In a World that's ever more Tech Savvy, based Online and Virtual, it's great that Hobby Grade RC has had a real resurgence in the last few years. There's never been a better time to get involved and either take your first steps, or come back to the fold after a time away.
The positives of this hobby are plain to see. It promotes dexterity, hand and eye coordination, depth perception, and by maintaining and repairing the vehicle yourself, it also teaches the basics of vehicle mechanics too. Here at Carisma we feel it's important that you understand the basics of the hobby before you take your first steps into it, or to rejoin it as many do after a long period away. We have collated a small guide to modern Hobby Grade RC Cars, empowering you with the knowledge you need to make an informed choice.
While some RC cars are run indoors, most get the end user outside in the fresh air, getting exercise, and this is a hobby that once experienced, transcends generations and gender to last a lifetime of fun and new experiences. There are now so many types and scales of vehicle available that there's always going to be something that appeals to every type of end user, and where they have locally to run and experience them in action.
Never A Better Time
The quality and features of Hobby Grade RC Cars have never been better, and the price points of the vehicles themselves has never been more competitive. The technology is now very sophisticated, but yet very simple to use. Gone are the days of long telescopic aerials and transmitters locked onto a single AM or FM channel with coloured crystals.
2.4GHz technology is the norm, allowing theoretically around 85 cars to be run together without cross channel interference or glitching. FHSS (or Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum Technology) allows each paired Transmitter and Receiver to automatically (and in some cases continually) scan for an open channel, log onto it and seamlessly let you drive your RC car accurately (and with greater range) than ever before.
Most modern surface radio's are capable of controlling a car within the space of half a football field, some even further. Most however will be run within 20m of the driver, as line of site and physically seeing the orientation of the car at all times is vitally important!
As for the other electronics, motor technology has moved on considerably since the days of the standard silver can 540 brushed motor most pre 1990's RC ran on. They still have a place in the hobby, in fun RTR RC cars, Stock Class Club Racing, Rock Crawling and Scale rigs, and they are often still included in many fun spec self-build kits. Brushed motors have a finite life span and once worn beyond repair or use need replacing. But they are cheap, available in a variety of RPM specifications or 'Turns' (IE: 55T Ultra High Torque for Rock Crawling, or 16T For Racing or Bashing). They will always have a place in RC Cars, but more and more Brushless Motor Technology is now the norm.
It offers better run times by being far more efficient. More performance. in terms of the range of available torque and RPM, and a longer lifespan with minimal maintenance, as there's far less moving parts that can physically wear out in their construction. The latter an important factor in a Ready To Run vehicle that you want to last.
On Or Off Road?
Electric RC Cars are usually defined as either On Road or Off Road, and then by their size or scale. The most common scales are 1/24th, 1/10th and 1/8th. There are also sub classes in each genre, such as Buggy, Rock Crawler, Monster Truck, F1, Touring Car, Super Cars and so on.
On Road Cars sit lower to the driving surface, run stiffer suspension, have slick rubber or lightly treaded tyres, and are designed to be run outdoors on smooth tarmac or concrete, or indoors on floors or specially designed carpet. All ready built (RTR) On Road cars can be run just for fun, just as long as you can find a suitable smooth surface, or if they fall into an allowed category, they can also be raced competitively at local, organised clubs.
Racing is a great way to meet like minded people, gain experience of ongoing maintenance, repairs and car setup. Being a club member means you can benefit from the shared wealth of knowledge that other club members have, and fellow racers soon become lifelong friends. RC is officially classed as a motorsport, and has governing bodies globally for both National and International competitions.
Off Road as a genre has by far the most choices of scale and vehicle's. They are also the most versatile by way of the available places that you can run them. As purely fun vehicles, you can bash with pre-built RTR versions of Trucks, Buggies and even Rally Cars. There's also realistic looking Urban and Military vehicles, purpose built Ultra-4 Rigs, Baja inspired Prerunners, Short Course Trucks, Rock Bouncers and Rock Crawlers. The list of types is huge, the fun never ending. In racing circles Buggies are still the most popular class, but there's also Truggies, Monster Trucks, Racing Short Course Trucks and many more. You pick a type that inspires you, find a cool location and escape into a world of RC fun and adventures. Electric is good, clean RC fun!
Then there's the biggest growth area in Off Road worldwide, Scale. As a genre Scale is defined as an RC Car that not only looks realistic in it's construction and detail, but one that also performs like the real thing with organised competitions like the RECON G6 and various countries holding Scale Nationals based on real 1:1 4x4 events.
