There’s a monster truck that we’ve named Big Hoss that is corralled amongst our ample stable of RC trucks here at RCCA. It sits tall, proud and ready to rip up terrain at a moments notice – as our landlord has unfortunately noticed. Better to rip up grass first and ask for forgiveness later we say. His furrowed brow shows concern for his grass field that Hoss gladly and easily chews up. That is, until we hand the controls over to him for a few full-speed passes.
Our landlord’s look of consternation instantly switches to a look of amazement and then joy as he drives Big Hoss about the field. Suddenly he’s a lot less concerned about the grass and zoned into whether or not he can align the truck with a small berm at speed to catch some air. Ah, what wonderful pleasures a seriously quick and fun RC monster truck can bring us, not to mention how Big Hoss got us out of trouble with our landlord. He loved his time controlling the Hoss and totally forgot all about the now unevenly “mowed” lawn.
Making it our own
Now that we’ve had the pleasure of bashing our Traxxas Hoss 4×4 VXL around in its factory trim, we were game to try something new with it. Looking into the expansive catalog that is Traxxas’ website, we discovered that the company has a deep understanding of what makes RC enthusiasts like us tick. That is to say, we can’t help but leave perfection alone and can’t resist modifying everything we get our ever tinkering hands on.
Traxxas, in their wisdom, makes upgrade parts available for most if not all of their vehicles. Some parts are meant to increase the durability of the vehicle while others can enhance its suspension or steering performance and yet others can amp up power to monstrous heights. We took a dive into their online catalog and decided to go all in and max out our Hoss 4×4 VXL with every part we could find that is available for it. What can we say? We wanted it to stand out from the crowd and make it our own. Needless to say, the results are seriously gratifying. While we were able to grab a good amount of parts, we weren’t able to get all the upgrades Traxxas offers. They seriously make a ton of upgrades for the Hoss.
Where to Begin?
Now that’s a good question. When it comes to modifying your vehicle, you can really start anywhere you want. Some begin by beefing up areas that are known for common breakages while others upgrade performance deficiencies first. Being that we don’t see either in the Hoss and the fact that we’re looking to upgrade every component possible all at once, it didn’t matter much where we began our process.
Logistically speaking, we decided to work ourselves from its inner depths outwards to save ourselves from disassembling and reassembling the same parts multiple times. With that in mind, we decided to tackle the driveline first. We dutifully disassembled Hoss down to its differentials so that we can rebuild it back up stronger than ever.
We replaced the center diff’s stock housing with an aluminum unit and installed steel-spline constant-velocity (CV) driveshafts in the front and rear positions. The differential was filled with Traxxas’ 500K-weight diff oil. Different weight diff lube makes it easy to increase or decrease the limited slip action of the gear differential. Traxxas has a wide selection of oil weights to choose from.
The heavy-duty steel CV driveshafts we installed are engineered specifically for monster truck applications and are built to withstand the large amounts of torque that are fed to them by powerful motors such as the Traxxas brushless VXL that is in Big Hoss. The Hoss’ oversized Sledgehammer tires can also stress the driveshafts, these upgrade steel CV units can handle the excess power without issue. Aside from making the driveline stronger, Traxxas’ unique splined telescoping design delivers full-range articulation so there isn’t any need to limit suspension travel.
Because Big Hoss is already outfitted with Traxxas’ powerful brushless Velineon VXL system, we didn’t need to upgrade anything in the motor or ESC departments. We did however, want to enhance it and did so by installing a motor cooling heat sink and a cooling fan kit. Both these items will give us longer run times and stretch out the life of the motor.
Bounce & Turn
Next, we swapped out the standard steering and suspension parts for their upgraded cousins. Focusing on the steering components, we took out the stock servo and replaced with Traxxas’ famed High-Torque 330 Blue Servo. The fully waterproof 330 Blue servo combines maximum steering power with high-performance features that include full metal gears for strength, dual ball bearings for smoothness, and an aluminum center section for added heat dissipation. The 330’s powerful coreless motor derives its name from being able to conjure up 330 ounce-inches of torque for even the most demanding applications.
After the servo was in, we readied a pair of aluminum steering blocks and a steering drag link for further steering enhancement. The blue-anodized 6061-T6 aluminum parts are precision-machined for steering accuracy and bulletproof strength. This upgrade helps give Big Hoss razor sharp agility on and off the road.
Steering and suspension are always tied together and as we worked on the steering end of the Hoss upgrade program, it only made sense that we simultaneously worked on the suspension as well. First we replaced the stock plastic front and rear shock towers with blue-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum versions. Notice that 7075-T6 aluminum is utilized for the upgraded shock towers. Traxxas engineers chose to use this stronger aluminum due to the greater stresses and impacts that the shock towers have to shoulder. They are also used as the base of the Hoss’ body mounts, so greater robustness in that area can help shrug off damage from inadvertent rollovers too.
