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This is Why Your RC Car Goes By Itself

Whether you are a hobbyist or just recently got a fun new RC car for the kids, a great day at the park with your favorite remote control cars can be ruined by poor response, or even worse – a car gone rogue. There are a number of reasons why your RC car might act like it has a mind of its own.

Why does my RC car go by itself? This depends on a number of factors, but the most likely culprits are:

  1. Someone Else Has The Same Transmission Frequency
  2. There is Interference in Your Area
  3. Damaged or Frayed Wires
  4. Poor Connections in the Servos

When we’re talking about your car “going by itself,” this encompasses full-throttle motion in either direction, reversing when you’re in drive, slight rolling when you’ve come to a stop, and any other motion that you’ve not initiated. Your mind may immediately jump to “It’s haunted!” but rest assured, the spirits of the other world are probably not playing with your RC car. Here are a few things that it might be.

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Someone Else Has The Same Transmission Frequency

The most likely scenario if your car is actually driving, turning, and acting possessed is that someone has intercepted your transmission frequency. Yes, it’s possible that you’re being trolled, but it might also just be an accident. Especially with toy remote control cars, the frequency span is fairly common.

Most remote control toys will run on a frequency of 27 to 49 Megahertz. So, if you’re driving a toy RC car in the park where others have their own RC models, cars, or otherwise, the transmissions can get confused. Yes, your car should be tuned in to your controller better, but there are a couple of reasons someone can supersede your control and how you can regain the wheel:

  • If your batteries are starting to die, either in the car or the controller, and someone on your frequency has more power, they will be able to control your car. Collect your car, turn it off, and replace the batteries. This should allow you control of your RC car again. Otherwise, it might be something else.

  • If your RC car has an option to switch between Channel and Frequency, switch it up. You might be able to knock your would-be interceptor off the controls. Most inexpensive cars won’t have this, but just in case, it’s best to change up your wavelength. Make sure that, when you make the change, your car and transmitter change to the same frequency.

  • Move further away from other cars. A distance of 75 to 100 feet should provide you with enough distance to gain control of your own car. If you and another member of your party are crossing signals, you should adjust one car’s frequency to gain control over your own cars.

  • It might be time to head home. As disappointing as it is to cut a fun day of RC driving short when you can’t get someone else off your channel, it’s not about to get better. Hopefully, there is somewhere else you can drive without interference.

There is Interference in Your Area

Aside from another remote control vehicle in your area, there is a chance for interference from other sources as well. If your RC car is going by itself, here are a few things that may affect your radio signal and why:

  • Chain link fences – As radio waves interact with a chain-link fence, they can pass through the holes. However, they diffract to bend around the metal. As they bend, they circle back around and cancel themselves out. This leads to poor control over your car.

  • CB radio signals – These days, most CB radios run at between 72mhz and 75mhz with a crystal system, and that should remove the risk of CB interference. That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean the 27 wavelength is clear of all traditionalists. You may run into a rogue CB wave.

  • Radio or TV antennae – Most radios and TV signals are high enough to leave your car alone. A rogue signal, like CB, could derail your plans for a fun day. Low tech radios with antennae or old school portable TVs could be trailing low enough frequencies to mess with your car.

  • Neon or fluorescent lights – Neon and older fluorescent lights emit electromagnetic wavelengths that can interfere with radio frequencies. You’ll find that they can affect not only your RC car but AM/FM radio signals, as well.

  • Steel structures – Steel is a great conductor, which means that any electromagnetic or radio wave frequency will be absorbed by the metal. The more steel that was used in the construction of a nearby building, the less likely you are to have a good signal for remote control in that area. You will also find that standard radio stations don’t play as well for the same reason.

Damaged or Frayed Wires

Up until now, we’ve mainly addressed issues in common RC cars; however, more specific to hobby RC cars, you may need to open up your transmitter and check for fraying or damaged wires. That’s not to say a toy RC car may not be suffering from the same issue.

However, unless you have practice in working with RC transmitters, please don’t fiddle with the controls. Especially with a cheaper toy, it may be easier to return it and find one with a different colored frequency sticker.

Back to fixing a damaged or frayed wire, poor connectivity will result in erratic behavior on the part of your car. As long as you are comfortable fiddling with your own controller, you may need to solder the wire back into place. A particularly frayed wire may not take solder and may need to be completely replaced.

If you are uncomfortable, go to your local hobby shop and ask for assistance. They are usually helpful, either by doing it for you or showing you a safe way to do it yourself.

Poor Connections In The Servos

The servos are the hubs of activity in your car. They receive the orders to carry out an action. Sometimes the information isn’t fully processed due to poor connections. Most of the time, this will result in inaction, as opposed to your car going by itself. However, on the rare occasion, it may just roll a little.

Similar to the advice on fixing the wires, only attempt to fix your own car’s servos if you are comfortable doing so. Otherwise, a trip to the local hobby shop might be your best option to repair the issue.

Is It A Ghost?

This is probably the first question that comes to mind when your RC car moves by itself but rarely is that the case (yes I said rarely, I don’t want to make some ghost lovers mad).

Check out this video below of someone who is having this issue with their car.

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To Wrap Up

Nothing ruins the fun of playing with your favorite remote control car than when it fails to do what you tell it to. Whether someone is messing with your car from a distance, you’re in an area with increased interference, or there is something going wrong in your transmitter or car’s inner workings, there are ways to troubleshoot and fix the issue.

When changing up your frequency or channel doesn’t work, you may need a change of location. Look around for steel structures, radio towers, or high power electrical lines. Try to steer clear of them. If you suspect someone is purposely messing with your car, a change of location is your best chance.

You may also need to do a little reconstructive work. As a seasoned hobbyist RC driver, you might already know the best way to work on your car. However, if you are new or dealing with a less expensive toy model, a trip to a hobby shop will help you.