Build The Perfect Short Course Truck

Jan 06, 2011 12 Comments by

We know you want to win when you’re out at the track and as such, we try to share as many driving tips as possible. But, frequent winners know that winning ways start before the truck even hits the track. The first step in finding your way to the victory lane with your short course truck is in the build of the kit or the prepping of your RTR. Check out these tips and you’ll be well on your way to owning a truck that will help you win races.

Shocks


The stock pistons, fluid and springs are always the best starting point. You’ll probably be tempted, but don’t change your kit’s baseline setup based on another driver’s suggestion or a pro driver’s setup sheet. It’s far more important that you build your shocks correctly than it is to find some black magic setup. It’s essential that you think of the shocks as pairs. The front shocks should be twins and so should the rear shocks. When comparing two shocks, say the fronts, you should ensure they are the exact same length when fully extended. When compressed without springs installed, they should extend the same amount when released. Lastly, they should extend at the same rate. A tool that is extremely useful when building shocks for racing is Losi’s Shock Matching Tool (item no. LOSA99170, $34).

 

Chassis


Short course trucks frequently bottom out, so it’s essential that the bottom of the chassis is smooth. Most short course trucks use molded plastic chassis, but a few 4WD trucks use aluminum plates. The aluminum chassis plates are usually fine right out of the box, but molded plastic parts can have flashing and molding marks on the bottom of the chassis. These usually perfectly round marks are left from where the piece is pulled from the mold. These often have a rough surface in the circle that can be sanded smooth with a file. You can go one step further and add a smooth chassis protector to the bottom of your chassis. Companies such as Upgrade offer graphic chassis protectors for specific vehicles. Team Associated also offers chassis protector film you can cut to size (ASC9787, $9), as does JConcepts (JCI1155, $8).  If you’re extremely serious about racing and want every advantage, another item to consider is removing the nerf bars to save some weight. They really do not protect the Lexan body and actually just wear the paint out faster where they rub the sides of the shell.

 

Body


A painted and stickered body weighs a good amount and this component contributes to a high center of gravity. Mount the body as low as possible and protect the inside of the body where they tires may rub with some thin stickers. Make sure your wheel well openings are large enough that the tires are not rubbing. With the front suspension fully compressed, turn the front tires in both directions to make sure they do not hit the body. Also, open up the rear tailgate area as much as you can without destroying the look of the body.This will allow air to escape, but more importantly, will remove areas where flying dirt can get trapped and add weight to your truck. Next, use a body reamer to create holes for trapped air to vent and thus preventing the dreaded parachute effect. Most racers place a few holes on the hood right in front of the windshield and along the front fenders. Another place to make even larger vent holes is in the rear of the body in the area in front of the rear posts.

 

Tires


Tires are the most important aspect of setup. Make sure you have the right tread and compound for your track. Ask the fast guys and the track owner or race director. You do not have to run the same tire in front as you do in back. While that often works with a 4WD short course truck, 2WD trucks may benefit from having a less aggressive tire up front. For racing, one-piece rims are best. Bead-lock rims might look more realistic, but they add unneeded rotating mass. Make sure the bead is glued all the way around on each side of each tire and that the wheel nuts are properly tightened. This is especially true on wheels that mount directly on a drive pin where a slightly loose wheel can lead to a stripped out rim.

 

Drivetrain


If your short course truck has non-pressed in drive pins on the axle, you a small dab of silicone glue on the pin. This will prevent it from falling out of the axle when the hex comes off, but the pin will still be easy to remove when needed. When building the drivetrain, make sure all bearings are properly seated. This is often overlooked and leads to a slow inefficient drivetrain.  

 

Suspension and Steering


Always start with the manual’s baseline setup. Without the shocks installed, the suspension arms should move up and down freely and drop down when lifted under their own weight with no binding or hesitation. When you set the ride height, you want to run the truck fairly low unless the track is exceptionally rough. If your truck has no marks on the bottom after practice or a race, it’s too high. When assembling the steering bellcranks, tighten the screws down and then back them off slowly until the pieces move freely.

