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Basic Slot Car Tuning + Maintenance Guide   Date: Tuesday 03 January, 2006


In this article we will look at a number of simple ways to tune and maintain your slot cars. Done correctly, these tips will help you to get a smoother running, quicker and longer lasting car.

It is very tempting when you purchase a new model to simply remove it from the packaging, put it on the track and race it immediately. However, if you take a few minutes with each new car before running it, you will be rewarded in the long run.

The car I will be tuning for the sake of this guide is a Dodge Viper GTS-R by Fly. However, this knowledge can be used for almost any car by any manufacturer.

Steps We Are Going To Take

∑ Check running gear
∑ Remove body shell
∑ Fix any friction problems
∑ Glue in motor and prop shaft
∑ Oil moving parts
∑ Run in motor
∑ True the tyres
∑ Adjust the contact braids

Tools & Equipment Required

∑ Light oil
∑ Small cross-headed screwdriver
∑ Super Glue
∑ Hobby Knife or Dremmel type tool
∑ Fine grit sandpaper
∑ Side cutters
∑ Needle nose pliers

Step One: Check the Running Gear

The first thing to check when taking a new car from its box is that the wheels and guide blade turn freely. If either of these important parts are rubbing or catching on another part of your car it will seriously effect not only the speed but also the handling when on the track.

If there is a problem with either of these parts we first need to track down the problem and then remove the body from the chassis of the car to rectify it. In the case of the Viper the right front wheel is catching on the wheel arch (indicated with yellow arrows in the picture below). This is a fairly common problem. The guide blade, in this instance, is fine.

Step Two: Removing the Bodywork

With your small, cross-headed screwdriver remove the screws holding the car together. The popular manufacturers generally use between three and six screws to hold a car together, so make sure you remove them all. I usually place these in a small container so as not to lose them or drop them on the floor. Note the length of the screws, as some cars have more than one length on the same model and it is essential to put them back in the right place.

Once all the screws have been removed, carefully separate the bodywork from the chassis. Sometimes this will not be as easy as it sounds. The light clusters, in particular, can catch on the body, as the fit is often tight. Take your time, the last thing we want to do is damage anything before the car has even been on the track!

Guide blade problems can be caused by the wires connected to it getting caught around, or trapped by, for example, a body post. Check the wires to make sure they will have free movement for when your model is reassembled.

There is a plethora of different guide blade assemblies available and this is something we will further explore in a future article. For now, as long as it has free movement we will move on.

Step 3: Fixing any friction problems

Ok, itís time to fix our wheel arch problem. This is done in two separate steps. The first step is to take away some of the slop in the front wheels by shortening the axle stubs that hold them in place.

Carefully pop the motor and prop shaft out of its housings on the chassis. Grasp the end of the stub axle with your needle nose pliers and twist the wheel off. Donít clamp the stub axle too hard while doing this, as it is plastic and easily damaged. Hold it firmly but do not squash it.

With the wheel removed, you can slip the stub out and trim it. Use your side cutters and trim it between one and two millimetres. You are going to have to judge this by the amount of free play there was before you removed the wheel. If in doubt, be conservative with your cut. You can always trim more but canít put it back.

When you are happy, replace both wheels, the motor and the prop shaft. At this point, it is worth reassembling the chassis and body shell, as sometimes trimming the axle stubs will solve the arch-rubbing problem. If not, move on to the following.

The second step, if needed, is to shave off up to a couple of millimetres of plastic from the wheel arch. Either use a hobby knife or a Dremmel type tool. When you are doing any type of work like this, take your time. That way, you are much less likely to hurt yourself and more likely to get the results you desire.

If you have a Dremmel type tool, attach a small cylindrical grinding stone and carefully reshape your wheel arch. Do this a little bit at a time and keep testing it with the chassis back in place to see if the wheel now has free movement.

If you donít have a Dremmel type tool, a hobby knife is just as good. With the knife you need to shave away the plastic. This must be done with minimal pressure on the knife or it will simply dig into the plastic of your model. Let the knife do the work and remember to take your time. You are not racing. Keep that for the track!

