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In Depth: How To Properly Store Your RC Vehicle

Article by Kenny McCormick

Storing RCs can, to some, seem like a black art. I see it all the time on forums, "how do I keep my fuel from going bad?", "my engine is seized, it ran fine when I last had it out three months ago", "my batteries won't take a charge after sitting for the winter!". There are some simple, easy ways to avoid these things, and a proper way to store your RCs. We'll start with fuel powered vehicles.

Glow Fuel Vehicles

If you use glow fuel, you must remember that the primary component is alcohol. Alcohol loves water. It will attract as much water as it can, and it will mix it in readily. Water in your fuel does not let your engine run very well, if at all. Therefore, fuel storage is pretty important. Firstly, open it only when necessary. If you just bought a jug and still have half a gallon of fuel left, don't open the new jug until the old one is used up. Store it somewhere air conditioned, too, wild swings in temperature can cause the fuel to pull humidity out of the air inside the bottle much more readily, as well as absorb a bit through the plastic. As you use it up, squeeze the jug a bit. You want the fuel level right below the cap itself, minimizing the amount of air inside the jug in the first place. Lastly, keep it out of the sun while you're outside using it. The sunlight will heat it up and may cause the bottle to burst if it's particularly hot. Oh, and it goes without saying that you probably shouldn't store it on top of the fireplace in your TV room, or near anything that could start a fire.

The car itself needs a bit of attention, but not much. When you're done running for the day, stop the engine by starving it of fuel. My favorite way to do this is to just keep driving until it runs the entire tank dry. If you do this your next step is to set the engine to BDC, put it on your shelf, and done. If, for some reason, you cannot run the tank empty, you need to make the engine think you have. What I do is first remove the pressure line from the tank, to keep it from spewing fuel everywhere. I then remove the feed line from the tank and hold it up above the engine, all while the car is idling on a 4x4 block of wood. The engine will idle away what's in the line, rev up a bit, and stall. Draining the tank is your next step. Reconnect the lines, then disconnect them again, this time from the pipe and carb. Insert the carb end into your squeezy bottle and blow into the pressure line, holding the car so the pickup is able to get as much fuel as possible, and continue to do so until the tank is empty. Cap the jug, reconnect the lines, and you're done. As for storage locations, there's no reason you can't put your cars inside your house as well. Just put some paper towels or carboard under them to catch dripping oil.

The reason we run the engine out of fuel is simple. The water-attracting nature of glow fuel combined with exposed steel surfaces inside the engine tend to make for a LOT of rust. People who are posting "My engine ran fine in August. I put it on the shelf, it's now March, and it's siezed up!" left fuel inside the engine. Their engine rusted up into a paperweight.

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Now, sometimes, the engine won't allow you to run it out of gas. If the glow plug has failed, for example, it simply isn't going to run. So how do we protect it from rust when we have no choice but to leave fuel in it? After-run oil. I like to use Dexron-III ATF for this, but you can use Marvel Mystery Oil, or if you like spending money needlessly, those bottles of ARO they sell at hobby shops. A few drops isn't enough though, you need quite a bit inside that engine. I probably put 1-2CCs in a 15CC engine. Add it with the glow plug out, for two reasons. One, some goes in the glow plug hole, two if you're putting a sufficient amount in it's highly likely to hydrolock the engine with the plug in.

After protecting the engine, drain the tank and store as you would normally.

Gasoline Vehicles

With gasoline burning stuff the procedure is a bit easier. Store the fuel the same way you store your lawnmower fuel, seeing as they use said lawnmower fuel. Store the car indoors somewhere, if only to prevent it from being stolen. Shutting down is as simple as flipping the ignition switch to "Off" and picking it up, you can store it with a full tank if you want. Unlike glow fuel, gasoline does not go bad in a matter of days, even when exposed to air. I'd also recommend disconnecting the spark plug if you have kids or inquisitive yet not informed friends around it often, as they're liable to yank on the starter cord and may inadvertently start it.

Electric Vehicles

Storing electrics is a different story entirely. The car itself, no prob, plop it on the shelf and you're done. The batteries need attention, however. LiPOs need to be stored about half charged if the storage is to be more than a week or two. Nickel-based batteries should be stored a bit more full, but not completely full. Around 80%. It probably wouldn't hurt to discharge and recharge them once a month, too, if it's a long-term storage. New alkaline and mostly charged alkalines are fine in the device, if they're a bit low or fairly old you may want to remove them entirely. Putting them in the fridge can prolong their lifespan, NEVER the freezer. Oh, and don't leave your pack plugged into the ESC. The off switch on the RX only turns the RX and servos off, the ESC will continue to draw power and will rather quickly empty the attached battery pack.

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Storing RC Aircraft

Storing fixed wing aircraft can be a bit of a trick due to their shape and size. A lot of guys will remove the wings and set them on long shelves, with the wings on another shelf. Others hang them off the rafters. I've found that, for my .46 trainer with a wingspan of ~65 inches, is to hang it off my wall by the tail feathers, nose facing down, landing gear towards the wall. To do this I got two large L-shaped shelving brackets and some thick pipe insulation. The brackets went into the wall with long drywall screws, making sure they found studs beneath, and then the pipe insulation went on the horizontal part of the brackets. I then carefully hang the airplane off of the braces, with the padding protecting the tail feathers from damage. Works great. I do recommend storing them somewhere that's climate controlled, more crucial for aircraft than cars since the balsa wood could be damaged by high humidity.

Wherever you decide to store it, choose a location that will keep it safe, and take the necessary precautions to keep your stuff in the best condition possible. Extended periods in storage may require re-lubricating bearings and such things, engines stored for a long time should be stored full of some sort of ARO, etc... Happy modeling!

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