Tire Cutting 101

When it comes to scale trail runs, mud bogging, competition crawling and racing, tires are one of the most important aspects of your vehicle. Without proper traction it can be tough to hold your intended line in the rocks or around the track. Having multiple sets of tires in your arsenal is always a good idea in order to be prepared for any and all conditions. But, for the budget crawler, basher and racer having numerous sets of tires and wheels isn’t always a feasible option. There are ways to improve your existing tires and wheels though, and all it requires is a little time at the work bench. For this tire cutting article we will show you a few ways to get more traction out of your stock or existing tires, with little to no money out of your pocket. There are numerous ways to cut tires for better performance. Siping, read cutting, tires is a technology used in the 1:1 off-road world for everything from rock crawling to baja, mud bogging and even full size monster trucks. Tire cutting can be used to get better forward bite, better lateral bite, and even help to avoid mud from packing into certain tread patterns. You can also cut the side wall lugs to soften up the overall feel of the tires carcass as well. There are many aspects to this technology/art form.

A good example to start with for the scale crawlers is the stock R40 compound Axial Ripsaw tires that are original equipment on the RTR Wraith and new RTR Ridgecrest. These tires have a great tread pattern with aggressive lugs for hardcore off road terrain. But, the compound on these is quite a bit harder than the softer R35 Axial Ripsaw tires. Here are a few different methods you can use to get the most out of your stock RTR Ripsaw tires. Only tools needed are a good pair of small wire cutters, a Dremel with a cutoff wheel and a little bit of your time.

Wire cutters used.

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Dremel and cutoff wheel used.

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A stock uncut tire before we get started.

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First thing I wanted to improve upon was forward bite, and the ability to clean sticky mud out of the tire lugs. The tires I am using for this article will be bolted up to a 2.2 scaler/rock racer which will see a wide variety of terrain. I started by cutting the smaller rows of lugs completely out of the tires for a super aggressive tread pattern that will have the ability to shed mud and wet dirt, using a small pair of wire cutters. This cut will also soften the carcass up and allow for more forward bite in technical rock sections, similar to airing a 1:1 tire down for more grip and better ride. If your wire cutters are too small to span the entire lug you are trying to remove, you can cut half of the lug and slide the cutters along the base of the lug for a second cut as needed. I had to use this method on the biggest lugs.

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Next cut the smaller center lugs out on the same row.

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Here is how that same tire looks when the first round of cutting is complete.

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A profile shot after the first round with the wire cutters.

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A photo of all the lugs removed from the 4 tires.

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Next I want to improve the tires performance on the rocks in off camber situations. To do this I will use my Dremel and cut the existing tire grooves in the center lugs down to the tire’s carcass. Here you can see it grooves before I modify them.

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Position the Dremel over the lug to be cut and follow the existing groove to make it deeper.

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Keep your RPMs on the Dremel high enough to cut the lug without bogging the motor down. Gently apply pressure until the cutoff wheel cuts the full depth of the lug. Be careful not to go too deep and cut all the way through the tire, take your time and be patient. You can also do this to the outer lugs if you find you need more bite, or sidewall flex. Another way to get more flex out of your tires is to open up the breather holes in the wheels. I drilled out the existing breather holes in these wheels to twice the stock diameter.

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Finished tire

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Here’s a few shots to show the overall look on my “Project Backyard Basher Ridgecrest.” These tires really give it a lot more aggressive look, similar to what you would see on the “Rock Bouncers” from down in the southeast.

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Following these tips will improve overall performance on the stock RTR Ripsaw tires as well as other tires on the market, especially if they are molded in a firm rubber compound.

Axial AE-2 ESC Set-up and Programming

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Set-up tips for installing and programming Axial’s AE-2 ESC.

