What Are Nitro RC Cars

What Are RC Nitro Cars

Hello and welcome to my Nitro RC Cars article

In this article, I will explain the differences between an electric arc car and a nitro RC car, with a guide on what is required to setup and maintain Nitro RC Cars.

What Is The Difference Between A Nitro RC Car And An Electric RC Car

Nitro RC cars are aimed at the intermediate and expert level of RC user as there are a few more concepts to get a hang a of but there is no reason why a beginner that has had minimal understanding of how RC cars work couldn’t get a hang of.

Nitro RC Cars as you could guess use an engine called a “glow engine” and run on Nitro fuel as opposed to an electric engine that requires batteries.  This is one of the benefits of a Nitro powered car as it once it runs out of fuel you just fill the tank and away you go, with no need to charge batteries.

A lot of people enjoy running Nitro cars due to the noise, smell, and thrill of controlling one as it feels just like driving a little race car compared to the more quieter electric car.  For a lot of people, they enjoy tinkering with the little glow engine and trying to extract maximum performance from the little engine.

click here to see a comparison of the Best RC Cars

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Nitro RC Cars


  • Sound, smell and thrill of acceleration
  • The ability to tinker with the engine (could also be a disadvantage depending on your skill level)
  • Long run time, once you run out of fuel add more and away you go
  • Faster than an electric RC car


  • Cost, the initial cost is higher than electric RC plus fuel and maintenance costs
  • requires more steps to get the car started  (some will enjoy this side of it)
  • Regular routine maintenance after every run, cleaning the engine and replacing the glow plugs

What Is Required To Start Nitro RC Cars

So you’ve come this far read through the pros and cons, now we will get right into how a Nitro RC Car operates.  A question that gets asked a lot by people looking into buying Nitro RC Cars is how do you actually start one.  To do this you need a tool and some additional accessories that may not come with your car.  These are:

  • Nitro Fuel (You need to purchase the right mix for your glow engine)
  • Glow Igniter
  • Batteries for your transmitter and receiver
  • Small screwdriver

To start Nitro RC cars you need to clip the glow igniter on to your glow plug and rotate the engine by whatever means your engine requires as some of the starters, recoil or drill starters.  Once the engine has started and is running smoothly you can unclip the glow igniter.

How To Start Nitro RC Engine

Some Basic Guidelines In Operating Your RC Car

  1. Before you run Nitro RC Cars make sure to switch your controller on first, then the car second.  Do this in reverse when you have finished running your car.  This will mean you will have control of your car at all times.
  2. Choose a safe are to run your car
  3. Check that no one else is operating on the same frequency as you.  Less of an issue with 2.4ghz controllers
  4. Don’t pickup the car with tires spinning
  5. Store your Nitro fuel safely as it is highly flammable and toxic
  6. Mark your fuel container clearly

Nitro RC Operation And Maintenance

  • Do a proper nitro engine break-in procedure as per your engines operator manual as this will lead to better performance and less cost to maintain your engine
  • Add afterburn oil to the engine parts to keep them lubricated
  • Keep your engine clean on both the inside and outside. By keeping particles of dirt out of the workings of your engine, the operating surfaces will remain smooth and therefore less wear and better performance will result. Always use a fuel filter between your tank and the engine to catch any particles in the fuel. When operating in dusty conditions, use an air filter on your carb to keep particles out of your air intake. When done for the day, use a motor spray to clean off the dirt from the outside of the engine, especially the carb and linkages.
  • Ensure all of your nuts and bolts are tight. Between flying or running sessions, check that all of your bolts, such as the head bolts, backplate bolts, muffler bolts, engine mounting bolts, and carb mounting screws, are tight. Also, check that prop nut to ensure you won’t be launching a spinning prop on your next flight. An over-revved engine, particularly a four-stroke, can cause damage without a load of a prop or flywheel.

Basic Nitro Engine Tuning

  1. Adjust your idle speed setting – Your engine manual should give you specific instructions on setting the aperture gap to the minimum size. It’s important that we get this resolved before continuing on. If your engine can’t get enough air/gas flow then it won’t start/run. A clockwise rotation opens the aperture and increases the idle RPMs, a counterclockwise slows it down.
  2. Adjust low-end mixture setting – Let the engine warm up and then let the engine run idle for a minute.  If the engine is still running smoothly your low-end mixture setting is correct.  If it has not do the following:
    If the engine’s RPM’s rev up at the last second and then the engine dies then you are running too lean. To correct this, turn the low-end mixture screw counterclockwise (out) 1/8 of a turn (always make adjustments in 1/8 turn) and retry the idle test.If, on the other hand, it begins to wind down and you notice a change in how the exhaust sounds in the last few seconds, then your engine is running too rich. To correct this, turn the low-end mixture screw clockwise (in) 1/8 of a turn and then retry the idle test.
    You may have to make these adjustments a few times before you get it right.
  3. High-end mixture setting – Acceleration is the tell-tale sign of how to tune your high end. If you hit the throttle and it takes off suddenly but then suddenly dies or loses power then you have your main mixture set too lean. Try backing (counterclockwise) the main mixture needle out 1/8 of a turn and retry. If it bogs immediately when you hit the throttle (sounds like it’s choking), then it’s most likely running too rich. Try leaning the mixture out by screwing the main mixture valve in (clockwise) 1/8 of a turn.The more accurate way of really dialing in the top-end is to take the engine’s temperature. A properly tuned engine should run between 210  and 220  Fahrenheit. This can only really be ascertained by using an infra-red thermometer such as the type used by automotive mechanics. On-board or direct-transfer types that measure the heat from the head are inaccurate because, assuming the head is properly dissipating heat, it would reflect a lower than accurate temperature as a majority of the heat energy would be dissipated from the exposed surface of the head. By “looking” at the temperature near the core (actually, area immediately surrounding the glow plug) the temperature can be more accurately read.The cheap but easy alternative would be to drop a bead of water down the head on the glow-plug and see whether it boils off. If it slowly simmers than it probably is running right around 212. If it boils too quickly then it’s probably too lean and needs to be richened. If it just sits there and doesn’t boil at all, then it’s running too rich and needs to be leaned out.

    An engine that is running too lean will run hotter and exceed the 220-degree limit. This can significantly reduce the life of your engine. Although it may be tempting to run your engine as lean as possible (does give a short-lived performance boost), this should only be done if you are very wealthy and like swapping engines out every race. There is no quicker way to kill and engine, honest. This is simply because as you lean the engine out, it gets less fuel to the engine, and more importantly, less lubricant. Since glow fuel is the only means of lubrication for your engine, the lack of it means certain death to your engine.

Nitro RC Glow Engine

There you have it some pros and cons of running and operating Nitro RC Cars, I hope you enjoyed the article.


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