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Top 10 must-have tools

Setup your ultimate RC toolbox

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Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference in the world.

The world of remote control is easier than ever to get involved in. Today’s manufacturers have taken the extra steps with its ready-to-run (RTR) cars, trucks and motorcycles to help ensure you can get out on the track, parking lot, dirt or what have you with as little hassle as possible. There are a few electric powered vehicles that come out of the box with a battery pack and charger and require nothing further for you to buy to get it up and running. As for the nitro and gasoline powered rides, many come with only fuel left to purchase. It would be wonderful if you really did not have to buy anything else, but the inevitable will happen and something will loosen and/or break and therefore need to be repaired. The majority of the time, the fix is simple enough for anyone to do themselves as long as they have the correct tool. Now I realize that many manufactures include some basic tools with its vehicles, but they are typically of poor quality and not easy to use. Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference in the world. Here I will share with you the top 10 must-have tools for your RC toolbox. If you are new to this incredible hobby, you will definitely get a perfect idea of what you need and even those of you who have been driving RC cars and trucks for a while, you just might discover a tool that you did not know existed.

1—Needle nose pliers

You will be surprised how many times you use needle nose pliers once you have added them to your toolbox. Standard pliers won’t due because the wide jaws will limit access to certain parts on a RC vehicle. The long narrow design of needle nose pliers are perfect for reaching cramped spots on a chassis, holding tiny hardware like locknuts, installing E-clips or popping ball cups onto ball studs. A bonus with most needle nose pliers is the included wire cutter designed into the rear of the jaws. Moreover, Duratrax took it a step further and has a portion of its pliers that is perfect for securely holding shock shafts. The last thing you want during a shock build is to mar up a shock shaft, which can lead to shock failure and leaks. The Duratrax Long Nose Pliers 6” (item no. DTXR300) are three tools in one. Shown here is Tamiya’s Long Nose Pliers which comes with a wire cutter and has proven to be very durable over years of use in in my workshop.

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2—Hobby knife

A hobby knife will be one of the most affordable tools you buy and will come in handy for many things like precisely cutting stickers, removing flashing off of plastic parts, taking insulation off of wire for soldering, etc. The blades are easily replaceable and are also quite affordable. A 40-pack of blades will only run you about $15. X-ACTO and Excel are two well-known names that offer quality hobby knifes. The X-ACTO X2000 knife pictured above features a comfortable rubber grip and a raised portion near the top which keeps the tool from rolling off the bench.

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3—Hex wrenches

Hex head hardware is used on the majority of vehicles that are out on the market and those tiny L-shaped Allen keys that are included with kits just won’t cut it in the long run. Do yourself a favor and get a quality set of metric and standard size hex drivers. For metric, I recommend 1.5, 2, 2.5 and 3mm and for standard .050, 1/16, 5/64 and 3/32-inch. You can buy them individually or in sets from companies like Duratrax, Dynamite, EDS, Hudy, Integy, Losi, OFNA, Tamiya, and Team Associated. This Losi wrench set has ultra-precise tips that fit exactly in their intended hex screws, is easy to hold for extended wrench sessions and feature color caps with the wrench’s size clearly printed on the end for quick and easy identification.

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4—Phillips screwdrivers

While shopping for hex drivers, keep your eyes peeled for Phillips screwdrivers. Even the cars that have mostly hex head hardware will also have a couple Phillips style screws. Pick up a number 2 and 1 size Phillips screwdrivers which will have you covered. If you want to take it a step further…you should know that not all Phillips screws are the same and you will find a difference in the Phillips hardware from Japan. Yes your typical Phillips screwdriver will work, but a Japanese sized Phillips driver will fit more precisely into the screw head thus helping you to avoid stripping it. A company by the name of Moody offers the Japanese specific screwdrivers and you can find them at RJR Cool Tools. The Tamiya Philips screwdrivers shown here work perfectly on the hardware included with Tamiya kits.

