Thursday, April 28, 2011

Petrol RC Cars - A Common Misconception

One of the mistakes common to people new to the RC car hobby is assuming that all non-electric RC cars can just run on normal petrol (gasoline). This is a potentially huge issue, as filling up your new car with petrol could ruin the engine, leading to a very costly repair job. The reason behind this is because most of these non-electric RC cars actually run on a mixture of methane, nitromethane and oil, commonly termed as nitro fuel. This can only be bought at specialist hobby stores and is usually far more expensive than normal every day petrol.

The real confusion lies in the fact that these two distinct type of radio controlled cars are often labeled under the very misleading umbrella term of petrol RC cars or gas powered RC cars. There are of course cars that are actually gas or petrol RC cars, that can be run on the same fuel as your car, and are thus much cheaper to operate, but these are relatively few and far between, and usually also quite a bit larger. Standard nitro RC cars clock in at between 20 - 60 cm (8 - 24 inches) in length, while typical petrol RC cars are generally just under a metre (3 ft.) in length. Size is by far the easiest method of telling the two apart at a glance, but it is also important to read the instructions that came with the car. If the word nitro is anywhere in it, don't even think of trying to run it on petrol.

The engines differ a bit, hence the need to avoid mixing the up which fuel to use, as nitro RC cars use a glow engine as opposed to the standard petrol engine found in petrol RC cars. This means that Nitro RC cars have a glow plug instead of a spark plug, which to ignite the fuel must become hot. This is achieved by using a glow starter, which is usually separate from the car, and is only used to start it and is then removed. Nitro fuel is less explosive than petrol, so runs at a higher temperature, meaning the entire engine design is different. Think of it as the difference between a petrol and diesel engine in you everyday car.

The only real advantage (it is however a quite major one) of petrol RC cars over nitro RC cars is that they are so incredibly cheaper to run. In fact, even at current petrol prices, nitro fuel still generally costs about 5 times more, and it can also be rather harder to source. The increase in size could also be seen as an advantage to some, offering a closeness to full size cars in the way it behaves when driving. They are also easier to run and maintain, not being so finickity in regards to the climate and not requiring constant tuning in the way that nitro RC cars seem to. All in all it is really the preference of the individual that decides which sort to get, especially if they appreciate and understand the differences between them.


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