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Detailing & Mounting Scale Accessories

I love that the hobby has come full circle and that scale is back in RC. Short course are replicas of actual race trucks and, as a result, are insanely popular. Scale off-roaders dominate the rock crawling segment, and many of these rigs blur the line between models and RC. Enthusiasts looking to add to the scale realism of their trucks often add scale accessories. Now, you can go out and buy every scale accessory you think is cool … or you can do it right.

Apparently, scale accessories are like tattoos, Pringles and rabbits. Far too many scalers look like the Beverly Hillbillies coming back from cleaning out a yard sale. Pro-Line alone offers over 20 scale accessories–you just don’t need them all on one vehicle. Step one in getting scale accessories right is identifying what type of rig you have. Is it a competitive off-road, a trail rig like you’d find in a Jeep club, a mud bogger or the average guy’s all-purpose off-roader? This is important because the type of vehicle should play a significant role in determining what scale accessories are appropriate–as in believable.

Pro-Line’s line of scale accessories gets a serious nod as a top choice for a few reasons. First, they are readily available at hobby stores and online retailers. Second, Pro-Line keeps one upping itself in terms of detail and quality. Hobby Gear offers a nice selection, but has expanded its lineup since the first release. Axial also offers a large number of scale accessories. Axial’s vehicles come with a nice selection of items and Axial also offers interior and exterior accessory kits. RC4WD also has an ever growing selection of scale items. In addition to the mainstream offerings, there are numerous smaller companies making scale parts.

If you’re going to RC scale comps and your truck is supposed to be a realistic model of the type of vehicle that would be used in competition, you should–technically–do exactly the opposite of what most rules encourage and that’s to go light on scale accessories. Off-road competitions have strict safety rules and you are unlikely to see a truck pass tech with a whole slew of loose tools (AKA potential projectiles) in the bed.

On the other end of the spectrum, a mud bogger romping around a farmer’s field is unlikely to have every scale RC’er’s favorite accessory–the Hi-Lift Jack. A rusty shovel and a length of chain, yes, but not a Hi-Lift.

Splitting the difference is the trail-prepped Jeep or Toyota that is likely to have a Hi-Lift Jack, welder, some extra fuel cans and other practical tools for an off-road adventure.

In addition to having too many accessories, most RC scale trucks are adorned with brand-spankin’ new accessories. Nothing screams phony like a spotless shovel or Hi-Lift. So, unless the look you’re going for is mall crawler, those scale accessories are going to need a little attention.Real off-road accessories have scratches, dings, dents, rust, grease, grime and dirt on them. They aren’t shiny, polished and new. This is where a technique called weathering comes in, and the great thing about weathering is that a little goes a long way.

Doin’ Damage
When tools and gear get used off-road, they get abused. Those above mentioned scratches, dings and dents show up–it’s inevitable. The only place something like a shovel should be spotless is when it’s still hanging in the hardware store. The easiest way to add some scratches is to use a hobby knife to actually scratch and cut into the tool. The same knife can also be used to carve small dings and dents.


A wash is a paint that has been significantly thinned. The thin paint easily flows into cracks and low points. A part that has been treated with a black wash loses that telltale toy look. The parts will be real-world dull and not showroom shiny, and with some areas such as seams and crevices ending up darker than other areas, the parts will simply have more dimension. Most hobby stores have pre-thinned washes that make the process much easier. I use a flat-tipped, medium-sized brush to spread out the wash. A wash isn’t detail work. Cover large areas at once and let the paint flow where gravity takes it. A wash job doesn’t have to be done in one coat. It’s better to start small and add until you’re satisfied.

Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is done using acrylic hobby paint and small, fairly thin-tipped paint brushes. Use colors such as flat black, brown and red. You can even find specifically pigmented colors such as dirt, sand and rust. To dry brush your accessories, apply a small amount of paint to the brush tip and then dab it on a paper towel multiple times until wet paint is no showing up when you stroke the brush across the towel. After this happens, the brush is ready to be lightly brushed on the accessory. The key–besides using a dry brush–is to slowly build up the paint. Less is more and you can easily add, but taking away paint is difficult at best.

After a little bit of work, your scale accessories look much more realistic. Now what?  Well, now you have to get those doodads on your truck–and get them to stay there. The best way to get most accessories on your scaler is to use a clear silicone adhesive. The beauty of silicone glue is that is holds extremely well, is flexible and can still be removed if needed. Some parts are better off secured with CA glue. I often add scale trim to Lexan bodies use use CA to adhere it. I have also used the clear part of sticker sheets to attach homemade printed decals or signs such as “For sale” signs.


If your truck is going to see a lot of action (and we hope it does), certain items that take a lot of hits such as snorkels will need more than silicone glue. A self-tapping screw from the inside of the body will be unnoticeable and should provide enough extra security. If that proves to not be enough, I small button head screw can be used and will at least be inconspicuous.


Tiny cable ties can be used to secure scale items. Cable ties are strong and don’t ruin realism if only a small portion of the cable tie is exposed. On certain items such fire extinguishers, cable ties make perfect scale straps. Another more realistic but less secure method is to use scale bungee cords. You can make your own bungee cords, but Hobby Gear sells excellent scale bungee cords.

A common sense rule of thumb is to–when possible–mimic how the real accessory is mounted. For example, Hi-Lift Jacks are hard mounted and not just sliding around in the bed of a truck. Small 1.5mm hardware can be used to mount certain items and it won’t look out of scale.

While most scale accessories are purely decoration, a few actually get used. A perfect example is a Pull Pal. Scale winching is almost impossible without a Pull Pal to use as an anchor. I have mine mounted to my Axial SCX10 Honcho using short body posts and Pro-Line Pro Pulls.

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  1. I have found a few great tips for weathering rust. Bubble up rust spots can be done achieved using CA glue and chalk pastels from a art store.

    1. I simply dribble a bit of CA glue on spots on the body then I simple sprinkled powdered and crushed rust colored pastels on the glue. It will give a great 3d textured look to the rust.

    2. Using the same pastels and oil based burnt umber also works great when you use it with rubbing alcohol to do streaks of rust.

    3. Keep in mind too real rust also can achieve the same affect as well. And gives you the same effect.

    4. keep in mind those same pastels in other colors can also work to your advantage. Example i used the white pastel to give me a sun bleached affect to some areas.

  2. Thanks a lot for doing this article. The rock crawling and scale is all new to me. this stuff helps allot Bookmarked.

  3. Love the photos you ad to your articles Matt! I’ve really spent some time on your site in the last few weeks and admire your work! It’s a blessing to have such a talent enjoying this hobby as much as the rest of us do..

  4. I really like the Truck bed tool box from Proline, i’d like to know if it could fit a 9volt battery inside for powering L.E.D.’s. Any info would be great, thanks!!

    1. Scott. You can also get a tool box gift card holder from Tractor supply co. It also fits a 9 volt battery. I think there $3 or so.

  5. OH wow, thanks for checking Matt!! I thought it would be just a tad too small from the looks of it.
    Guess i’ll be gettin one next pay check…hopefully..lol
    Thanks again!!

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