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How To Control An RC Car Without A Remote?

If you have an old RC car lying around or you found one at a garage sale or friends house that no longer has a remote you might be wondering what exactly you can do with an RC car that doesn’t have a remote anymore. Of course you will want to save and use the RC car but how can you do that without a remote? 

There are a few different methods that you can use to control an RC car after the remote is lost or broken. The two easiest ways are to replace the remote with a new one or to upgrade the RC car to allow it to be controlled with a mobile device. 

Now I used the word easy to describe those two options but obviously the one is considerably easier than the other. Finding a new remote that will work with your RC car is much simpler than setting your RC car up to receive controls from a phone or app. 

However that doesn’t mean you should only choose the one that is the easiest. If the RC car is an expensive one or a custom build it might be worthwhile to upgrade it to allow it to be controlled with a mobile device. I personally prefer the feel of the old fashioned controllers rather than using my phone but some people like the more modern aspects of the hobby. 

In the rest of this article we will go into more detail about each or the options mentioned above to help you decide which one will be the best for you and which one you should use. 

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Get a new remote for your RC car

This is by far the easiest thing to do, especially if you have a hobby shop locally or if the RC car isn’t very old. Newer RC cars will likely have replacement remotes available at any hobby shop or even online (such as these here). 

If it’s a newer RC car you might only have to buy the transmitter (remote) and then set it to the proper frequency that your RC car uses. If it’s an older RC car or not one that you can easily find a replacement remote for then you will want to buy a new remote that has both the transmitter and receiver (many of those at the link above have both). 

Buying both the transmitter and receiver will normally be a little bit more expensive but it is often easier than trying to find the right controller for your RC car. 

You should know that a new controller and receiver aren’t exactly cheap (click here to see the current pricing) so if you have a cheap RC vehicle that isn’t a name brand it might actually be cheaper to buy a BRAND NEW one! That has been especially true in recent years as more and more generics and off brands are available online. 

Connect your RC car to your phone

This method is generally thought to be incredibly expensive but if you do it yourself you can generally get it done for about the same price as what you would spend buying a new remote and receiver. That is certainly surprising but while both are similar in price controlling your RC car with your phone is far more time consuming. 

To see how exactly to go through this process you can check out the video below or keep reading. 

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How you do this process is quite complex to show in an article (hence why the video is above) but if you prefer to read how to do it rather than watching the best thing to do is check out the article on Echo Tech’s website. They give a complete breakdown of the parts that they used as well as how exactly built it. 

As can be seen from the video as well as the article it is obviously quite difficult to do this yourself so if you don’t have any experience with working on RC cars or at least working on electronics then you should probably not go this route. 

There are quite a few other frequently asked questions about RC car remotes so we will cover a few of those questions in the next section. 

Can I use a different remote for my RC car? 

If you can’t find a remote for the make and model of RC car that you have you might be wondering if you can use a similar one. After all they look the same and work the same so won’t they work currently as well? 

You actually can use a different remote as long as it has the same controls and the frequencies are the same. The problem is many RC cars have a slightly different frequency so the only way to get a different controller to work is by either changing the frequency of the RC car or buying a controller that matches the frequency. 

If you aren’t sure if the exact frequency that the RC car uses then you can either do some trial and error with purchasing and trying different controllers or you can borrow or buy a frequency scanner.

Sometimes the frequency that your RC car is set to can also be on the antenna wrapping or on or inside the battery compartment as well. It’s a good idea to check those places first before you start trying to scan the frequency or head to the store. 

How can you increase the range of your remote control car? 

If you’ve been using your RC car for a while you might wish that there was a way for you to increase the range of the remote so you could control your car further away. If that is you and that is what you are wanting then we have an answer for you. 

You can increase the range of your RC car by simply removing your current antenna from the remote and then resoldering a high gain antenna in its place. That should significantly increase the range of your RC car. 

There are also other things that you can do such as amplifying the transmitter but that and other methods are considerably more difficult than simply swapping out the antenna for a better one. 

Some people have also reported success by simply wrapping aluminum foil around the transmitter antenna or even using copper wire wrapped around it. Those are cheap and easy to try out so if you have those lying around it is worthwhile to test them out. 


I hope this article has been helpful in letting you know the different options that you have available to you when you lose or break your original remote. 

In most cases unless the RC car is a valuable one you are often better off just buying a brand new RC car with a brand new remote and it won’t cost you much more than buying just the remote and receiver. 

Ultimately only you can make that decision on which option is better but hopefully this article has been able to help you decide what the best decision is that you can make.