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What Are Nitro RC Cars?

If you are just getting into the world of RC cars and have been reading about or looking at different types of RC cars then you may have come across an RC car that said it was a nitro one. Of course the issue with seeing that is that often it doesn’t describe what a nitro RC car even is. Is it a brand? Is it a specific type of RC car?

Nitro RC cars are RC cars that use nitro as their fuel source instead of batteries or other fuel. Nitro is a mixture of nitromethane and methanol and oil. Nitro RC cars have the huge benefit of sounding and operating very similar to real vehicles. 

Of course it isn’t all great for nitro RC cars as they require much more cleaning, maintenance, and upkeep since they have real engines that use real fuel but many people love that realism. 

Before we get into more details on this topic, let us first look at what RC cars are. RC stands for radio controlled cars. These are small model cars that can be controlled from afar using a controller. If you are someone who loves racing and cars, then you may want to have lots of different RC cars. 

Besides being fun, these model cars also often have lots of technical aspects that may interest you and since these are model cars, they will have a lot of parts from the original versions of the cars.

Since these are model cars and can be controlled with the help of a remote, you can easily have fun sitting in the comfort of your own home driving them around your living room (if battery powered) or use them in your yard, street, or neighborhood park. 

If you want to see some of the main differences between nitro powered RC vehicles and battery powered you can keep reading or you can also watch the video below for more information. 

Types of RC cars

Considering the advancement of technology in recent times, the creators of RC cars have provided car lovers many types and varieties of RC cars to choose from. Here are a few types that you may consider if you are looking to purchase an RC car:

  • Electric models (battery powered)
  • Nitro powered models
  • Gasoline powered models

We will look at each of these different types of models a little bit more closely next. 

Electric model (battery powered)

The electric RC car, as the name suggests is the variety of RC cars that use electricity to operate. The speed with which the RC car runs is directly proportional to the electricity supplied by the battery or batteries. This means that the larger or more powerful your batteries are in the RC vehicle the faster it can go (up to the limit that the motor and other electrical components can handle). 

These RC cars use transistors for smooth transitions and uninterrupted operation. Most of the electric RC cars use electric motors as magnetic brakes and thus provide better control. Electric models may face some issues if the transistors are ineffective.

This type of RC car is by far the most popular as virtually all beginner models use batteries and there is much less upkeep and maintenance required and it is a much “cleaner” experience because there is no actual fuel. 

Gasoline powered RC car

Gasoline powered models are also known as “fuellies” or “gassers”. This type of RC model runs on a mixture of gasoline and oil. Since these use oil and gasoline to operate, these versions of RC cars are more expensive and much higher maintenance (similar to the nitro model discussed next). These are also often bigger in size and need more space to run than a battery powered model. Contrary to popular opinion, these cars hardly use any fuel to run and according to experts a little fuel and regular maintenance goes a long way.

These cars do not usually run with a lot of speed but they do have a lot of power thanks to their high end engines and also considering the fact that they run on gasoline. 

In the long term, these gasoline powered RC engines may cost less to you when compared to nitro RC cars because nitro RC cars require nitro fuel which is comparatively more expensive than gasoline. It is also important to consider the fact that nitro engine RC cars require more maintenance and also need to be changed more frequently. 

Gasoline powered RC cars are the best for people who are more interested in the scale or the size of the model than the performance. FG Modellsport, MCD, Elcon, N-R-P are some famous brands which produce this type of model.

In general gasoline powered RC cars are much more rare than either nitro or electric since one of the main draws of RC cars is their speed and performance which gasoline RC cars generally don’t have a lot of either. 

Nitro Powered RC car

We have discussed the other two main types of RC cars. However, as the title specifically mentions, we will now talk in detail about nitro powered RC cars.

What are nitro powered RC cars?

Nitro RC cars are powered by Nitromethane and use a single servo for throttle and braking control. Turning the servo in one direction will open the throttle on the body of the car allowing a mixture of air and fuel into the engine which in turn would propel the car forward. Turning the servo in the other direction will cause the torque to be applied to a linkage which induces some friction with the braking material. The brake in these types of RC cars is generally located in the driveshaft. 

Some models of nitro RC cars come with an additional servo that controls a transmission box which helps the car to be driven in reverse.

Sizes of Nitro RC cars

Nitro RC car engines usually come in many sizes ranging from 0.12 to 0.35 cubic inches. Nitro RC car engines need to be manufactured within these restrictions for them to be able to participate in sanctioned races. Many people and companies make cars which do not meet these requirements, however, they are not made for races hence do not need to abide by these prerequisites. 

Engine size depends on the class of the car. 1/10 on and off road vehicles are usually equipped with engines ranging within the sizes .12 to .18 cubic inches. 1/8 on and off road vehicles are usually equipped with engines ranging within sizes .21 to .32 cubic inches. However, there are many cases where engine sizes exceed these ranges.

The actual size of the nitro powered vehicle is normally much larger than its battery powered counterpart. Since the batteries would drain incredibly fast trying to move a vehicle of such a large size then a nitro engine is used. 

Power of Nitro RC cars

Nitro fuelled cars can reach moderate speeds but surprisingly battery powered cars are often much faster!  Maximum power is reached when the car is driven at moderate to high speeds. 

The performance of nitro fuel powered RC cars may be affected due to ineffective clutching and lack of torque. Unlike electric motor operated cars that produce instantaneous torque, nitro RC cars take some time gear up and hence are unable to produce torque initially.

However, this doesn’t mean that nitro powered RC cars are less powerful than electric cars and they certainly would not be considered slow. In fact there are many nitro RC cars that have top speeds of over 50MPH! 

Nitro RC cars can easily be refuelled and brought back into action immediately unlike electric powered cars that need to be opened up and the batteries replaced or charged. Another advantage of nitro powered cars are that they can easily be cooled off with the help of air and a coolant liquid that is present within its engine unlike electric cars that need to take breaks to cool down. 

Since nitro fuelled cars don’t need breaks to cool down they can easily run for hours on end and also have a lesser risk of damage due to overheating.


RC cars are all the rage these days and with more and more new varieties coming up in the market it may become confusing for you if you are a newcomer in this world of RC car racing. It is unfair to say that nitro fuelled engines are the best among the many types of RC cars considering the other varieties also have their individual pros and cons. 

If you are a beginner it is normally best to start off with an electric battery powered model as that will allow you to get into the hobby for cheaper than a nitro model will. Also you do not have as many ongoing expenses with a battery powered model since there is no fuel to purchase. 

If you are looking to purchase a nitro model always make sure you do proper research before making such a big investment.