Recently, while going through a few kits in my collection, I started to look over details of each build, ultimately thinking about wire management. I figured, why not go over some of the tricks that I’ve used in my builds over the years? These tips range from how I trim and solder motor wiring to routing servo and ESC wires, and overall wire management that makes as little a mess as possible. With that in mind, this article will briefly go over a few tips and tricks to help you manage the wiring in your own kits to get a nice, clean result.
This is by far one of the most important parts of wiring a build. When it comes to pre-supplied, pre-soldered brushed motors, I usually leave the excess and use the stock connectors. Examples like Tamiya silver motors will do just fine when the factory wiring is left a little long. But for anything with a brushed motor, I almost always cut and solder my own leads to the exact length and orientation required. Usually I begin by figuring out exactly which way to mount the motor.
Almost all motors can be mounted, or “clocked,” in different positions; that way the tabs for the wiring sit the proper way in the vehicle. So that’s where to start. Clock the motor so the tabs are easily accessible without getting in the way of other components, then measure out the wiring to the ESC. I do this one by one, making sure to measure enough times to be certain of the length.
You know what they say: “Measure twice, cut once.” After the wiring is measured and cut, solder each wire up in its proper position on the motor and you’re ready to go. For kits with minimal space it can be a bit trickier, but the same method applies. Rest assured, with a bit of patience and the right mindset you’ll almost always find a way to make it work.
Managing The Excess
One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to wiring can be managing the excess. This is usually caused by overly long servo cables, power switch wires, and battery wiring. When not managed properly it turns into a bird’s nest that can be a real eyesore, or worse, a big hazard.
To manage this excess, start out by first temporarily placing components to figure out the best areas to run wiring. Things like servos and motors are a bit easier since they’ll have fixed positions, so figuring out where you want to mount the ESC and receiver are key. Once the component layout and wiring plan has been decided, it’s as simple as mounting the pieces and running the wires to their destination.
When it comes to actually managing the wiring, I like to keep longer lengths of cable in smaller bundles that can tuck nicely into existing spaces in the chassis. Sometimes this is alongside the motor, or possibly in an open crevice between parts. As an overall rule I try to avoid areas with moving parts at all costs. Not only can this pose an issue to moving components, but it most certainly poses a danger to the wiring itself. Always try to keep wires away from parts like driveshafts and belts, open gearing, or drive axles.
A handy tool that never leaves my side when doing any kind of wiring cleanup is my trusty flush cutters. This is an indispensable tool that I most often employ to trim excess material on plastic parts, but is also extremely useful to trim the excess on zip-ties. Cutting the excess tie just at the connector will leave minimal material behind and will ensure that the cut is flat and clean, rather than leaving a rough, jagged edge.
Clips + Ties
With the pieces all installed and the wiring run, this is where the actual cleanup happens. The biggest helps for this process are zip-ties. These little guys are quite possibly the most important piece of kit when managing excess wiring. Whether you’re running multiple wires along the length of the chassis or simply ribbon-folding some servo cable into a small bundle, zip-ties are so useful for keeping things nice and tidy.
A quick tip when using zip-ties, however: never over-tighten. Tighten the tie only as much as needed to firmly hold the wiring, and avoid cinching so tight it starts to deform the wire shielding. Call it being overly cautious, but with the small gauges of wire we use in the RC hobby it’s best to avoid damage, even if it might be a rare case.
Other great options for wire management are small wire clips and cable clamps. I like to use single-hole cable clamps to manage loose battery wires, especially in race-oriented builds with separated leads. A single clamp in the right spot will keep those wires in place and safe from damage. Additionally, thin pieces of tape, aluminum or otherwise, can go a long way in keeping flat cables in place. There are some chassis designs that have integrated wiring channels, and a little piece of tape is usually all you need to keep those wires from popping up unexpectedly.
I’ve included a handful of photos to help give you an idea of how I’ve wired different builds over the years. They aren’t always the prettiest, but the primary goal is to make sure wires are cleanly run and components are unhindered. As always, I hope you’ve found this guide informative and that it helps you with your own RC builds in the future. Thanks for reading, I’ll catch you in the next one.
Text and Images by Lauren Short