Skip to Content

Are Nitro RC Cars Hard to Maintain? A Beginner’s Guide

So, are you thinking about getting involved in the exciting world of nitro RC cars? If so, we can promise you that you’ll have plenty of fun. Nitro powered RC cars provide ample amounts of speed, giving you a great-performing vehicle all tied up in a tiny package. One of the reasons why Nitro RC cars are so popular is because their small two-stroke engines are notorious for creating a large amount of power comparable to the vehicle’s size.

Are nitro RC cars hard to maintain? Nitro RC cars are not hard to maintain, but you will need to spend some time learning about proper nitro RC car maintenance if you are planning on purchasing a nitro RC car. Nitro RC cars are not cheap, and because corrosion will happen to the engine over time, you will need to know how to clean and maintain your vehicle to avoid this.

Since there isn’t much information on the Internet covering how you should maintain a nitro RC car, we created this guide to help you learn all the ins and outs of caring for your new nitro RC car. Below we’ll cover how you can clean your nitro model and maintain it before and after you are running it. By keeping your nitro RC car clean and maintained, you’ll be able to get the most out of your fun investment. 

Why Clean a Nitro RC Car?

Not surprisingly, a nitro RC car has a small motor inside of it that creates a lot of power for the vehicle. That means that we wind up with tight operating tolerances with these engines, so if you want your nitro RC car to always operate at the highest level of performance, you’ll need to make sure you are taking good care of your engine. Nitro RC car engines are made with a lot of attention, and also take a lot of care to maintain.

One of the significant reasons why RC car engines need to be cleaned has to do with corrosion. A nitro RC car will experience corrosion because of the moisture that’s in its environment. The more corrosion the car engine endures, the lower the car’s reliability will be. While we understand how time-consuming it can be to take apart a Nitro RC car to clean it, if you want to purchase a Nitro RC car, you’ll need to spend time cleaning the engine so that you don’t waste your money.

So, giving yourself some time to utilize the steps we’ll provide you with below will help you achieve the best maintenance for your Nitro RC car. That way, your Nitro RC car will last many years and perform at its peak for as long as possible too. 

The last thing you want to do is spend a bunch of money on a new nitro RC car and then only have it last a year or two because you didn’t keep up on the maintenance. Just like a regular car, the time and money needed to maintain a nitro RC car is far less than the cost to buy a new car. 

Keeping Your Nitro RC Car Engine Clean

The most important part of maintaining a nitro RC car, or any RC car really, is to keep it clean and maintain it correctly. To help you understand the importance of maintaining your nitro RC car engine, we’ll cover after-run maintenance and an after-run procedure below. 

Nitro RC Car After-Run Maintenance

Whenever you want to store your nitro car overnight, you’ll need to do some after-run maintenance on your engine. Performing this after-run maintenance means you’ll be able to extend the life of your nitro RC car’s engine, and also ensure that the engine will run well consistently. 

Since the methanol commonly used in nitro fuel operates as a moisture attractor, it takes in moisture from the air around it. So, the metals inside the engine are exposed to potential rust and corrosion over time.

To prevent corrosion and rust, you need to make sure you remove any unburned fuel from your engine before you store your car. So, you’ll need to start your engine and make sure you burn off the excess fuel that you’ll find in the crankcase.

When you run your engine, don’t ever over rev it if at all possible. You can severely damage the internal components of your engine by doing this. Ignoring proper maintenance and not using fuel correctly typically both leave to extensive corrosion, which can damage your nitro RC car’s engine.

Nitro RC Car After-Run Procedure

Now that you understand why it’s essential to keep your nitro RC car’s engine clean, we’ll cover the steps you’ll want to use once you are done using your car and preparing to store your nitro vehicle overnight. 

Step #1: Empty Your Fuel Tank

First, you’ll need to empty your fuel tank by removing any remaining fuel with an empty fuel bottle. You don’t want to place fuel you have used back into your fresh fuel. Instead, you’ll need to dispose of this leftover fuel. When you place the empty fuel bottle into your fuel tank, squeeze it. That way, the fuel bottle will start taking in the unused fuel and removing it. Keep going until all remaining fuel is removed. 

