How to Get the Perfect Pinion & Spur Gear Setup

The pinion and spur gears are the gear combination that transfers the drive torque from the motor to the wheels of your RC car. Setting these gears will give varying performance from the motor and, consequently, your vehicle. Correct gearing of your RC car will help you get the most out of your driving experience.

The pinion gear is connected to the motor shaft and drives the spur gear, which drives the wheels of your RC car. Changing the gear ratio of these gears can change the acceleration and power delivery of the motor to the wheels, directly affecting the RC car performance for specific conditions.

The gearing on an RC car serves the same purpose as a real-life car, but it is considerably less complicated than real cars. Taking a few minutes to understand the role of pinion and spur gears in driving your car can help you tweak your car for the best performance for the driving conditions.

Why Are Pinion And Spur Gears Important?

Pinion and spur gears are important in your RC car because this gearing system is the way the motor’s power is transferred to the wheels.

Gears are all about ratios. The correct gearing, or pairing of the right pinion and spur gears together, can adjust the performance of your car to improve its handling and speed in any given driving conditions.

Before we get into the ratios and correct gearing, we need to clarify a few definitions, especially for newcomers to the hobby.

The pinion gear is the gear connected directly to the main shaft of the drive motor in your RC car. The spur gear is the gear connected to your RC car drive wheels. The teeth of the spur gear engage or interface with the teeth of the pinion gear.

The pinion and spur gears interfacing allows the motor’s power to be transferred through the shaft to the pinion gear and then to the spur gear to drive the wheels.

This is the basic principle of how the motor and gears interact to deliver power. Still, it is only half the story of getting your RC car’s gearing set up correctly for your needs.

There are two critical parts to consider: the size of the gears and the number of teeth in the gears. 

This combination allows you to get the right power and speed from the motor to the wheels. This is called the gear ratio, or sometimes simply gearing.

Correct matching of the gears will help you maximize the motor’s energy output for the type of car and how you drive it. 

The Pinion Gear On Your RC Car

The pinion gear is critical in delivering power to your RC car, and it takes a lot of wear as a result. The hard-working gear is frequently made from aluminum, steel, or cast iron to give the gear durability.

The pinion gear’s size will affect the car’s speed and torque. However, the size must be combined with a spur gear of an appropriate size to get the car’s desired balance of power and acceleration.

The Spur Gear On Your RC Car

The spur gear is the gear that meshes with the pinion gear and transfers the power to the wheels of the RC car. Spur gears are often made from hard-wearing plastic, but metal gears are also available.

There are several spur gear configurations depending on whether your car is a 2-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive.

If you have a 2WD car, the spur gear is mounted directly on the drive shaft between the two wheels. In a 4WDrc car, the spur gear is mounted on a central driveshaft that runs between the drive mechanism for the front and rear wheels.

The 4WD gearing system can get more complex since you can introduce additional gearing front and rear.  

How to Match Gear Ratios On Your RC Car

The combination of different pinion and spur gears on your RC car will change the car’s performance. 

Setting up your RC car for speed runs and fast acceleration requires a different gear ratio than crawling over rough terrain.

A small pinion gear combined with a spur gear larger than the pinion will give you a car with fast acceleration off the line. However, the speed will max out very quickly.

A pinion gear slightly larger than the spur gear will give slower acceleration but a faster top speed as the motor gains momentum.

Larger spur gears typically translate into faster acceleration but lower top speeds and lower power. However, the size of the gears is not the only parameter to consider.

Both spur and pinion gears will have a tooth count and a tooth pitch, or the number of teeth per inch. These characteristics play a role in balancing power and acceleration.

The higher the tooth pitch on the spur gear, the more torque will be delivered. The higher the tooth pitch on the pinion gear, the more speed will be increased in the car performance.

The combination of the number of teeth on the gears will determine the gear ratio of the gears. The RC car gear ratio can be calculated by dividing the spur gear tooth count by the tooth count of the pinion gear.

An example of this calculation will serve to clarify the relationship. If your spur gear has 100 teeth and the pinion gear has 20 teeth, the calculation will look like this.

Spur gear teeth / Pinion gear teeth = Gear Ratio

100 ÷ 20 = 5

The gear ratio in this example is 5:1. It indicates that the pinion gear will rotate 5 times to a single rotation of the spur gear.

A high gear ratio is the equivalent of low gear and will give quick acceleration off the line but a slower top speed. It will also offer higher torque or more power to the wheels, which is excellent for navigating soft sand or obstacles.

A lower gear ratio on your RC car will result in a slower pull-off but a higher top speed. Unfortunately, it also causes more strain on the motor and higher temperatures, resulting in shorter run times. This kind of setup is not suitable for crawlers.

Tweaking the gear ratio helps you get the perfect balance between power, acceleration, and speed. This enables you to tune your RC car to your driving style and the terrain you drive on.


Gearing on an RC car is not complicated, especially once you try a few combinations on your car and see the difference in performance.

Changing the gearing can improve or degrade your car’s performance. The best tactic is to make minor adjustments in the gearing ratio and test the performance difference until you find a combination that works for you.

Don’t go to extremes in gearing ratios on your RC car, or you may risk burning out your motor, ESC, or both.

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