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What’s The Difference Between Nitro and Petrol RC cars?

If you want to know the difference between Nitro and Petrol RC cars keep reading. Also, learn if Nitro cars can run on petrol and the benefits of Nitro cars.

What’s The Difference Between Nitro and Petrol RC cars?

Here are the key differences:

1. Fuel Source:

  • Nitro RC Cars: These cars run on a blend of nitromethane, methanol, and oil. This special fuel, often referred to simply as “nitro,” provides the energy needed for the internal combustion engine to propel the car.
  • Petrol RC Cars: Petrol RC cars, on the other hand, utilize a mixture similar to what you’d find in regular vehicles – petrol (gasoline) and oil. Unlike nitro fuel, petrol is more easily accessible and can be found at most gas stations.

2. Performance:

  • Nitro RC Cars: Nitro-powered RC cars are renowned for their agility and quick acceleration. They tend to be smaller in size, which often makes them lighter and more nimble.
  • Petrol RC Cars: Typically larger and heavier than their nitro counterparts, petrol RC cars usually have longer run times because of their larger fuel tanks. They might not accelerate as swiftly as nitro cars, but they can maintain a consistent speed over prolonged periods.

3. Maintenance:

  • Nitro RC Cars: Nitro engines require regular maintenance. After each run, it’s essential to clear out any remaining fuel from the engine to prevent gumming. Additionally, the glow plug, which ignites the fuel-air mixture, occasionally needs replacement.
  • Petrol RC Cars: These cars tend to be a bit easier to maintain. The spark plug used in a petrol engine lasts longer than a nitro engine’s glow plug. However, regular cleaning and oil changes are necessary for longevity.

4. Cost:

  • Nitro RC Cars: While nitro cars might have a lower initial cost, the expense of nitro fuel and regular maintenance can add up over time.
  • Petrol RC Cars: Often pricier upfront, petrol cars can lead to long-term savings because petrol is generally cheaper than nitro fuel, and these cars often require less frequent maintenance.

5. Sound and Smell:

  • Nitro RC Cars: These cars are known for their distinctive loud sound and the unique smell produced when the nitro fuel burns.
  • Petrol RC Cars: They produce a sound closer to that of a regular car’s engine. The smell is also similar to that of any gasoline-powered tool or vehicle.

6. Suitability:

  • Nitro RC Cars: Suitable for hobbyists who love tinkering with their cars. The constant need for adjustments and maintenance can be enjoyable for those who like a hands-on approach.
  • Petrol RC Cars: Best for those who prefer longer run times and fewer maintenance sessions. Their larger size also makes them ideal for outdoor terrains.

Can Nitro RC Cars Run on Petrol?

Petrol fuel pump.
Petrol fuel pump.

No, Nitro RC cars cannot run on petrol. Not only is it likely to damage the engine and other components of the RC car, but it can also pose significant safety risks. Always use the recommended fuel for your RC car to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

Understanding Nitro Fuel

Nitro fuel, sometimes referred to as nitromethane or simply “nitro,” is a special blend made primarily of methanol, nitromethane, and oil.

Methanol is the primary combustible ingredient. Nitromethane aids combustion and allows the fuel to burn more completely and powerfully at various atmospheric conditions. Oil is essential for lubricating the internal components of the engine, preventing wear and tear.

Petrol’s Composition and Characteristics

Petrol, or gasoline, is a refined product derived from crude oil, primarily made of hydrocarbons. It’s formulated for use in full-scale automotive internal combustion engines. Unlike nitro fuel, petrol requires a spark to ignite and has a different combustion characteristic.

The Incompatibility of Petrol in Nitro Engines

There are several reasons why running petrol in a nitro RC car is not advisable:

  • Ignition Differences: Nitro engines are glow engines. They rely on a glow plug, which is heated during the starting phase, to ignite the fuel-air mixture. Petrol engines, on the other hand, use spark plugs for ignition. Thus, petrol wouldn’t ignite properly in a nitro engine.
  • Combustion Characteristics: Nitro fuel has different combustion properties than petrol. Using petrol can lead to incomplete combustion, which may result in power loss, excessive heat, and potential engine damage.
  • Lubrication Issues: Nitro fuel contains a substantial amount of oil to keep the engine lubricated. Petrol lacks this essential component, which can lead to rapid engine wear and catastrophic failure.
  • Fuel System Damage: The rubber and plastic components of a nitro RC car’s fuel system might not be compatible with petrol. Using petrol can lead to premature deterioration of these components.

Safety Concerns

Safety is paramount when working with flammable substances. Using the wrong fuel can lead to unpredictable behavior, including potential explosions or fires. The incorrect combustion characteristics of petrol in a nitro engine can create backfires or other hazardous situations.

What are the benefits of nitro RC?

Here are some of the main benefits:

1. Realistic Experience

  • Sound: One of the most evident aspects of a nitro RC vehicle is the roar of its engine. This gives a far more authentic experience compared to electric RCs, making it feel like you’re controlling a real vehicle.
  • Smoke and Smell: The faint trail of smoke and the distinct smell of nitro fuel can add a touch of realism, especially for those who love the nuances of traditional engines.

2. Longer Run Times

While electric RCs need pauses to recharge their batteries, nitro RC vehicles can be refuelled in seconds, allowing for longer and uninterrupted run times. This is especially beneficial for those who enjoy extended play sessions.

3. Tunable Performance

The internal combustion engines in nitro RCs can be tuned. Enthusiasts can adjust various settings like air-fuel mixture, idle speed, and brake strength, allowing for an optimized and personalized performance.

4. Thermal Efficiency

Nitro engines tend to remain cooler during operation due to the evaporative cooling effects of the methanol in the fuel. This can often lead to longer engine lifespans and less wear and tear compared to some electric models.

5. Hands-On Maintenance

For hobbyists who enjoy the technical side, nitro RCs offer a more hands-on approach. The need to clean, maintain, and tune the engine provides an immersive experience and a deeper understanding of the mechanics involved.

6. Broad Variety

Nitro RCs come in various sizes, designs, and configurations. From cars to planes to boats, a vast selection is available to cater to the preferences of different hobbyists.

7. Economic Longevity

While the initial investment for a nitro RC might be higher, the cost of nitro fuel can sometimes be more economical than constantly purchasing new batteries for electric RCs, especially in the long run.

8. Gradual Power Delivery

Unlike electric motors that can provide instant torque, nitro engines offer a more gradual power curve, closely resembling real-world vehicles. This can make for more predictable handling, especially in racing scenarios.