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Should You Use an RC Transmitter Stick or Wheel?

When it comes to operating the car, there are two popular methods to control it. One is a radio control transmitter stick, the other is a radio control transmitter wheel. Now, you might be asking, what’s the difference? That’s exactly what we are going to find out.

Should you use an RC transmitter stick or wheel? You should use a wheel. However, that is my opinion. All RC transmitters use the same underlying controls to move the car forward, reverse, turn, and break. Some use joysticks to move the car, while others use a wheel and trigger to move the car. When it comes down to which to use, it’s really about which you prefer.

You’re probably asking yourself “Why do I need to know any of this?” Regardless of why you’re looking at this article, you’ll find new information that you might not have known before.

If you’re a new hobbyist looking for some information about your new-found passion or a parent wondering what type of RC transmitter to get your child, there’s something for everyone.

What is an RC Transmitter Stick?

In Layman’s terms, an RC Transmitter stick uses joysticks to operate radio-controlled planes and cars. Depending on the type of RC stick you have, there may be one joystick that controls everything; or there may be several that have a specific function.

These are most commonly used in airplanes and drones; one is used to control the up-down motion while another controls where the device turns. In cars, there are several ways that the transmitter can be designed, but much like for planes, the joysticks control all movements for the device. The use of this RC transmitter allows you to have more direct control over your device.

What is an RC Transmitter Wheel?

An RC transmitter wheel is similar to the RC transmitter stick as it uses frequencies to control your device. Of the two devices, it has less features. It includes a knob to steer the device,  Servo-Reverse switches to control the direction that the car moves and turns, and a throttle trigger to make the car move.

In addition to the features on the transmitter, there is the receiver, which receives all the signals that the radio transmits. One important thing to note is the transmitter and the receiver must be on the same frequency in order for the vehicle to work.

How do you control a Transmitter Wheel?

Of the two choices that you have when considering an RC Transmitter, the wheel is the easier of the two. First you have to switch the device on and use a smaller switch to determine if the car is going forward or backwards.

While pressing down on the trigger to accelerate, you turn the tire to the left or to the right. Turning the wheel to the right will make the car go right and the same with turning it to the left.

One thing to note is that when you switch the direction of the car, there is a second switch that switches the direction that the car steers in. Both have to be the same way, if the switch that controls the steering is in reverse, when you turn the knob to the left, it will turn to the right.

How do you control a Transmitter Stick?

To control a stick transmitter, you have to determine how many channels are on the transmitter. The more features that the transmitter has, the more channels it has.

For a two channel RC controller, one control will control the steering and the other will control the throttle. However, if you have a six channel RC controller, different movements will decide not only how it turns, but also the different sounds, lights and other features that the RC controller might have. Typically, if you are a beginner you want to start with a two-channel transmitter. Start slow and then build your way up to more functions.


Related Questions

What different frequencies are available for transmitters? The general range for toy and hobby grade RC vehicles is 27 MHz. In that range are six channels, which are also color coded. The most common frequency used for RC transmitters is 27.145 Megahertz (MHz) which is channel 4 (yellow).

The other frequencies range from 26.995 MHz (Channel 1- red) to 27.255 MHz (Channel 6- blue). Two other ranges used for RC vehicles are also 49 MHz and 50 MHz, thought the 50 MHz can only be used if you have an amateur radio license. The frequencies above that become more complicated and, in some cases, are not legal for certain type of RC vehicles.

What different features do these transmitters have to offer? When choosing your transmitter, there are several awesome features that they offer and you should consider.

The first is the channels, which we discussed earlier. In case you forgot, the channels control how the vehicle moves.

Generally, most beginners start with a 2 channel that controls the steering and the throttle. If it includes reverse, that would be considered three channels.

Professionals tend to use 3 or more channels for control. This is not to be confused with the range. Range is dependent on the vehicle, but in general the higher the ranger, the farther you can operate the car.

Want to be a little more Tron-esque? Some transmitters offer Telemetry features. These features are more likely to be used by professionals, as it monitors different aspects of the car’s performance.

You can monitor RPM, Temperature, car battery, all sorts of things! Because of how confusing and distracting this addition can be, it really is suggested that professionals use this.

What is the difference between a 2 and 6 channel transmitter? When you start talking about a two channel versus a six-channel transmitter, it sounds scarier than it really is. In reality it’s pretty simple and straightforward: the more channels that you have, the more features that a person is able to control.

For example, in a two channel transmitter, channel one could be steering and channel two could be the throttle. In a six-channel transmitter, you can control throttle, steering, lights, sounds, etc! In general, remote control cars have a two-channel transmitter.

Tank models they have six channels to control all the extra features. See? Not so scary after all. Beginners/ non hobbyists/ kids will prefer the simpler two channel; while more serious hobbyists/professionals will choose more channels to control more parts of their vehicle.

What is a Radio Channel in an RC Car Transmitter? Radio channels in an RC transmitter aren’t like the radio channels you’d hear in the car. Channels are determined by the frequency that the transmitter is set at.

Each individual channel controls a different function of the vehicle. What does this mean in English? For example, say you buy a two channel RC transmitter stick, one of the joysticks will control the steering and the other will control the acceleration. Each of the sticks operates on a different channel.

Throwing some science in here, the average frequency that RC transmitters for toy cars works on is 27 MHz. There are six channels there, organized numerically and named by color. Confused?

Essentially the six channels are organized as channel one through channel six. Each channel is assigned a color. The first six channels are as followed:

  • Channel 1- Brown- 26.995 MHz
  • Channel 2- Red- 27.045 MHz
  • Channel 3- Orange- 21.095 MHz
  • Channel 4- Yellow- 27.145 MHz
  • Channel 5- Green- 27.195 MHz
  • Channel 6- Blue- 27.255 MHz

That’s the easy section. At one range, there are over sixty channels!


Why Does the RC Car Receiver have to be on the same Frequency? The reason that you want the receiver frequency to be the same as the transmitter is so the car you have will work.

If you have two RC transmitters of the same frequency (Click here to see how to connect these remotes) get near each other, the signals will get mixed up. When they get crossed, the vehicles might begin to act strange or the controller will try to control both.

Oh no! Is there anyway to prevent this?! Yes, there is! There are several ways to prevent your radio frequencies from crossing: keep your RC vehicles away from each other, use different radio frequencies, or choose RC vehicles with band selectable frequencies. A band Selectable frequency means that the user can choose what portion of the frequency to use.