RC, or remote control, cars can be an exciting hobby, although it can also be an expensive one, depending on how far you go into it. While most of us start with the little RCs, you can get from a big box store; some expand into the hobby of RC racing. This can become expensive, but can also provide many hours of fun. One of the issues that can come up with it is tire ballooning.
How to stop RC car tires from ballooning: There are a number of ways, and everyone has their favorite. Below are listed a few options:
- Drywall tape and rubber cement
- Fiberglass mesh and goop
- Duct Tape
- Braided fishing line
- Buy higher quality tires with belts
The option you use is up to you, and every hobbyist has their own personal favorite.
While there are a number of ways to prevent ballooning on RC tires, many hobbyists have their own opinions on what works best on their cars and not all techniques work in all situations. I want to look at what ballooning is, what causes it, how to prevent it and what techniques work in each situation. I also want to answer the question whether ballooning is something to worry about.
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Tire Ballooning Prevention
There are a number of ways to prevent ballooning on RC tires, running from the obvious, there is no fun way to the crafty to the expensive. I want to share with you a few ways I have found to prevent ballooning on RC tires. Not every option will be right for everyone, but I do want to present as many options as I could, to keep you as informed as I could.
An obvious way to prevent ballooning is not to race. Those who are into the thrill of running their RCs at high speeds and putting both their creations and their racing skills to the test, this may not be a viable option. I present it here because it is one option that is available. By not running your RC at full speed, you are limiting the force being put on them, hence no ballooning.
Due to the fact that the cause of ballooning is centrifugal force, by eliminating that speed that causes that force, you would be eliminating ballooning and saving on your tires. I know that some hobbyists are into it for the speed, so I know that this isn’t going to be a practical solution for most people, I did find other options that should help. I for one would not want to stop racing just to avoid possible ballooning.
Buying Belted Tires
This may be one of the most expensive options, but one that also may be the most reliable. Due to the fact that you can’t just buy any size tire and put it on any size of type of RC, the cost of your tire may vary. The most popular kind of belted RC tire on Amazon is for Monster trucks. Although this is not the only kind available.
I can’t really recommend any particular brand or size due to the difference needed on different RCs. Ranging in price from around $35 to around $130, it all depends on the size and type of tire you need for your RC. This option may also be the most time consuming as you may need to do a ton of research to find the best tires and best price for your situation.
Belted tires are actually the most time-saving solution (other than research) and the one that can’t really be screwed up. For some people, trying to do anything craft wise (including just trying to glue a set of tires) is about as easy as trying to paint an exact copy of the Mona Lisa. If you are one of these people that crafts do not come easy, then belted may be the cheaper option too.
Like passenger vehicles, using belted tires on RC vehicles can prevent both ballooning and tire blowout or shredding. Due to the fact that belted tires have belts built right into the tire, there is nothing extra needed to be done. They will keep their shape no matter the speed you go or what you put your RC through. Although, eventually, you may blow a belt, just like a real car.
Mesh and Glue
Some forums online refer to using either fiberglass mesh or drywall tape on the inside of the tire to reinforce the interior of the tire to prevent ballooning. If you are the type of person that has problems doing arts and crafts or just make a complete mess doing it, this may not be the option you are looking for. This can be messy and frustrating if you are not an arts and crafts type of person.
Big Lupton at RCuniverse.com has recommended using drywall tape and rubber cement to reinforce RC tires. He does this by adding in 2 layers of drywall tape being held in place by thin layers of a high quality rubber cement in between the layers. Then a second layer that covers the layers and overlays the edges to make sure to create a more stable interior wall.
Lektro at Forums.Traxxas.com suggests using fiberglass mesh and goop instead. Rather than laying it in layers, Lektro has opted to embed squares of fiberglass mesh in the goop. He did postulate that the fiberglass mesh may be an unnecessary step, however. He did verify that once set, the tires were much stiffer and less likely to balloon after his treatment.
Whether you opt for drywall tape and rubber cement or fiberglass mesh and goop, both posters did state that they needed to clean with denatured alcohol and scratch up the interior surface with a scotch brite pad before applying their individual methods. This allows for a completely clean, scuffed surface that will give the best chance to adhere to the interior surface.
Fishing line seems to be the cheapest fix, though maybe not a permanent solution. This would be a quick fix until you got an upgraded set of tires, however. Various forums have suggested using braided fishing line (25 lb test seems to be the optimal) and though some users have suggested glueing while others opt for knotting, it is my belief that both would be optimal.
If you opt to knot the lines rather than gluing them, then you may want to add two knots so that it does not put the tire off balance, which can be a concern when tying your tires with fishing line. This does not seem to be a popular method, at least not much anymore as it can cause a few different issues if the lines break or get snagged when not glued down or the glue lets go.
Most racers or RC owners now opt for one of the mesh options, taping or just upgrading to belted tires rather than tying them with fishing line. One of the biggest issues I found that users of this method have experienced is the line coming loose and wrapping around internal parts, like the axel. This can cause issues with the wheels even turning properly.
One of the oldest methods and one that is still being used successfully today, is taping your tires. You can find pictures on the best way to do this on Instructables.com, but the procedure is actually pretty simple. While there is a debate on the best tape to use, my favorite tape of this sort would be either Gorilla tape or T-Rex tape.
