Troubleshooting A RC Car That Won’t Start


Troubleshooting A RC Car That Won’t Start

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Who doesn’t love a remote control car or truck? Remote control cars have been around since the 1960s. Their appeal has fascinated millions and continues to do so till this very day. They come in all shapes and sizes from a wide variety of sports cars to trucks big, small, and everything in between.

Troubleshooting an RC Car that won’t start can be difficult to do. It could be several issues from :

  • the battery,
  • on/off switch
  • motor
  • speed controller
  • sensors
  • transmitter/receiver

This is to just name a few; however, this is a good starting point.

These all may contribute singularly or collectively in the operation of your remote control car. Trying to narrow it down can be a daunting task. It is important to fully understand the components that help to make your RC vehicle function properly.

Contributing Factors

Batteries

First, check your batteries. Seems logical, yet it’s a common oversight as some people will insert the batteries incorrectly. When was the last time you changed them? Sometimes simply forgetting to charge your batteries can be the issue. 

Regular use can cause your batteries to need to be replaced more often as well.  It is best to purchase good quality batteries that are known for working well after many charges. 

On/Off Switch

Also, a simple fix is to check your on/off switch. In a perfect world, this would be the only issue, and you can be back to daredevil stunts in no time.

If you have checked the above issues, then perhaps it could be a damaged area on the vehicle. During the operation, you may have bumped, jumped, or ran over something that could have damaged an important part such as your transmitter/receiver (aka SERVO), gears, or sensors. The wires could have been exposed or came loose while in operation as well. 

SERVO

Most SERVO’s come in a plastic casing; however, a high-end model will have an aluminum casing. On a plastic casing, this can become cracked over time, and based on the rough terrain it goes through during operation. The SERVO gears that are plastic will wear down over time. These may need to be replaced after a long period of time.

A metal SERVO output shaft will have a longer life and is less prone to the wear and tear of use. Another bonus with a metal SERVO is you will have more options in the type of terrain your RC car or truck can handle.

Your SERVO is full of the tiny parts output shaft, splines, horn, bushing, and SERVO lead so be sure and check carefully to make sure this isn’t the issue. 

MOTOR/SHAFT

A term called canned motors is used in the ready to play models of remote control cars or trucks. The CM ( canned motor) contains a bushing, motor shaft, magnets, and armature. We will focus on the armature, which contains many different wires. Any of these wires may have come loose, deteriorated, or not connecting properly with the magnets.

Bullet plugs may be another concern since they run from the end cap through the wires from the sautered ends. This will be an area that could be damaged or again come loose. The slightest ding, scratch, or a severely bent wire can interrupt the flow of energy to the speed controller.

The second type of motor is called a brushed motor.  Most brushed motors are considered old school and used in older models. Brushed motors are a bit more complex, with many more components to check for repair. You have the:

  • magnets
  • en-valve
  • positive/negative pieces
  • brush hoods
  • springs and casings, etc.

Understanding the parts and their function will be beneficial when you are troubleshooting problems.

SPEED CONTROLLERS

Speed controllers come in two forms- sensor and sensorless which all send and receive information in conjunction with the motor. There are programing options for you to customize to your taste and purpose. Some speed controllers are equipped with cooling fans. A cooling fan does exactly what you think. It cools the motor from overheating. An overheated motor will definitely cause you issues in the function of your remote control car.

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RECEIVER

A remote control operating system cannot function if the receiver and radio are on a different frequency. Make sure each system is compatible and utilizing the same channel or frequency. This is how the two “talk” to each other. The radio part is the command center of the remote control car or vehicle.

When you purchase your remote control, you will be given the frequency channel to operate. The crystals inside must be clear of damage as this will affect the performance of your vehicle. There is a crystal inside the transmitter (controller), and receiver ( speed controller) so be sure to check each one to ensure there is no damage.

