How Do RC Cars Work? Science Behind Remote Controlled Vehicles (2024)

When you get your hands on your very first remote controlled toy, you’re probably not thinking about what exactly makes it work because you’re more focused on the fun you’re going to have.

How do RC cars work then?

These amazing little RC devices have been around for decades and we often take for granted that there’s quite a lot of science and technology behind them, so it’s worthwhile to learn more.

The basic principle for any remote controlled device is that the user has a transmitter or remote that sends the signal to the car using radio waves, giving directions on what they want it to do. All remote control vehicles operate differently though, with changes in power sources or transmission ranges making them all unique.

To get a better understanding of how your RC car is working, we’re here to explain the science behind it and what’s required to remotely control another device.

With the current technology we use today and promises for the future of these devices, it’s fascinating to learn more about how they actually work to gain more appreciation for our favorite hobby.


  • 1 What Parts Are Needed for a Remote Control Car?
  • 2 What is the Science Behind Remote Control Vehicles?
  • 3 The Range of Remote Control Signals
  • 4 What Are Some Breakthroughs in RC Tech?
  • 5 Related Questions
    • 5.1 Can RC Cars Be Powered by Gas?
    • 5.2 How Fast Can RC Cars Go?
    • 5.3 What Frequency Does an RC Car Use?

What Parts Are Needed for a Remote Control Car?

Before we can get into how they work and the science behind them, we need to understand the exact parts and functions that make these RC vehicles run, which happens with four different parts.

Whether it’s a remote control car or a submarine or plane, they all rely on the same basic parts to allow the user to send commands to the vehicle, so every RC toy will have:

  • Power source: This is required to supply power tothe whole operation and enable all the parts to work. In a remote control car,the power source is typically batteries, but there are some variations likegas.
  • Motor: The motor is responsible for movingall of the parts necessary and performing the basic function including turningthe wheels, steering, and applying acceleration or braking.
  • Transmitter: The transmitter is the remotecontrol and it’s the thing that you hold in your hands to give directions tothe RC car or toy.
  • Receiver: This is found in the RC car andfeatures an antenna and circuit board that allows it to receive the signalsthat the transmitter is sending and move the required parts.

What is the Science Behind Remote Control Vehicles?

In most remote controlled vehicles, the transmitter uses radio waves to send a signal to the receiver.

The receiver then causes the motor to work, powered by whatever source it’s using, and does the required action.

Although this sounds straightforward, there’s a little more to each part that we need to explore further to understand.

  • The transmitter in the controller sends a signal to the car over a specific frequency using the battery power. For RC cars, this is usually 27 MHz or 49 MHZ, with most controllers having the option for either so you can play with two of the same cars together without interference. The controls will depend on the specific car but usually include forward, reverse, and left and right combinations.
  • When the controls are touched, they cause electrical contacts to touch which transmits a number of electrical pulses. The sequence of these pulses relates to a specific action, like forward and right, and it’s transmitted to the RC car and receiver using radio waves.
  • From there, it knows which part of the car to move, like the wheels, and it uses the motor and a detailed circuit board to achieve this. The receiver is constantly scanning for signals from the transmitter which is why it can instantly follow commands that you give it.

All RC vehicles are made differently and so what’s controllable and from where will depend on their design.

RC cars require most of their parts to be controlled by the operator but something like an RC plane will have a motor to control the flaps but will use an engine to make its propellers spin.

An RC boat will use the motor just for the rudder but might rely on the wind to actually move it forward.

The Range of Remote Control Signals

How Do RC Cars Work? Science Behind Remote Controlled Vehicles (1)

One important thing that people look at when choosing an RC car is how far the transmission range is.

This refers to the length that the user can stand away from the vehicle for it to still work and pick up signals from the controller, and the longer this is the better.

When looking at something like a television remote control, these are operated with infrared technology because they only need to send a signal over a short distance.

However, when looking at RC toys and cars specifically, you’ll need radio control which is the technology described earlier.

These signals are capable of traveling much further and without interference, so they’re ideal for any type of RC vehicle.

RC cars come in many different lengths when looking at their range and usually, the more expensive a car is the further it will be able to reach.

There are a few factors that come into play when determining how far the signal will reach including:

  • Quality of radio and controller: Betterquality radios and controllers will be able to send signals further.
  • Potential interference: Othersignals coming from technology like wi-fi routers can affect the range.
  • Obstacles: Controlling an RC car in the middleof an urban area will get you less range than in open spaces like parklands,and driving indoors will usually reduce the range.

