RC (radio-controlled) cars have grown in popularity recently; some people are content with occasional RC car adventures, while others are regular racers. Unfortunately, RC car racing is an expensive hobby. Tire ballooning is one of the problems you’d face, so how can you prevent it?
To stop RC tires from ballooning, you can use braided fishing lines, duct tape, fiberglass mesh and goop, and rubber cement combined with drywall tape. You can also choose to buy higher-quality tire models that come with belts designed to prevent ballooning, especially if you’re not crafty.
If you have an issue with your RC tires ballooning, then you’re in the right place. In the rest of this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about ballooning and how you can prevent it. I’ll also look at the various techniques discussed above in a bit more detail so you can quickly see which ones are realistic for you.
What Is Tire Ballooning?
Tire ballooning is a phenomenon where the RC car tire swells and distorts. It can affect the speed and traction you get from the tire, and in most cases, it heralds the end of the affected tires. Ballooned tires will have the tread ripping away from the surface, making them unusable and in need of immediate replacement.
Like other vehicle tires, RC car tires are designed to stretch. However, there’s a limit to just how much they actually can. Once the tire reaches that limit, it won’t expand any further, and it’ll remain in an overstretched state.
Depending on the part of the tire where the ballooning has happened, it can destroy the remaining portions. Your RC car is also at risk of some damage because a ballooned tire can cause the vehicle to tip over. The damages may be minimal, but the car can get lots of scratches depending on its speed before tipping over.
Tire ballooning is a major issue for regular RC car racers. You can’t race with a tire in that condition, so every time you notice ballooning, you may have to swap out the tires for new ones.
Why Do RC Tires Balloon?
The main cause of ballooning in RC tires is centrifugal force. These tires have to turn very fast compared to the tires on standard vehicles. The centrifugal force generated is often strong enough to cause distortion and ballooning.
RC tires look like standard passenger vehicle tires, but the minor differences in design play a huge role in endurance and the overall function. For example, while standard passenger vehicle tires come with steel belts in them, RC tires don’t have these.
Such a distinction can make all the difference in terms of rotations. The lack of steel belts ensures a higher number of Rotations per Minute (RPM). The faster spinning ends up distorting the tire.
Is Tire Ballooning Always Negative?
I’ve mentioned above that ballooned RC car tires have to be replaced. This is true for most RC car owners I know. However, some RC car enthusiasts say they love the look of the ballooned tires.
For some others, the ballooned tires help their vehicles to go faster. The wider circumference of the tires can add some extra RPMs, delivering a slightly faster speed overall. So, tire ballooning can be a positive for some people.
How To Prevent RC Tires From Ballooning?
There are a few ways to prevent RC car tires from ballooning. Most of them require a little bit of craft and patience to get right, and some of them will likely cost a fair bit of money.
I’ll start with the DIY craft options available to you:
1. Use Mesh and Glue/ Drywall and Rubber Cement
Looking around some of the online RC communities I frequent and talking to other owners of RC cars, one of the commonly mentioned approaches to preventing ballooning is to use fiberglass mesh or drywall tape on the insides of the tire. If crafts aren’t your thing, I’ll advise skipping this part.
The process can get messy and really frustrating if you’re not quite the handy type. There are two approaches you can use here:
Drywall and Rubber Cement
You can combine these to keep your tire from ballooning. To do this:
- Add two layers of drywall tape, ensuring that the layers are held in place with some thin layers of high-quality rubber cement in between the layers.
- Add a second layer as cover and also to overlay the edges. This combination will give you a more stable interior wall.
Fiberglass Mesh and Goop
With this combination, it’s best to embed squares of fiberglass mesh in the goop instead of laying it in layers. Once done, you’ll get tires that are a lot stiffer and unlikely to balloon over their lifespan.
Before you go with any of the two methods above, you need to scratch up the interior surface with a scotch pad and clean it with denatured alcohol before you get started. This will give you a clean and lightly scuffed interior surface that will be more receptive to any of the substances you choose to apply.
2. Use a Fishing Line
This is another cheap way to keep tires from ballooning. However, it’s not a permanent solution. You can think of this as an affordable way to keep racing until you can afford to upgrade the tires on your RC car.
Get some braided 25 lb (11.34 kg) fishing lines. Wrap the lines around the tires and knot them off properly. You can also choose to glue the lines to the tires.
However, if you choose to knot the lines instead of gluing, you need to add two knots to avoid getting your tire off balance. I’m not overly fond of this method because the lines cutting while racing can cause the RC car to tip over. That could lead to extra expenses if on high speeds.
Even without tipping over, a loose line can wrap around internal parts like the axle. This will make it harder for the wheels to turn, ruining the experience.
3. Use Duct Tape
Taping your tires is another simple but old method for preventing ballooning. I’ll get to the process of wrapping the tires in a bit, but first, you need to get the tape to use. There are lots of options online, but I recommend going with T-Rex Tape and Gorilla Tape (both on Amazon.com). They work really well in this scenario.
Once you’ve secured the tape, get a pair of scissors, and you can start wrapping your tires.
Here are the steps for this simple process:
- Get your tools ready. You have to gather everything you need on your work desk so you won’t have to move up and down during the process. This way, you can avoid unnecessary errors and work more seamlessly.
- Prepare the tires. If they’re new tires, you have to get them out of the packaging. If you’ll be working on your current tires, you need to first remove them from your RC car. Get a wrench to remove all the tires before you begin. This will help you save time and energy and ensure you work faster.
- Remove the inserts. Most tires come with foam inserts. They’re important for maintaining shape, just like air works for conventional car tires. You can’t tape the tires without removing these first. Even if your inserts are materials that are harder than foam, you need to remove them first.
