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What’s Better: Nitro or Petrol RC Cars?

If you want to know if Nitro or Petrol (Gas) RC cars are better keep reading. Also, learn if these Nitro cars can run on petrol fuel, and what the difference is between these two cars.

What’s Better: Nitro or Petrol RC Cars?

If you prioritize agility, quick acceleration, and the challenge of regular maintenance, a nitro car might be for you. On the other hand, if you prefer longer run times, consistent power, and potentially lower fuel costs, a petrol car might be more up your alley.

Before making a purchase, it’s a good idea to try out both types of cars, if possible, to see which one resonates with your driving style and maintenance comfort level.

Nitro RC Cars

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  • Size and Weight: Nitro RC cars tend to be smaller and lighter than their petrol counterparts. This makes them more agile, and for some enthusiasts, more fun to drive.
  • Acceleration: Due to their lightweight and power source, nitro cars can have quick acceleration, giving them an edge in races that require sharp turns and rapid speed changes.
  • Availability: Nitro fuel is readily available at many hobby stores, making it relatively easy for enthusiasts to keep their cars running.


  • Maintenance: Nitro cars require regular maintenance to keep them in top condition. This includes cleaning the engine, checking the fuel lines, and ensuring that the car is properly tuned.
  • Noise: Nitro cars can be quite noisy, which may not be suitable for all environments or preferences.
  • Fuel Cost: While nitro fuel is easily available, it can be more expensive than petrol, especially if you are driving your car frequently.

Petrol RC Cars


  • Endurance: Petrol RC cars can run for longer periods on a single tank of fuel compared to nitro cars. This makes them ideal for longer races or extended play sessions.
  • Torque and Power: Petrol engines, especially in larger-scale RC cars, deliver more torque, allowing for powerful and consistent performance.
  • Fuel Cost: Petrol is typically cheaper than nitro fuel, which can make it more cost-effective in the long run for frequent drivers.


  • Size and Weight: Petrol RC cars tend to be larger and heavier, which can affect their agility and manoeuvrability.
  • Maintenance: While they might not require as frequent maintenance as nitro cars, petrol cars still need regular check-ups, especially given their complex engines.
  • Startup Time: Petrol engines can sometimes take longer to start up, especially in colder climates.

Can Nitro RC Cars Run on Petrol?

No, you cannot run a nitro RC car on petrol. While the idea of using readily available petrol for nitro RC cars may sound appealing, the differences in the fuels’ properties and the potential for engine damage make it an impractical choice.

For those keen on utilizing petrol, it’s advisable to invest in an RC car designed for gasoline use. Always ensure you’re using the right fuel for your specific model to keep your RC experience enjoyable and prolong the lifespan of your vehicle.

Understanding the Basics: Nitro Fuel vs. Petrol


  • Nitro Fuel: Also known as nitromethane fuel, nitro fuel is a blend of nitromethane, methanol, and oil. The nitromethane content boosts the power of the engine, methanol acts as the primary fuel, and the oil provides essential lubrication.
  • Petrol: Petrol, or gasoline, is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons derived from crude oil. It’s designed for full-sized internal combustion engines in cars, trucks, and other vehicles.

Combustion Characteristics

  • Nitro Fuel: The presence of nitromethane allows the fuel to burn at lower temperatures and provides more oxygen during the combustion process. This means that nitro engines don’t need as much atmospheric oxygen to run.
  • Petrol: Requires a different air-to-fuel ratio and burns at a higher temperature than nitro fuel.

Why Petrol isn’t Suitable for Nitro RC Engines

  • Different Combustion Dynamics: As mentioned above, nitro fuel and petrol have different combustion properties. Using petrol in a nitro engine would upset the air-to-fuel ratio, which could result in incomplete combustion or even prevent the engine from starting.
  • Lubrication Issues: Nitro fuel contains oil to lubricate the engine’s internal components. Petrol doesn’t contain this lubricant. Running a nitro RC car on petrol could cause the engine’s components to wear out rapidly due to the lack of lubrication.
  • Potential for Engine Damage: Given the different combustion temperatures and characteristics, using petrol in a nitro engine could lead to engine knock, overheating, or other forms of damage.
  • Performance Concerns: Even if the nitro RC car’s engine were to run on petrol, it would likely experience a significant reduction in performance, power, and efficiency.

Is There an Alternative?

For those interested in running RC cars on petrol, there are gasoline-powered RC cars designed specifically for that purpose. These cars have engines similar to those found in chainsaws or leaf blowers, adapted for RC use. They use a mixture of petrol and oil, similar to other two-stroke engines.

What are the Pros of Nitro RC Cars?

Here are the pros:

Realistic Experience:

One of the most cited reasons enthusiasts are drawn to nitro RC cars is the realism they provide. The roar of the engine, the exhaust smoke, and even the necessity for regular maintenance mirror the experience of owning a full-sized vehicle.

Extended Run Times:

Unlike electric RC cars that might need a break to recharge batteries, nitro RC cars can be refuelled in seconds, allowing for extended play sessions. This means more track time and less waiting around.

Tunable Performance:

Nitro engines can be tuned to a degree that electric motors can’t match. Enthusiasts can adjust air/fuel mixtures, change glow plugs, and even modify or upgrade certain engine components to boost performance.

Thermal Efficiency:

Nitro engines tend to be more thermally efficient as they run hotter than their electric counterparts. This translates to more energy from the fuel being converted into power.

Versatility in Terrain:

The power and torque delivered by nitro engines often mean that these vehicles can tackle a broader range of terrains, from asphalt to rough off-road conditions.

Learning Opportunity:

Maintaining a nitro engine offers an educational curve. Hobbyists get to learn about combustion engines’ workings, from carburettor adjustments to understanding compression and exhaust cycles.

This knowledge can be a gateway to deeper automotive understanding or even a career in mechanics.

Independence from Electricity:

Since they don’t rely on electric batteries, nitro RC cars offer the freedom to operate in places where electricity might not be readily available. There’s no need for chargers or outlets; a bottle of nitro fuel is all that’s needed.

A Sense of Community:

While this isn’t exclusive to nitro cars, many local RC clubs host nitro-specific events or races. Participating or even spectating at such events can help newcomers learn more about their cars and connect with seasoned hobbyists.

Long-term Cost Efficiency:

While the initial investment might be higher, in the long run, buying fuel can be cheaper than frequently replacing expensive lithium batteries used in electric RC cars.

Distinctive Sound and Smell:

For many, the distinct sound of a nitro engine and the characteristic smell of nitro exhaust add to the immersive experience, making it feel like more than just a toy.