We next looked to upgrade the truck’s shocks by adding aluminum shock caps that are designed specifically for the Traxxas Ultra Shocks that the Hoss comes with. These caps promise to boost durability and add some flashy anodized flair to the shocks. After that was complete, we installed a set of heavy-duty suspension arms. These Traxxas arms are constructed of the company’s latest proprietary composite material and is designed for high loads and hard landings with just the right amount of flex to resist breaking—even in cold weather. Bulletproofing the Hoss couldn’t be easier.
We also upgraded the truck’s caster blocks (c-hubs) and rear carriers with blue-anodized aluminum versions. These aluminum c-hubs and rear carriers are even stronger than the already robust stock units. The rear carriers include hardened-steel hinge pins and e-clips to make installation a breeze.
This reminds us to mention that since all the parts we installed are designed and manufactured by the very same people that make the Hoss, there wasn’t any hiccups when installing the upgrade parts. Every screw, pin, e-clip and part fit perfectly without any issues whatsoever. Since they are made to factory specs using quality materials, we have absolute confidence that they will last.
To cap the build, we wanted to do two more installs that would upgrade both the utility and looks of the Hoss. In its transmitter, we installed a Traxxas Link Wireless Module. The Link module and downloadable smart device app arms the driver with three major functions. It allows for real-time telemetry to be displayed of your vehicle while it is running via impressive high-definition graphics that are displayed on your smart phone or tablet. You can view the temperature of your motor or speed control, battery voltage, or how fast you’re really going.
The module also allows you to fine-tune your model with an Android or Apple device. The Traxxas Link app provides an intuitive user interface to make and save your custom settings in seconds. If you need to reverse a servo direction, set servo end points, or fine tune the steering rate or braking percentage, you can do it with just a few taps of the screen.
On top of that, the Link module easily allows the activation of Traxxas’ exclusive Training Mode. If you’re handing your transmitter off to someone who hasn’t driven before, select Training Mode in the Traxxas Link app to cut the power and speed in half until the new driver is familiar with the control. That feature will sure come in handy for those with newbie drivers around. If you have a Traxxas vehicle and haven’t yet played with the Link app, you’re missing out.
The final upgrade we installed was the Hoss 4X4 LED light kit because who doesn’t like lights? They look cool and allow you to run when it’s dark out. The kit consists of a front high-intensity light bar that integrates into a new rugged front bumper as well as bright red taillights that are mounted to flank the wheelie bar in a replacement rear bumper. A chassis-mounted power supply regulates the voltage for reliable lighting performance without dimming or flickering as battery voltage changes. Installation was easy using the included power tap to feed voltage directly from the battery. It’s worth noting that the entire lighting system is fully waterproof too.
With the Hoss completely maxed out and gleaming with all the Traxxas upgrade goodness we could get ahold of, we took a well-deserved break, stood back and basked in its glory. Big Hoss was ready to ride once again. We took the monster truck out to the grass field beyond our office’s parking lot and started ripping across it like nobody’s business. Steering felt tighter, suspension was suppler and the LED lights were kicking nice and bright. Minutes later, our landlord came out with arms stretched out looking to grab the transmitter. We gave it up and the upgraded Hoss obliged by showing off what it could do.
Traxxas Hoss 4×4 VXL
This is a list of everything we installed in Big Hoss. These items are available at traxxas.com.
Nuts, Aluminum, Flanged, Serrated (4mm)
Gear, 26-T Pinion / Set Screw
Note: 1.0 metric pitch, fits 5mm shaft
High-Torque 330 Blue Servo
Driveshafts, Rear, Steel-Spline Constant-Velocity (2)
Cooling Fan Kit
Note: Fits #3351R and #3461 motors, requires #3458 heat sink to mount
Heavy-Duty Suspension Arms
Housing, Center Differential (Aluminum)
Includes: X-Ring Gaskets (2)/ Ring Gear Gasket/ Bushings (2)/ 5x10x0.5mm PTFE-Coated Washers (2)/ 2.5×8 CCS (4)
Oil, Differential (500K wt)
Hoss 4X4 LED Light Kit
Includes, Front bumper with integrated LED light bar, rear bumper with integrated red LED lights, regulated power supply, power tap connector, mounting hardware
Note: Fits #3351R and #3461 motors
Shock Caps, Aluminum (Blue-Anodized) (4)
Note: Fits all Ultra Shocks
Shock Tower, Rear, 7075-T6 Aluminum (Blue-Anodized)
Includes: Body Mount Bracket
Shock Tower, Front, 7075-T6 Aluminum (Blue-Anodized)
Includes: Body Mount Bracket
Carriers, Stub Axle (Blue-Anodized 6061-T6 Aluminum) (Rear) (2)
Includes: Hardened-steel hingepins, e-clips.
Traxxas Link Wireless Module
Drag Link, Machined 6061-T6 Aluminum (Blue-Anodized)
1. Caster Blocks (C-Hubs), 6061-T6 Aluminum (Blue-Anodized), L&R
2. Steering Blocks, 6061-T6 Aluminum (Blue-Anodized), L&R
Text by Jerry Tsai
Images by Leigh Guarnieri and Traxxas