Drifting has become one of the coolest segments of the RC hobby, and many RC manufacturers have added purpose-built drift cars to their line-ups. Drift cars are essentially 4WD touring cars with special hard compound tires that defy traction and allow these cars to slide (drift) around corners. Like other forms of RC competition, drifting requires driving skill and suspension tuning knowledge. Certain modifications can be made to divert traction to the front or rear of the vehicle and make the car handle more to your liking.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Turnbuckle wrench
- Camber adjusting tool
- Perfectly flat surface
- Appropriate screwdrivers or Allen wrenches
- Yardstick or a 2-by-4-inch block of wood
Set up the rear tires with seven degrees of negative camber and the front tires with five degrees. Camber adjusts the tire’s contact patch with the driving surface. Leaning the tires inward toward the chassis produces negative camber and reduces the contact patch on the outside portion of the tires. Use a turnbuckle wrench to adjust the length of the turnbuckles. Reducing the length increases negative camber. Use a quality camber gauge to adjust the camber accurately.
Set the front chassis height at 3mm and the rear chassis height at 4mm. Ride height adjusts the chassis height in relation to the driving surface. Lowering the ride height reduces the amount of front-to-rear weight transfer, essentially forcing the car into a slide when turning at higher speeds. Use a chassis ride height tool or a set of calipers to adjust the ride height accurately.
Toe the front tires out approximately three degrees. Setting up the car with toe out means the front of the tires tilt outwards away from the chassis. Toe out will increase the amount of on-power steering and decrease steering when you let off the throttle. Place your car up against a yardstick or block of wood with the wheels pressed against the surface. Adjust the steering links with a turnbuckle wrench and use a camber gauge to check your angles.
Stiffen up the suspension. Fill the shocks with silicone oil in the 50 to 60 weight range. The oil viscosity (weight) will vary depending on the shock pistons installed inside the shocks. Stiffening up the suspension will reduce side-to-side chassis roll and front-to-rear weight transfer, causing the vehicle to initiate a slide much easier.
Install a direct-drive spool in place of the rear differential. Eliminating the rear differential greatly reduces the amount of rear traction, which increases steering while accelerating. Optional direct-drive spools are available for most 4WD touring and drift cars and they should be considered a must-have option if you’re serious about drifting.
Install a front one-way differential. One-way differentials are actually not differentials at all. They allow the front tires to “freewheel” or continue to spin when you apply the brakes or let off the throttle. You car loses its front wheel braking ability, which forces the rear wheels to do all the braking. This causes the rear wheels to lock up and lose traction, increasing the amount of steering entering corners.
Install a high-speed steering servo. Drifting requires constant steering manoeuvres to keep the vehicle in the proper “angle” around the corners. A high-speed steering servo will react quicker to your steering inputs and greatly improve your driving precision.
Install the body as low as possible, but make sure it does not scrape on the road surface or cause the tires to rub inside the wheel wells. You may need to trim the body with Lexan scissors to attain the desired results.
Tips and warnings
- The suspension mods outlined here are good starting points based on set-up advice from many professional RC enthusiasts. Don't be afraid to experiment with different camber, ride height and toe angle adjustments. The goal is to find a set-up that best suits your skill level and driving style.