As any RC hobbyist knows, keeping your vehicle clean is one of the best ways to maximize its longevity and keep it performing at a high level for a long time to come. While you can’t avoid getting your tires wet, dirty, or grimy, you can find ways to effectively clean them to keep them in the best possible shape. So what are the best ways to clean your RC tires?
Here’s how you can clean your RC tires:
- Prepare washing station & fill up vessel with soapy water.
- Roll (not submerge) the tires around in the water.
- Scrub the tires using a wire brush.
- Pat dry tires with paper towels and air dry.
- Condition tires to keep them soft and grippy if you want.
In this article, I’ll be going over some of the best ways to clean your tires and general tips to keep them in the best shape possible, so they can keep performing well for as long as they can.
Why Are Cleaning RC Tires Important?
RC cars get dirty – there’s just no way around it, and sometimes it’s even the whole reason we have them to begin with. Regardless, persistent dirt clinging to your tire treads limits the amount of contact your tires have with the ground, and in turn, limits the amount of control you have over your car. Spinning your wheels can be fun, but most of the time you want the best handling and acceleration possible.
As any enthusiast will tell you, cleaning your tires regularly is an important step in a regular maintenance regimen. Save for some special compounds, it’s nearly free to keep your RC cars clean and will even save you money in the long run because your tires won’t wear out so quickly.
What Do I Need To Clean My RC Tires?
In most cases, you don’t need much special equipment that you won’t have lying around. If you want higher-quality cleaning, there are methods to do this, but I’ll be covering that later.
In the meantime, you need the following to clean your RC tires:
- A stiff-bristled nylon brush
- Shallow plastic vessel (optional: RC tire workstation as detailed below)
- Wire brush (optional for heavy dirt/debris)
- Warm water
- Paper towels
- High-quality dish soap (Dawn works fine)
- Simple Green cleaning solution (20-25% Simple Green, 75% warm water)
What You Should Know About Cleaning RC Tires
There are some basic but important tips you should be aware of to make the most of cleaning your RC tires and, more importantly, don’t accidentally harm them. Take careful note of these tips before actually starting the cleaning process!
1. Don’t Ever Completely Submerge Tires
While it may seem like common sense to just dunk the tires and scrub them to death, that’s actually what not to do. RC tires are commonly vented in one or more places, meaning there are holes that water would get in.
If you submerge them, water will flow in and get trapped between the tires and the foam inserts. If left there, water can damage the inserts and other parts over time.
2. Don’t Let Dirt Sit on Your Tires
It may be easy to just put your car away and take a break after running it for a while, but it’s actually best to immediately clean your tires after they get dirty.
When dirt clings to tires, it cakes on and zaps moisture from the tires, drying them out. If dirt is left caked on for a long period of time, it can destroy the tires’ tread and hurt their ability to perform.
3. Be Careful Using Wire Brushes
While wire brushes are awesome at clearing away tough and caked-on debris, be very careful not to scrape the surface of your tires or any other part of your RC car.
It can be easy, especially with soft compound tires, to accidentally scrape away parts of your tread. Even a groove or two worn into the tire can dramatically impact its performance in a very bad way.
4. Vents Should Be on Tires, Not Wheels
This is aimed at folks who want to vent their tires themselves – the tires themselves should be vented, not the wheels or foam inserts. Putting holes in the wheels will do nothing but harm the structural integrity of the car and allow it to take on dirt and water more easily.
Another possible side effect is that the tires won’t fit snugly and could come off more easily from high sideload pressure.
5. Construct a Tire Washing Station for Fast, Easy Cleaning
A useful thing to have is a ‘tire cleaning station,’ which consists of a shallow tray or pan and a handheld nylon brush with no back attached.
You’ll want a bigger brush that can fill as much of the surface area of the vessel as possible. Then you simply superglue or epoxy the brush flat onto the bottom of your vessel and allow it to dry.
When you next clean your RC tires, fill this vessel just past the brush with soapy water and scrub the tire against the bristles of the brush. When finished, simply drain the soapy water and store it somewhere convenient for the next time you need it.
How to clean RC Tires properly?
Now that you have your basic equipment and know what to not do, let’s talk about how to actually clean those tires.
1. Prepare Washing Station & Fill Up Vessel With Soapy Water
Fill your plastic vessel/workstation with an inch or two (2.54 or 5.08 cm) of soapy water or Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner solution.
The benefits of Simple Green are that it gets the dirt off and keeps the tires supple without drying them out. Dish soap, however, works just fine for basic cleaning.
2. Roll (Not Submerge) the Tires Around in the Water
Roll your tires around in the water, taking care not to submerge them. While it’s impossible to avoid getting water in the tires, this is the best method to minimize the amount that does enter the tire vents. You just want to get the water all over the tires and in between the treads.
Water in the tire isn’t a major concern here because the centrifugal force from the engine will cause properly vented tires to spray the water out when you run the car.
3. Scrub the Tires Using a Wire Brush
If you have a wire brush, this is the time – but as mentioned before, be extremely careful. The only job of the wire brush is to loosen big chunks and stubborn caked-on dirt or clay, which it can generally do with very little pressure. Once the chunks are loose, switch to the nylon brush.
Use the nylon brush to get the less stubborn dirt off, then dunk the tire a bit until it washes off. The tread is very important to get clean because dirt loves to collect in treads, especially deep treads that larger off-road tires have. Slick and flat tires will be easier to clean since there aren’t nooks and crannies to dig into.
Repeat the scrubbing and dunking process until you’re satisfied with the cleanliness of your tires.
4. Pat Dry Tires With Paper Towels and Air Dry
Use your paper towels to pat the tires dry and place them on a rack somewhere to air dry. Don’t keep them in direct sunlight, because sunlight is well-known for speeding up the deterioration of tires for cars and RC cars alike.
5. Condition Tires To Keep Them Soft and Grippy if You Want
This step isn’t strictly necessary, but conditioning your tires with a product like Simple Green can help keep your RC tires soft and grippy.
TIP: Fill a spray bottle with a 10-25% mixture of Simple Green and water and evenly spray the tires on a rack.
There are other products that exist to condition tires and keep them supple and grippy, but some enthusiasts swear by products like P’B Blaster Tire Penetrant.
How To Extend RC Tires’ Lifespan?
In addition to developing a regular tire cleaning routine, there are some other things you can do to help extend the lifespan of your tires and avoid common problems that tend to plague RC tires.
1. Elevate Your RC Car When It’s Stored
When you’re not running your car, you probably just throw it on a shelf like the rest of us, but this can actually cause problems over time.
The weight of the RC car pressing down on one spot of the tires can cause flat spots in the tires and foam inserts, slowing acceleration and reducing speeds when you run them again. This problem only gets worse over time.
To alleviate this issue, you can purchase an RC car stand to store your cars, or simply place flat objects underneath the body of the car, elevating the tires and keeping the pressure off them.
2. Consider Storing Tires Separately
Storing tires separately from cars is a great way to keep pressure off them, and especially when you need to store tires long-term when not in regular use. A common storage solution for tires is a tire stand, which is essentially just a rod with a weight on the bottom. You just put the tires onto the road and store it.
3. Avoid Sunlight and Moisture
I touched on the detrimental effects of sunlight on RC tires earlier, but another condition to watch out for is moisture, namely humidity. Humidity, especially in conjunction with sunlight, can cause stored tires to swell and rot. Ideally, you want to keep your tires in a cool, dark place such as a garage.