How Long Will an RC Nitro Engine Last?

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If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that RC cars with nitro engines are extremely fun and offer extended run time since you don’t need to change the battery every 15 minutes. But, unfortunately, these engines aren’t known to have very long lifespans. So, how long before you need a replacement?

How long do RC Nitro Engines last?

An RC Nitro Engine will last approximately 6 to 8 gallons (22.71 to 30.28 liters), which is equivalent to about 40 to 80 hours of run time. This may vary depending on how you drive and maintain the engine.

That doesn’t sound very encouraging, and given their high price; you want your RC car to last as long as possible. With that in mind, let’s go over a few ways to help extend the life of your nitro engine, including the things you can do to keep it running for longer. 

How long do RC Nitro Engines last?

Traxxas 5407 3.3 TRX Engine, IPS Shaft with Pull Start

The average lifespan of an RC nitro engine is between 6 and 8 gallons (22.71 to 30.28 liters), which typically runs about 40-80 hours of run time.  That means your car will only be able to burn 6-8 gallons in its lifetime before it’s time to say goodbye.

However, that number is considered relatively objective, and much like a normal car, it can change depending on how you drive (though not too much).

Nitro Engines and Driving Style

As the hobbyist owner of a nitro engine RC car, you will directly impact how long the engine will last by your driving style. For example:

  • As the one holding the controller, your driving style will, if it’s rough, put more wear and tear on the nitro engine. 
  • A fast throttle, crashing, and fast turns and flips will shorten the life of your nitro engine as well as the whole RC vehicle.

Careful use will help extend the life of your nitro engine. 

To help maintain your car and hopefully improve its lifespan, take the time to familiarize yourself with the steering and throttle operation. That will ensure your car goes where you want and at the correct speed, and it will prevent your vehicle from getting bashed. 

Well-built RC cars, both electric and nitro, are more expensive to buy and operate than toy versions. Though they are rugged and can stand up to abuse, you will enjoy the experience more if you learn how to gain speed and maneuver without damaging crashes. 

For basic training, watch Learn How To Drive Your First RC in the following video:

How to Extend the Lifespan of Your RC Nitro Engine?

As well as careful driving, it’s possible for a hobbyist to extend the life of a nitro engine indefinitely if they dedicate time and patience to care for the engine and support parts properly. 

A disciplined and consistent after-run routine and maintenance program is essential to protecting and extending the life of the nitro engine. This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Keeping the car and its components clean and dry using alcohol and compressed air to help it dry.
  • Removing excess fuel from the tank before putting it away.
  • Burning off excess fuel left inside the crankcase.
  • Cleaning any debris from the fuel filter.
  • Thoroughly cleaning the chassis and surrounding components with denatured alcohol.
  • Removing and replacing loose or broken parts. 

Maintain Your RC Car Parts

If your experience has previously been with electric RC cars, you know that RC nitro engines are higher maintenance. 

The nitro engine operates much like an actual car engine. That’s part of its appeal, but that means maintenance is part of the cost of ownership. 

Racing a nitro-fueled RC car is harder on the engine than cruising in a parking lot. So, make an after-run checklist of preventative maintenance to increase the life of your vehicle and nitro engine. 

  1. Check that all screws are secure after a run. If any have loosened, snug them up but don’t over tighten. 
  2. Check the wheel bearings. If worn, they will wobble, and that action puts extra strain on the motor. Replace worn bearings or add a few drops of lubricant.
  3. Adjust your speed settings. Your speed settings will determine the fuel mixture by the carburetor. Adjust those settings so you are not running lean. Running lean will cause the engine to overheat.
  4. Clean the air filter. Ideally, you should stop and do this while racing when refueling. 
  5. Clean dirt and debris from all of the components. Pay close attention to the carburetor and bearings. 

Tune Your RC Car

It’s important to note that tuning should be left to professionals if you’re not familiar with engines. More can go wrong than right if you’re hesitant, so it’s best to learn all the basics before starting with any engine tuning. 

Mugen Seiki Racing expert Adam Drake has a series of youtube videos about tuning and maintenance for RC nitro engines. Start by watching his introductory tuning video:

If you need help developing your tuning skills, check out this post by World of RC Parts. They offer several simple basic tuning instructions to help get you started. 

A more extensive step-by-step maintenance and deep cleaning video is Maintenance & Cleaning by the Redcat Racing experts. This video includes the best products and tools for use with your nitro engine and all other parts of the RC vehicle. 

Both videos above cover the all-important carburetor and speed adjustments, as well as the correct fuel mixture, and the post on World of RC Parts includes plenty of handy information.

Getting the right tools that have been designed specifically for your RC nitro engine will make maintenance easier. These will include:

  • 8mm (0.315 cm) nut driver for the glow plug
  • 10mm (0.394 cm) nut driver to install and remove the flywheel nut
  • Flywheel wrench or Piston locking tool for securing the flywheel nut
  • Flat-blade screwdriver to adjust the carburetor
  • Temperature gauge to tune the carburetor 

Avoid Extreme Weather Conditions

Your RC car can run in all conditions, including sand, mud, rain, cold, and heat. How much those conditions affect the longevity of the nitro engine is based on, once again, maintenance. 

If you run the car hard and then close the door on it when you get home, your nitro engine will not last long. 

Cold Weather

You can run your RC nitro engine car in cold and damp weather, but below 35°F (1.667°C) your nitro engine may not want to start. 

Pre-warming it by keeping it inside until ready to use will help. However, cold weather still adds a performance burden that can wear on your engine. 

If you take your nitro engine out in freezing weather and try to run it, you could damage the engine. So with that in mind, you should try to avoid cold weather extremes if you want to prolong the life of your machine.

Wet Weather

Many RC cars come with a water-resistant badge, which means they can run in light rain or damp conditions. 

Few are fully waterproof, and even those have their limitations. Therefore, waterproofing all the parts of your car before running in snow and mud is a smart idea. 

Wrap small parts in balloons to protect them and marinate others in waterproofing solutions. Also, be sure to access the smaller pieces and wire connections to be as thorough as possible.

In order to protect the engine and all the other parts, the RC car needs to be cleaned of all debris like sand, dirt, grasses, and mud. Dampness is a threat, so you have to dry all the parts carefully. 

Brush off excess debris and wipe everything as clean as possible. Use compressed air to help the car dry, or be sure to leave it out until it dries naturally. 

Buy an RC Nitro Engine That Lasts

If you buy the whole package, car, and nitro engine, always purchase quality products and maintain them properly for a satisfying experience. 

Below are a few well-reviewed options for high-quality RC nitro Cars intended for adult and teenager use from

Most engines hold less than 3 ounces (88.72 ml) of nitro fuel, and you can run them all day by adding fuel every 30 minutes or so. 

With an electric RC car, you would be swapping out rechargeable batteries every 10-15 minutes, and they take far longer to recharge than it takes to refuel.

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