Set-up:

1. Mount ESC in an area that is well ventilated, and isolated from vibration and shock.

2. Connect ESC wires to the motor(s).

3. Plug the receiver wire into the throttle channel on your receiver.

4. Before plugging the battery into the ESC, make sure your transmitter is on and that the throttle trim is set to zero.

5. Double check that the battery wires on the ESC are wired correctly, red on red and black on black. **Reversing the polarity will permanently damage the ESC**

6. Plug the battery into the ESC, with the ESC switch in the “off” position.

7. Apply full throttle on the transmitter.

8. Turn the ESC on while applying full throttle.

9. The ESC will emit a series of beeps through the motor with the “Red” LED.

10. Continue applying full throttle until the ESC blinks “Green” and emits a series of beeps to finalize the full throttle endpoint.

11. Once the ESC blinks “Red”, apply full brake/reverse, and hold.

12. The ESC will emit a series of beeps while blinking “Red” to finalize the reverse/brake endpoint.

13. Return the throttle to neutral and the ESC will emit a series of beeps to finalize the neutral point.

14. The ESC will emit one last series of beeps confirming the ESC is ready to go.

15. Apply throttle to make sure motor turns in the proper direction. To reverse the direction of the motor, switch the wires going to the motor.

Notes:

1. If ESC set-up does not initialize while holding full throttle, try switching the throttle reverse switch on the transmitter. Also double check that the throttle trim is still set to zero.

2. Lipo “Cut-off” is set to “On” from the factory.

3. Use the “Castle Link” to access the advanced settings in this ESC.

Specifications:

Input Voltage – 6 cell NiCad/NiMH or 2cell lipo**

Size – 1.7″ x 1.24″

Weight – 45 Grams

Motor Limit – 19t

On-Resistance FET – .0018

Rated/Peak Current – 106A Peak

Braking Current – 106A Peak

BEC Voltage – 5.0V/2A Peak

PWM Frequency – 6KHZ

**You can run higher voltage batteries such as a 7 cell NiCad/NiMH or 3 cell lipo with the installation of a “Castle BEC”

Manually programming Axial’s AE-2 ESC

Here are a few tips for programming Axial’s AE-2 ESC, without a computer or “Castle Link”.

You can manually adjust 3 of the most important settings in the AE-2 ESC.

1. Lipo Cut-off

2. Drag Brake

3. Reverse

Manual programming

Follow these steps to change settings on your Axial AE-2 ESC without a computer.

*Remove your pinion gear before calibration and manual programming as a safety precaution!*

STEP 1: Start with the transmitter ON and the ESC switched OFF and not connected to the battery.

STEP 2: Plug a battery into the ESC. Hold full throttle on the transmitter and turn the ESC switch ON. After a few seconds you will get the four rings in a row signaling full throttle calibration. Keep on holding full throttle. After a few more seconds, you will hear another four rings in a row. After the second group of four rings, relax the throttle to neutral. If you have successfully entered programming mode, the ESC will beep twice, pause, and repeat the two beeps.

STEP 3: The programming sequence is always presented in sequential order and always starts with the first setting (None) within the first section (Voltage Cutoff). The first beep(s) signifies which section of the programming you are in and the second beep(s) signifies which setting is waiting for a “yes” or “no” answer. As you go sequentially through the options, you will need to answer “yes” by holding full throttle, or answer “no” by holding full brake until the ESC accepts your answer by beeping rapidly. Once an answer has been accepted, relax the throttle back to neutral for the next question. After a “no” answer is accepted, the ESC will then present you with the next option in that section. After a “yes” answer is accepted, the ESC knows you aren’t interested in any other option in that section, so it skips to the first option in the next section.

Settings and explanations

The following section explains all the settings available to you via manual programming and what each one does to change the reactions of the ESC in order to tune it to your specific preferences. More settings are available via “Castle Link”.

1. Cutoff Voltage

Sets the voltage at which the ESC lowers or removes power to the motor in order to either keep the battery at a safe minimum voltage (Lithium Polymer cells) or the radio system working reliably (NiCad/NiMH cells).

Setting 1: None

Does not cut off or limit the motor due to low voltage. Do not use with any Lithium Polymer packs!

Use this setting ONLY with NiCad or NiMH packs. With continued driving, the radio system may eventually cease to deliver pulses to the servo and ESC, and the vehicle will not be under control.

