How to Fix a Busted RC Car in 5 Easy Steps

The first thing you do when you get a new knife is use it to cut yourself (on accident, of course). What's the first thing you do with a new RC car? You break it.

Breaking in a new vehicle means you don't know the car yet, and you're excited about the possibilities. This also means you'll have more crashes. Luckily, these cars can put up with a lot of wear.

Chances are you can repair your RC car yourself. First, you have to perform a vehicle diagnosis, and after that, follow our five easy steps to fixing your RC car.

RC Car Vehicle Diagnosis

Rule out basic problems first. Then you'll make sure the car actually has an electrical or mechanical problem. Here are some simple troubleshooting questions to ask:

  1. Are the batteries charged and installed the right way?
  2. Is the antenna extended completely?
  3. Is the car turned on? How about the transmitter?
  4. Are the car and the transmitter set to the same channel (some cars do not have the option to change the channel)?
  5. Are you using the transmitter that goes with the car?

RC cars operate on different frequencies. If you own more than one RC car, there's a chance you grabbed the wrong transmitter.

If it's transmitting the wrong frequency for your vehicle, you won't be able to drive your car. The frequency of your transmitter is usually printed on the bottom.

Electronics Problems

If you've had no luck with basic troubleshooting, check to see if there's a wiring problem. One of the most common problems with any remote-controlled device is electronics issues. You can check a couple of different things.

Is There an Open Circuit?

An electric circuit must be a closed circuit in order for the electric current to flow through. Look for places that the circuit is open by checking the circuit board. Make sure all the connections trace right back to the motor, the servo, and the battery.

Any exposed or broken wire could be the reason your car isn't operating. You'll need to strip and resolder the problematic wire to close the circuit so the current can flow again.

You can buy a soldering iron with adjustable temperature online.

Does the Transmitter Have Connection Issues?

You can open up the transmitter to view the circuit board. Take a picture every step of the way so you remember how it goes back together.

Some transmitters don't have screws; instead, they use plastic hooks. Use a flat tool to click open the cover.

Look for copper plates where the contacts should touch. If they don't, you can bend the metal contacts toward you.

If that still doesn't work, you can adjust the screws. Clip off some of the screws.

Then the circuit board will screw down closer to the copper plates. This, in turn, brings the contacts closer to the copper plates.

If all else fails, replacing the whole remote control system is actually cheaper than buying a new RC car. You'll need servos, batteries, speed controllers, and transmitters.

Mechanical Problems

Sometimes electrical problems aren't your biggest worry. Mechanical problems can also affect your RC car.

If your RC car or truck isn't rebounding when you push down on it, you may need to replace the shocks. Let's troubleshoot the shocks first to make sure they need replacing.

  • Is the shock cap cracked?

If so, you may be losing oil, which could cause the shock not to rebound.

  • Have you changed the oil recently?

If so, it may take a while for the rebound to come back if you used a heavy weight oil. Also, make sure you filled it up, and that there are no air bubbles.

  • Are the shocks dirty?

If so, you can remove them and clean them with dish soap. You don't need to disassemble the shocks; clean them off instead. It can make a big difference in performance.

  • Are you using preload spacers?

If so, make sure you have enough of them to account for the weight of the car.

  • Have you checked the A-arms?

If not, there may be a rock or dirt stuck between them and that could cause slow (or nonexistent) rebound.

If none of these problems seems to get your shocks back to working order, you may need to replace the shocks. Luckily, this is a pretty simple repair to do at home.

Is the Steering Arm Broken?

The steering column on an RC car should connect to the servo with a wire or a plastic rod. If you've done any car repairs on a real vehicle, this is like a tie rod.

Sometimes you'll need to open up the vehicle, but often you won't need to get deep inside to fix the steering column. You can try gluing it, or using wire or plastic to reconnect the steering to the servo.

Is Your Motor Working?

The gears inside the motor and drive train are usually plastic or metal. You can realign the gears or replace stripped gears. This is like a stripped screw; look for worn or missing teeth.

If there don't seem to be any problems with the gears, inspect them with a flashlight. A small pebble or even a grain of sand can get stuck inside and cause the gears to slip.

Sometimes replacing the motor is the easiest route to take. This requires less skill and less troubleshooting.

Cleaned Up and Ready to Race

If your RC car isn't working, make sure to check for basic problems first. Then look for electrical and mechanical problems.

Performing a vehicle diagnosis can be extensive. Yet, if you rule out one problem at a time, you'll be back on the road in no time.