Step 4: Glue in the motor and prop shaft

Next, we are going to glue the motor and prop shaft in place using Super glue. Gluing the motor will stop it moving around during racing, which can cause some power loss and instability. Gluing the prop shaft will stop it popping out causing complete power loss and quite often damage to the crown gear.

The points we are going to glue are marked on the following pictures with blue arrows. Be careful to not get any glue on the prop shaft, as this will jam it solid. The idea is to glue the bearing into the housing. With regards to the motor, it is key to apply glue at each contact point with the chassis.

Super glue creates a strong bond and therefore you only need to use a couple of drops at each point. This will also allow you to still separate the part in the future, if needed.

When you have done this, allow the glue at least fifteen minutes to fully set. Ideally, you should leave it for over an hour. Well done, you are one step closer to being ready to take your race spec slot car onto the track.

Step 5: Oil moving parts

The next step is a very simple one and something that should be done often. All the steps we have looked at so far are one off deals. Once you have completed them, you will not need to do them to this model again.

Oiling, however, should be done in small amounts every few times you run your car and at all the points marked in the following photos with purple arrows. Use a small amount of oil. Do not flood it. With regard to the ends of the motor, use a couple of drops only, no more.

Each time I open my car up to oil it, I also give it a quick clean inside and remove any carpet fibres or fluff that may have gathered, especially around the axles.

Step 6: Run in the motor

You will find many different articles on this topic in magazines and on the web. Some people go to great lengths to fully prepare their motor before use. Some will even buy more than one motor and run in and test them all to find the best one before disregarding the others!

We, however, are not going to concern ourselves with this and are simply going to ease the motor into its new role. First, remove the rear axle and place the car on your track. Slowly depress your controller until the motor starts to spin.

We are not trying to make the motor go quickly. Quite the opposite, we want to make the motor move as slowly as possible. When you have found this point, keep the motor spinning at this speed for between 5 Ė 10 minutes. Tip - I use an elastic band to hold the throttle in the desired position and go make a cup of tea.

When the time has expired ease off the throttle and let the motor rest for a few minutes. You can then replace the rear axle and reassemble the body shell and chassis.

The next step is to put your complete car onto the track and run it around slowly for five minutes. These two steps allow the internals of your new motor to seat themselves properly, hopefully allows for a longer life.

Step 7: Truing the tyres

One of the best things you can do to reduce your track times significantly, except for lots of practice, is to true your tyres. By this I mean to make the wheels / tyres perfectly round and stop them bouncing about on the track. You may not notice this much, but it does not mean it is not happening. Try taking the magnet out if you need further proof.

To resolve this problem, we are going to use a piece of fine grit sandpaper. Hold the sandpaper on your track and the car in the slot facing the wrong way. Lift the back of the car and depress the throttle about half way (you can use the elastic band trick for the throttle to make things easier here). Then gently lower the carís tyres onto the sandpaper.

Do this in short spurts of about 10 seconds and then let the tyres cool for a minute or two. Do not push the car hard onto the sandpaper. Exert minimal pressure for it to work correctly. Repeat this until you are happy that there is no longer any chatter and the wheels / tyres are round. When done, your car will hold the track better, allow you to get the power down earlier and get quicker lap times.

Step 8: Adjust the contact braids

Our final step in this guide is to adjust the contact braids. These are very important parts of your car and if correctly adjusted, will provide contact with the power rails 100% of the time. It will also keep the car in the slot longer.

The trick is to keep the braid as flat as possible all the way along the guide blade, except for the last two or three millimetres. These final few millimetres should be bent between 45 and 90 degrees away from the guide blade and then splayed out slightly.

Aother important thing to bear in mind with contact braids is to keep them clean. This should be done every few times you use your car. You can use either lighter fluid or contact cleaner to do this. Spray it onto a clean cloth and wipe the braids until you have removed all the dirt that has built up. You may need to re-adjust the ends of the braids after having doe this.

If you have followed all of these tips, you should find that your car feels both more balanced and quicker.

Good luck and have fun racing!

Article and Photographs By Julian Cotton

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