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Most modern RC-cars have some amount of adjustability built into them. While the setup options can be limited on a base RTR car, there are usually option parts available that allows you to do even more changes to a car. The idea of this article is to give a beginners guide to the most basic setup options available on most cars.
Before you begin changing the setup of your car, it always a good idea to note down the current settings, so you can go back if the changes made your car worse. It is also worth pointing out that the first thing should be to make sure the car is in good condition. Arms should move freely, bearings should spin easily etc. For you to be able to feel how the changes you make affect the car, it needs to be mechanically working as it should.
Another basic thing is that you need to make sure you have tyres that work for the surface you're running on, and that the tyres are not worn out. Tyres will always be the most important setup option.
Here then a look at the most basic setup options available on most cars.
Ride-height is the height between the track surface and the underside of your chassis. Ride-height is adjusted with spacers or threaded spring collars on the shocks. To measure ride height, use a ride-height gauge. Different gauges are available for different type of cars. Always measure the ride-height at the same point of the chassis, front and rear.
One basic rule is that the smoother the track, the lower the ride height, and vice versa. Another basic rule is the more grip the track has, the lower the rid-height. Ride height front and rear should most of the time be very close to each other, if not level.
Droop is how much down travel there is in the suspension. On some cars like on-road cars, this is adjusted with screws in the suspension arms, while on other cars you make this adjustment with spacers on the shock shafts inside the shocks. Different shock mounting positions on the arms and towers can also affect the droop.
To measure the droop, you use a droop gauge, of which there are many variations on the market.
When adjusting droop it is very important to make sure left and right side droop is the same. More droop will make a car handle a rough surface better. Less droop will make the car more direct and change direction more quickly.
Camber describes the angle of the wheel relative to the ground, with negative camber meaning that the top of the wheel leans inwards towards the car. Camber is usually very easy to adjust, as most cars have adjustable links or turnbuckles as upper suspension arms. To measure camber, use a camber gauge, and to adjust camber on a car with turnbuckles, use a turnbuckle tool.
More camber will give more side grip - up to a point. The normal adjustment range for most cars would be around 1-3 degrees negative camber.
Toe-in and toe-out
Toe-in means that the wheels pointing inwards, while toe-out means that the wheels are pointing outwards. Toe-settings are very useful for fine tuning a car. While you can check the toe-in settings with special tools or with advanced setup systems, you can also just use a ruler and calipers.
On the front of the car, the steering links are usually adjustable turnbuckles, which you then use to set your toe angle. On the front, a bit of toe-in will make the cars very stable going straight, but will reduce turn-in. Toe-out on the front end will make the cars slightly more reactive with quicker initial steering.
On the rear of the car, toe-out is never used, and a toe-in angle between 1-4 degrees per wheel is commonly used. On most cars, rear toe-in adjustments are made by changing inner suspension mounts (or inserts) or rear uprights. More toe-in will give more forward traction.
Shock absorbers or dampers are very important to the handling of any car, and even more critical on off-road cars than on-road cars. The damping effect on an RC car shock is usually adjusted by changing the shock oil, and/or changing the shock piston.
To make damping harder, you can use thicker shock oil, or a different piston (smaller or fewer holes). Thicker shock oil slow down the suspension motion of the car, while lighter oil will do the opposite.
Shock oil is measured in weights. The higher the number, the thicker the oil. Because there are variations between different brands, it's best to use oil of the same brand.
Thicker oil is often used in smooth and high grip conditions, while on rough and low grip conditions lighter oil might be needed. On off-road cars, the damping also controls how the car works when landing from big jumps.
Shock oil is also affected by ambient temperature, so hot conditions will generally require harder oils compared to cool conditions.
Springs have a big influence on a cars handling, and they are easy to change.
Generally a stiffer spring will reduce grip, while a softer spring will increase grip. For springs it difficult to give a general guide though, and it's more a question of finding the right combination of front and rear springs for any given track and conditions.
Therefore it's good to have a few different sets of springs to change between.
Adjusting the spring compression (by spacers or threaded spring collar) only adjusts the ride height and not the stiffness of the spring.
This was just a basic introduction to the most common setup options available. If you want to dig deeper and learn more, there are a lot of resources you can use, like the various Hudy Set-Up Books.
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