5 Must-Do Preseason Race Prep Steps

preseasonprepopener

The outdoor RC racing season is upon us. Or, maybe it’s already well underway in your area. Either way, most people know that preparation is a vital part of success when it comes to racing. And yet, many racers are often shortsighted when it comes to either getting a truck race-ready or reviving an old rig. Case in point, other than blowing off last year’s dust, most would-be track stars  start and end preseason prep with a freshly painted body. Unfortunately, looking ready and actually being ready are two different things. Whether you’re just getting last year’s RC truck ready for the first race of the season or looking to breathe new life into an old, tired race machine, here are the top five preseason steps you should be doing. The reality is many racers don’t have the loot (we’re trying really hard here to dance around the down economy) to throw down on a new rig every season. Many of us may need keep last year’s machine competitive or go even further and bring an even older rig back from the dead. If you don’t have the budget for a whole new RC truck, it only makes sense that you want to get the most out of the money that you do have to spend. The five “steps” outlined below are really the items we see as must-have and as the ones that ate most likely to deliver a real return on your investment.

acer bearings

BEARINGS
There are three reasons people don’t replace bearings. First, they simply don’t know they are bad–out of sight, out of mind. Unlike a broken suspension arm, bad bearings are hard to detect unless you’re really paying attention. Second, many people don’t replace bearings because replacing all of the bearings usually requires some work. The good news is the bearings in the hubs are easy to replace and usually the ones that go bad as they get subjected to far more abuse than the ones in the rest of the drivetrain that, well, just spin. If you are too lazy (had to say it) to replace all of the bearings, definitely replace the bearings in all of the hubs. The third reason racers don’t replace bearings is they believe it’s expensive. You can find replacement bearings for a dollar. Even if cheap bearings aren’t the best, a cheap bearing is still better than a broken bearing. How’s that for a nice article? So far, we’ve called you dumb, lazy and cheap!

There are a number of RC bearing suppliers. For a comprehensive section of high quality bearings, check out Acer Racing. Acer Racing sells budget-friendly Teflasonic Sealed bearings which are your standard teflon-sealed bearings. These bearings start at $3 each and you make your life easier and buy a complete kit. Acer Racing’s Polyamide Sealed bearings are available for $4 each (again cost varies by size and complete kits are available) and Acer Racing states these have no-contact seal, low resistance seals. When we pick up Acer Racing bearings, the choice we go with is the ceramic bearings. They cost more with a starting price of $8 per bearings, but these are top quality and high performance. We go with ceramic bearings every time for our race trucks and have even put them in plenty of bashers.

tiresopener

TIRES
Even if the tires you finished up last season with still look pretty good, pick up a fresh set of kicks. Stick what you know works, but if you want to expand your bag of tricks (not a bad idea), use the offseason to chat up the race director and other racers about they think works. Take what you hear with that proverbial grain of salt. I don’t believe too many racers are overtly dishonest about setup, but most competitors don’t necessarily or readily tell the whole story. Along the same lines, you should never snub drivers based on their skill level (that would make you a jerk), but be wary of the guy that you beat every week that just has to tell you what you need to do to go faster. You know the guy I’m talking about.

If you do want to stretch your dollars, avoid the latest generation of super soft and super sticky compounds. Most sportsman drivers flock to these traction kings, but they don’t always work better and they always wear out faster. Often a slightly harder compound will feel more consistent and traction roll a whole lot less. Using Pro-Line as an example, the M4 compound has its place, but we recommend using the M3 or–gasp!–even the M2 compound. If we told you many pro drivers often use the harder compounds, would that convince you?

rpm rod ends ball cups

BALL CUPS/ROD ENDS
Before the first race and every one of them. That’s the answer  to the question about when and which ball cups should be replaced. Start the season with new ball cups–period. Also, if a ball cup pops off in action, replace it. You can go with stock replacements or an aftermarket options such as the ones from RPM which have been being used just about forever–for good reason. We prefer the more subtle black for our race trucks as opposed to the “Look what I added to my truck! blue. On our bashers, you better believe we’re going blue because there the bright blue screams “Bring it on!” If you have rod ends with a captured ball, you do not need to replace them unless there is obvious wear. If there is, however, any noticeable slop, get new parts. If you see the telltale white lines or marks from being bent and stretched, go ahead and replace the parts in question.

acrer racing titanium screws

HARDWARE
Ever have a screw strip out? No fun. Screws often strip out because they are either old, packed with dirt or worn out from contact with the racing surface–or all of the above. Whether it’s four or 14, you should replace the screws that thread in from the bottom of your chassis. You can replace all of your truck’s screws, but the bottom of the chassis is definitely the the place to start. Like bearings, there are a number of options, but steer clear of cheap screws. Soft metal screws will cause more problems than they fix. Stainless steel screws are nice for the obvious reason that they don’t rust, but there are different grades and some being sold for RC are of poor quality. The same goes for titanium screws.

We often use Acer Racing’s aerospace grade 6AL4V titanium screws. They are lighter and far stronger than most standard steel screws. They aren’t the only brand we’ve had success with, but we’ve consistently had good luck with them. Like Acer Racing’s high end ceramic bearings, we have to be honest and point out they are expensive (they start at $1 each). That said, these are for racing applications (not that bashers can’t use them), and racers should be accustomed to paying for performance. When someone came up with “You get what you pay for” they were thinking of RC screws–true story!

robinson racing machined spur

GEARS
New gears are simply a great investment, and money well spent is pretty much the point of this whole article. A new pinion and spur gear are inexpensive, but instead of just replacing them, this is a great time to upgrade to a machined gear set. Machined gears spin much truer which is not only more efficient but they also wear better. Aftermarket machined gears are usually made out of higher quality materials and are, thus, likely to be stronger. Robison Racing is one best known manufacturers of aftermarket gears and have been around for years, but there are other options such as JConcepts and Team Trinity.

Keep in mind that even if your RC truck has a gear cover, dust and dirt will get to the gears and slowly (sometimes quickly) wreak havoc, so don’t assume that your gears are safe because they aren’t directly exposed.

Links
Acer Racing
Jconcepts
Pro-Line Racing
RPM
Team Trinity

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Filed Under: FeaturedRace TrucksTech

Matt Higgins About the Author: Matt has over 25 years of experience in RC and has worked professionally in media for over a decade. Matt enjoys everything from racing to rock crawling to bashing, and he believes RC should be all about having fun. Matt is as at home covering a world championship in an exotic country as he is showing a new hobbyist how to set gear mesh. His desire to share the hobby with as many people as possible inspired him to create RC Truck Stop and RCTruckStop.com.

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