We all know that RC cars can go incredibly fast.
It is not a rare thing for RC car owners to actually make modifications to their RC cars in order to make the cars go even faster.
But it is not all about speed. A car needs to be able also to stop, right? So how does that happen?
So do RC cars have brakes? RC cars have two different types of brakes: electric and mechanical. The mechanical brakes use brake plates to apply resistance to the differential system and slow down the RC car. Electric RC cars have a braking system that is set up through the ESC. The ESC can either lock the motor or apply reverse current to slow the RC car down.
Below I share with you all that I have learned about how the braking on RC cars works.
What Kind of Brakes Do RC Cars Have?
There are two main types of braking systems that RC cars use, and these are also largely dependent on what kind of an RC car we are talking about.
This type of braking applies to RC cars that are equipped with an electric motor. This is not a real or mechanical type of braking that you would see on Nitro cars or real-life cars.
Generally speaking, there are three different types of electric braking:
Some RC cars may have the ESC set up in such a way as to create a reverse current or reversing the electric motor, essentially slowing it down.
Alternatively, the ESC can have the RC car slow down by shorting out the electric motor. A motor with shorted terminals acts as a generator and creates higher resistance or drag; thus, it is harder to revolve. And the harder it is for the electric motor to turn, the higher the braking power.
This is also called regenerative braking.
The braking power will be highly dependent on how powerful are the magnets of the motor. The more powerful magnets will have the car stop quicker, and weaker magnets will provide less braking power.
Conversely, when pushing on the trigger on the controller, some cars have their ESC configured in such a way as to lock the electric motor or the wheels, mimicking the effect of real braking.
One of the downsides of electric braking is the fact that usually, you cannot set the braking power on the front or back wheels individually. The only aspect of the braking you have control over is the braking force applied.
Some electric RC cars can also have a drag brake. It is applied automatically when you let go of the throttle and keep it in neutral.
Drag brake is usually used on tight indoor tracks. The drag brake is an excellent way to transfer the weight of the vehicle on the forward wheels. If set up correctly, it allows for more controlled and quicker turns.
This applies to RC cars that have a central differential system and an internal combustion motor.
There is a brake disk in between two brake pads. It is very easy to spot, and it is usually right in front of the central transmission of the RC car.
The braking disk and pads are connected to the braking arm, which will be connected to the servo arm. The braking arm usually has an adjuster that can be used to adjust the braking of the RC car.
When the arm pushes forward, it will push the brake pads against the disk, creating higher resistance, thus lowering its RPM.
The braking disk sits directly on the transmission shaft. And if the disk cannot move, the transmission does not move as well.
One of the neat things of mechanical braking is that usually, it lowers the temperatures of the RC car.
With that being said, mechanical brakes can be separated into cable and hydraulic brakes.
Usually, cables are easier to maintain and work with, but hydraulic brakes are considered to be one of the best types of brakes for an RC car when it comes to braking power.
Setting hydraulic braking is also fairly expensive, and you need to back it up with a good servo.
Can You Adjust the Brakes the RC Cars?
The brakes on the RC cars can be adjusted according to your personal preferences and liking.
This can be done in several ways. You will have to play around and try out different setups to see what you will be happy with as these will affect the braking power, and the biting point of the brakes in different ways.
Adjusting Mechanical Brakes
It is recommended to always start by adjusting the screw on the connecting rod between the braking arm and the servo. By tightening the screw, you will increase the braking of the RC car, and by loosening it, you will lower the braking power.
Some RC cars may have two braking arms, one for the front wheels and one for the back wheels, which can be adjusted separately.
However, not all RC cars will have an adjuster or adjusting screw on the connecting rod. In that case, you should be able to find a little grub screw which can be moved forward or backward to adjust the braking.
The next way to fine-tune the brakes on your RC car is by tightening or loosening the two screws found on the brake pads. For that, you will need a hex screwdriver.
You want to find the right balance between the braking power and the biting of the brakes.
Sometimes the brakes do not engage quickly enough or just have a very late biting point. And in this case, you want to dial them in a little more.
That way, you will have a better and quicker response from the car resulting in a more gradual and sensitive braking.
- Loose brakes will give you weak braking, and you will have difficulty or inability to slow down properly;
- Tight brakes will lead to quick biting and lockout of the wheels, which will result in more spins and poorer control over the vehicles.
- Higher front wheel braking usually leads to better straight-line braking.
- Higher back wheel braking results in better spins when turning corners.
The adjustment of the brakes should be done gradually and make sure always to test how the braking feels.
Adjusting Electric Brakes
To have a working electric braking setup in place, you need just a good ESC that has a braking feature. Unlike mechanical braking, here you do not have to worry about discs, servos, brake plates, or hydraulics.
The braking capability of the ESCs is frequently overlooked since the stock settings can have the braking completely switched off or setup to very low braking percentages.
The braking power of most ESCs can be programmed and adjusted. To do that, you will need to follow the instructions in your ESC’s manual. There will be a series of beeps that correspond to the different levels of braking power used.
The braking adjustments on the ESC’s are usually more limited compared to the mechanical braking.
Overall there are a few different ways to adjust the braking settings on an ESC.
The first and easiest way to do that is by using a programming card that is suitable for the ESC.
Some ESCs have a setting button on them, which can be used for that purpose as well.
The second method is by using your controller, this is the most basic and common way to do that, and the last way to do that is with a USB dongle, but very few ESC support that, and it is mostly used in RC planes and helicopters.
Can Braking Damage Your RC Car?
Regardless if it is an electric or nitro RC car using its braking capabilities is not going to damage it. However, the brake system needs to be properly set up.
With that being said, there are a few caveats when it comes to mechanical brakes.
If brake pads are too tight, this will put high amounts of stress or even completely lock out the whole differential system. The unnecessarily high amounts of resistance can lead to damaging the gears and even overheating the engine.
Additionally, the electrical braking can also be so strong that it can lock out the wheels of the car so quickly that, depending on the speed it is moving, it can send it rolling and flipping forward.