How To Build An RC Car

How to Build an RC car

Remote control cars are usually sold as fully assembled and ready to race straight out of the box, but if you want to make your own it’s really not that hard.

Building a radio controlled car might seem like a far stretch if you have no experience building anything like it before, but with the right tools and a detailed guide you can get it done.

What is needed to build an RC car then?

There are a few parts needed including the car itself, battery, radio transmitter, and chassis, so it’s just a matter of figuring out how to assemble them. These parts can be purchased online or from a hobby store and in some cases you can recycle old parts to use instead.

This comprehensive guide can show you exactly how it’s done and teach you that building your own radio controlled car doesn’t have to be a daunting task.

Having this skill will make it easier to fix any issues that might occur down the line, but it also adds another satisfying element to a hobby that’s already so beloved.

Can You Make Your Own RC Car?

DIY RC Car

If the idea of buying an assembled RC car doesn’t appeal to you or you simply want to take on a new DIY project to fill your time, making an RC car is a great option.

It’s entirely possible to make your own RC car provided you follow the right steps and have working parts, or you can take a different approach and purchase an RC car kit that features many of the parts in it already.

Some prefer to start with a build it yourself kit as it has most of what they need and then progress to making their own from scratch when they feel a little more comfortable.

These can be as detailed or as basic as you choose, and give you enough room to personalize the vehicle while still offering the satisfaction of making your own car.

Whatever approach you take, there are plenty of benefits to building a radio controlled car, like full customization and personalization, and the challenge of creating something for yourself.

We’re going to look at the two options of making one from scratch and building an RC car from a kit, so you can try either approach.

The Parts Needed for a DIY RC Car

Most of the parts you need for a DIY RC car can be purchased from a hobby or RC shop, otherwise, you might be able to take apart other things at home and reuse them.

These are the basic supplies you’ll need to find before you get started, so make sure everything is ready to use and laid out before you begin.

  • Thick plastic sheet (Lexan is ideal);
  • Set of 2-inch diameter wheels from toy car;
  • 8 x small bolts to fit into holes of hinges;
  • RC car servo;
  • 2 x 800rpm electric drive motors;
  • 9v battery;
  • Speed controller;
  • Receiver;
  • Transmitter;
  • Superglue;
  • Electric drill;

These instructions make a smaller sized RC car, and if you want to upgrade to something larger you can create the body out of plywood or larger plastic tubing.

With the heavier weight, you’ll also want to upgrade the battery and electric motors but as long as everything matches it will follow the same approach.

Steps to Building a Radio Controlled Car

Building RC Car

With all of the required materials and tools, you can get started assembling your RC car.

These steps are for a very basic RC car with a 9V battery that runs on 2 x 800 rpm motors, so it’s more about learning how to build a car than creating one that’s suitable for racing.

With that in mind, here are the easy steps to follow.

  • Cut your thick plastic material to make the chassis for the car. You want a larger 3 inch x 7 inch rectangle to start with. Once that’s been cut, make a ¾ inch x 1 ¼ inch rectangle on either side of the larger one, with around ¾ inch space from the front of the chassis. This will allow the wheels to turn with enough space.
  • Cut six pieces of plastic from the same sheet, this time measuring 1 ½ inch x 1 ½ inch for each of them and in an L-shape. Glue three pieces together and then do the same with the other three, letting them dry.
  • Remove the wheels from another toy car or ones you’ve purchased separately and measure them to confirm they’re 2 inches in diameter. With your stacked plastic pieces, insert a nail into the center of the front wheel and through the middle of the hinge. Repeat for the back wheels as well. Apply the bolts to the bottom of each hinge to keep them secured to the chassis.
  • Measure the distance between the wheel hinges and cut another part of plastic out that corresponds. With your electric drill, make a small hole into the back of the hinges as they’re lined up with the plastic. Put another bolt through each of these holes. This will ensure that the wheels turn at the same time when commanded to.
  • Get the servo you’ve purchased from an RC or hobby shop and glue it directly behind the steering system.
  • Attach the two 800-rpm electric drive motors to the back tires and then secure them to the chassis using glue. The back wheels are responsible for driving forward and reversing which is what the motors will do. Slide the wheels onto the motor and secure them.
  • Lay out where you’re going to put the receiver, speed controller, and battery before connecting them to the motor and servos. It doesn’t matter where they’re placed exactly as long as they can be wired together, so whatever works for your car is best. Glue them down first and then connect the wires, making sure the battery is connected to the servo, motors, receiver, and speed controller.
  • Use the controller to test out how your RC car drives and make any adjustments necessary. Once it’s working, you can decorate or customize the car however you choose, but keep any paint or colors on the outside of the chassis only.

