RC Electronics 101: How to Rewire a Remote Control Car
Now that you've got a few great Traxxas cars in your RC electronics collection, it's time to roll up your sleeves.
The first few RC cars you got might've been ready-to-run vehicles or ones you bought used. As you delve deeper into the hobby, you probably wanted to try building your own RC car from scratch.
One of the most important parts of this process is the installation of your RC electronics. They are the foundation of your vehicle, so you'll want to properly get it up and running.
Wiring up your RC car isn't rocket science. It's actually easier than you probably imagined.
The process is very straightforward but it takes time to get used to. You'll also need the proper tools to get it set up the way you want.
With a little bit of effort, you can even manage to make it look clean and precise. Here's how!
Tools You'll Need
There are a few tools you'll need before you begin installing the RC electronics to your model. You'll need a pair of Lexan scissors (though realistically, any pair of slim-nosed scissors will do), some zip-ties, and a soldering iron. These are the basics that you'll need to put everything together.
It would be ideal for you to have some experience soldering as well.
If not, look up a YouTube tutorial on how to solder properly. Soldering can be danger since the tool gets so hot. Also, using a soldering iron incorrectly can harm your electronics, so it's best to play it safe!
Wiring Your RC Electronics
There are several steps that all RC cars have in common. First, you'll want to place your electronics on the chassis of your RC car as a mock trial. It's best to know what lengths of wiring you'll need for each piece. It's also good to plan out where your zip-ties will go so that they don't interfere with any mechanism in your RC car.
After this, you'll want to wire your motor to your speed controller. If you're running a sensored brushless setup, it's best to see the various sensor wire choices you have. The less wire you have running, the better.
Once that's done, you'll want to measure out how much wiring you'll need to go from the speed controller (ESC) to your battery. Finally, you'll want to lock all your wires down with zip-ties to wrap up your project.
Let's dive into more detail.
Mount Your Electronics
The first step for any RC electronic wiring installation is to test-fit all your pieces. You want to place your motor, speed controller, battery, and your receiver/servo if you have those as well. Loosely fit these pieces into place so that you can measure out the wiring you'll need.
For beginners, you can stick with the default length of wiring that each component comes from. Later on, you can zip-tie them together into a bundle so that they aren't flailing around. For users who want to really streamline their units, they can shorten the wires and solder them back for a cleaner build.
Wire Your Motor To Your ESC
Now that you've established your motor and ESC placement, you can wire them up.
Make sure that you account for a little bit of slack when you do your wiring. You don't want them to be tight. Your wires should have a little bit of give.
You should position your motor and ESC as far away from each other as possible in the beginning. This is to give you room to adjust your motor with your pinion gear. Once you've got your wiring down to the right length, you can solder it in place.
For a simple crash course on soldering, be sure that your soldering iron is hot and has some solder on it. The solder should be shiny on the tip of your iron.
Add some flux to the tab that you're soldering on so that the solder sticks easier. Then add a dab of solder onto the tab so that there's a base to work with.
Add some solder to your iron so that it thickens and looks like a blob. Then apply it to the wiring (which should have a coat of solder on it). Then solder the two pieces together.
The solder on the finished product should be shiny. If it's dull, it's not finished. You should also make sure there aren't any air bubbles in your soldering job.
Choose Your Sensor Wire
This step is only for people who chose a sensored brushless setup. For most Traxxas vehicles, they'll have a brushless motor and ESC. You should have different options for lengths, and they'll be applicable in different situations.
If you're working on an off-road vehicle, a longer sensor wire will be a better choice. For on-road cars, a shorter sensor wire will be your best bet.
Be sure to fix them so that they aren't bent or folded. Damage to these wires can cause your car to stutter.
Wire Your Battery
Now that you've finished wiring up most of your major electronics, it's time to do the battery.
Strap your battery into the car, and pull your wires towards the center of your battery. Then curve the wires towards the positive and negative terminals. Then adjust the length by trimming the wires.
For a lot of batteries now, they'll have their own lead and connector Be sure that your battery connector and wiring can stay snug against the chassis of your car.
You don't want them to drop out of your body shell and get dragged on the floor. Some people like to secure them with the velcro strap, others will prefer to have it tucked into your car.
Go Through The Car With Zip-Ties
With everything finished, it's time to clean up the wiring. For any wires that are still a little long or jumbled, you can use zip-ties to secure them together and into place. The most typical wires you'll use zip-ties for is the servo and speed controller wire leads.
These wires lead to the receiver, so make sure they're bundled up nice and tight. Ideally, you would fold the excess wires and tie them into place so that they still have a bit of give.
Wiring up your car with RC electronics is an easy task that takes some time to get used to. Play around and figure out what setup works the best for you. Everybody has their own preferences and it's up to you to decide what you like.