Step #2: Start the Engine

Now you’ll need to try to start your engine. You should hear your engine fire and run for a short amount of time as it idles. It should burn off any leftover fuel you have in your fuel line and the crankcase this way. When the engine is done burning fuel, it will idle, then stop running. 

While you are doing this, take a glance at the small space between the slide mechanism and the inlet tract of the carburetor on your Nitro RC car. You should be able to start adjusting your idle if you wish at this point, too. 

Step #3: Clean the Engine Case

Next, you’ll want to clean the outside of your nitro RC car’s engine case and carburetor. To do this, get rid of the grease and dirt using denatured alcohol or nitro cleaner. If anything is sticking and doesn’t want to come off, you can grab a small brush and try to remove intricate pieces that are hard to remove. When you are finished, you should dry off your engine case using compressed air.

Remember, you should be using safety glasses and gloves at this point because you are working with chemicals and compressed air. So, don’t forget to use safety equipment while performing this step. Once you see that the engine case looks clean and dry, you can take off the glow plug and remove the engine’s air filter.

Make sure you don’t miss cleaning the place between the cylinder head and the cooling fins. Dirt and grime like to make their way into this area, and they seem to hide well in these spots. When you wind up with a lot of dirt between the fins, the engine can run hot and not want to tune well.

Step #4: Remove the Air Filter from Your Carburetor

Next, you’ll need to remove your air filter from the car’s carburetor. When you do this, fully open your throttle and spray some WD-40 into the carburetor. Also, spray the WD-40 inside your cooling head’s glow plug hole.

Once you’ve done that, put a towel or rag over your glow plug area so that you can catch any WD-40 runoff from the engine. Then, use the EZ-Start system and crank your engine for ten seconds. If you have a pull starter instead, make sure you pull in a sequence of short pulls so the WD-40 can circulate inside of the engine. You’ll need to repeat this step a few times.

Step #5: Remove the air filter from your filter housing area

Now you’ll need to remove your air filter from the filter housing area. While you do this, clean the components and the air filter with soapy, warm water. Then, dry out the parts of the car. When you are done, you’ll need to squeeze out the base of the air filter. Make sure you work your fingers well so that the filter area is immaculate. 

If you have some, you can use compressed air to speed up the drying process while cleaning your air filter components. Once your filter element is dry, you should apply about thirty drops of some air filter oil for your Nitro car around your car’s element area. Make sure you don’t squeeze oil out of your element. 

Instead, use your fingers to work the oil into the element until everything looks even. Then, you’ll need to place your filter back into your vehicle. 

Step #6: Put the Air Filter Onto Your Carburetor

Now you’ll need to attach the entire air filter and place it onto your carburetor. You should keep it secure with a tiny zip-tie, if possible. Place your glow plug back in and then reconnect your glow plug wire. Now that you’ve cleaned everything, your car should be ready for another active, full day of entertainment. 

A Note about Nitro Car Fuel Filters and Maintenance 

If your Nitro car has an inline fuel filter, then you’ll need to make sure you are cleaning that filter so that everything can flow freely through the vehicle. When a fuel filter starts clogging, you’ll start noticing that your vehicle is difficult to tune-up, and the engine won’t seem as fast as usual. So, you will need to clean your fuel filter regularly, too. 

We recommend cleaning your fuel filter when you clean out your air filter regularly using the steps we described above. If you clean out your fuel filter each time you clean out your air filter, you’ll wind up with a longer-lasting, better-performing nitro car. We also recommend that you purchase a fuel filter that you can disassemble so that you can clean it out whenever it’s necessary. 

If your nitro RC car has a two-piece filter, it’s relatively easy to take this apart and get access to the meshed screen you’ll find inside of it. It’s relatively simple to clean this type of fuel filter, too. All you need to do is take off the screen and then clean the filter’s parts using denatured alcohol. Get rid of debris and other particles inside. 

Once you are done, you should be able to reassemble your filter, and you’ll then need to attach it again to the fuel lines. If you have a one-piece fuel filter, you’ll need to backflush it to clean it using denatured alcohol or nitro cleaner. 

