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How can you start a nitro engine after storage?

Storing RC nitro engine vehicles tends to happen spontaneously. Sometimes, we just set them aside to play with later and then life gets busy. Suddenly, you’re cleaning out your garage two years later, and you find your nitro engine sitting where you left it. When yanking on the start pull doesn’t work, it’s easy to worry that your nitro is out of the running for good. I’m here to tell you not to freak out. With just a little bit of work, you should have your vehicle up and running in no time.

How can you start your nitro engine after storage? Clean out your old fuel from the fuel lines, tank, and carburetor. Check to make sure nothing is damaged from the long-term storage, then refill your nitro tank, prime your engine, and start your nitro.

If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. I’ll break it down into easy-to-follow steps that should have your vehicle running in no time.


Remove old fuel

The first step, once you pull your RC out of storage, is to check it for old fuel. If you were planning on storing it for a while, you would ideally have removed all the fuel before storing it in a warmer area.

However, since long-term storage is often a spontaneous and accidental decision, old fuel will often still be inside the tank. If that is the case, the first step is to get rid of that fuel. Whether it’s a lawn mower, a car, or an RC nitro, old fuel can prevent your engine from starting.

Drain your fuel tank by dumping out the fuel if it’s still in a liquid state. However, if your fuel has solidified into a jelly-like substance inside the tank, you will need to remove the tank and flush it out with hot water. Try not to drop the old fuel down the drain.

Make sure your tank is completely dry before replacing it. Next, check your fuel tubes and carb. If they are clogged with sticky fuel, you can clean them out with glow engine/carb cleaning products or methylated spirits.

Check your tubes

While you’re checking for fuel, also make sure your tubes are in good shape. If they’re cracked or split, you should replace them. If you can’t flush the tubes due to blockages or you don’t have the right products to clean them, just replacing them is also a fairly cheap alternative.

They’re not too expensive, and if you leave damaged fuel tubes in your car, they can cause your nitro to run erratically or not at all. Pull out your manual and make sure that your lines are connected the way they should be. Check your fuel tank for cracks and rust and make sure the cap is sealing nicely when closed.

Test your Glow Igniter and Plug

Make sure you charge your glow igniter overnight before doing this step or you might get mixed results. To check if your glow igniter is working, take the glow plug out of your nitro and hold it against the end of the glow igniter. Inside the plug is a coil that will glow a bright orange if everything is functioning properly.

If that doesn’t work, you probably will need to get a spare glow plug (if you don’t have one already). Once you have a spare glow plug, test the new plug against the igniter. If the plug doesn’t glow, you have an issue with your igniter. If it does work, your plug just needs to be replaced. Insert the new plug into your machine.

Try the electronics

Replace the batteries in the controller, then check to make sure the steering and brakes work and that the carburetor is opening and shutting. You’ll want to do this step before you try running the car, because if there is an issue with the electronics, your car may not respond when you want it to.

This can be a problem, for example, if it’s flying down the street at full speed and suddenly there’s a baby in a stroller right in front of it. Brakes and steering are important.

Prime and start your engine

If everything is correctly connected and looks good, it’s time to add some new fuel to your vehicle. Don’t fill it too full at first, because if there are problems you might have to drain it back out.

Depending on the age of your nitro, your car may have a primer. If it does, pump it until you no longer have air bubbles in your fuel line. If you don’t have a prime button you can still prime your engine by holding a cloth or your finger over the exhaust while you use the start-pull. If fuel won’t flow into your tubing, you probably have a blockage. Recheck the tubing, the tank, and the carburetor.

Once primed, it’s time to start your engine. Pull the start until it idles, and then let it warm up for a minute or two before racing it.

Related Questions

After priming, my engine won’t turn over. What is wrong? Often, if it’s not turning over after priming, you may have flooded the engine with too much fuel. To fix this, simply remove the glow plug with the glow plug removed. Then turn the engine over a few times. Put the glow plug back in and try again.

Are there any other tips you can give me for helping a sluggish nitro engine? If you have access to electricity, you can try to use a hairdryer or a heat gun to warm up the engine. Sometimes a warm engine will solve a lot of your problems.

How should I properly store my nitro engine? While we often leave our nitro engines in storage on accident, there may be cases where you want to store our nitro car for a while. Nitro engines don’t run well in rain or snow, and since you can’t run them inside because of the fumes, it might become necessary to put it away for the winter or the rainy season.

You might also have a spare engine that you want to store until another one of your engines bites the dust. Whatever your reason for storing your nitro engine there are a few steps that you can take before you store it that will help it to start up much more quickly once you are ready to drive it again.