The Parts Needed for an RC Car Kit

An RC car kit usually comes with most of the parts needed to assemble it as well as a detailed list of what other tools might be required.

Basic tools are needed like strong adhesive, a drill, and screwdriver, and you may need to get additional parts like the batteries and motor.

When you receive your kit box, you’ll find numerous bags of parts. These bags should be labeled or numbered so that you can easily match them to the steps in the instruction manual.

You can choose a kit that already has trickier parts like the shocks assembled or choose one that lets you do this for yourself.

One of the reasons why people prefer using a build it yourself RC car kit is because of the customization.

In addition to the standard parts and pieces, you have the option to add on extras depending on what purpose you’re building the car for.

If it’s your very first attempt though, sticking with some basic is the best place to start.

Before you can begin building a car, make sure you understand exactly what’s required and get all of the pieces together and ready to build.

There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down to start the process and finding that you’ve missed a major piece, so read everything twice over to be certain.

Build Your Own RC Car Kits

DIY RC Car Kit

RC car kits come in all shapes and sizes depending on your budget, the type of vehicle you want to build, and how much input you want to have in the process.

If you’d rather buy a kit that has almost everything you need within it and build an RC car that’s a little more polished, it’s easy to follow these steps to do it the right way.

  • Choose the right RC car for you considering your skills and experience putting them together, how much you want to spend, and the type of car you want to build. These kits range from $50 to a few hundred so they vary quite a bit.
  • Set up a workspace on a table that’s uncluttered and won’t be used for anything else. Consider laying down a towel or sheet to protect the surface and make it easier to find parts. Work in a well-lit area with a lamp if needed, as the smaller parts will be hard to see.
  • Spend a lot of time reading through the instruction manual that comes with your car kit to make sure you fully understand the steps and what’s required. Make notes if needed and keep it on the table at all times.
  • For any screws that go into metal, consider adding thread locking glue for extra security. This will hold them into place and can be easily applied with a small dot on the tip of the screw before installing them.
  • Start with only one bag at a time as most kits will have the parts separated. The best place to begin is with the wheel axles as this is the basis of the car. If needed, get some small bowls or containers to keep the parts separated but together with their corresponding pieces.
  • Assemble the shocks system that connects to directly to the wheels and then fill the shocks with the oil that’s been provided before attaching them.
  • Attach all of the separate parts to the chassis including the battery, servos, and electric motors. The servos should be near the front so they can connect to the front axles with the electric motors at the back next to the gears. Put the battery on the very top and then wire it all together.
  • Attach the body of the car by using the clips provided and check that it’s all secure. If you ever need to fix something these clips can easily be undone to remove the body. Once you’ve tested the car and it drives, you can decorate it as you wish or leave it as is.

Related Questions

Learning how to build a radio controlled car offers a lot of satisfaction for the RC hobbyist.

If you’ve enjoyed using RC cars yourself and want to take the next step to make your own, you might have some questions about the best approach.

We’ve answered some common queries about DIY RC cars to make the project a bit easier.

Can You Use Any Transmitter With Any Receiver?

RC Car Transmitter

If you plan on using an old transmitter or receiver to build your RC car, you won’t be able to just find any and make it work.

The transmitter must be operating on the same band as the receiver, usually 2.4 GHz, and if these don’t match up then they won’t be able to send a signal.

You can usually find the details engraved on both devices to make it easier to match.

How Many Channels Does an RC Car Have?

When you purchase a store bought RC car the radios included will usually have two channels, with each one being for a specific purpose.

One of these channels is to send commands for steering and the other for the throttle.

How Fast Can a DIY RC Car Go?

There are a few factors that determine the speed of your RC car including the battery power, motor, and size of the vehicle.

With the right battery, an RC car can reach speeds of up to 100mph without making any other modifications to its design.

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