10 Awesome RC Investments That Are Worth Every Penny

compressor

1.
AIR COMPRESSOR
Cleaning RC cars isn’t fun, so who wouldn’t love a tool that makes a tiresome and messy job substantially easier and faster? Air compressors can be expensive, but they can be had on the cheap (comparably) at discount tool stores such as Harbor Freight. The good news here is that the cheap ones work just fine. If you’re worried that a lesser priced one is going to be louder (it may very well be), ask them to plug it in. Keep in mind, none are going to be truly quiet. Once you blow off a day’s worth of dirt in 10 seconds, you won’t care how loud it is.

dremel

2.
ROTARY TOOL
The deeper you get in the hobby, the more uses you’ll find for a rotary tool (also known by the brandname Dremel). At the very least, a rotary tool equipped with a sanding drum will make quick work of smoothing out a trimmed body. You’ll quickly progress from bodywork to modifying parts to really cool stuff like fabricating your own custom parts. A rotary tool equipped with a cutting disc (wear safety glasses) is perfect for slotting the heads of stripped screws so you can get them out with a flathead screwdriver.

calipers

3.
DIGITAL CALIPERS
Like to build your RC vehicles? How about building them with absolute precision? Of course you do. So do I. From the simple tasks such as measuring screws and other hardware to ensuring that your shocks have the exact same length extended and rebounded (without springs), digital calipers are worth every penny. If you’re not building your shocks using calipers, you’re doing it wrong. Plus, they are no where near as expensive as they used to be.

multimeter

4.
MULTI-METER
You may not need a multi-meter every time you work on your RC cars, but you’ll be glad you have it when you need it. Multi-meters are most often used to test batteries—both your main rechargeable batteries and other batteries, such as the AA cells in your transmitter. Multi-meters are also useful for diagnosing electrical problems. Again, I may not reach for the multi-meter often, but no other tool can really do the job it does. After you buy a multi-meter, pick up an RC specific watt meter for even more electronics testing.

folding tables

5.
FOLDING TABLE
Even if you just bash in the yard, having a table to place your gear on and wrench is simply awesome. It’s doubly awesome when it’s furniture you don’t have to share. If you race, having your own table is a necessity. Get yourself one of the folding poly-material tables that not only has folding legs but also folds in half. The poly tables are super lightweight and the tables that fold in half easily fit in any trunk.

canopy

6.
POP-UP CANOPY
Baking in the sun or getting you and your expensive RC equipment soaked by a rain shower is zero fun. Pop-up canopies are bulky and heavy. That makes them clumsy to handle and kind of a pain to transport. And, regardless if the word “E-Z” is on the bag, there is often nothing easy about setting up a canopy–unless a few fellow racers jump over to help. Okay, I’m not doing too good of a job on selling the canopy idea. The deal is once you have a canopy up, you’ll love it. You won’t be made miserable by the elements and it will be your home away from home for you and your race buddies. Canopies also define your personal space in the pits. Without one you kind of feel like you’re just floating adrift.

laptop

7.
LAPTOP COMPUTER
Now, we’re getting fancy. The main thing people use computers for is going online and looking at recipes. Right? Well, you may not need to do that at the track or in your RC man cave, but you will find a laptop dedicated to RC a very handy device. More and more RC electronics can be programmed and updated via a computer interface. Plus, more companies are wisely putting instruction manuals online. That means if you have your laptop on or near your bench, you have a pretty impressive RC library at your finger tips. Really, the main use will be programming and updating electronics such as speed controls. Oh, and checking out RC Truck Stop like you are right now. You don’t need a highend laptop with all the bells and whistles. Just make sure it has the most up to date USB driver and version of Flash.

