By Mike Garrison
I have been married now for just over a year, and one of the many things my wife, Britani, has taught me is that it doesn’t hurt to clean and organize your R/C gear occasionally. Growing up my dad has always said, “Never…EVER…throw away tools. You can never have too many tools son.”
I’ve been hoarding R/C tools since I started racing over a decade ago. Against my will, somehow, I was convinced to sit down and rid my toolbox of duplicate, broken, obsolete, and unnecessary tools that have been piling up and causing my toolbox to grow heavier and heavier over time. During the clean out I was forced to choose only one 2.0mm hex driver, instead of carrying all six that we found. She even made me throw away the third set of scissors I was carrying in my box that were still almost sharp enough to cut paper.
After over an hour of agonizing pain, my toolbox was clean and organized. After mourning the loss of so many unnecessary tools, broken parts, and bent body clips that were pulled from the depths and buried in the trash can, I must admit it feels pretty good to have everything so neat and tidy. The cleanout literally shaved pounds of weight off of my box, not to mention has made locating what I need so much faster and easier.
While there are some racers out there who are very neat, organized, and meticulous all on their own, I can’t be the only one who could use a bit of guidance and motivation when it comes to cleaning out the hoard. For those like me, I have put together (with the help of my wife) a step-by-step guide to achieving the ultimate R/C toolbox; clean, organized, and filled with the necessities that every R/C racer should have.
STEP 1 – THE CLEANOUT
If you are anything like me, I could care less about keeping the teddy bear I held or the high chair I first sat in as a baby, but when it comes to my R/C stuff – SAVE IT ALL! The cleanout is without a doubt the hardest part of the toolbox organization process. Trying to decide what to keep and what to throw out isn’t easy, however, it isn’t so bad if you follow Britani’s “Use It or Lose It” rule:
- Dump the entire box of tools out on your work area.
- Throw away any dirt, debris, obvious trash, broken parts, etc.
- Clear two spaces on your work table – a “keep” pile to go back in the toolbox, and a “trash/storage” pile to be thrown away or left at home and out of your toolbox.
- Pick up every tool individually and name the last time, car, or place you used it within 5 seconds. If you can’t name any of those within 5 seconds, or it was longer than six months ago, it goes in the trash/storage pile. If an immediate time, car, or place it has been used can be said out loud within 5 seconds, it clearly gets used and needs to go back in the toolbox.
- If there are duplicate tools, within 5 seconds pick your favorite of them and send the other(s) to the trash pile.
Not every tool in the trash/storage pile is necessarily trash, however, if you haven’t used it in six months and/or can’t remember the last time or car you used it on, it’s probably not something you need to clutter your travelling toolbox with. If you have an enormous pile of tools at the end of the cleanout in the trash/storage pile, you either have too many tools and should consider selling, donating, or trashing the extras – or – these are necessary tools that don’t belong in this pile, but your maintenance routine sucks and you should really consider paying more attention to your cars.
STEP 2 – THE ESSENTIALS
Now that we have cleaned out the toolbox, it becomes time for Step 2 – The Essentials. This is a list of tools, knick-knacks, and accessories that I feel every serious R/C racer needs always in their toolbox. With the essentials, most car kits can also be built from the ground up without having to borrow anything from your buddy.
- Quality Hex Wrenches – Most cars today use metric-sized screws; therefore I recommend a 1.5mm, 2.0mm, 2.5mm, and a .050” for tiny set screws.
- Quality Nut Drivers - For the essentials, a 7.0mm, 5.5mm, and 5.0mm is recommended.
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Hobby Knife
- Body Reamer
STEP 3 – THE ADD-ONS
In addition to the essentials listed above, I have put together a list of my favorite “add-ons” that are not required, but certainly make life a little easier when wrenching on your ride. My essentials I carry with me always, however, the add-ons I carry separately depending on whether I am going 1/8-scale or 1/10-scale racing.
- Glow plug wrench
- Flywheel puller
- Tuning screwdriver
- 17mm wheel wrench
- Large pliers to hold flywheel
- Clutch tool
- Solder and heat shrink (for electric racing)
- Diff wrench
- Ball diff grease (Black and Clear)
- Solder and heat shrink
- Scotch-Brite pad – recommended for scuffing tires and wings.
- Ball cup tool
Aside from the scale specific add-ons, I have a list of general add-ons that once again aren’t required, but over time are very helpful tools that I recommend adding to your collection. I personally carry almost all of these to every race, however, some could probably left for the at-home maintenance if space travelling becomes an issue.
General recommended add-ons:
- Toothbrush – used for cleaning and dusting off your car.
- Dental pick – used for cleaning the dirt out of screw heads.
- Shock shaft pliers – used in place of needle nose to reduce the chance of scratching or damaging your shock shafts.
- Shock tools – various brands offer shock tools to hold the shock bodies and caps when assembling them, to reduce the amount of damage done when using pliers and other objects to tighten.
- Turnbuckle wrench – used in place of needle nose pliers to properly fit your turnbuckles for adjustment and reduce visual damage from pliers slipping.
- Ride height gauge
- Camber gauge
- Thread lock
- Servo tape
- Tire bands and tire glue
- Tire punch
- Grease – I recommend carrying a generic grease for joints and drivetrain as well as an O-ring grease for shocks and diff O-rings.
STEP 4 - KEEP IT CLEAN
Just like your racing on the track, try your hardest to keep your toolbox clean. You went to all the work to clean, organize, and re-stock it – so don’t ruin a good thing by filling it with miscellaneous body clips, screws, nuts, and parts that you accidentally leave out on your pit table or find on the floor. No matter how many times you tell yourself, “I’ll put that where it belongs later,” I promise you that you won’t.
Having a clean and organized toolbox won’t necessarily make you any better on the track, but it will cut down significantly on the amount of frustration and hassle when working on your cars. Eliminating frustration means more fun, more fun means better results (at least for me it does). Making sure you have the necessary tools to complete a weekend at the track, while not overloading the toolbox with dusty tools that have a 2% chance of being used can be a challenging task – but I can tell you from experience if you follow this guide (or close to it) and clean up a bit, you’ll feel like a new man (or woman) ready to take on the race day ahead.