  • Step 1: Drain fuel from the tank
    If you drain the fuel before you store it, you won’t have to clean it out afterward. As we discussed, unused fuel can gel and clog up your engine and fuel tubes. Make sure you are emptying the tubes and tank. You can also use a bulb syringe to suck out any left-over drops so they don’t cause your engine to rust or form blockages. A good general cleaning of the car will also prevent particles from damaging it during storage.
  • Step 2: Take off the tires
    Anything made out of rubber will eventually rot. There are steps you can take to prolong the life of your tires. Adding a little WD40 to your tires will keep them in great condition for a lot longer. Removing your tires will also give your suspension a chance to take a break. You can place your car on a Styrofoam block instead.
  • Step 3: Clean the engine and apply oil
    Clean the outside of your engine of dirt and debris. Then, once nothing is going to accidentally fall into your engine, remove the glow plug and pour some After Run oil or generic equivalent on top of the piston. To get the oil to circulate, you can move the car around a bit and loosen the flywheel. You can also place some oil in the carburetor and then pull the start a few times.
  • Step 4: Remove and clean the air filter
    This step is pretty self-explanatory. Once you have taken out your air filter and cleaned it, you can put some air filter oil on it. However, you want to make sure the filter is dry before you place it back in your vehicle. Placing it back in the vehicle will keep it from collecting dust during storage, so you’ll want to make sure to put it back in before you store your car.
  • Step 5: Remove batteries
    Sometimes batteries will leak while the car is being stored, so removing them from both the vehicle and controller will prevent damage to your vehicle.
  • Step 6: Prevent particles from entering your engine
    During storage, dust and/or moisture might enter your vehicle and damage it. If you have a large plastic bag that you can seal, placing your vehicle inside will prevent anything from entering after you’ve cleaned it. You can also use tissue paper to plug any openings that might allow foreign matter to enter.
    If you do these six steps, your vehicle should start right up after storage. Try and keep it in a place that’s not too cold, as cold can be damaging and might make it difficult to start.

What mixture setting should I use in my carburetor? In cooler weather, the nitro car will tend to run leaner, while in warmer weather the car will run richer. You can use your low-speed needle (LSN) to adjust this. If your LSN is set too high, your engine may have enough gas to start (Click here to see how Petrol cars get started), but it will usually cause it to choke up and shut itself off.

This happens because not enough fuel is entering the carb. If the LSN is too rich, more fuel will be pumping than your car needs. This extra fuel will cause lots of smoke and the exhaust will stutter. There is also a high-speed needle (HSN), but generally adjusting the LSN is sufficient.

To adjust the LSN, look at your carburetor.  You’ll want to adjust the LSN. To lessen the amount of gas entering the carb, turn the LSN clockwise at 1/8th inch increments. Test your car after each adjustment.

To increase the amount of gas, turn it counterclockwise in equally small amounts. It is better to have it slightly too much gas, instead of too little. You can burn out your engine if it’s not getting enough gas.

What do I do if my electric RC car won’t start after storage? Nitro engines aren’t the only cars that occasionally have issues. Unlike the Nitro engine (Click here to see how to clean a gummed-up engine), the electric engine won’t have to worry about leftover gas or debris.

However, just because the electric RC car is less likely to have problems doesn’t mean that they can’t happen. When your electric car isn’t working, there are a variety of things that can be wrong. Here are a few things to check before you buy a new replacement RC car. As I list certain things that can cause problems, I’ll start with really simple fixes and move on to more complicated issues.

  • Make sure you’ve turned on both switches. This can happen to the best of us. It’s easy to forget that you’ve turned off one or both of the on/off switches. Make sure the switches on both the remote control and the car have been pushed to ‘On.’
  • If you have more than one RC, it can be easy to confuse your controllers. Make sure you have the right controller for the right vehicle. There should be a matching frequency label on both the vehicle and the transmitter. This is usually located by the battery compartment.
  • Charge or replace the batteries. I have rechargeable batteries in my controller and a battery pack in my car. I always charge them right before I want to drive my electric car. Electric engines can drain batteries pretty quickly, so make sure your batteries are fully charged to start. Rechargeable battery packs tend to last longer than one-time-use batteries, so you’ll save a lot of money by investing in something that can be recharged. Also, make sure the batteries have been placed correctly, with the proper charge facing the right direction. Check for leaking batteries and clean the battery points of contact if there has been some corrosion.
  • If your RC is responding erratically, make sure the antenna is extended fully. An antenna that is damaged can prevent your car from receiving signals when it gets too far away from you. It can also prevent your car from responding quickly to your commands.
  • If some buttons work but your car doesn’t seem to respond to others, you probably have a problem with your wiring or your servos. Take a look. If the wires are just loose, you can reattach them. However, if they are disconnected, they may require soldering to reattach. If you have a solder gun and experience, this can be a quick fix. If you don’t, it might be cheaper just to buy a new vehicle, depending on the quality of your RC car.
  • If your car is making a grinding noise and/or won’t move, you may have a problem with your gears. Sometimes you can fix this problem by simply retightening the pinion gear and making sure that it is properly realigned with the spur gear. If you understood that, well done. If not, some video tutorials on YouTube can help you. However, if your gears are stripped, you’ll have to replace them entirely.

How can I begin racing RC cars socially or professionally?

If you have a local RC hobby shop, many of them have an RC track or will know where one is available. Some people take racing very seriously and may require you to gain membership in a national organization. However, many others are very relaxed and will welcome all newcomers.

If you don’t have a local hobby shop, there are a few other places you can check:

Getting into racing can be nerve-wracking, but it can be a fantastic way to meet other people with similar interests. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be successful, and generally, people are happy to answer questions and help out people who are less familiar with the lingo and culture. Like every new experience, there will be a learning curve, but with a little effort (and possibly after a few hours’ drive) you should be able to race in no time.