By Mike Garrison
Whether it's wheel nuts, wings, tools, tracks, trinkets and/or anything in between, the LiveRC staff gives their testimonial and review of each every Thursday morning!
Exotek Racing Flite POM 17.5 Pinion Gears
What is it?
Exotek Racing is one of many aftermarket accessory and “hop-up” companies in the R/C industry. While the products they offer are usually very eye appealing, more importantly they are usually a fix to a problem or a performance enhancer – not just bling for show. Example being the Exotek alloy front pivot mount for the TLR 22-4 2.0 that I tested and reviewed back in September (CLICK HERE to read). This time around I have had the opportunity to test and review the new Exotek Racing Flite Series POM pinion gears for 17.5 racing.
These are not the first plastic pinion gears to hit the market, however, according to Exotek these have been in development since 2016. The idea of replacing a standard steel or aluminum pinion gear with plastic seems ridiculous, however, with some careful engineering, modern technology, and modern materials it has been quite successful for brands such as 175RC and their PolyPro pinion line. The idea behind plastic pinion gears thrives from slot car racing, and since has ventured into 17.5 stock class on-road and off-road racing.
So, you may be asking yourself what is the point behind swapping out an ultra-durable and well-proven metal pinion gear for plastic? The idea is that plastic pinion gears are considerably lighter and smoother. Together this is means less weight for the motor to turn over in which equates to; increased bottom end power, more efficiency, and a quieter operation.
Exotek’s version of plastic pinions are machined from black POM (Delrin). They offer full width teeth that match up to the entire width of the spur gear, whereas some others are narrower for weight reduction. Each is machined out and drilled on the backside to shed weight, and each includes an alloy keyed collar which uses a 3mm set screw to hold the pinion on the motor shaft. Labeling plastic pinion gears is not as simple as metal gears, however, Exotek has incorporated the pinion gear size and Exotek logo by laser engraving them into the mounting collar. The Flite series pinion gears range from 26T to 32T, and are only available in 48-pitch.
Thoughts, Opinions, and Key Points
One my biggest complaints with plastic pinion gears is often there is no easy way to identify the size pinion gear you are looking at without carefully counting the teeth, memorizing color charts, or getting creative with a very fine tip paint marker when you first take it out of the package. Exotek eliminated this problem by incorporating the laser etched collar which includes the size of the gear – ironically more legible and easier to identify than most metal gears as well.
The “full face” design of the Exotek pinions cover the full width of the spur gear, whereas some are considerably narrower. The Flite series are machined and shaped very similar to most lightweight aluminum pinion gears. The pros to the full-face design is that there is more surface area making contact, which in theory eliminates some worry of failure, damage, and durability. On the flip side, it is not as quiet as the narrower gears, and if there is damage it will most likely wipe out the entire spur gear instead of a narrow area.
Exotek’s Flite pinions are held on by a 3mm set screw that is driven through the keyed alloy collar. To tighten/loosen the 3mm set screw all you need is a common 1.5mm hex driver – which is a standard tool used on almost every major brand competition car kit on the market today.
Running the Flite Series pinions in my 17.5 2wd buggy, I settled in on a 69T spur and 31T pinion. This is the same setup I run using other brand plastic pinions and/or aluminum pinion gears as well. While I tried the range from 28T-32T, I still landed back at “home” with a 31T – meaning nothing about the design or construction of the Flite series pinions resulted in a change of gearing.
The major selling point of plastic pinions is weight reduction. Some metal pinions can weigh as much as 5-7 grams. Other plastic pinions on the market, using the narrow design, weigh in at roughly 1 gram. The 30T Exotek full face pinion weighs in at 1.4-1.5 grams (depending on whose scale I used). Could I tell a difference on the track between a metal pinion and the Flite series pinion? Yes, for me there is a fairly significant amount of low-end power that doesn’t seem to be there when using a heavier metal gear. Could I tell a difference in .4 grams on the track between the Flite series pinion and competition narrow plastic pinion? No, other than the narrower design is slightly quieter than the full face Exotek.
The major concern with plastic pinions is durability. The Exotek Flite pinions are very hard, and almost give the illusion of being metal at first glance and feel. At the expense of a spur gear, I purposely set my gear mesh incorrectly to see which would give out first. The Exotek Flite pinion gear won the battle showing very slight damage, while the plastic teeth of the spur gear where shaved almost clean. Although it was what I would consider minor damage, the pinion did receive more than a metal gear would have, however, it was not ruined and was still capable of being used (with a slight added buzz due to the imperfections and battle scars). On the track the Exotek pinions held up with absolutely no issues to normal wear and tear. They even survived a failed attempt at a free-roaming whip session, but not all was quite so lucky...
(Test Track: Fastlane Raceway - Blue Springs, Missouri)
- Considerably lighter than metal pinion gears, providing more acceleration.
- Easily identified by laser etched size on alloy collar.
- Uses 3mm set screw (included) and a 1.5mm hex wrench to loosen/tighten – no funky size tools needed.
- With proper gear mesh durability was not an issue.
- Machined similar to metal pinion gears with a full face design that makes contact with entire spur gear.
- Aside from a very few select others, these are $5-6 higher priced than most metal or plastic spur gears.
I will be the first to admit when I first heard the idea of plastic pinion gears I rolled my eyes in skepticism. After trying one, I’ve never raced using a metal pinion gear on any of my 17.5 vehicles since. There is no denying the fact that metal is stronger than plastic, however, Exotek has done an outstanding job of blending the design, look, and quality of an aluminum gear into a very durable, reliable, and lightweight black POM (Delrin) pinion gear option. The standard size 1.5mm hex set screw is larger than some comparable pinions use, which is easier to tighten without stripping out, and is a common size tool that will most likely already be in your toolbox. The easily identifiable etched sizing is a huge selling point for me personally, as I get confused counting the fingers on each hand, let alone trying to count tiny unmarked teeth.
My final word on the Exotek Racing Flite Series pinion gears is that they may not improve your actual driving skill, but they will improve your cars overall feel in terms of power and add a bit of welcomed acceleration without comprising top speed. Don’t let the beefy design fool you, as these are still extremely lightweight, and the black POM material used is very durable. These are designed specifically for 17.5 stock class racing only, but despite my better judgement and their very specific intended use, I also used them in my 13.5 boosted 2wd buggy successfully (not recommended, but speaks highly in terms of durability). They are among the highest priced pinion gears on the market, however, I can’t think of very many ways to spend the $5 you’ll save buying a metal pinion gear and receive the added benefits in power and efficiency that Flite POM pinions provide.