Radio-controlled or RC cars are an increasingly popular hobby among people of all ages, but there are some lesser-known details about it that not everyone may know. For instance, many newbies may notice that they have issues keeping their tires from coming off or interfering with proper operation. Gluing tires can be a great way to fix this, but only if done properly, so how do you go about it?
To glue RC tires, proper preparation is key. Clean the tires of any residue, and vent your tires for optimal performance. Once ready, dry mount the tires and make sure you seat them properly. Then, apply glue in staggered stages, allowing individual tires to dry before moving on.
This article will take a deep dive into whether you should glue tires, how to go about it, and other invaluable tips for novices and experts alike.
Should I Glue My RC Car’s Tires?
Before getting into the details of how to glue tires, you must first consider whether it’s even necessary. Hobbyists with tires that regularly come off under offroad conditions may be tempted to just glue the tires, but applying glue poorly may not even make a difference.
For competitors in races, gluing is necessary to keep your tires from going ‘flat’ in the middle of a race and getting you a big old DNF.
The fact is that tires face lots of pressure, particularly rear or back tires. Under offroad conditions, rear tires have to deal with astonishing sideload pressure that can break a weak glue bond in a heartbeat. While gluing has substantial benefits to anyone’s RC car, you have to first realize it has to be done properly – or you may as well have never done it once that bond breaks!
These days you can often get tires pre-glued, but results may vary depending on the technician who applies the glue. It may last for months or come apart at the first rough ride, and there’s no way of telling ahead of time.
What To Know About RC Wheels and Tires
Before gluing your tires, it’s important to know what you’re working with and how the tires actually interface with the wheels. Without this knowledge, it’s easy to glue your tires without having a clue what you’re doing, leading to an improper performance at the first opportunity.
Most important to understand is that wheels and tires only touch at two points – the channel and the bead. Some cars use vertical beads, where the bead just drops into the channel. Others use horizontal beads that press in from the side.
Both offer unique benefits, but Traxxas, the foremost RC car manufacturer, prefers horizontal beads that offer the best resistance from tire separation due to centrifugal force.
Many people use vertical beads with no problems at all, though, so your mileage may vary.
How to prepare RC Wheels and Tires for Gluing?
Before breaking out the glue, you need to prepare your wheels and tires. Rims, tires, and wheels are all created with a mold, which means that the leftover mold release agent leaves the parts slick and unsuitable for gluing out of the box.
To prepare them for gluing, you’ll just need some regular isopropyl alcohol and paper towels, both of which are easily found at any pharmacy or big box store. Then, do the following steps:
- Run a paper towel down the bead and you’ll notice that residue comes away.
- Clean the beads and the rims’ mounting channels until no more residue comes off.
- For optimal traction on high traction surfaces such as asphalt, you can carefully sand the mounting surfaces on the rims and tires.
- After the residue is all gone, you can dampen a paper towel with the isopropyl alcohol and clean all of the aforementioned areas.
Once free of residue and cleaned with alcohol, you may wish to trim the foam inserts and see how the fit is. It’s generally accepted to trim both the outer and inner edges, but it’s becoming very popular to use untrimmed inserts because trimming has little benefit to some of the softer inserts.
But whether you trim the insert or not, it’s crucial to make sure that the insert is completely centered on the tire and that the tire is seated.
TIP: If you notice a slight wobble, you can use a knife to trim any exposed flashing that interferes with proper seating. There shouldn’t be any bulges and no wobble once you’re finished.
Finally, fit a rubber band to keep the tire tight against the rim.
Should I Vent My RC Tires?
Tire venting is a fairly common practice among more performance-minded RC enthusiasts.
It’s basically just punching holes in your tires to allow air to flow in and out of the tire. This has various benefits, but the main ones are that it lessens bouncing on surfaces like sand and snow. The holes also allow water and dirt that enter the tire to be expelled.
What happens if you don’t vent your RC tires?
