Now that you’ve got a new R/C vehicle, you need the tools and gear to keep it in top shape. From basic repairs to major upgrades, sooner or later, you’ll find the desire (or need) to tear into your radio-controlled machine. While there are a number of tools which you could add to your collection, here are the pieces of gear which I consider to be “must-haves”.
A NiMh and/or LiPo Battery Charger
A radio-controlled car or truck is no good if it’s not powered up. While many ready-to-run (RTR) models include a wall-mounted charger, adding one (or more) battery chargers to your workspace is a great way to keep your batteries charged up and ready to go.
As R/C vehicle tech has advanced, so have the battery chargers. No matter what model you choose, make sure you pick one that will handle the batteries you use (NiMh/LiPo) and has the correct plug type.
A Set of Hex Drivers and/or Screwdrivers
Whether you’re assembling a kit, upgrading an RTR model, or simply fixing a broken part, having a set of hex drivers (or in some cases, screwdrivers) within arms reach is always a great idea. Much like the various radio-controlled model landscape, you can spend any amount of money on a set of tools. My advice; pick the set that makes the most sense for your needs and your budget.
Even if your model uses hex-head hardware, having a set of smaller screwdrivers is always a safe bet. You never know when an accessory or upgrade may require their use.
A Soldering Gun and Stand
Before I jumped into the R/C hobby, I hadn’t held a soldering gun for more than a minute. That all changed the moment I needed to repair a broken motor wire on my Redcat Racing RS10 Rockslide. No matter your skill level, having access to a soldering gun (along with the knowledge to use it) can save you time and frustration when broken wires and electrical issues arise.
As far as learning how to solder, here are some good tutorials to check out:
- How to Solder Wires Together (Best Tips and Tricks)
- How to Solder an ESC to a Motor
- Jang’s Soldering Tips for R/C Hobbyists
An additional component for your soldering gun is a soldering stand. This will help you keep your gun off of your workbench surface, helping prevent accidental burn marks.
Body Scissors and a Body Reamer
If you plan on customizing your own R/C car or truck body, whether it be from a kit or RTR, you need a set of tools to help you trim and mount your polycarbonate creation. A set of body scissors (one straight and one curved), along with a body reamer, are great tools to help you get the job done quickly.
Body scissors are typically smaller than what you’ll find at an office supply store, allowing for accurate, nimble maneuvering in tight corners. Additionally, a body reamer will help you bore out your body post mounting holes as well as any additional holes you’d like to create when installing LEDs and light kits. You may not think you need these tools, but you’ll wonder what you did without after the first few uses.
A Needle Nose Pliers
If you’ve ever tried working on your radio-controlled vehicle before, one thing becomes very clear. There are many nooks, crannies, and tight spaces in which you’ll need to reach to wrench. Having a set of needle nose pliers on your workbench will allow you to easily access those small spaces, and grip hardware or components which may need to be held in place for removal or installation.
A “Multipurpose Tool”
Along the same lines as the needle nose pliers, having a tool such as a Leatherman or a general “multitool” is a great way to keep a variety of items in one small package. You can then easily toss this into your bag when you head out to the track or trail.
A Pit Mat or Pit Mat Tray
While this isn’t a technical “must-have” I’d strongly recommend picking up a pit mat of some sort. Not only does it provide a nice surface to work on, it can help you keep track of hardware and tools as you’re wrenching on your R/C ride. Pro-Line, Duratrax, and CowRC are just a few of the brands that manufacture these mats and trays and are great places to start your search.
A Magnetic Wand
While you may feel like a mechanical wizard while wrenching on your radio-controlled rig, that elevated sense of self can soon come crashing down when you drop hardware onto the floor. Trying to locate small parts such as body clips, screws, and nuts isn’t a fun job, and it’s time taken away from working on your R/C vehicle.
By having a magnetic wand in your toolbox, you can (hopefully) cut down on the time spent searching for missing parts, and save yourself some frustration as well. Telescoping, magnetic wands are inexpensive and can be bought at just about any hardware store.
Not only is a flashlight a great tool for hunting down dropped hardware and parts, but it can also help you illuminate the inside of a radio-controlled car or truck, helping you troubleshoot issues or eyeball upgrade areas. While there are many handheld flashlights on the market, I’ve come to rely on the Slyde from Nebo (Amazon.com). This LED light features two lighting surfaces along with a magnetic base (which could eliminate the need for a dedicated magnetic wand).
While the task of gluing R/C tires isn’t a favorite pastime of many hobbyists, it’s a chore that you may need to tackle at some point. Keeping a bottle (or two) of tire glue is always a good idea, as you never know when your radio-controlled ride will need a new pair of shoes.
As with tire gluing, repairing shocks can be a process in itself. Thankfully, I’ve found it to be rather enjoyable, as long as I have the right items handy. Keeping a supply of shock oil on hand is never a bad idea. Whether you race, bash or crawl, keep a bottle or two on your workbench for whenever the need arises.
“Honorable Mention” Items
- R/C Car or Truck Work Stand
- Shock Stand
- Tool Stand
- Multi-compartment Storage Boxes (for keeping small parts sorted)
- A 3D Printer
- Bondic (Thanks to a fellow hobbyist for the suggestion!)
While your mileage may vary, these are the tools and gear that have found a permanent home on my workbench. No matter what you’re looking to work on or repair, these tools will help you get the job done.