|The best way to get good at kit building is to build a bunch of kits; too bad most of us only get to do it once or twice a year! Instead of waiting a decade (or getting a job in a hobby shop at Christmas time) to build up a base of building experience, just follow these tips for an enjoyable escape from the real world with your best build ever. Check the instructions before you begin
Even a quick read of the manual will help you become familiar with the building process; if you study it more carefully, you can head off potential problems before you have to tear down improperly assembled parts. As you read the manual, look for steps that might be easy to goof up, and make notes where you think they might help. I watch out for: Shock-tower assembly. The long screws that hold the shocks and the ball studs for the camber links may be on the same side of the tower or on opposite sides. If I don’t pay attention, I usually go wrong here. I have even been known to build it wrong, take it apart to fix it and then goof up a second time!
Screw length, type and locations. Note steps that require you to use screws of the same length; if your kit includes full-size drawings of the hardware, carefully consult them. Also be sure to follow the dotted line that shows where the screw is meant to go; a screw might look as if it’s lining up with one hole but the dotted line leads it to another.
Lefts and rights; fronts and rears. This is a particular biggie for steering assemblies and hub carriers. Pay particular attention to the stamped-in “R” and “L” that indicate “left” and “right,” and see to it that your subassemblies match the illustrations shown in the manual.
Set up a well-lit, clutter-free building area
Use a pit towel. If you don’t have an old towel to sacrifice for RC, just pick up any cheap towel at a department store. The towel will prevent parts from bouncing and rolling, it will protect your bench (or the kitchen table), and it will absorb any liquid you spill.
Parts and hardware trays. Keep these handy. Bolink sells a tray that’s perfect for small parts, or you can use take-out container lids, fishing-tackle boxes, muffin tins, or other similar containers to keep parts organized. As I build, I like to dump the contents of each parts bag into their own container.
Get the right tools
I’ve never regretted investing in high-quality tools; as the saying goes, “If you buy cheap, you buy twice.” Don’t skimp on the basics.
Hex drivers. Thorp (from MIP), Hudy and Trinity make some of the best, and RPM drivers are my favorites for value and performance.
Screwdrivers. With nos. 1 and 2 Phillips-head drivers, a 1¼4-inch flat-blade screwdriver and a set of jeweler’s screwdrivers, you’ll be ready to tackle any job. DuraTrax also offers excellent screwdrivers that have padded handles and coated tips.
Pliers. A pair of slip-joint and needle-nose pliers will cope with most jobs; those who run nitro models will find a pair of channel-lock pliers useful for holding flywheels.
Flush cutters. A good-quality pair of flush cutters makes short work of removing parts from their trees without leaving excess material on the part. They’re also good for cutting fuel line and silicone wire. Tamiya and Hobbico make the best.
Hobby knife with no. 11 blades. Here, quantity is more important than quality. I’ve never encountered a bad blade, but all blades should be replaced often. X-Acto is the big-name brand, and Excel also offers a wide line.
Screw installation, locking and lubing
Save that thread-locking fluid! Don’t you hate it when you try to squeeze a tiny drop of thread-lock onto a screw and wind up squirting a week’s supply over your fingers? Make that thread-lock last by dripping a drop or two onto an empty parts bag. To apply the thread-lock, just touch the threads of the screw to the puddle of fluid.
Lube screws with soap for easier installation. Uh-oh…you’re threading a screw with a 1/16-inch head into graphite plastic, and the going is tough. Hopefully you’ll bottom it out before it…too late: the head stripped. You can avoid this by lubing the screw with a quick swipe down a bar of soap. The soap will allow it to turn more easily, and since the soap is dry, it won’t attract dirt.
Use fuel tubing to insert screws into tough spots. Ever tried to balance a screw on the tip of your hex driver to insert it into a tight spot, only to drop it just before it meets its hole? And then repeated the process, like, 10 times? Here’s the solution: slip a piece of fuel tubing over the tool, insert the screw into it, and twist away.
Center servos before you install them. Cool! You’re ready for that first run with your just assembled car. You plug in the pack, turn on the radio, and—zoop—the steering servo swings full left, and it won’t center, even with a full twist of the trim knob. To avoid this, center the servos before you install them, and mark the output shafts’ center position for future reference. It’s also a good idea to range-test your gear before you install it—just in case.
Bundle servo leads. Here’s how (there are two techniques): first, the coil technique. Just wrap a lead around a screwdriver shaft and then plug it into the receiver to hold the coil. To bundle up a long lead, fold it over itself into a stack, then secure with zip-ties. To make stacking easier, wrap the lead around wrench tips; for style bonus points, substitute slices of fuel tubing or silicone insulation for the zip-ties.
Note tread direction before you glue. If your directional treads point in the wrong direction, people will make fun of you. You’ll deserve it, too.
Use high-quality CA. Losi, Pro-Line, Trinity and others all make such CA just for tires. Use the name-brand stuff; it’s worth it.
Rubber-band tires after gluing. A nice, wide, no. 64 rubber band is just the thing for putting the squeeze on your tire and rim combo after you’ve glued them together. It’s the only way to go for a gap-free glue job.