The average RC car has a transmission range of between 150 and 300 feet, running on a 2.4 GHz band.

This can vary depending on the factors mentioned above and the quality of the vehicle, but it’s a good general guide to consider when shopping for one with an adequate range.

What Are Some Breakthroughs in RC Tech?

The introduction of 2.4 GHz radios was a huge advancement for the world of RC racing, as was the invention of brushless motors.

These have changed the way that remote controlled vehicles are enjoyed today, but what can we expect for the future of this hobby?

Thanks to the boom in drones and UAVs, we’ve seen a lot more interest in first person view (FPV) and how this can be applied to RC cars.

There are some models being designed for this type of technology but it seems set to become the norm in the next decade, however you can expect a wait until they perfect it for these types of vehicles.

Another area where things are changing is data collection, and more specifically how racers can use it get information about their performance.

With the ability to see what areas need improvement it will add a whole new level to racing, and give us, as users, the power to make adjustments based on real data from our races.

Finally, advancements in robotics will mean the overall construction and possibilities of these cars will improve significantly.

Hybrid RC toys that are able to transform from a car into a helicopter or a boat into a rock crawler don’t seem that far away, giving us so many more possibilities for racing and competing as a sport.

The science behind RC cars can be a little overwhelming, but as passionate hobbyists, it’s important to have a basic understanding.

We’ve got the answers to some commonly asked questions about RC cars to improve your knowledge even further and help you get the most out of your vehicle.

Can RC Cars Be Powered by Gas?

How Do RC Cars Work? Science Behind Remote Controlled Vehicles (2)

In addition to battery operation, remote control cars can also be powered by gas.

The most common gas source is nitro which is a methanol-based fuel that’s had oil and nitromethane added to it.

The benefits of a gas powered car are increased speeds and powers, but they can be harder to maintain and are noisier.

How Fast Can RC Cars Go?

Depending on the power source and their quality, the average remote control car can reach speeds between 30 and 60mph.

High powered RC cars are capable of going over 100mph but they are usually more expensive models and better suited for racing and professional users.

What Frequency Does an RC Car Use?

Modern RC cars usually rely on a 2.45 GHz frequency controller which is the Spread Spectrum System.

The range of frequencies is larger and they suffer from fewer interferences, which means fewer issues with glitches and signals.

Most RC vehicles and toys will operate on either the 27 MHz or 49 MHz frequency, with more advanced devices running on 72 MHz or 75 MHz.

How Do RC Cars Work? Science Behind Remote Controlled Vehicles (2024)


How Do RC Cars Work? Science Behind Remote Controlled Vehicles? ›

Once the RC toy receives the radio waves, the motors kick into life to cause a specific action to occur. The power source sends power to all working parts, including the motor. The transmitter enables control through radio waves and the receiver activates the motors.

How do remote controls work for RC cars? ›

RC toys typically have a small handheld device that includes some type of controls and the radio transmitter. The transmitter sends a signal over a frequency to the receiver in the toy. The transmitter has a power source, usually a 9-volt battery, that provides the power for the controls and transmission of the signal.

How do electric RC cars work? ›

Once the signals have passed through the transmitter, they are translated into the motor's electronic commands. A servo motor is the heart of the electric RC car. These motors are usually powered by a battery pack or an electronic speed controller. They are often powered by a single or dual-power pack.

What does remote control cars do? ›

A remote-control vehicle is defined as any vehicle that is teleoperated by a means that does not restrict its motion with an origin external to the device. This is often a radio-control device, a cable between the controller and the vehicle, or an infrared controller.

What are the major systems in a RC car? ›

All RC systems have the same essential components: a transmitter, a receiver and servos. These parts are sold as assembled, plug-in components; you don't have to solder anything or know about wiring schematics to install or use them. This is the radio of “radio control” and is often simply referred to as the radio.

Can a remote control car move on its own? ›

Many cars may move on their own if they receive signals from another source on the same frequency band, interference in signal, or with power and wiring not being able to deliver the expected stop commands. If this occurs you may want to check out your battery, wiring, and servos on your RC car.

What frequency do RC cars use? ›

In toy-grade RCs, the frequency is normally a set channel within the 27MHz or 49MHz frequency range. There is a greater variety of channels and additional frequencies available in hobby-grade vehicles. These are the most common frequencies used in both toy and hobby RC vehicles in the United States.