- Tires will be rigid, which reduces conformity to surfaces and gives you significantly less traction.
- Tires will bounce as a result of the air trapped in the tire. This is especially bad if you’re planning on any jumps because the car will bounce out of control when landing.
- As a result of the above reasons, tires are more likely to rip apart and break any glue bonds that have been applied.
As you can see, you don’t really lose out on anything by venting – it’s actually the exact opposite. Most wheels come pre-vented in one or two places to minimize the above problems, but it’s not a bad idea to vent in more areas to maximize the benefits of the practice.
If you don’t have holes in your rims, do the following:
- Use a drill press with a ⅛” (0.318 cm) bit to add a straight hole to the rim.
- Add another hole if desired, but aim for 180 degrees from the other hole for best distribution.
However, the problem with venting your rims is that water and dirt can easily get in, but not out. This leads to uneven weight distribution in the tires that can reduce speed and actually impede performance. To remedy this, some racers prefer to cover the pre-drilled holes and use another method of venting.
DIY Tire Venting
Many racers consider venting the tires themselves to be the optimal method of boosting performance. This is because while water and dirt get trapped in rim vents, centrifugal force spins debris out of tire vents when the car gets up to speed.
To vent tires, follow these steps:
- Use a leather punch for best results. These are cheaply available at hardware stores.
- With the tire mounted on the rim, punch two to three equidistant holes in the tire. The holes should be in the middle of the tread and about ⅛” in diameter.
- Fully install tires on the car and use them as you normally would.
How To Glue RC Tires? [Step-by-Step Guide]
Now that you have your tires vented and ready for glue, let’s take a look at exactly how to apply the glue. Properly applied, the glue will keep your tires from flying off in the middle of a tense race.
1. Dry Mount the Tires
Put the wheel on the tire and fit the beads into the channels like you’re going to mount the tire. You’ll need to work the sidewalls so that there aren’t any high spots where the rubber touches the face of the rim.
NOTE: If you can’t get it to seat properly, excess foam between the tire and wheel is probably to blame. If you’re using Traxxas parts (and you should be!), you won’t have any problems seating.
2. Apply the Glue
Here’s how to apply the glue:
- Pull your tire sidewall out just far enough to get a bead of glue to the bottom of the mounting channel. Be careful not to completely unseat the tire when you do this, and also don’t let go too sharply – the bead tends to snap, which will splatter glue everywhere and ruin the bond.
- Put a tiny bit of glue in the channel and settle it back into place. Then, glue your rim, being careful not to use too much glue. Small lines of glue at four equally distant points is perfect. When gluing, less tends to be more. Large spots of glue get brittle and break more easily – and at the worst time – than strategically placed spots.
- Wait for 5 to 10 minutes, then flip the tire over and repeat this process on the other side. You can pull gently at the sidewall to check for any loose spots, and apply tiny spots of glue to strengthen as needed.
- To completely seal the tire, use a whole drop of glue to bond the tire to the rim. Moderation is key here because you only need to press them together enough to get the tire sealed to the rim. Too much will make a weak glue bond.
- Repeat this process for the front of each tire, waiting a few minutes in between each one. Working too quickly will give you shoddy results for them all, so there’s no need to rush.
- After you’ve finished the front of each tire, go back to the very first tire you glued and use this process to glue the backs of the tires.
3. Create a Sealing Layer (Optional)
This step is technically optional but highly recommended to keep dirt from packing between the tires and rims. Apply glue to the joint between the tire and wheel, rolling the wheel to ensure even glue distribution around the joint. You should end up with a shiny ‘track’ of glue around the joint.
Is Tire Glue Really Just Superglue?
When learning about gluing RC tires, you’ll doubtlessly wonder if the glue is anything special or if superglue can accomplish the same thing at a fraction of the cost.
Chemically, superglue and most RC tire glues are all classified as cyanoacrylate glues, which are known for their fast and strong bonds. This type of glue is great for most types of materials, making it extremely versatile compared to other types of glue.