You may run into the issue of someone else using a similar or the same frequency as you are using. This can cause your control signals  to clash, and of course, a lot of confusion since your receiver is picking up multiple frequencies or signals. Normally your radio will have a secure connection, and it will operate just fine. However, be sure to bind your radio and receiver to have that secure connection to keep your remote control vehicle running smoothly.

STEERING/THROTTLE

There is a lever-action with a pin on the steering. If this is broken or damaged, it will keep you from steering your vehicle effectively. Another thing to consider is the brand type. Some brands will have extra pins. “Traaxas have extra pins which translate as one to turn and two to burn. ” Reading the Traxxas forum to pinpoint what may be the underlying issue is a good option if you have that model vehicle.  Check your brand and battery type; it may just be that simple of a fix.

The throttle may need to be adjusted; however, keep in mind not all RC’s will have the adjustment capability. If your throttle is set to high, then your RC will spin out of control upon acceleration or just burn out and not move at all. A throttle adjustment is either clockwise or counterclockwise. Move the dial clockwise to increase your speed or counterclockwise to decrease your speed.

While there are many moving parts to your RC vehicle, be sure to check the basics first. Once that is cleared, then you can go into the heart of the mechanics. Keep in mind most toy remotes are an easy fix since you can’t purchase parts for them. However, a hobby remote control vehicle is a bit more complex, and the type will determine which parts to replace or repair.

CIRCUIT BOARD

Circuit boards are often overlooked when trying to figure out what could possibly be wrong with your RC vehicle. It controls the movement of the car, so if your remote is not sending out that signal, then all you really have is a really big paperweight.

The first thing you need to do is remove the back and expose the circuit board. Check for erosion, loose wiring, or broken tabs. If nothing looks damaged, then remove the circuit board itself. You will need a 5mm Phillips number 0 to help remove the cover. Be careful of the connecting wires; they are fragile. If upon inspection, it all looks to be in working order, you may have to seek an expert’s help. 

ANTENNA

The antenna on your remote control vehicle is used to receive the signal from the transmitter to operate the vehicle. If your antenna is bent, twisted, or has any type of damage, this can cause the signal to be disrupted. Also, make sure the antenna is pulled out to its full length. A shortened antenna will decrease the signal or cause interruptions over long distances.

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Fuel (on higher-end models)

If you have a high-end RC, then more than likely, your RC runs on fuel of some kind and possibly nitro. The advanced models of RC’s are usually high powered and run with fuel. Fuel allows the RC to go over rougher terrain, travel at high speeds, and take on hard impacts while also not requiring you to charge your battery every 20-30 minutes. 

Be sure to check the fuel level as this may be a simple solution as to why your RC isn’t working.

If you have an RC that runs on fuel, then it is wise to check the air filter. If your air filter is dirty then clean the filter with soap and water. 

Don’t forget to add air filter oil. 

If this goes dirty for too long, it can and will cause serious damage to the internal parts of your RC motor. Consider your RC a miniature version of an actual car. It has all the same components- gas, air filter, engine, steering, and yes, even plugs.

GLOW PLUGS

It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but glow plugs are an essential part of a fuel powered engine that helps with the ignition. For RC purposes, it helps the fuel to ignite then travel down to the connector onto the engine. 

When a glow plug is corroded or the seal is compromised, the fuel will be unable to reach the engine. No gas, no go. You will need a specialized tool like a multi use wrench if you plan on doing the repair yourself.

The best option is to take your RC to a certified repair shop to fix this issue. Any small mishap can damage the integrity of the vehicle. Usually, shops that repair anything with the engine or plugs will take the extra few minutes to see if everything else is in working order.

GEARS

The gears in your RC take quite the beating during each use. A gear can easily slip out of place, thus hindering any type of movement. First, check to see if they just slipped out of place or if the gears are stripped.

Stripped gears will need to be replaced since there isn’t anything to interlock. It’s like water on a smooth surface without the ability to grip anything. Without the teeth of the gears, your RC will not move regardless if you align or adjust the gears.

