How to Service and Maintain Your Nitro RC Car

How to Service and Maintain Your Nitro RC Car

by Joe Rich

How to Service and Maintain Your Nitro RC Car

Knowing How to Service and Maintain Your Nitro RC Car is the most important and enjoyable part of owning a nitro RC car.

Do you have a nitro RC car? If so, then this blog post is for you! Nitro RC cars are a lot of fun to drive and they require some maintenance in order to keep them running. This blog post will give you all the basics on how to service your nitro RC car so that it can run as long as possible.

If you have a nitro engine powered RC car the maintenance is a little more involved than electric powered car.

But the maintenance is critical for engine long life and reliability.

It is just like your family car if you neglect the servicing it will run inefficiently break down or not start at all.

So in this article we are going to look at how to service and maintain your Nitro RC car.

But how long does a nitro engine last to read our article click here

Here is a list of the tools and materials that are needed.

  • Screwdrivers and small hand tools
  • Plug spanner
  • Brushes for cleaning
  • Cleaning cloths or any old rags you have laying around
  • Household cleaners like washing up liquid
  • RC nitro cleaner or denatured alcohol
  • WD40
  • Spray bottle for cleaning fluid
  • Air compressor (if available)
  • Air filter oil
  • Thread lock
  • After run oil

I know that after you have had a good time out with your model racing around the last thing you want to do is go home and start pulling it to pieces.

The processes we talk about in this article don’t need to be done all the time.

Lots of factors will determine when servicing needs to be done.

If you were running your car in a dusty or wet and muddy area then it would be good to do basic clean on the car and its filters.

So talking of filters let us start with the air filter.

Clean air filter

The first job is to remove and clean the air filter.

Remove the filter from the housing and wash in warm soapy water also clean the housing this also can be washed in the soapy water.

Use a rag to dry off the housing and if a warm day allow to air dry but the parts must be completely dry before refitting.

If you have a air compressor you can blow the excess water off to speed things up.

Depending on conditions the air filters should be cleaned every 1 hour of running more if in very dry and dusty conditions.

Air filter oil

Once the filter is clean and dry you need to apply air filter oil.

Just squeeze the oil onto the filter until the filter takes a uniform color.

You may have to gently squeeze the filter to work the oil all the way through.

Refit the filter to the housing and set to one side for fitting later.

What is a glow plug?

Glow plugs were invented in 1947 by Ray Arden.

Glow plugs are mainly made out of platinum; in the tip is a wire filament.

When a electric current is passed through the plug the wire glows.

The wire glows so hot that it will ignite the nitro fuel in the engine chamber.

Power for the glow plug is supplied by an onboard rechargeable battery.

Check the glow plug

How to tell if glow plug has gone bad

If your glow plug has gone bad the engine will suffer a loss of power; it will misfire and acceleration will be poor.

Hard starting is one of the first symptoms of a bad glow plug.

You may also notice black smoke coming from the exhaust.

Servicing the glow plugs

Turn the car upside down and give it a little shake this will allow any dirt around the plug to fall out.

If you have access to a airline give it a blast to blow away any dirt.

A suitable brush would also work.

Unplug or disconnect the wires from the glow plugs.

Check the connectors and wires to make sure they are not damaged or corroded clean or replace as necessary.

Remove the plug with the appropriate plug spanner.

Wipe the tip with a soft cloth with a drop of nitro cleaner.

Glow plugs are a disposable item so if you think the plug is about to fail just put a new one in.

These are available on amazon in multipacks click here to view.

Fuel filters

It is very important that any fuel filters that are fitted are kept clean or replaced at regular intervals.

Any blocked filter will have a dramatic affect on performance.

Most filters are in line and disposable but some are serviceable.

Serviceable filters typically unscrew with a fine mesh inside this mesh will need to be blown out with an airline or washed in clean fuel.

Filters are available cheaply on amazon in multipacks click here to view.