Watch out for some common mistakes when you are maintaining your new car. Check out thise video below to see five common mistakes that many people make.

RC Nitro Cars and Chassis Maintenance

Another area of your car you’ll need to maintain between your running sessions is the RC nitro car’s chassis. You’ll want to clean this area with denatured alcohol and make sure you get all the dirt and debris off of this area. By doing this, you won’t need to worry about dust and debris building-up immensely over time and giving you a considerable cleaning problem later.

Whenever you clean the chassis in your nitro RC car, you should also take a look at it and the drivetrain to make sure you don’t have any broken or damaged parts.

To clean the chassis, spray the denatured alcohol onto the dirty places and try to get rid of as much dirt as you can. Avoid getting the alcohol onto the car’s electronic components. However, if your nitro RC car is so dirty that you can’t avoid getting alcohol onto the electronic components, you’ll need to remove that part from your car before you clean the chassis.

Once you’ve cleaned the chassis and its components, you can use compressed air to dry it off quickly.  

RC Nitro Car Visual Inspections Between Running Sessions

Along with cleaning and maintaining the necessary parts of your nitro RC car between running sessions, you’ll also need to do a visual inspection on your car between each running session. When doing a visual check on your vehicle, you’ll want to look for any of the following:

  • Screws that are loose or missing
  • Parts that are bent or damaged
  • Wiring that is loose or has been cut
  • Fuel lines that look torn or damaged
  • Fuel leaks and cracks in your fuel tank
  • Damaged drive gears

Once you are done cleaning the chassis and the suspension on your RC nitro car, you’ll want to do a complete once-over on the chassis. When you do that once-over, you’ll want to focus on things like loose screws and damaged parts on your car. Make sure you check the mesh you’ll find between the spur gear and the clutch bell before you start your car again. 

If you notice any debris in-between your gears, you’ll need to clean that out. Keep in mind, too, that screws in your RC nitro car can loosen up quickly because of the nitro engine’s vibration as well as rollovers. When that happens, the clutch bell can pull away and wipe out all of the teeth on your spur gear. 

If you want to keep your screws from becoming too loose because of your engine’s vibration, one drop of a medium compound thread locker applied to the single-engine mounting screws should be enough to preserve your engine. 

Other Items to Check on Your RC Nitro Car

There are a few other items you’ll want to check on your RC nitro Car as well in between session uses. We’ve included those items below.

  • Check to ensure that your slipper adjustment is always set-up right. You should be starting about ¼ to ½ a turn from your tight. When you do this, check on the friction of your pegs as well so you can anticipate any further wear and tear. When the pegs wear down, you’ll need to replace them.
  • You’ll need to ensure that you’ve set your screw collars, so they are attached securely to your vehicle’s linkage rods. You also want to make sure those rods aren’t bent in any way.
  • Make sure that your suspension arms can move so they can work well and consistently. To check this, you can remove the shocks from your suspension arms and then work the arms to see if they move smoothly up and down. If you feel anything slowing them down, you’ll want to take a look at the suspension pins to make sure they aren’t bent. If the suspension pins are bent, you should replace them.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing a nitro RC car is a substantial investment for the hobbyist. So, if you’re going to buy one of these cars, you will need to be prepared to take care of it properly. Since these cars are expensive, you’ll want to ensure you take care of your vehicle thoroughly to get the most use and best performance out of it. 

Hopefully, our guide helped you realize the steps you’ll need to take to properly maintain your nitro RC car. By keeping your engine clean, removing unused fuel, and cleaning your chassis with the steps we gave you above, you will get a lot more life out of your nitro RC car. Since nitro RC cars are some of the most expensive RC cars available on the market today, that should be good news.

We want you to get the most out of your nitro RC car since we know the hours of enjoyment you’ll get to experience with your new hobby. So now that you know how to maintain your nitro RC car, it’s time to get out there and play!

Want to learn more about RC cars or which one is the best one to buy? You can click here to read another article I wrote about how to pick an RC car.