TIRES

This may seem simple enough; however, tires may not keep your RC from running but it can affect the overall performance of your vehicle. Anyone driving unbalanced tires can impact the suspension of your car. This is the same for your RC.

Rotating the tires on your RC requires a certain rotation pattern. The rotation pattern will keep your RC in perfect alignment without causing further damage or a decrease in performance. If the tires are all the same size, then the rotation pattern will not matter. However, different size tires for the front and back must be done in the correct rotation pattern.

Want To Learn More?

If you want to learn more about troubleshooting your RC car that won’t start you can check out the videos below. The first one is specifically for Nitro RC cars while the second one specifically shows you how to check the electronics of your car. 

Related Questions

What Type of Batteries Are Required For My Remote Control Vehicle?

This may sound simple enough, yet it does come down to the proper batteries for your remote control vehicle. Most stores will offer the run of the mill basic remote control cars/trucks which will only require a set of triple A’s or double-A batteries for that toy car.

A hobby remote control car is a bit more complex. They are equipped with rechargeable batteries, which are NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride), Li-Po, or Ni-cd (Nickel Cadmium). NiMH is more on the low end of the scale; however, it is an affordable option for any beginners looking to get into the RC hobby. 

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The Li-Po is reserved for the higher-end models and die-hard enthusiasts. The only downfall to this battery is having to purchase other parts or using existing parts to be able to fully charge it. 

The charging of the battery is important since it dictates the overall performance. The battery must reach peak voltage. When charging, the battery will extend to the peak voltage and thus not allow it to be overcharged. On cheaper models or knock-off brands, be sure this safety feature is in place since overcharging your battery will destroy it and could become dangerous. 

What Type Of Connectors Should I Use With My Remote Control Vehicle?

Having the proper connectors for your battery in your remote control vehicle is just as important, and each one is used for the different capacities of holding charged currents.

For example, the Tamiya Connector is the most commonly used and is used mainly for anything with a NiMH battery. Remember the NiMH battery is great for beginners and not as advanced as the other choices of batteries. Be careful when using these connectors as a high-end battery or RC vehicle can burn out the parts. The current is much too strong to withstand that much power.

Deans or a T Connector is mainly used for those fancy toys and has a great reputation for use with Li-po batteries since these batteries can withstand high currents and are highly adaptable to the commands of the RC. This is an overall decent connector since the shape is bulky and able to hold the high current.

There are many other types of connectors to suit your needs. It all depends on the type of RC you have. Many rather sacrifice price for a universal connector, and any savings be placed in getting a higher-end battery or casing.

Should I Buy A Gas or Electric Remote Control Vehicle?

When purchasing a remote control vehicle, you have two choices, gas or electric. Gas gives you much more freedom as to what you can do with your vehicle. You can add many features such as Nitro. Nitro is used to amp up the capability of your RC. Durability in rough terrain, high speed, and sound are pretty common uses. You can deck it out to your taste with speed, visual, and overall performance.

Gas RC’s are mainly for that die-hard fan who uses it in competitions. Have you ever heard of BOT WARS? You can bet those are all gassed up and ready to take down their opponent.

Gas may have many perks, but there are a few setbacks to it. It is not friendly to the amateurs since it is complex with many different parts. The terminology alone can be overwhelming but if you are just starting, then an electric RC is the best way to get your feet wet in this hobby.

As technology has developed over the years, this market has expanded beyond cars and trucks. Boats, robots, planes, helicopters and now drones are popular in the remote control world of toys. However, there is something about a remote control car that brings that first taste of freedom we have all experienced when we obtained our drivers’ license.

Plus, with a remote control car, you can choose any style in any color without, hopefully breaking the bank account.

Whether you are into cars, boats, planes or drones, there is something for everyone to enjoy. So don’t waste any time, go out there and pick yourself a nice RC and remember to refer back to these steps if your new RC car isn’t working right. 

Matt Robbs

I love to spend time with my wife and 3 kids. There is no better way to get them off the couch and outside than for us to grab the RC cars or boat and enjoy the sunshine!

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