Rotate wheels

This is an overlooked and rather important part of the maintenance routine of your RC car.

The point of tire rotation is to extend the life of the tires and doing this will make the tires last longer.

Check that the tires are not directional.

Rotate the tires as you would your real 4 wheel drive car.

This means that the rear tires should be moved to the front and then the front tires should be moved to the opposite rear corners.

After run checks and maintenance

Before putting away your car for the night or for longer storage time there are a few steps to take.

This will help when you want to start up again.

If you have not already burnt off all the fuel in the tank it is best to drain all remaining fuel.

Once the fuel is drained start the engine and burn off all the fuel that may be in the carburettor and lines.

Then you need to remove the glow plug and put a few drops of after run oil down into the engine.

Pull on the starter a few times to distribute the oil all round the engine this oil will stop any corrosion happening.

Replace the glow plug do not connect and pull on the starter a few more times.

Chassis maintenance

Do not neglect the chassis it is good practice to clean the chassis.

If it is really bad it may be worth removing the electronics to avoid damaging them.

Some electronic components are water resistant but not water proof.

While the electronics are off now is the time to check the wires and connectors and have a general inspection.

Warm soapy water and some stiff brushes will get the majority of the mud and dust off.

Clean out the cooling air fins on the engine to ensure maximum airflow.

Too much mud and rubbish can cause problems.

It can cause the steering to jam and affect the electronics.

It can stop the suspension from having the correct travel movement.

It can also hide chassis damage so this makes cleaning ever much more important.

Now everything is clean it is time to give the chassis a good visual inspection for any cracks missing screws or any damage to the suspension mounts.

Check that engine mounting screws are tight and these can come loose with all the vibration form the nitro engine, knocks and crashes.

If the engine becomes loose the gears will not mesh together properly causing a high wear rate.

Some dirt may have worked into the gear casing so this will need to be checked and cleaned.


Remove the shock absorbers check that each one is not bent or that the mounts are not cracked.

Try to compress each shock to see if there is any resistance, low resistance means that the shock may of lost some oil.

The loss of oil could be from normal usage or a seal could be damaged.

Any damaged shock should be replaced.

Check that all the suspension arms are clean undamaged and able to move freely.

If there is any binding or a feeling of notchiness then the pins or screws will need to be checked straightened or replaced.

Check pulleys and belts for dirt to avoid damage and belts slipping.

Drive shafts can become tangled with weeds and grass, remove these and check that the shafts spin freely.

What if you have got a gummed up engine

Nitro fuel has a long shelf life but after a while it does go bad.

Engines that have not been run for a while can have problems especially if the owner did not go through the correct after run procedure.

The after run routine will eliminate a lot of these problems.

The biggest mistake is to not drain all the fuel out.

Fuel that is left in the car will evaporate this will result in a thick sludge of oil being left in the tank, carburettor, fuel lines and engine.

This results in a gummed up engine. 

To begin with the fuel system will have to be drained of the old fuel and flushed out with clean nitro fuel.

If the engine will not turn over it will need to be removed and cleaned out and soaked in a cleaning fluid to free up.

How to trouble shoot your nitro engine.

If you start the engine with the glow plug igniters connected but the stalls when removed the glow plug is faulty and needs replacing.

If the pull cord is difficult or stiff to pull it means that the engine is flooded.

Remove the glow plug and use the pull cord to turn the engine over to remove any excess fuel.

Using the points above should help you keep your nitro car running well for a long time.

When you take the time to properly service and maintain your nitro RC car, it will last a lot longer. Nitro vehicles are more expensive than their electric counterparts; when they break down or have issues that require repair, this is going to cost you a bit of money.

Whether it’s an issue with the engine or something as simple as cleaning out old fuel lines, taking care of things now will save your from having to do so later on down the road. Get started today by choosing one of our recommended tools for servicing your nitros!

Click here to view RC Nitro service parts on Amazon

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