Essentials for Radio Control

Knowing where to start with a new hobby can be confusing, particularly when there are lots of options of where to start, such as with radio control models. Here we will discuss what you will need to get your RC model up and running.

How to choose your first RC model

There are two important questions to ask when it comes to choosing your first RC model: What type of vehicle do you want, and do you want to build it yourself?


What type of vehicle do you want?

There are a lot of different type of radio controlled vehicles. Choose from cars, off-road buggies, monster trucks, tanks, boats, trucks, tractors, and construction vehicles.


Do you want to build it yourself or do you want it ready-built?

There are many ready-built, ready to run RC models. RC toys aimed at children are ready to run straight from the box - just pop in batteries and away you go. Remember to check whether the one you choose comes with batteries included or if they need to be purchased separately.


Many types of RC models are available as construction kits you can build yourself, particularly the larger and more advanced RC vehicles. With RC construction kits there are some extras you will need.

What do I need to build an RC construction kit?

Radio Equipment: In addition to the kit itself you will also need a transmitter, receiver, servos and in some cases an electronic speed controller. You can select these individually or choose one of our radio equipment package deals.


Batteries and Battery Charger: There are several different types of batteries to choose from. Check out our Buyer's Guide to RC Batteries for an in-depth look as the features of each type. Most importantly, make sure the batteries and charger you choose are compatible with each other to save damaging the batteries. The transmitter will usually use AA  or AAA batteries.


Tools: Typically you do not need specialist tools, other than a wrench that is included with the kit, and a couple of sizes of Philips-head screwdriver will do most of the work. You will also need a pair of clippers or sharp knife to remove plastic parts from sprues.


Paint: There are some things to consider when it comes to painting the body shell for these kits. There are two types of shells - hard plastic or clear polycarbonate plastic.


Hard plastic shells are usually moulded in the correct colour and can be painted in the same way as plastic model kits, with acrylic, enamel, or cellulose lacquer paints. For the best finish spray paints are recommended, and there are a wide range of colours available.


Clear polycarbonate shells need to be painted with polycarbonate paint, which etches into the plastic. When painting polycarbonate shells, spray your paint on the inside instead of on the outside so that it is protected for impacts. The best results come from multiple thin coats of spray paint as against trying to coat the whole body in one go. Remember to mask off the windows with the provided masking sheets before painting. Once you are happy with the finish, peal off the protective layer on the outside and apply any stickers.

A note on RC boat construction kits

RC construction kits for boats are often much more involved than other RC kits. These kits, such as those by Caldercraft, are constructed more like plastic or wooden scale models, usually with a one-piece ABS plastic or fibreglass hull to give you space to add the RC gear as well as a premade propeller shaft. These kits are advised for those already experienced with both model kits and radio controlled models. If you want to take on this challenge it is best to get in touch with our radio control team for advice on exactly what extras you will need.