The items required are pretty simple:
While there is a step by step guide on the Instructables website, I feel like they did leave out a couple of steps that will make the process both easier and more effective. So I am including my own step by step guide here, but I did link back to the article in case you wanted to see the pictures as well.
- Prepare your tools and tires- Make sure that you have everything you need sitting in your workspace so you don’t have to stop to hunt down. This should always be your first step in any project.
- Get your tires ready- Whether they are new and you have to remove from the packaging or just remove them from your RC, getting all 4 tires ready to be worked on at the same time will help to save time in the long run.
- Remove the foam- Most tires have a foam insert that will need to be removed to be able to tape your tires. The foam is used to help the tires hold their shape rather than air pressure like with passenger vehicles.
- Turn the tires inside out- The tape will be going on the inside, not the outside, of your tires, so you will need all 4 to be inside out to tape them. Be careful as some tires can tear easily.
- Rough the tires up- Scratch up the inside (which is now currently on the outside) of the tires to help provide a rougher surface for the tape to bond to. This will allow for a better grip of the tape.
- Clean the tires- Using denatured alcohol, clean up the inside of the tires, where the tape will be going. This ensures that there is not any dust or debris in your work area of the tires. This will ensure a better surface for the tape to stick to.
- Measure and cut the tape- Make sure that you have full coverage of the tire without having a large overlap on the inside of the tire. Since you are taping the outside of the tire, you don’t need a measuring tape or anything along those lines to measure it.
- Apply the tape- You need to be careful using either Gorilla or T-Rex tape as they have an excellent adhesive and may be difficult to get off once you have them applied. Go slowly and carefully, pressing down as you go to ensure a good contact. Then go over it again, once fully applied to ensure good adhesion.
- Repeat steps 7 and 8 for each tire- Take your time and don’t rush anything; otherwise you will need to start over on that tire.
- Turn the tire right side out- Do this for each one. Be careful as the tires may be taped, but they can still tear.
- Check the tape on each tire- You want to make sure that the tape on each tire is as flat as you can get it. Run your fingers inside of each tire to make sure it is as stuck down as best as you can.
- Replace the foam- Even though the tires are now taped, and that tape will help the tires hold their shape, the foam is still needed.
- Mount them- Once you have completed taping and smoothing and replacing everything, then you want to mount them onto your RC to make sure everything looks and feels right.
- Test them out – Do a few test runs to make sure nothing is off balance, and everything is working the way it should. Play around with it, put it through its paces and make sure that the RC is working and driving correctly.
What is Tire Ballooning?
Tire ballooning is exactly as it sounds and also not really. Ballooning, in this instance, means that the tire will distort. This can affect both traction and speed and, eventually, can lead to the destruction of the tires. It can also lead to the tread ripping, shredding, or tearing away from the tire. This makes a tire worthless and in need of replacement.
SpeedSociety.com has an excellent page demonstrating exactly how ballooning works and what it looks like in the extreme. (note: no tires were harmed in the production of the videos on the page) Although the pictures and videos look photoshopped, this is a real issue that some RC hobbyists deal with, and there are ways to prevent this from happening in the first place.
While the tires are designed to stretch, there is only so much stretch that a tire can do before it gives way. This can cause serious damage to the tires on your RC and, depending on when and where it happens, can cause damage to the RC vehicle itself if it gets thrown in the process. Due to the relative lightness of an RC, this damage is usually pretty minimal, but still frustrating.
This can become a major issue if you spend a lot of time racing as you will be going through a lot of tires, which can be expensive in the eventuality. To prevent tire ballooning, however, you need to understand the cause of it, which may surprise you like it did me.
Why do RC Tires Balloon?
While the tires on a passenger car or truck will get warm, which can cause increased pressure and potentially be the cause of an eventual high-quality, this is not the case for RC vehicles. Passenger vehicle tires are under pressure, which is why you need to “air up your tires,” this is not the case for remote control vehicles. This is why the cause for ballooning is different.
Yes, a passenger vehicle can get ballooning on the tires, often referred to as “bubbles.” This is usually in an area where the belts have broken. It is the difference in both design and function that results in the different causes of ballooning in the different types of tires. Understanding the difference between the types of tires helps to understand the differences in ballooning.
RC tires will balloon because of centrifugal force, not due to heat. Since RC tires have to turn faster than larger passenger tires, the centrifugal force is strong enough to distort the tire itself. While RC tires are similar in design to passenger vehicle tires, the slight differences in design make a huge difference in both function and endurance.
Most RC tires do not have belts, unlike passenger vehicles, which ALL have steel belts in them. This small difference can make a huge difference allowing for the faster rotation or RPM to distort the tires because of how fast the tire is spinning.
Is Ballooning a Bad Thing?
This all depends on who you talk to. Some racers like the “pizza cutter” look of the tires when they do balloon. Others find that ballooning can cause their RCs to go even faster because of the increased circumference of the tires means that you can gain some extra speed from the same RPMs.
Here is a short video of some RC Cars that had the same issues with their tires ballooning. Although no tires are blown during this video, it is a great representation of different RC car tires, and what happens if the tires begin to balloon while driving.
The basic school of thought is that ballooning is not a bad thing as long as it is not done for long periods of time. The tires on RC cars are stretchy and meant to expand, but it is when that expansion goes to the extreme for long periods that cause damage, and that is when it becomes a bad thing.