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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.