- Turn the RC car tires inside out. Since you’re taping the inside of the tires, you need to turn the tires inside out. With a little force applied, you can get this done and ready for the tape. However, don’t overdo it, as most of these tires aren’t built to withstand too much force. Apply only the necessary amount to avoid tears.
- Create a rough surface. The tape will hold a lot better on the tires if the surface is rough. So, get a scotch pad to lightly roughen up the inside of the tire—which you’ve turned outwards. If you have fine-grit sandpaper, you can also use that instead of the scotch pad. You’ll get a better grip if done well.
- Clean up the surface. After you’ve roughened up the surface a bit, use denatured alcohol and cotton wool (or clean, soft rag) to clean up the surface and get it ready for the tape. If you have a lot of dirt and debris on the surface, the tape grip won’t be the best. The small pockets of air trapped underneath will make it fall off quickly as you start to race the car again.
- Cut out the tape. Measure the surface and cut out the right size of duct tape for each portion. Try not to have large overlaps inside the tire as this can make the tire heavier than it should be. Such a bump in tire weight can affect the overall speed of the RC car.
- Apply the tape. Be careful when using any of the heavy-duty tapes I recommended earlier. They have excellent adhesive properties, so getting them off once applied is hard. Go slowly and very carefully, pressing down as you go to ensure excellent contact. Once applied, run over it with your palm to ensure adequate adhesion. Avoid rushing the process, or you might have to repeat everything. Repeat the process for all the tires.
- Turn the tires to their original state. You turned the tires inside out earlier, so turn the tape side inwards again once done. Don’t forget to exercise caution. The tape on the tires may give a sense of durability, but it’s still possible to tear them if you use too much force.
- Check the tape again. With the inner part of the tire in position, you need to run the finger check again to confirm that the tape is positioned as tightly as possible on the surface.
- Return the inserts. Once satisfied with the taping, it’s time to put the foam inserts back. The tape can help maintain the shape of the tires, but not as well as the foam inserts. The combination will give you better results overall.
- Mount the tires. With the taping, smoothing, and insert replacement completed, it’s time to mount the tires to your RC and ensure everything looks okay.
- Take the RC car out for a spin. This way, you can do a few test runs and ensure the balance is right. If you’ve done everything correctly, the car should work seamlessly. Once the RC car is driving nicely, your job is done.
Of course, it’s also possible that you’ll find some problems with how the car is driving, and you may have to repeat the process. Unfortunately, removing the tapes and wrapping the tires again isn’t just frustrating; it can also end in extra expenses. There’s also a high chance that you’ll damage the tires while trying to pull out the tape.
4. Avoid RC Car Racing
One of the most straightforward ways of preventing ballooning is to avoid racing. Granted, this will be a difficult option for you if your main aim of owning an RC vehicle is to enjoy the thrill of running it at the highest speeds possible and putting your racing skills to the test against other enthusiasts. I certainly won’t own an RC car if I can’t race it.
If you’re not running the RC car at the highest speed (which you have to reach to stand a chance in competitions), you won’t put the vehicle under the level of force required to cause ballooning.
Remember, ballooning only occurs due to centrifugal force. Avoiding high-speed racing with your RC car ensures you never reach the speed that’s responsible for that force. This way, you can avoid ballooning and ensure your tires last long for you. But if you’re like me and this isn’t an option for you, you can consider any of the other alternatives I’ve covered here.
5. Install Belted Tires
This is an expensive solution to preventing ballooning, but it’s one of the most reliable. If your RC vehicle is a monster truck, you shouldn’t have any problems finding the right size of belted tires for it. For other models, you may have to look a bit deeper.
The selection process is made harder because you can’t just throw on any size of tires you can find. Also, you shouldn’t be surprised to find belted tires at different price points for the different cars.
As much as I’d like to recommend a specific brand of belted tires, the peculiarities I just mentioned make that impractical. When going for belted tires, you should budget around $35-$130. You’ll also have to spend some time on research to find the best option for you.
As you’d get with passenger vehicles, belted tires on RC vehicles are great for preventing tire ballooning, blowouts, and shredding. With belts built into the tire, you don’t need to do anything to keep the tire in shape even when you’re constantly hitting top racing speeds. The tires aren’t indestructible, but even those on a real car aren’t either.
Although it takes time and requires you to spend some money, going with belted tires is what I recommend to people who don’t want to get into anything “craftsy.” If you’re not a DIY person, it’s easy to mishandle some of the other approaches we’ve seen here. If you ruin your tires, that’s double expenditure. Therefore, this may also be the cheapest option if you aren’t sure of getting other DIY methods right.
Which Option Is Best to prevent RC Tires to Balloon?
We’ve seen some of the best ways to prevent ballooning above. Many of the methods are simple enough, and they can all work effectively. I just go for belted tires to replace the built-in options because it’s more straightforward and isn’t as time-intensive as digging into the box of DIY tools to protect the tires.
So, the option here will come down to preference and what you can or can’t do. If you have the skills and want to avoid buying new tires, any of the tire protection methods mentioned can work for you. If you’re likely to spend all day wrapping up the tires with tape and still end up needing a redo or damaging them, it’s best to get new tires that are less likely to balloon.
Will the Fix Last Long?
This comes down to the type of racing you do and how you handle your RC car overall. As I’ve stated earlier, protecting your tires from ballooning doesn’t make them indestructible. You may not get ballooning, but other problems can occur. Take basic steps to maintain the tires, and they should be fine overall.
Flat spots are one of the things you should avoid with your tires. Storing the RC car in an elevated position to remove the weight from the tires is always a safe bet—especially if you own a scaler or crawler.