You will irreversibly damage Lithium Polymer packs with this setting!

Setting 2: Auto-LiPo (Default)

This setting allows you to go back and forth between 2 and 3 cell LiPo packs without having to change the cutoff voltage for each one. The ESC automatically sets the cutoff voltage correctly for a 2 or 3 cell pack when that pack is plugged in.

2. Drag Brake

Sets the amount of drag brake applied at neutral throttle to simulate the slight braking effect of a neutral brushed motor while coasting.

Setting 1: Drag Brake OFF

Vehicle will coast with almost no resistance from the motor at neutral throttle.

Setting 2: Drag Brake 15%

Very Low amount of braking effect from the motor at neutral throttle

Setting 3: Drag brake 25%

Low amount of braking effect from the motor at neutral throttle

Setting 4: Drag Brake 40%

More braking effect from the motor at neutral throttle.

Setting 5: Drag Brake 50%

Fairly high braking effect from the motor at neutral throttle.

Setting 6: Drag Brake 100% (Default)

Full braking effect from the motor at neutral throttle.

3. Brake / Reverse Type

Sets whether reverse is enabled or not, and exactly how it can be accessed.

Setting 1: Reverse Lockout

This setting allows the use of reverse only after the ESC senses two seconds of neutral throttle. Use it for race practice sessions and bashing, but check with your race director to see if this setting is allowed for actual racing.

Setting 2: Forward/Brake Only

Use this setting for actual sanctioned racing events. Reverse cannot be accessed under any circumstances with this setting.

Setting 3: Forward/Brake/Reverse (Default)

Reverse or forward is accessible at any time after the ESC brakes to zero motor RPM.

Axial Car ESC Programming Reference:

1: Voltage Cutoff

Option 1 : None

Option 2 : Auto-LiPo (D)*

2: Drag Brake

Option 1 : Disabled

Option 2 : 15%

Option 3 : 25%

Option 4 : 40%

Option 5 : 50%

Option 6: 100% (D)*

3: Brake/Reverse Type

Option 1 : Reverse Lockout

Option 2 : Forward/Brake Only

Option 3 : Forward/Brake/Reverse (D)*

(D)* = Default setting from the factory

Wraith Maintenance and Cleaning Tips

It’s inevitable, if you drive your R/C’s like they should be driven they are going to get dirty. Like everything else worth having, they will need to be cleaned/maintained. Especially if you drive your rigs in mud and water. While some people view this as a chore, it must be done to get the most life and best performance out of your rig and it’s inner workings. Here’s a short list of tips to help you clean/maintain your R/C’s in less time.

Hose

If your vehicle is waterproof, then a hose can be the best way to wash your vehicle off when it is really dirty/muddy. But, be aware that rust will set in on any steel surface eventually. WD40 can work great for keeping rust at bay, if you spray your metal parts down after being submersed in water, or hosed off. Another thing to keep in mind is WD40 will break grease down over time. So, re-greasing the gears and bearings is recommended regularly. You don’t need to re-grease everything after every cleaning. But, it may be a good habit to get into in order for your inner metal components to last as long as possible.

Compressed air

This is the method I use the most. If you own, or have access to, an air compressor. This is one of the best methods to clean an R/C car in my opinion. You should be able to remove any dust, or clumps of dried mud without much drama. I would like to stress that safety glasses are a must for this method. Last thing you want to happen is to start blowing off your rig, only to get blasted in the eyes with dirt and debris. Not fun! After you blow off the bulk of any stuck on dirt and mud, you can use a brush to finish the clean-up. I went to the local hardware store and bought a pack of 3 assorted sized paint brushes. It is nice to have an assortment of sizes, the small brushes work extremely well in tight areas.

Pledge

This is another method I have seen used by some nitro racers. The Pledge actually shines your whole car up nicely, similar to using Armor All on your 1:1 vehicle. The oils in the Pledge will actually help keep rust at bay as well. Basically, you spray your whole car down with Pledge, and wipe everything off with a shop rag. Try not to saturate your electronics either, if they are not protected by a box or balloons. If the electronics aren’t protected, spray the cleaner on your rag, then wipe your vehicle down.