Scale grew from the late 2007 Rock Crawling movement. Retaining much of the abilities of its predecessors, but took the level of realism to a whole new level. The cars are not fast, typically running at just walking pace, but they do have very high torque motors and high grip tyres. With working winches, LED Lighting, interiors, driver figures and even sound processors to mimic the roar of the real engines. It continues to evolve and grow in all scales and a variety of different and often licensed body styles. It perfectly mixes the RC Car hobby with old school Model Making, and once you have the donor vehicle anything is truly possible, your imagination is the only limitation.
A Few Words On Kits
Kits are by far more time consuming than a ready made RC Car (RTR), and will also require a package of electronics and other items to be added to complete them. You will need paint for the body shell and tools to construct the chassis, gearbox and other components. Many model makers truly enjoy the process of building RC Cars, especially those of a more photorealistic nature. They teach the owner the mechanics of the vehicle by physically assembling each sub section step by step into a complete car.
Here at Carisma, we do offer many vehicles as kits, and most of these are classes that can be raced at a club. We like to run all our cars, as seeing them in action, especially racing with others in the same class is really something quite special and awe inspiring. It's a truly affordable form of Motorsport, one that won't break the bank and one that rewards you in so many ways.
Ready To Run Explained
The vast majority of cars are purchased purely for fun and what's known as 'Bashing'. These tend to be pre-built RTR vehicles and often include everything required to get them up and running. Electric models include a pre-installed radio and receiver, a steering servo, A Speed Control and Motor, and even a main battery pack and charger (most are 240v wall or 5v USB).
There are many types of main battery such as NiCAD, NiMH, LiPO or LiFE. The former two are now being used far less in hobby grade products as they are considered old technology, and do not offer the speed of charging, run times or lifespan of the latter two Lithium based batteries types.
LiPO (or Lithium Polymer) cells are now an industry standard and offer far longer run times, better, more sustained performance of power delivery and are often lighter, so in turn offer better power to weight ratio thus increasing the top speed of the car. When used in conjunction with a Brushless Motor, LiPO offers the perfect all round performance for Bashing or Racing.
With Great Power Comes Extra Responsibility
LiPO cells do however need to be cared for and charged in a specific way. Their construction is made up from multiple layers of cells. Usually 2 cells in a standard 7.4v or 2S pack, and 3 cells in a 11.1v or 3S pack. While manufacturers always strive to create packs using individual cells that have the same internal resistance, discharge rate and performance characteristics, there are small variances between cells.
To this end LiPO packs are charged using a balance charger that does exactly that, balances the voltage between the individual cells to offer a pack that is fully charged to its utmost capacity, both cells balanced to a similar level during the process.
NOTE: End users must ALWAYS use a balance charger when charging LiPO cells, must never leave them unattended when doing so, and follow all the manufacturer's instructions on storage, use, charging and disposal.
2WD or 4WD?
There was a time when most RC was simply 2WD. Of late though that has flipped on its head and 4WD systems have become the norm. They offer more grip, predictable steering, and to many a more fulfilling and fun experience. Regardless of scale, 4WD will allow you a more 'On Rails' driving experience if running On Road, or in Off Road applications, to take your vehicle over a more varied terrain, climb inclines, even slide and jump your vehicle. 2WD tends to be still utilised in Race Vehicles such as Buggies, Short Course Trucks, F1 and Pan cars. It's often seen as a true drivers class, and offers a very different challenge to its 4WD sibling. If you can master 2WD, then 4WD will be a breeze in comparison!
Consider your options carefully. Way up the places you have available to run a vehicle and what you want from it. On Road can look very realistic, and is often very fast, but can be limiting as there are less places to run them just for fun. Off Road let's you run almost anywhere, and especially running electric. If in doubt ask, Carisma are always here to offer good honest advice on your first or subsequent RC car purchases. We want you to grow with the hobby, to experience many different genre of vehicle and be a part of our Carisma Family for many years to come.
A Few Final Words
Welcome to the world of Carisma RC Cars. It's often fast and exhilarating, and it's definitely a great way to get outside, meet new people and have fun! We live and breath the hobby. The whole team may work embedded in the industry, but we also Race, Crawl, Scale and Bash wherever, and whenever possible. That way you can be ensured we are not just a company that's going through the paces. We firmly stand by all our products and releases, many are very personal to the individuals and teams involved.