Understanding a “Waterproof” R/C Car and the Maintenance Required

How your waterproof R/C isn’t really waterproof.

I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s the honest truth. You just spent an extra $70 for the waterproof version of your favorite RC so you can be running worry free in all types of weather, and you can, but what your extra investment is buying you will generally be a water resistant speed control, receiver case and a sealed servo. What it’s not buying you is a submarine on wheels capable of surviving titanic style submersions or even casual exposure to the elements without some routine maintenance (and possibly a little extra if you’re planning that Titanic re-enactment.) Please refer to your vehicles manual for specific instructions for routine maintenance, but this article will give you some good ideas on what to maintain when running your vehicle in an H2O rich environment. If you want a good analogy to live by when it comes to waterproof R/C’s, here it is:

Your waterproof R/C is like your pair of waterproof boots. You can go splash around in the puddles all day long and keep your feet dry but bring a fresh pair of socks if you plan on standing in a river.

First, your receiver, speed control, servo and battery,.

Most waterproof vehicles don’t have an actual waterproof receiver; they have a receiver box that will keep most of the water out in wet driving conditions. You should be checking your radio box every time you run in water to make sure that no moisture made its way in. If it did, you need to dry this area out before running your vehicle again. Moisture can be removed from hard to reach places by putting a small pouch of rice in a coffee filter (closed with a rubber band) and placing it in the compartment for several hours. Some popular waterproof R/C’s use a sealant for the radio box where the wires enter. This must be maintained every time the enclosure is opened to ensure water cannot enter. See your vehicles manual for more information on what sealant to use.

Many boats and rock crawlers will use a balloon to protect from water as a last resort, which can work, but any h2O that made its way in will STAY in the balloon causing problems down the road. If you are using balloons, plan to use a fresh one anytime you feel water may have come in contact with the balloon.

“Waterproof” speed control s are still susceptible to the effects of rust on the motor connectors, battery terminals, on/off switch as well as any exposed metal surfaces. These ESC’s will often have a rubber cover over the on/ off switch, but this should be checked regularly as any trapped moisture can cause failure in future runs.

Servos will usually have rubber gaskets keeping the water out, but these gaskets can get damaged if you are constantly “going big” with your RC and you should inspect your servo periodically to make sure these seals are intact.

Batteries can be tricky. When speaking about NiMH and LiPO batteries, the individual cells themselves are completely self contained and waterproof. The parts that are NOT water resistant (or more specifically, rust resistant) however are the solder tabs that connect the cells together to create your “pack”. These tabs, when corroded, cause higher resistance which leads to higher temperatures, lower C ratings and failed cells. In a NiMH battery you will have many more solder tabs as these packs will be generally 6-8 cells. LiPO cells will have 2-6 cells for most land applications with the average hobbyists using 2 and 3 cell packs, meaning half as many tabs as NiMH packs and half the opportunity for corrosion.

The flip side is the economics of the batteries themselves. NiMH packs are budget friendly ($20-$60) where a quality LiPO can set you back considerably more ($50-$200). Water damage will void practically all battery manufacturers’ warranty (That is, except VENOM. You will always get a MINIMUM 30% discount on a similar battery no matter what the battery condition. If it’s within the first 12 months, you may qualify for a free replacement; see our warranty information for more details.) The best advice that can be given would be to keep water out of your batteries as much as possible. If you DO get water in your hard case or battery wrap do your best to remove the moisture to help prevent the possibility or corrosion in the future.

Rust loves a procrastinator.

Rust is the enemy of every piece of metal on your vehicle. From the bearings, the screws, the axles, the gears, battery connectors, the metal components in your battery, speed control and servo, all of these components are equally susceptible to the effects of corrosion. The easiest path to a rusty R/C is to put it away wet. If you have access to one, use an air compressor to spray away the water clinging to your rig. If that’s not available to help blow the water away, a can of compressed air will do wonders in a pinch. Just a few rusty bearings can do anything from causing annoying squeaks to increasing resistance causing ESC or battery failure.

Waterproof does not mean indestructible.

If you go camping in December vs. camping in July chances are you’re going to have completely different gear.  Heavier sleeping bags, warmer clothes, you would prepare for the conditions. With your RC, you’re going to need different “gear” if you’re going to survive a wet environment. Specifically, we’re going to focus on the pinion and spur gear. Now, if you’re just running in a wet environment, with a small puddle here and there and you’re vehicle is “waterproof” rated, stock gearing should be fine. When you plan on running in thick mud, heavy snow, or adding bigger or heavier tires, you need to use a smaller pinion gear (the gear attached to the shaft of the motor) or a larger spur (the gear that the pinion gear “meshes” with. Consult your vehicles manual, or talk with your local hobby shop for more information on gearing your particular vehicle.

So that’s it! Hopefully this gives you a better idea on what to upkeep on your brushless, waterproof vehicles, for many seasons of trouble free fun. As always, if you have any questions for the crew here at Atomik/Venom, please let us know in the comments below!


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