Which motor is used in remote control car? ›

There are two different types of rc motors. Brushed and Brushless. Each motor type has its own kind of ESC (Electronic Speed Controller). Without an esc, your motor would just do nothing or go full throttle when you wanted to drive.

Is an RC car a robot? ›

NO! But a modern car has lots of sensors, motors and computer power - all the kind of things we expect to see in a robot. So WHY don't we think of a car as a robot? It's probably because WE have to drive the car - it doesn't drive itself (yet).

What's the fastest RC car in the world? ›

Project World's FASTEST RC Car on RUNWAY - YouTube

Does RC mean remote control? ›

What Does Remote Control (RC) Mean? A remote control (RC) is a small, usually hand-held, electronic device for controlling another device, such as a television, radio or audio/video recording device.

Can I control my RC car with my phone? ›

To control the car, we will use an App that I developed, using the MIT AppInventor 2: "MJRoBot BT Remote Control". The app can be downloaded for free from the Google store via the link: App: MJRoBot BT Remote Control.

What is the difference between radio controlled and remote-controlled? ›

A radio-controlled vehicle is simply an unattached remote-controlled vehicle. In order for a radio-controlled vehicle to function properly, it needs to have four primary parts: a transmitter, a receiver, a motor, and a power source.

How do you change the frequency on a remote control car? ›

How to Change R/C Car Frequency - YouTube

How do you control an RC car with a plane transmitter? ›

Control Your RC Car Using An Airplane Transmitter (How-To)

Which type of modulation is used by remote control toys? ›

Typical radio control systems for radio-controlled models employ pulse-width modulation (PWM), pulse-position modulation (PPM) and more recently spread-spectrum technology, and actuate the various control surfaces using servomechanisms.

How can I increase the range of my remote control toy car? ›

Replacing either the receiver--located inside the car--or the transmitter--the hand-held controller--will improve performance. Increasing transmitter and receiver capacity will dramatically increase the distance that the vehicle can be controlled from. Remove the receiver installed on your remote controlled car.

Can 2 remote control cars same frequency? ›

It is possible for two remote control cars to have the same frequency. However, it will not be possible for you to operate both remote controlled cars at the same time.

What is faster 49 MHz or 27mhz? ›

This at times may arise a common question, what is better 49 MHz or 27 MHz? Most consumer grade radio controlled vehicles are available in 2 frequencies: 27 and 49 MHz. Both of them don't have any major difference and buying either won't provide a significant advantage in performance.

Do RC cars use AM or FM? ›

The 27mhz band - which can be either AM or FM but is most often found as an AM system - is the only band that can be used for ground and air vehicles. There are also 50 mhz, 72 mhz and 75 mhz bands. The 50 mhz band is for amateur radio operators and requires a ham radio license.

Are RC car motors AC or DC? ›

All electric motors are AC motors. They just use different ways to generate it. All electric current is DC. In any given moment (a snapshot) current will only be going in one direction.

How many motors does a RC car have? ›

There are four different types of DC motors for RC cars available in the market viz; Brushed motor, Brushless motor, Servo motor & Vibrating motor. Out of these motors, brushed & brushless motors are the commonly found one in RC vehicles.

Who invented the remote control car? ›

The remote-controlled cars were invented by a company called Elettronica Giocattoli in 1966 using a toy Ferrari. The model called the Ferrari 250LM,... See full answer below.

How do you make a moving car? ›

How to Build a Toy Car - Science Project - YouTube

Whats faster gas or electric RC cars? ›

Loud, disorganized, tuning, and modification can be complex. Electric RC cars are faster than gas RC cars. With a speed capacity that can reach 100+ mph, electric cars with LiPo batteries and brushless motors are faster than gas RC cars.

How do you make a toy car go faster? ›

Make toy cars move faster by lowering their weight while increasing traction and decreasing internal friction. Toy cars are controlled by the same physics as their full-sized counterparts. Minor modifications and repairs to a toy car can have a major influence on the car's performance.

How do you make a Battlebot? ›

How To Build A 1lb Battlebot Spinner!!! // Part One - YouTube

What is a robot car? ›

A self-driving car. See self-driving car.