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5—Blade screwdriver

Other than the obvious of getting a blade screwdriver for slotted hardware like, tuning a carb on an engine…a blade screwdriver also works great for prying, like popping tight servo horns off of servos or removing E-clips. When making your selection, go with one that has an extra-long shaft—this makes it possible to easily reach a carb without the need to remove the body. Losi makes this 2-in-1 tuning blade screwdriver that has the long shaft to easily reach the carb through a body and on the other end it is fitted with a thick rubber tip. The tip is intended to be used to kill the engine where you use it to plug the exhaust stinger. I highly recommend stopping the flywheel with the tip instead. Plugging the exhaust is not a good idea because it will cause more fuel to enter the engine and flood it, thus making it really difficult to start back up.

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6—Side cutters

Although there is only one main task in RC that makes side cutters an invaluable tool, once you use them, you will quickly agree. The special design of side cutters make them perfect for cleanly removing plastic parts off of parts trees because the blade can get right up against the part. They also work great for trimming away excess flashing from the molding process of composite parts. Other methods of removing parts leaves you with extra plastic on the part which require you to then go back trim the rest off. Side cutters will do this in once quick step. The two go-to companies that offer high-quality side cutters are Tamiya and Xuron. The Xuron Micro Shear Flush Cutter pictured here is incredibly sharp for a nice clean cut and the handle is spring loaded for added convenience.

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7—Body reamer

When the time comes to put a hole in a car or truck body, the value of a body reamer will be instantly apparent. Before owning a body reamer, I have tried putting holes into bodies with a hobby knife and even a drill—only to be left with jagged semi-round openings. A body reamer is basically a tapered conical knife that will cleanly and quickly give you a precise sized hole in the body. Since the hole is perfectly round, it is also less likely to start a crack across the body like the two methods mentioned earlier. Hudy is well-known for its superior line-up of tools and this body reamer is no exception. The handle is knurled for a non-slip grip and the super sharp blades make short work of polycarbonate. An added bonus that Hudy gives you are the measurement marks right on the blade. This will help ensure you open the hole to the exact size with consistency.

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8—Cross wrench

Instead of buying multiple nut drivers, you can save yourself some dough with a cross wrench. Each end is a different size driver that will easily handle almost all of your RC needs. Be sure to buy one that has an 8mm driver for replacing glow plugs in nitro powered vehicles. Make sure that it also has a long shaft so that it can reach through the cooling head of an engine. If you own a 1/8-scale vehicle, some manufactures offer a cross wrench with a fifth nut driver molded into the center for removing the 17mm hex nut on the wheels. Shown here is the Duratrax Ultimate Car Wrench that not only comes with sockets to fit 7-, 8-, 10-, 12- and 17mm nuts, but also includes a 19mm socket and a double-tip screwdriver and it only cost around $9!

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9—Body scissors

Lexan or also known as polycarbonate, is used for most car and truck bodies and being able to cut them out cleanly is essential to ensure the body lasts. Body scissors feature small curved blades that allow you to trim tight curves like wheel wells. Tamiya, Dynamite, Duratrax(shown here) and Du-Bro all offer quality body scissors.

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10—Camber gauge

As you become more and more involved in RC, you will find that there are many devices used for tuning a chassis, but there is one that can make a big difference in the performance of your car or truck…a camber gauge. Camber is the amount of angle a tire has in relation to the ground—too much or too little will drastically affect a vehicles performance as well as having the left and right side with different angles. RPM makes a great camber gauge that can be used for on or off-road vehicles and if you want an aluminum camber gauge, check out the one shown here from Schumacher.

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Last edited by Paul Onorato; Jul 15, 2013 at 11:27 PM..

