crashes by a servo saver. Servo Savers are small plastic devices that absorb some of the impact from bumps and collisions via a simple spring.
Before installing your radio system it is essential to connect up your radio system to your ESC (electronic speed controller) to centre up the servos and neutral point of the ESC. Most RC Car instruction manuals show you how to do this and how the servos should be set for your specific kit etc.
What’s the worst that can happen?
You get the steering servo and the ESC/MSC Servo or speed controller connections mixed up: In this case, your steering wheel or joystick will make the motor spin, and the forward and reverse joystick will operate the steering.
Solution: Switch the two plugs for the ESC/MSC and the steering servo over.
You get the motor connections the wrong way round: The car goes forward when it should go backwards, and backwards when it should go forward.
Solution: Switch the motor connections round. With a brushed motor just swap the two wires over (don’t worry about matching the colours). With a brushless motor switch 2 of the 3 wires over.
Motor Glitches when running: You could be getting interference if you’re using an older 27 or 40Mhz radio system.
Solution: Move the Receiver and Aerial cable away from the MSC/ESC & Motor.
As always, I hope you find the above information useful. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to submit them via the comment form below. 🙂