Is drone a robot? ›

Essentially, a drone is a flying robot that can be remotely controlled or fly autonomously using software-controlled flight plans in its embedded systems, that work in conjunction with onboard sensors and a global positioning system (GPS). UAVs were most often associated with the military.

What is the strongest RC car? ›

“The Traxxas XO-1 is the fastest RC car, full stop. The largest brushless motor on offer propels the car from 1 to 60 in 2.5 seconds. Not only is this car stylish, but it also reaches speeds over 100 miles per hour.”

What is the most powerful remote control car? ›

Traxxas Rustler 4X4 VXL

This four-wheel drive remote control car is a powerful monster.

What is the biggest RC car? ›


Weighing in at 80 pounds, it's one of the biggest, most powerful RC vehicles you've ever seen!

What is another name for remote control? ›

What is another word for remote-control?
remoteremote control
push-button control

What does RTR mean in RC cars? ›

RTR (Ready-to-Run) vehicles are pre-built RC vehicles that have been bound to a radio system (included with the vehicle). Some RTR vehicles come with everything needed to power the vehicle, including AA transmitter batteries, vehicle battery, and a suitable charger.

What was the first RC car ever made? ›

The Early Years of RC Cars As early as 1971 companies such as Heathkit offer RC car kits and electronics components. 1971 Team Associated, known then as Associated, debuts its first vehicle, the RC1 which is an 1/8-scale nitro-powered on-road pan car.

What does 27mhz mean on a RC car? ›

27 MHz is a radio carrier frequency used for the operation of radio control. The term "MHz" is the abbreviation of "megahertz," or one million cycles per second.

What are the different types of RC cars? ›

We'll divide the various R/C surface vehicles into six categories: Cars, Stadium Trucks, Short Course Trucks, Monster Trucks, Buggies, and Rock Crawlers.

How fast is a 2.4 GHz RC? ›

features: 2.4GHz wireless receiver, it can control distance range 50-80m, speed about 10-20km/H.

Will RC cars interfere with each other? ›

If you don't plan to run your RC cars, trucks, boats, or aircraft alongside other radio controlled vehicles, it doesn't really matter which frequency they use. However, running two 27MHz or two 49MHz RC cars near each other will usually result in interference—crosstalk. The radio signals get mixed up.

How do RC transmitters and receivers work? ›

The transmitter enables control through radio waves and the receiver activates the motors. When we press a button on the transmitter to make the RC toy go forward or backward, a pair of electrical contacts touch. Receiver identifies signals, sends it to circuit.

How does RF remote control work? ›

RF remotes use specific radio frequencies, typically a license-free 2.4 GHz bandwidth, to transmit a signal to a receiving device. The signals are able to be sent through objects like walls and furniture, extending the remote's range. Conversely, the radio frequency bandwidth is very crowded.

How does a 2.4 GHz transmitter work? ›

When you initialy 'pair' your transmitter to your receiver, they initiate the synchronised sequence of channel hopping. With 2.4GHz effectively 40 channels are available and the sets automatically set themselves to an unused frequency when switched on.

How do you program a remote control toy car? ›

How To Pair Your Ride On Car Parental Remote Control - YouTube

Can I control my RC car with my phone? ›

To control the car, we will use an App that I developed, using the MIT AppInventor 2: "MJRoBot BT Remote Control". The app can be downloaded for free from the Google store via the link: App: MJRoBot BT Remote Control.

How many channels do you need for an RC plane? ›

Add retracts and you are at 7 channels for a pretty common configuration. Likewise, for a CP helicopter, 6 is the basic number but many use 7 for gyro control (leaving gear open). So my advice to most people is to set 7 as your minimum, not 6.

How far does 2.4 g go on a remote control? ›

Under more or less, ideal conditions, a regular 2.4ghz system has a range of about 1.2 km. This is using a standard TX and the standard RX's with dual and or satellite antennas. 800 meters is more typical though.

What does Rx mean in RC planes? ›

RC protocols can be divided into two groups: RX Protocols – communication between the radio receiver (RX) and flight controller (FC) TX Protocols – communication between the radio transmitter (TX) and RX.

How do you make a remote control circuit board? ›

How to Make a Remote Control Circuit - YouTube

What does 27mhz mean on a RC car? ›

27 MHz is a radio carrier frequency used for the operation of radio control. The term "MHz" is the abbreviation of "megahertz," or one million cycles per second.

How do you change the frequency on a remote control car? ›

How to Change R/C Car Frequency - YouTube

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