tempgauge

8.
TEMP GUN
Not just for nitro nuts, temp guns are a nessecity of the modern day electric RC owner. I have extoled the many uses of a good IR temp gun for many years. First of all, temperature is hands down the absolute best way to ensure proper gearing. Race on-road? You need a temp gun to record track temps. Temp guns also work great as a prop for corny pickup lines should an attractive girl walk through the pits. Point the temp gun at her as she walks by. When she asks what you’re doing, you reply, “Just as I suspected. You’re wicked hot.” Hey, I said it was corny. Now try it. It will work and you will get a laugh . . . and then confronted by her boyfriend because unattached hot girls at an RC track are about as likely as unicorns and UFOs. Wait. You believe in UFOs. Well, then maybe you can also go on believing you’ll meet your future wife at the RC track.

trakpower soldering station

9.
HIGH QUALITY SOLDERING IRON
Notice I didn’t say soldering gun. If it has a trigger and is used for soldering, it’s junk. Get a high quality soldering iron–an iron, not a gun. The key to quality soldering is having the right tools–end of story. LRP and TrakPower offer great units. Both are worth every penny. The LRP costs a lot at around $200, but it is exceptional. If your budget doesn’t allow for that big of an investment, the TrakPower is less than $100. According to manufacturer specs, the LRP and TrakPower operate at the same temp range, but the LRP is rated at operating at 50% more power. Hakko and Weller are mainstream soldering iron brands that RCers have been using for years.

da wife

10.
UNDERSTANDING WIFE/GIRLFRIEND
You just spent a ton of money on a bunch of stuff that makes noise, takes up space and will predominatently only be used for RC, so you better have an understanding wife or girlfriend. If you have both, you better hope the wife is really understanding.

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Filed Under: General RCTech

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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  1. Number 10 is a good one…….. “if you have both”…. that was a good chuckle. But its true, having an understanding wife that supports and understands this hobby goes a long way. Especially woman who take part in the hobby too.

  2. Kthnos says:

    #10 -> lol!
    nice article matt!

  3. Paul OFarrell says:

    Great stuff Matt. I am jumping in to RC trucks and crawlers from the on road tour car section. I love to go fast and take turns now I am going more into bashing and crawling so the stuff I already have on your list is great but your list definitely fills in where its needed. I love the sight so far man.

    #10 is true beyond words.

  4. Ryan D says:

    good article, couple places where your smoking something.

    #7 a dedicated rc laptop? seriously? laptop is super handy to have but a dedicated one?

    hands down (Pun intended) a little helping hands vice is a far better investment than a dedicated rc laptop.

    #9 a high quality soldering iron is handy to have, it is also highly cost prohibitive and massive overkill for 99% of people in rc, which leaves most sticker shocked into having a friend or local hobby shop do there connectors etc.

    the high quality iron being mandatory is a myth, for connector soldering like bullets deans etc your actually better off with a $10 hobbico 60watt iron, it has a high amount of tip mass which means it can heat connectors faster before dropping to an unuseable temp, the tips are dirt cheap ($3-4 depending) and it will cover all of your major soldering needs for a long long time, also costing less than a replacement tip for most “quality irons” (which are technicly feature reduced production work stations) is huge, if you need something to do a little finer work they have smaller versions for same price.

    I’m an Licensed Amateur Radio Operator and have built countless projects over the years ranging from simple to highly complex and the soldering iron snobbery is heavily pervasive there as well, and there might actually be a valid reason for it in radio, ok not really, unless your doing prototyping for your own line of keyer or whatnot.

    recomend a decent iron that will do the job and let people gain some experience without breaking the bank, they can move on to the “quality” workstation irons for home bench later if they really feel the need, and then they have a effective basic iron they can throw in the track box and take with…

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      Can’t really argue with your point of view too much. That said, many people have RC-exclusive laptops. This was common place back in the oval days. These days is isn’t too rare as I see many RC racers users old laptops just for RC.

      I agree with the Hobbico iron. The key there is that it’s an iron and not a soldering gun and high wattage. As far as the more expensive models, they are all money well spent.

      Thanks for checking out the article and RC Truck Stop.

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