Motul

Motul “Shine & Go” is another spray on cleaner that can be used to clean your rigs after a hard day on the trails. It is originally designed for cleaning plastic fairings on motorcycles, and interiors on 1:1 vehicles. But, it also works really well for cleaning RC cars and trucks, especially lexan bodies and panels. Just spray a light coat on and wipe down with a clean rag, for that shiny “new” look. Use in a well ventilated area, and avoid soaking your electronics.

Following these tips should help keep your rig clean and in good working order, without taking you away from your next adventure for too long.

Wraith Steering Tips

Now that the Wraith’s have been out on the market for a bit. We have had a few people mention that they were getting some bind in the stock steering linkage. So, for this article I will be going over a few simple tips to help smooth out the steering on your Wraith. The biggest culprit for getting steering bind on the Wraith’s is dirt. After a few battery packs off-road dust will work it’s way into your steering and suspension ball studs. Ball studs are the pivot points in any steering or suspension link set-up. The ball studs press into the rod ends, and provide the links the freedom to move as the steering and suspension cycle through their travel. If dirt and debris work their way into the ball studs, it will start to cause bind. Bind in the steering can cause servos to overheat and even burn out, as well as excessive wear in the steering components.

Since there are no super mini micro torque wrenches available for our niche sport, we have to be careful how much force we use to tighten up our suspension and steering links. Especially when is comes to plastic self tapping screws. The Wraith comes with plastic ball studs stock as well. If the screws that pass through them are over tightened, it will distort the ball stud and cause the steering to bind as well as limited overall movement. So, be vigilant in your maintenance schedule, but don’t overdo it when you are checking the torque specs on your plastic self tapping screws. The best thing you can do to help avoid these issues is upgrading to steel ball studs, (Part # AXA1331) which are 100 times more durable then plastic. I am also going to upgrade this Wraith’s steering system with an aluminum servo horn for added piece of mind and strength. Here are a few tips on the conversion.

Here you can see I removed the servo horn from the servo. At this point the linkage should move freely without bind, if it doesn’t, then upgrading the ball studs will fix the issue. Here you can see this one is a little sticky.

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Removing the servo horn revealed that the plastic ball stud in this linkage was in fact crushed down a little.

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To remove the stock ball stud, I use a pair of wire cutters. Squeeze lightly around the neck of the ball stud and pop it out of the steering link.

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Here you can see the old damaged ball stud on the left and the new ball stud on the right.

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Use a pair of pliers to install the new metal ball stud as shown.

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After installing a metal ball stud and aluminum servo horn, you can see the linkage will move freely now. If you still have a little bind, or sticky feel after installing the metal ball stud. Run a couple packs through your truck and everything should seat in and work smoothly after that.

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Now repeat the above steps on the other 3 points in the steering linkage locations, opposite end of the drag link and at the steering knuckles. Then, you should be back in business. Again, if the linkage still feels sticky. Run a battery or two through your truck and the linkage should free up. Sometimes dirt gets embedded in the plastic, so cleaning your steering link holes before installing the new ball studs is a good idea too.

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AWCCQ Round #3 in Long Beach, WA

Axial West Coast Championship Qualifier (AWCCQ) – Long Beach, WA

Long Beach, Washington, is famous for its clam digging, pristine coastal/drivable beach line, kite flying competitions and other summertime activities and this year was host to AWCC Qualifier Round #3. In 2010, Rocky Carlson, or Rockpile as he is known on the rccrawler.com boards, stumbled upon this very unique spot at the south end of Long Beach. Nestled against an amazing backdrop and what looks to be like a natural rainforest, especially if you’re from Southern California where vegetation grows because you bought some plants and irrigation from Home Depot, the spot could not have provided a better mix of scenery, accessibility and most importantly, amazing rock. With the compilation from the local clubs of ORCRC, WPRCCA, and WARCRC the event saw over 60 competitors in the highly coveted 2.2 Pro Class and 7 new competitors in the sportsman class ready to get their feet wet in the creative, exciting and just plain fun hobby of RC Rock Crawling.

