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3 Nitro No-No’s

Sir, please stop yelling.  There's no fuel in your buggy's tank.

If I’ve learned anything over the years racing nitro vehicles, it’s that there’s no replacement for lots of expendable cash experience. Over time, nitro guys develop a sixth-sense, knowing when an engine is too lean or rich just by the feel of the trigger in their hands.  On the other side of the coin, there are basics every nitro guy should learn right away.  That’s what this blog is about.  3 things you should never do…ever…when trying to start a nitro engine.  Laugh all you want at these, but if you’re a nitro guy, at some point you will (or already have) commit these mistakes!  Learn from my foibles.  Don’t do these:

1.  Don’t try to start an engine with an empty fuel tank.  It happens all the time.  To all of us. Yes all of us.

2. Don’t use a starter box that spins in reverse.   Check the starter wheel; it should bump against the flywheel and cause the flywheel to spin counter-clockwise.  If you’ve replaced the starter motors, installed new battery plugs or new wiring inside the box, you may have wired something in reverse.  An engine can start when spun backwards, but it’s nearly impossible.  This mistake happens more than you would think.

3. Don’t use a dead glow igniter.  It’s easy to forget that glow igniters need to be charged as often as any other item in your pit box.  Charge it before every weekend, because a dead glow igniter can be the last thing you check when your engine doesn’t start…and it’s an easy problem to avoid.

Updated: May 12, 2011 — 2:43 PM


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  1. Guilty, guilty, and…knock on wood!

  2. Last month I rushed to my local park to run my T-Max. It was getting late. So rushed out of my truck, grabbed the T-Maxx added fuel, and went to look for the starter wand, which luckily I could not find. Once I returned home, I realized that the blue jug that I grabbed which I thought was Traxxas fuel (which is blue), was actually widhield washer fluid. I was blesed that I misplaced the starter wand, and never had a chance to crank the engine. It would have been clean, but ruined !!! Uggghhh !!! JR

  3. I have NEVER done those 3 things… at the same time.

  4. You left out:
    4. trying to start the engine with the bad glow plug.
    5. running without a throttle return spring
    6. running with a low receiver pack charge

  5. how about trying to tune with a plugged airfilter

  6. Couple that I have seen many times,

    Continuing to run with the header off, or pipe seperated from the header.

    Running without an air filter. Usually because it came off during a race or play day and wasn’t properly secured on the carb to begin with. A sure way to toast a motor. Worse when it’s a new motor being broke in.

  7. #2 is impossible for anyone with a pull start engine. The OWB will resist any attempt to turn the engine backwards. 3 can’t happen for anyone using EZ-start, since if the battery can turn the engine it should be able to light the plug too.

    My personal pet peeves:

    DON’T CHASE PEAK! Peak power may be fun but you’ll spend more time tuning than driving. Find a good tune that’s 1/8 turn richer and forget about the carb for half the year already.

    DON’T RUN WITHOUT AN AIR FILTER! Your wallet will thank you.

    DON’T FORGET TO CUT VENT HOLES! These engines are air cooled. They need airflow to not overheat. IF your body isn’t letting air in and out it’s going to act like an oven.

    DON’T BREAK IT IN BY IDLING! These engines MUST reach operating temps during break in. Idling can not do that. Get it running and start driving it the moment it will run without the ignitor attached. If it’s too rich for that, lean it out 1/8 on the HSN until it will. You don’t want it so rich it won’t run right and you don’t want to idle it.

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