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Radio Control Servos
Radio controlled vehicles not only require a transmitter and receiver, but also make use of servos. Think of the servo as the muscle system of RC cars and trucks. The servo is responsible for interpreting the acceleration, deceleration, and turning signals that are fed to the receiver via the transmitter. At their basic form, servos are comprised of an electric motor connected to a potentiometer. The receiver sends a pulse-width modulation (PWM) signal to the servo which then relies on electronics to interpret that signal and make the vehicle accelerate, decelerate, or turn.
Most servos found in radio controlled vehicles are connected via three wires called the ground, power, and control. The servo then moves based on the signals it receives from the control wire via the receiver. This movement is accomplished via the potentiometer which moves by the amount that is required to carry out the signal. Each channel that is used in the vehicle has its own dedicated servo mechanism.
In our RC transmitter and receiver section we explained that all RC vehicles make use of certain radio frequency bands such as 27 MHz and 49 MHz. So how do crystals factor into your vehicle? Crystals determine what frequency channel the RC system will run on. The transmitter and receiver both require their own crystal, set at exactly the same frequency in order to operate reliably. Crystals enable more than one person to control their vehicle while operating on the same frequency band. These crystals are available in different colors which correspond to channel numbers with which to operate your vehicle. Obviously, two or more radio controlled users using the same color crystals will send each other's vehicles into a mad frenzy so it is always wise to carry a couple of different sets of crystals that you can swap out in case another racer is using the channel you use most often.
There is an exception to the use of crystals in RC vehicles. Some newer systems use the 2.4 GHz band and therefore do not require any crystals. The channel you use is determined at the factory and cannot be changed. This does make it easier to just plug and play and not have to worry about crystals and making sure that the transmitter and receiver crystals match.