How to Choose the Correct RC Car or Truck
Ready to get started in radio control with the world’s top-performing Ready-To-Race® RC cars and trucks? Traxxas makes everything easy. Well, almost everything. With over 60 models to choose from in 2WD, 4X4, electric, and fuel-burning styles ranging from rally cars to monster trucks, choosing your first Traxxas can be a (welcomed) challenge. Let’s talk about what to consider as you narrow down your choices and answer some common questions about getting started in Traxxas radio control.
Is Bigger (or Smaller) Better?
It’s a common misconception that smaller models must be for beginners, and as size goes up, so does the need for more skill and experience. Not true—you can start with any size you like. Traxxas has excellent choices for beginners in all sizes (or “scales”), and small cars can be big performers. In fact, one of Traxxas’ smallest models is also among the fastest. The 1/16 E-Revo VXL is just 13 inches long, yet capable of over 50 mph!
The size of an RC model is referred to as its “scale.” In RC, the most common size is 1/10 scale, meaning the model is one-tenth the size of the “real thing.” A 1/7 scale model would be larger than 1/10 scale since one-seventh is larger than one-tenth. A 1/16 scale model would be smaller than 1/10, as one-sixteenth is smaller than one-tenth. Traxxas models are offered in 1/18, 1/16, 1/10, 1/7, and 1/6 scale. That covers a range of sizes from ten inches long to nearly three feet!
All Traxxas models feature Training Mode Video, which reduces speed and power by 50% so new drivers can focus on learning the controls without having to tip-toe around the model’s full power potential. Traxxas models also allow you to choose battery options with higher or lower voltages to tailor performance to skill level. For example, the Rustler VXL’s top speed with a 7.2 volt battery and Training Mode activated is a nice-and-easy 15 mph or so. Deactivate Training Mode and install an 11.1 volt battery, and now that same Rustler VXL is ready to top 55 mph. All Traxxas models offer this kind of versatility.
Traxxas Stability Management® (TSM) makes high-performance RC easy and accessible for everyone. Slippery surfaces can make it tricky to drive high-powered RC vehicles without fishtailing or losing control, no matter how experienced the driver. TSM is standard equipment on all Traxxas brushless models and works like the electronic stability systems in full-size cars to greatly improve control. It all happens instantly and invisibly, all you’ll notice is that you can drive faster with greater control.
What’s the Difference Between “Brushed” and “Brushless”?
The terms “brushed” and “brushless” refer to the type of motor that’s in the model. Specifically, the construction of the motor, and whether or not it has “brushes.” Both types of motors use battery power to energize coiled wire inside the motor to create an electromagnetic field. The electromagnetic field interacts with magnets to spin the output shaft and power the car. The difference between brushed and brushless motors is in the arrangement of the coiled wire and the magnets. If you can go brushless from the start, go for it. You’ll spend about a third more than you would for the comparable model with brushed power, but you’ll get twice the speed and power (or even more). Remember, you can use Training Mode to slow down your model until you’re ready for full power.
In a brushed motor, the magnets are stationary inside the motor. Blocks of copper alloy (the “brushes”) physically contact a cylinder (called the commutator) to transfer battery power to wire wrapped around the motor’s armature, creating an electromagnetic field that causes the commutator and armature to spin the output shaft. Brushed motors offer strong performance for low cost, but the stationary brushes pressing against the spinning commutator create friction, resulting in heat, wear, and reduced efficiency when compared to brushless architecture.
Brushless motors eliminate brushes and the friction, wear, and inefficiency that goes with them. A stationary “stator” generates an electromagnetic field which drives the magnets (rotor) that do the spinning. There is no contact between the rotor and stator, the only wear items are the ball bearings that support the rotor. The greater efficiency of brushless construction allows more power and much higher speeds. Brushless motors and their speed controls have more complexity and components than their brushed counterparts, so brushless power costs more initially. The reward is a long-lasting, highly efficient system that provides unbelievable power and acceleration.
If you start with a brushed model and want to move up to brushless power, Traxxas makes it easy to upgrade. With the Power-Up Program, you can trade in your brushed speed control and motor for a Velineon Power System at a discount. You can do this in person at your participating Traxxas dealer, or online here at Traxxas.com. Go to Friendly Hobbies Power Up to learn more about the program. (Power Up Form)
What About “Gas” or Nitro Power?
