13-Upgrades for Under $50

Aug 15, 2011 8 Comments by

Although you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on a single RC upgrade, there are numerous upgrades that you can make without breaking the bank. Sure, brushless motor systems, fully-digital transmitters, 11.1V LiPos and race-tuned nitro engines are among the most expensive and sought-after products, but there are actually tons of upgrades that can be found for relatively little cost. In fact, many of the most useful upgrades on the market are under $50, and here are 13 inexpensive upgrades that are sure to make a big difference:

New Wheels and Tires
Your car’s handling and performance on the street and track are only as good as its tires. If you are looking to increase handling and decrease lap times, try experimenting with some new wheels and tires.

A New Body
The biggest aesthetic upgrade you can make to your vehicle is painting and mounting a new body. For under $50 you can buy a brand new body and create a unique paint scheme of your own.

Titanium Turnbuckles
Over time, you are destined to bend, tweak or outright destroy turnbuckles on the streets or at the track. Since they are stronger and lighter than steel, upgrading to Titanium turnbuckles will increase durability and performance in one shot.

Upgraded Connectors
Most ready-to-run vehicles still use Tamiya-style connectors that are grossly inadequate for today’s motors and batteries. Upgrading to performance connectors like Dean’s, Traxxas or Losi will give you better runtime and more punch.

ESC Fan
Keeping your ESC cool can boost its performance and increase its life. Many newer ESCs offer optional cooling fans that bolt directly to the ESC case—taking ESC performance to the next level.

An Extra Battery
Although battery packs can get expensive, plenty are still available for under $50. Buying an extra pack will give you more time to have fun—especially if you aren’t close to an outlet—and will extend the life of your other packs, since you aren’t constantly charging and running the same ones.

Machined Aluminum Motor Mount
Nitro engines generate a lot of heat, and pulling that heat away from the engine block is important. Aftermarket companies make machined motor mounts for nitro engines which save weight, promote cooling and even stiffen the chassis for tuning purposes.

Shock Rebuild Kit
All shocks require maintenance, and buying a rebuild kit helps breathe new life into an old suspension. Rebuild kits usually include new o-rings, pistons, bladders and shock boots—all of which degrade over time and need to be replaced.

Motor Heat Sink
Electric motors—especially brushless ones—need to keep cool to run efficiently and extend durability. Buying a motor heat sink is a perfect way to draw heat away from the motor and get the most out of your ESC/motor setup.

Pinion/Spur Gears
Many people—especially novices—overlook the importance of gearing. Before you go motor shopping, try experimenting with different gearing. Just a couple teeth difference can add tons or torque or speed.

LED Light Kit
For you drifters, rock crawlers and scale-builders, nothing adds realism and flash like an LED light kit. They are available for just about every car and can usually be found for around $25.

Metal Gear Steering Servo
If you have a stock steering servo, it is just a matter of time before it conks out or strips a gear. For about $50, however, you can find a nice steering servo that uses ball-bearings and metal gears—increasing performance and life.

CV/Universal Drive Shafts
If your vehicle uses dog bone-style drive shafts, upgrading to CV or universal-style shafts will greatly improve drivetrain efficiency—which has numerous positive effects on your car’s performance.

Conclusion
RC upgrades don’t always have to cost over $200. In fact, some of the most useful upgrades on the market are under $50! So much about RC performance is about the “little things,” and thankfully little things usually involve little cost. So before you dump $200 into your car, think about getting four smaller upgrades instead; you will probably be better-off in the big picture.

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About the author

I have been an RC hobbyist since the mid 90’s, and I have been working on the editorial side of the industry for nearly ten years now. There have been times when I have stepped away from RC for a bit, but I have always come back. In fact, RC is the only thing in my life that never completely goes away. I love watching for new trends and looking out for new takes on old favorites. I am perfectly satisfied that RC isn’t main stream. In fact, I prefer it that way. Not everyone can do what we do, and I would rather be a part of something exclusive than something “popular.”

8 Responses to “13-Upgrades for Under $50”

  1. Christopher Oswald - RCCA says:

    That’s some good stuff, some of it is on the edge of the $50.00 mark, but still good ideas and upgrades.

  2. Michael Wortel says:

    Thanks. I guess something like an ‘Under $10′ acticle would be even more challenging…

  3. Christopher Oswald says:

    Upgrades for under $10.00 wouldn’t be that bad, if it was maybe the top ten tool box items everyone should have for under 10 , bucks.

  4. bill mossor says:

    Why do companys still use insufficient , out dated ,& unreliable Tamiya style connectors ?

  5. Dean Wells says:

    As far as $10 upgrades, there’s a lot I have a $6 set of bondus alen drivers I bought 10 years ago and stil work great and the nice thing is they’re life time replacement.

  6. Nic says:

    Hey what do you guys use as a toolbox??

  7. Kevin says:

    For a toolbox I use tacklebox and it works great.

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