What are Nitro RC Cars?

Many RC enthusiasts getting into the sport are familiar with electric RC cars. But when it comes to realistic sound and performance, only one type of RC car can fulfill these traits: the Nitro RC Car.

What are Nitro RC cars?

Nitro Radio Controlled cars are powered by a small 2-cycle internal combustion engine. These RC cars use a fuel that contains methanol, nitromethane, and lubrication oil. A Nitro engine has a higher power output than a standard gasoline engine, reaching over 50,000 RPM.

Read on to discover what Nitro RC cars are made of, what fuel they use, and what maintenance is required to keep them driving.

What Are Nitro RC Cars?

Nitro radio-controlled (RC) cars are hobby-class cars that power the wheels with a 2-cycle internal combustion engine.

The Nitro RC cars are usually larger than the electric battery-operated RC cars, requiring the engine to be mounted on the chassis, similar to a real car.

Nitro RC Cars are much more realistic than most other RC cars, thanks to their engine noise and exhaust smoke that trail behind the cars as it races along.

What Engines Are Used In Nitro Cars?

The term “Nitro” describes the type of fuel their small engines burn.

The small Nitro engines work on the same principle as full-size cars. Nitro engines have a carburetor, air filters, clutches, flywheels, glow plugs, and a crankshaft.

Nitro engines for RC cars can rotate more than 50,000 RPM, with most RC cars having their peak power between 20,000 to 37,000 RPM. RC Nitro engines are 2-cycle engines.

This means that two strokes of the piston (1 full revolution) complete an engine cycle.

On the first stroke, the piston moves upwards, sucking in a mixture of fuel, oil, and air into the crankcase from the carburetor. When the piston moves down, the fuel mixture is forced into the combustion chamber from the crankcase.

The piston moves up once more to compress the mixture, causing the mixture to ignite. The ignition forms a hot gas that forces the piston downwards and lets the gas exit the exhaust port.

Then the cycle starts over again.

Nitro RC car engine

What Fuel Do Nitro RC Cars Use?

RC Nitro Cars use Nitro fuel which is a mixture of three ingredients, these are:

  • Methanol: A highly explosive methyl alcohol and easy to ignite by using a glow plug. Methanol releases more energy per pound of air than gasoline.
  • Nitromethane: Boosts the power output of the engine. Nitro fuel can have between 16 -25% Nitromethane.
  • Oil Lubricant – A blend of synthetic 2-cycle oil and castor bean oil. This lubrication mix is highly resistant to breaking down during high temperatures.

Nitro fuel is highly flammable, and care should be taken when working with it. When Nitro fuel burns in the air, there’s no visible flame, adding to the danger of this fuel.

What Chassis Do Nitro RC Cars Use?

Nitro RC cars use lightweight anodized aluminum chassis. This is because Nitro RC cars produce a lot of heat and gas, which will quickly melt a plastic frame and chassis.

The aluminum parts on the RC cars also work as a heat dissipator by soaking up the heat from the motor and dispersing it away from the car’s working parts.

What Drivetrain Do Nitro RC Cars Use?

The drivetrains in most Nitro RC cars are primarily made from metal. The vehicles have all-metal differentials and gears. This is necessary due to the high power and torque that the engine produces.

Some budget-friendly Nitro RC cars may have a plastic component in their drivetrain, but these wear out quickly.

Does A Nitro RC Car Weigh More Than An Electric RC Car?

Nitro RC cars weigh much more than their electric counterparts. These RC cars have all their components mounted on a metal chassis.

Although aluminum and titanium are very lightweight metals, they still do not compare to the extremely lightweight carbon fiber and plastic electric RC cars.

How Long Can A Tank Of Fuel Last On A Nitro RC Car?

Depending on the size of the fuel tanks on the Nitro RC car, a tank can easily last 20 to 25 minutes.

The added advantage of the Nitro RC car is that it will only take about 30 to 45 seconds to fill the fuel tank, and the car is back in the race.

An electric RC car will need a new battery pack to be installed, which can take a few minutes.

Do Nitro RC Cars Need A Lot Of Maintenance?

Nitro RC cars require more maintenance than electric RC cars, making them more time-consuming and expensive. 

Nitro-powered RC cars will need pre and post-run care to keep them in good condition.

After using a Nitro RC car, the following should be done:

  • Inspect the rims and tires and replace them if needed
  • Clean and oil the air filters
  • Drain the fuel tank
  • Inspect the shock and suspension
  • Inspect the bearings
  • Tighten any loose screws
  • Add an after-burn oil
  • Check and replace the glow plugs
  • Adjust the brakes and inspect the linkages

Does A Nitro RC Car Require More Skills To Drive?

Nitro RC cars are faster than most electric RC cars and tend to be much more challenging to control at high speeds. If a Nitro RC car crashes, the metal frame may be damaged.

Additionally, the dangerous fuel may spill out and cause a fire. For this reason, Nitro RC cars should not be operated by unsupervised minors.

Are Nitro RC Cars Expensive?

In terms of both initial cost and ongoing maintenance, a Nitro RC car is more expensive than an electric RC car

Nitro RC cars will require more parts that need regular replacing, such as fuel, oil, tires, shocks, bodies, and batteries. 

Electric RC cars will just need a charger and a spare battery. An additional starter kit must be purchased if the Nitro RC car does not have a pull-start function.

The Advantages And Disadvantage Of Nitro RC Cars.

Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of a Nitro RC Car.

Advantages Of Nitro RC Cars

  • The sound, smell, and acceleration resembles a real race car
  • The engine and mechanical parts can be tuned to increase performance
  • A long run time with quick refueling
  • Faster than most Electric RC Cars

Disadvantages Of Nitro RC Cars

  • The initial cost is much higher
  • High maintenance costs
  • Pre and post-maintenance are required  

Tim Wells

Tim Wells is the creator and driving force behind ClutchRC.com. His passion for RC cars began when he caught a glimpse of a Kyosho Optima while on a family trip to Japan. Although he couldn't afford it then, the seed of his RC car hobby had been planted, and he knew he had to have one. Fast forward a few years, and he could finally dive head-first into the hobby as an adult. He found a ton of websites and YouTubers doing crazy stunts with their expensive RC cars but very few resources for the average person who just wants to go out and have fun. That's when he launched his RC car website: ClutchRC.

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