With Brian Parker behind the wheel of course creativity, we were in for a special treat this qualifier. There were two courses that were your standard 10 gate/6 minute time limit for the pros and 5 gates for the sportsman drivers. The remaining courses, let’s just say, we were in for a special treat.

The look on Parker’s faces says it all.

Course 1 was a mix of rock crawling, rock racing and some true off-road racing. This course was four minutes in time length and two laps long. Each lap was scored just as you would score standard course-all penalties applied and so forth. You really had to manage your time on this course. If, you spent too much time at one gate it jeopardized your chance of finishing your second lap. If you went too fast and hit too many gates and pointed out before you even completed your first lap, your points were 40 for the second lap.  It was difficult to remember that if you finished your first lap, your points were tallied and you were back at zero for your second lap. So, just as standard crawling courses, it’s most important to finish the course.

A glance at Course #1 – Rock Racing

Course 2 was something new as well. You had the first 10 gates as a standard course – points, penalties and timing was all the same. If you completed the course, however, your points were tallied and then you went on to a 10 gate, 3 minute bonus course. Again, making sure you completed the first course was important so you could then take advantage of the bonus course. If you didn’t finish the first course, your bonus course was a 40.

The Crack on Course #3

Rocky’s showing us how it’s done.

Mr. Ryan Gerrish of Tammie’s Hobbies doing work on Course #3

Course 3 was all about time management and really knowing the course and, again, a whole new thought process to course design and creativity. It had your standard 10 gates but between each standard gate were bonus gates. The bonus gates made you decide if you wanted to take the risk and spend more time going through gates and earning the -2 bonus points while not timing out on the course. A perfect score on this course, including bonus, was -40. If you had some bad courses and wanted to make up points, this was the place to do it. What was cool, you could decide to do one bonus or all the bonuses, it was your decision. But, they had to be done in sequence.

A view after Gate #3 on course 4. Only 9 competitors were lucky enough to make it past Gate 3.

Rock Candy President Mindy Howe doing work on course #4. She was one of 9 drivers to clear Gate 3.

Tazz doing work on Course 2.

Scott Hughes and his XR10 with only genuine Axial hop up parts takes 2nd.

With all the creative courses there was slight confusion during the driver’s meeting. However, the judges and all the club members were knowledgeable on each of their courses making each course easy to understand before you started. The diversity of course designs and difference in course strategies really played to the success of the event and the buzz around the beach after the comp. The bench talk after the event is poised to go on and be remembered, especially at the Long Beach comps in the years to come.

To top off the competition, each participant received a commemorative dog tag and chances to win some Axial swag were high since raffle tickets were given to each participant.

Axial also had two XR10’s to handout-one to the winner of the sportsman class and one to the youngest 2.2 pro competitor. Congrats to Chris McMullin who won the sportsman class who then turned around and gave his kit to Denzel Judkins; he’s been looking at getting a XR10 since came out.

Chris McMullin (left), hands his XR10 over to Denzel

Pro 2.2 Top 5. From left – James Skiles (3rd); Scott Hughes (2nd); John Ripplinger (1st); Ryan Gerrish (4th); Scott Roberts (5th)

Gunner Ripplinger was the youngest competitor in the 2.2 Pro class earning himself an XR10. He then turned over his kit to his younger brother Gage Ripplinger who had yet to experience competing in the 2.2 Pro class. Let’s just say he’s ready to compete in style.

Sportsman Top 3. From left – Danny Hanna (3rd); Chris McMullin (1st); Tazz Judkins (2nd)

Amazing clubs coming together, great people, a breathtaking location and a fearless leader named Brian Parker truly made this an event that will be remembered by all who attended. Bookmark Axial’s blog now and check back often so you too can have the opportunity to be a part of the event next year.

Special thank you to Photos by Tristan (Tazz) http://photosbytristan.blogspot.com/