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Troubleshooting: Your RC Car Wheels Spin in Opposite Directions

There is nothing greater than watching an RC car zip around obstacles either by itself or in a heated race with another RC car drivers. If you have ever been at the helm of an RC car, you know the excitement I am talking about.

However, if your RC car wheels start spinning in opposite directions, that fun can come to a screeching halt. 

Why are my wheels spinning in opposite directions? The answer to this question is quite simple, but you need to understand how the RC car wheels are built.  The reason your RC car wheels spin in opposite directions is that there is something wrong with the differentials. 

In order to fully understand why you are having trouble with your RC car wheels, it is essential to have a base knowledge of what differentials are. There are many different types of differentials. By the end of this article, you will know why your RC car wheels are spinning in opposite directions and how to fix it.

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What is a Differential in RC Cars?

The differential is responsible for making the wheels of your RC car spin.  Every car has at least one differential, but larger cars and four-wheel drive cars will have two and sometimes even more.  

When you look at the differential on an RC car, it serves the purpose of managing the speed at which the wheels rotate based on the direction the car is moving. An RC car can move in four directions; forward, backward, left, and right.   

Forward and Backward in a Straight Line

If your RC car is moving forward or backward in a straight line, all the wheels will be moving at the same speed. This means the RPMs (Revolutions Per Minute) are the same. If the differential is not installed correctly, the car will be unable to move.

The last thing any of us want is to be out with our friends and to get all set up only to not have a drivable RC car. 


When the car is turning, the differential varies. For turns, the outside wheels will be moving faster than the inside wheels. This means that the RPMs of the outside wheels are greater than the inside. If the differential is off, the wheels will not be able to move correctly. 

No matter what direction your RC car is moving in, if your differential is off, it is going to result in an essentially undrivable car.

Are There Different Types of Differentials in RC Cars?

When you enter the RC car world, you will learn all about the mechanics of RC cars. One important part of RC cars is the differential. There are two types of differentials. The first type of differential is a gear differential. The second type of differential is the ball differential. 

Gear Differentials

Gear differentials are just what you are imagining. They are made of small gears with teeth that interlock with one another to help propel the car forward. Many RC car owners prefer this type of differential. The reason they are preferred is that; 

· There are no ball bearings to worry about

· There are teeth on the gear wheels that are easily inspected

· There is little to no maintenance required for gear differentials

How Do I Maintain Gear Differentials?

Maintaining gear differentials is quite easy and does not require a lot of extra time. To ensure the gear differentials continue to function properly, you need to do these things.

· Clean them with a cloth – do NOT submerge the car in water

· Spray the gears with a solvent after you wipe them to ensure there isn’t a greasy build-up

· Apply a thin layer of lubricant to the gears

·             Make sure you check the teeth for breaks.  

If, while cleaning, you notice broken or bent teeth, you will want to replace them as soon as possible. This can be done with a gear differential replacement kit.

How Much is a Gear Differential Replacement Kit?

The cost of your kit will depend on the model and the number of gears being replaced.  However, most gears begin at around $9.00 for the set, and go up to around $20.00.

Ball Differentials

Ball differentials are preferred by many RC car owners, but they require a significant amount of attention to remain in good working order.

· Higher maintenance than gear differentials

· Ball bearings have a shorter lifetime

· The small ball bearings must be inspected carefully to make sure there are no dents or flat spots that will hinder their ability to roll properly 

How do I Maintain Ball Differentials?

Maintaining ball differentials is a bit more tedious than gear differentials. It takes longer to inspect and fix a ball differential, as well as they need to be inspected more often than a gear differential. When caring for ball differentials, do these things.

· Clean them often with a soft cloth and water- do NOT submerge the car in water.

· Ball differentials are composed of tiny ball bearings that each need to be inspected. 

· When inspecting the ball bearings, be sure to check for flat spots or dents.

· Also, check the groove where the ball bearings sit in for depth from wearing.

· When reassembling the ball differentials, you will need to apply a small amount of lubricant to the ball bearings- do NOT apply too much. 

If, during inspection, you notice flat spots on the ball bearings or a groove that does not properly hold the ball bearings in place, you will need to replace the differentials. 

How Much is a Ball Differential Replacement Kit?

Ball differential kits are more costly than gear differentials. When you look to buy a replacement kit, you can expect to spend at least $15.00, but the model of your car will determine how much the kit costs. 

Learn more about differentials

A great way to learn more about differentials is to learn from an expert. The video below is a great way to learn all about differentials as well as learn how to reassemble it.

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What Happens When the Wheels on my RC Car Spin in Different Directions?

Now that you know how differentials work, we can look at how to fix the wheels and make sure they are all spinning as they should. Although this may be a frustrating situation, it is something that is relatively easy to fix.

Chances are your differentials were put in backward, or there is a problem with either the gears or ball bearings. Here are some things you need to do to fix the problem successfully.

1. Turn the car off. 

2. Take apart the differentials to examine them closely.  

3. If you just cleaned and examined them, chances are they were put in backwards. Don’t worry. This is something that happens frequently to RC car owners.

4. If the differential is installed backward, remove it and put it in the correct way.

5. Close the car back up and try to move it again.

The Differentials Were Placed Correctly and The RC Car Still Doesn’t Work.

If you have examined the differentials and notice they are installed correctly, but the wheels are still not working, it may be time to disassemble the differentials completely and examine them more thoroughly.

You will need to look closely for missing teeth on gear differentials and flattened ball bearings on ball differentials. You will also need to pay close attention to the amount of lubricant that was used. If you used too much lubrication, it could cause the differentials to not operate properly. 

If after closely looking at these components, and the car is still not working, you may need to seek out the help of an expert. If you were not able to fix the issue, you may be looking at a bigger problem. Bigger problems could be something that is either motor or clutch related

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the wheel mechanisms that ensure your RC car runs when needed.  If your wheels were going in opposite directions, you might have found the fix you were looking for to remedy the problem.

Whatever the case, I hope you can get back on the track or road with your RC car, and you can continue the proper maintenance to ensure the longevity of your RC car.