Traxxas offers stadium trucks, short-course trucks and monster trucks powered by fuel-burning 2-stroke engines with EZ-Start electric starting. Instead of gasoline, they run on Top Fuel “nitro,” a mixture of alcohol, nitromethane and oil. Compared to electric cars and trucks, nitro models require more skill to operate and more frequent maintenance to keep them running their best. Temperature, humidity, and air pressure effect engine performance, so you’ll need to fine-tune the carburetor settings for peak performance each time you run a nitro model (it’s all covered in the manual, of course). If engine power is the most exciting option for you, you absolutely can get started in RC with a nitro vehicle as your first model, and no one makes it easier than Traxxas. If maximum ease of use and convenience is most important, battery power is the way to go. It’s also the best choice if it’s speed and power you’re after—Traxxas’ most extreme-performance models are all electric.
2WD or 4X4?
Most Traxxas vehicles are exclusively 4WD, because powering all four wheels delivers the best acceleration, handling, traction, and rough-terrain capability. The Traxxas Rustler, Stampede, and Slash trucks are each offered as rear-wheel drive (2WD) and “4X4” four-wheel drive (4WD) models. The 4X4 trucks have chassis and drivetrains optimized for 4WD, and are not conversions of the 2WD designs. The advantage of a 2WD model is a lower price compared to its 4X4 counterpart. 2WD models can be just as powerful and may be a few mph faster because the 2WD model will be lighter and have fewer drivetrain parts to spin. 4WD does make it easier to put power to the ground for faster acceleration, and with four tires providing braking grip instead of just two, you’ll have more precise and powerful braking control. In short, a 4X4 will outperform an equivalent 2WD model everywhere except in price, and (possibly) peak straight-line speed.
The Drag Slash, 4-Tec, XO-1, and LaTrax Rally are Traxxas’ on-road cars, meaning they’re designed exclusively for driving on smooth, hard surfaces. Low-slung and equipped with smooth-tread tires, they’re engineered for street car performance, not off-roading and jumps. Traxxas on-road models are built tough like the off-roaders, but they don’t have the aggressive tires, high ground clearance, or long suspension travel needed to work well in the dirt. If you’re all about the street scene and off-road capability isn’t on your checklist, go on-road!
The single-seater, wing-on-the-back, buggy is a classic RC look. Buggies are fast and light, but very rough terrain will challenge a buggy more than truck models because buggies have smaller tires and less ground clearance. Buggies perform best on hard-packed dirt and hard surfaces.
The next step up in rough-terrain capability is stadium trucks. Longer suspension arms provide a wider footprint for more stable rough-terrain handling, and larger tires roll over obstacles more easily. The bigger tires also raise the chassis for more ground clearance, but stadium trucks remain low enough for good rollover resistance in high-traction conditions (like street running).
Short-course trucks are wide like stadium trucks and have a longer wheelbase, which makes them extra-stable in rough conditions. They also look great with their realistic full-fender bodies, which also boost durability by covering the wheels. Like stadium trucks, short-course trucks offer excellent on- and off-road versatility.
Monsters offer maximum rough-terrain capability thanks to their massive tires, long-travel suspension, and lifted chassis. This tall ride height provides exciting wheels-up acceleration, while also allowing them to soak up the bumps and jumps the best of all the RC categories. Like all off-road models, you can also run monster trucks on hard surfaces, but a monster truck’s higher center of gravity and tall tires requires a lighter touch when cornering on high-traction surfaces.
Trail trucks are a whole different type of off-road adventure. Where all of Traxxas’ other off-road models are built to absorb bumps and jumps at speed with independent suspension, trail trucks are all about scale realism and crawling over obstacles at low speed, like full-size 4X4 enthusiasts do. Traxxas TRX-4 trail trucks have the same solid-axle, ladder-frame construction as “real” 4X4s, and are available with functional locking differentials and multi-speed transmissions. If you're looking for a truly authentic off-road experience in RC, this is the truck for you.
What Else Do I Need?
All Traxxas models are available fully assembled and ready to run. The most affordable 1/10 scale models are offered with or without a battery and charger. Most Traxxas models do not include a battery and charger, so you have the option of choosing the battery that best suits your needs. All models require four AA batteries for the transmitter, which you probably already have—but if not, Friendly Hobbies also carries high quality AAs for a perfect fit and long life in your truck or transmitter.
Choosing the right battery is easy. Click on your model in our Traxxas Showroom, then click the Batteries tab to see every battery Traxxas offers for your model. You’ll also see the chargers you can select. Traxxas iD chargers simplify charging and offer maximum safety by automatically choosing the correct setting for Traxxas Power Cell iD batteries. For best performance and reliability, only use Traxxas batteries and chargers in your model.
Do I Need Special Tools?
Every Traxxas model includes the basic tools required for essential maintenance. When you’re ready to upgrade to premium tools for more convenient and comfortable wrenching when maintaining and modifying your model, the TRA3415 Tool Kit and #8712 Speed Bit Essentials sets are great choices.