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7 Tools I Can’t Live Without

By Stephen Bess

Wrenching is a large portion of my overall enjoyment in RC. Building kits, tearing down components for maintenance and between-race adjustments are all part of the fun. The right tools for the job, however, are a must. Given RC’s specialized fasteners and parts, you won’t find every tool you need at Home Depot. Here are seven of the most important tools in my toolbox that I can’t live without. Sure, there are others, but these are the essentials that make my RC life oh-so-much easier.


1. Electric Screwdriver and Bits

High-quality hand tools are essential to every RC toolbox, but I don’t enjoy turning a wrench 50,000 times when tearing down one of my race rigs. An electric screwdriver with an adjustable clutch makes my life infinitely easier, while sparing my limbs from forearm pump. RC companies like XRAY, OFNA and EDS Tools and others offer ¼-inch hex bits in metric and SAE sizes for a perfect fit.

2. Flush Cutters

You know those big plastic parts trees you find in every kit? You can’t just twist those parts off the tree without leaving a huge nub of plastic on the part. This is where a high-quality set of flush cutters (or “side” cutters) come in handy. Designed to fit into tight spaces, flush cutters snip parts off trees with clean, professional-looking results. 

3. Ball-End Hex Wrench

Inevitably, you’ll need to tighten a hex-head fastener at an odd angle, most often when tightening or loosening engine mount screws. The worst thing you can do, which I “may” have learned the hard way, is to use a standard hex wrench for this job. You’ll end up shearing off the tip or stripping out the screw head every time. Invest in a set of ball-end wrenches. They’re made to fit fasteners at less than ideal angles.

4. Body Reamer

You’ve probably seen this before, but until you’ve owned a body reamer, it’s impossible to understand how useful one is. This tool creates clean, burr-free holes in RC bodies. If you’ve ever attempted to make a body hole using a rotary tool or a hobby knife (never do this), you’re familiar with body holes that look like they were made with a five-dollar electric carving knife. No RC’er should be without a body reamer. 

5. Rotary Tool

Why do you need one of these? Grinding. Polishing. Cutting. Lexan body smoothing. Removing a stripped screw. De-burring metal parts. Trimming pipe mount wires. Creating custom parts. There are a million reasons why you’ll use a rotary tool in RC, and each time you think you know them all, you’ll find another use. 

6. Heat Gun

Electric and nitro guys should both own heat guns. Why? They’re exponentially more powerful than your sister’s hair dryer, which comes in handy when covering wiring in shrink tubing. Or preheating a new nitro engine that won’t turn over on the starter box. Or applying custom vinyl body skins. Or reinvigorating crumpled foam tire inserts (try it!). Because a flamethrower is too cumbersome and less discreet, a heat gun is the perfect addition to your toolbox.

7. High-Temp Soldering Iron

This one isn’t just for the electric guys. Even if you only run nitro, odds are that sooner or later you’ll need a soldering iron. And, there is nothing worse than trying to get the job done with a cheap, low-temp soldering iron. Not only will using it be frustrating, but more than likely, the joint you just labored over to create will fail—at the worse time possible. Do yourself a favor and buy a quality soldering iron such as the ones offered by LRP and Team Checkpoint.

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Updated: January 6, 2011 — 8:50 PM

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