 

Wiring and Electronics


Short course trucks take a beating out on the track, so your electronics must be secure. If your receiver is in a radio box, you must wrap it in foam. The packaging used in the box your speed control came in is perfect. If your receiver is taped to the chassis use multiple layers of thick servo tape. The same goes for the speed control. Hard impacts and even constant vibrations can eventual damage these components. Next, make sure your wiring as neat as possible. There should be a slight amount of slack in the wires, but secure the excess wiring. The slack will ensure the wires aren’t pulled loose or stressed as the chassis flexes.

 

Wrap-up
Before you worry about driving the perfect line or clearing the big triple-double jump, you need to make sure your truck is built right. These tips will help ensure you have a perfectly built racing machine that will allow you to drive to the best of your ability. Your equipment should always work for you, not against you; that is why proper building is so important.

Editor Short Course, Featured News, Online Exclusives, Short Course

About the author

About Matt:I think it’s safe to say I’ve done a little bit of everything in RC. That said, I predominately race off-road and my current passion is short course. One of my all-time favorite classes is oval carpet racing. Besides racing, I can often be found working on one of my many never-complete projects, and it seems I have an ever growing collection of rock crawlers—specifically scale crawlers. Matt’s 5 Hot Topics: Short course, Racing, Scale Builds, Crawling and the General RC Hobby

12 Responses to “Build The Perfect Short Course Truck”

  1. Steger says:

    A short coursextruck will be my next purchase, for a middle skill level rc’er, on a small budget, can you give some reccomendations as to make and model?

  2. Steger says:

    What’s your favorite Losi and your favorite Traxxas product?

  3. Matthew Higgins says:

    It’s hard to go wrong with any of the short course offerings from Traxxas, Associated, Losi, Kyosho, HPI, etc.

    On a small budget, try the Traxxas. You can get one without spending a whole lot and upgrade it for racing as needed.

    My favorite Losi product is the 8IGHT-E 2.0 and from Traxxas is the Stampede 4X4 VXL

  4. bzb says:

    the remove of nerfbar i would not recommend, and why save weight? we need to put a lot of lead in it for better performance

  5. Matthew Higgins says:

    It’s not just about adding lead, it’s about adding lead to specific areas for better front or rear traction as needed.

  6. mahela says:

    my favorite losi product is the micro -t and 8ight b and traxxas slash 4×4 and t-maxx 3.3 2.4ghz

  7. Troy says:

    Hey Matt, thanks for the article. I noticed that you recommend against running the beadlocks, due to the added weight, but wouldn’t it be nice if these were set as the standard for shortcourse. If this were so you would never have to worry about tires coming unglued, (or gluing them to begin with), and you wouldn’t have to buy a new set of wheels everytime you turn around. I race electric 1/8 and used to race short course, and have had tires coming unglued with both, (espesicially my 1/8 scale). The general idea behind shortcourse trucks to began with was scale realism anyway, and if everyone would just run the beadlocks there would be no disadvantages and a lot less hassle involved. I wish they would implement these in 1/8 scale, seeing as how after a couple weekends of racing my tires need regluing, which gets old quick. Anyway, thanks for listening.
    Troy from Ohio

  8. Jordan says:

    I would like to see bead locks in the racing scene but i dont really think that will happen, maybe in short coarse they should because short coarse doesnt seem to be going to fast. idk im new to racing.

    • jimmy says:

      what do you mean ok hi? leave a resonable coment.
      why would you take the nerfbars off if it’s there to protect the body? wouldnt it do more damdge when you crash?,what hapens a lot.

  9. traxxasslash12 says:

    do you like the slash at all if so do you have video i can see to help me

  10. Gary Sundman says:

    Some very good advice, but I will keep my nerf bars on my Blitz as they can not weigh more than a couple of grams, the beadlocks are reserved for my Proline tires as most other brands do not work well on them anyway but with several styles and compounds of tires and different styles of foam inserts I still like having the beadlocks. Thanks Matt now there is a new tool I need in my pit box

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