While RC tire glue and superglue are chemically similar, cheap superglues will fare poorly when used to glue tires. The bonds won’t be as strong with cheap glue and are more likely to become brittle, even if you use small amounts of glue as recommended.
If you’re absolutely determined to use superglue as a way to cut costs, opt for a more expensive high-quality superglue. This is more likely to provide similar results to RC tire glue specifically formulated for the task but still may not perform as well.
If you have the money to spend on quality glue, you can’t go wrong getting an RC tire glue, such as Proline Premium Blend Tire Glue (available on Amazon.com), because you’ll be able to rest assured that you’re getting the right type of glue for the job.
However, if you’re determined to cut costs, it’s perfectly fine to substitute tire glue for a high-quality cyanoacrylate glue like Krazy Glue or other superglues.
The Importance of RC Tires
When it comes to your RC cars, tires are one of the most important parts because they’re the only part of the car that comes into contact with the ground. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that you have high-quality tires and that they’re glued properly.
Before buying RC car tires, you’ll need to consider a few variables: the surfaces you’ll be driving on, desired tire size, traction, and tread, just to name a few. Driving on asphalt will necessitate different tires than if you’re going to be driving on sand or snow, for instance.
Cars come with pre-installed tires, but those are more general-purpose tires to use until you know what tires work best for your needs as a hobbyist.
The surface of the tires will determine how much traction you have on a given surface. To figure out what tires best fit your needs, ask yourself what surfaces you’ll be using your car on.
Smooth tires have lots of flat treads that give maximum contact with the ground. This gives your tire more grip on the ground for flat surfaces and allows it to reach higher speeds. A beneficial side effect is that you’ll have tons of control over your car.
More ‘nubby’ tires with spikes let the tire dig into the ground, which is ideal for when you need extra control on surfaces like sand, gravel, or other loose surfaces.
Best tires for varying surfaces are:
- Slick tires are ideal for flat surfaces like tarmac, asphalt, and pavement.
- Full spiked tires give the best traction and control on muddy, grassy surfaces.
- Mini spiked tires give a good grip on nearly any surface and are good multipurpose tires.
For best performance, you have to consider the size of your car and what will be proportional to its size. Oversized and undersized tires alike will give you poor performance and are more likely to fly off in the face of high sideload pressure.
For instance, smaller cars will call for different tires and bigger trucks or truggies. A differently sized tire will work at best, but at worst, it can fly off and even cause damage to your inserts or other components in the car. So don’t take chances: always use recommended tires for your car’s size.
When thinking about purchasing tires from a manufacturer, always let them know what size tires your car calls for. This is because if it turns out the tires aren’t compatible with your car, after all, you won’t be wasting your money and time on useless tires.
Tire compound refers to the chemical compounds used to create tires. Different compounds give different feels; some are firmer and give better traction, while others have a springier feel. Most manufacturers will let you know where tires fall on a color-coded chart, from hard to very soft.
Hard compounds give better durability at the cost of poor grip, while soft compounds provide great grip and enable your car to reach higher speeds. Which is best for you is dependent on what types of surfaces you want to drive on.
In RC cars, foam inserts replace the air that’s in the tires used by cars. For this reason alone, it’s worth considering what benefits and drawbacks your inserts provide.
Most people recommend using the inserts that come with your car for racing because they’ll give the best balance of softness and stiffness. Soft inserts give a very flexible ride ideal for rough terrain, while stiff inserts give a very firm ride better suited for flat terrain.
Essentially, inserts simulate the difference between low and high tire air pressure in regular cars, so use this as a way to consider what your needs are as far as inserts.
Generally, it’s not recommended to worry too much about tinkering with your inserts when you’re learning your way around RC cars because other factors like tires will give more of an immediate effect on performance. Inserts are more of a way to maximize performance in specialized situations.