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Old Jul 16, 2013, 08:55 AM
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Matt Gunn's Avatar
United States, OH, Parma
Joined Jul 2009
4,938 Posts
the body reamer comes in handy for so many things (and no, NOT a prison shank!)
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Old Jul 16, 2013, 10:03 PM
Kowalski !.....Options
mredzadventure's Avatar
USA, MI, Hastings
Joined Jan 2007
2,370 Posts
I have the metric and standard Losi Hex drivers and I love them I also have a set of magnetic screw drivers. They are real handy to have.
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Old Jul 17, 2013, 01:42 PM
Did you check the FAQ already?
SoloProFan's Avatar
The Netherlands
Joined Jul 2010
12,442 Posts
My favourite is the cross wrench (used to come stock with many kits back in the days) and together with the hex and "+ shape" drivers, and needle-nose pliers, I could always get most things done on buidling and repairs. The other tools are useful too, but for some there are alternatives, if you are on a tight budget.
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Old Jul 17, 2013, 03:02 PM
Paul Onorato's Avatar
United States, CT, Brookfield
Joined Jun 2013
2,110 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoloProFan View Post
My favourite is the cross wrench (used to come stock with many kits back in the days) and together with the hex and "+ shape" drivers, and needle-nose pliers, I could always get most things done on buidling and repairs. The other tools are useful too, but for some there are alternatives, if you are on a tight budget.
I agree...it is amazing what you can make work when the funds are super low. When there is money, it is amazing how much easier wrenching on RC is when you have the proper tool. For me, the tool that surprised me at how good it works and how much better it was than the other methods I was trying to use was the body reamer. Now that I own one, I will never use anything else to make body post holes.
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Old Jul 17, 2013, 04:19 PM
Did you check the FAQ already?
SoloProFan's Avatar
The Netherlands
Joined Jul 2010
12,442 Posts
A reamer would certainly work better than drilling the holes manually, like I did in the past. With a motordrill you risk ripping the lexan as the drill is almost through, and has maximum grip on the material. That's the critical point. To avoid that, and hurting my hands, last times I drilled the hole small, like 2,5 mm or so, then used a round chisel (I believe it's the right word) that is tapered a little, to the top is smaller in diameter than the lower part, to ream the hole. It's a little too small for most body posts, so I have to use the chisel to sand the inner side of the hole afterwards, to make it a little wider, and make sure it stays round, which is tricky. The benefit is that you can "move the hole" a little, as you can sand off more in one direction than in another, correcting slight misalignments that might become apparent when test fitting the body or wing, after drilling the initial hole.
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Old Jul 18, 2013, 12:30 AM
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Joined Sep 2004
13,616 Posts
Nice article Paul. Thanks!

Another VERY invaluable tool IMO is a pair of hemostats. They work even better than needle nose for reaching into tight places and grabbing/gripping items. I keep a pair in my transmitter case and another pair in my tool kit.
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Old Jul 18, 2013, 09:18 PM
Paul Onorato's Avatar
United States, CT, Brookfield
Joined Jun 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bajora View Post
Nice article Paul. Thanks!

Another VERY invaluable tool IMO is a pair of hemostats. They work even better than needle nose for reaching into tight places and grabbing/gripping items. I keep a pair in my transmitter case and another pair in my tool kit.
Thank you!

I agree, hemostats are so very useful. I would put them as number 11 on my list.
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Old Jul 18, 2013, 09:45 PM
Nirvana 38, Seawind 178
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United States, NC
Joined Feb 2012
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I find these come in handy.
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Old Jul 19, 2013, 06:03 AM
Paul Onorato's Avatar
United States, CT, Brookfield
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Originally Posted by seabee CE View Post
I find these come in handy.
For what? To buy more RC gear?
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Old Jul 19, 2013, 06:29 AM
Nirvana 38, Seawind 178
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United States, NC
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Originally Posted by Paul Onorato View Post
For what? To buy more RC gear?
No, I give one to the wife, she disappears for the day, and I can go play with my toys.
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Old Jul 19, 2013, 09:57 AM
Paul Onorato's Avatar
United States, CT, Brookfield
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Originally Posted by seabee CE View Post
No, I give one to the wife, she disappears for the day, and I can go play with my toys.
That is freakn awesome! Thanks for the morning laugh!!!
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