Basic 1/32 Slot Car Set Up - Aftermarket Performance Tips
By Chris Ross

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Basic 1/32 Plastic Slot Car Set Up Aftermarket Performance Tips

Basic 1/32 Slot Car Set Up

Not all slot cars are created equal. Some cars are great out of the box, others need some attention to get running properly. Before any serious running of a slot car is done, take into account the following tips to ensure your slot car performs at her best, and also lasts.

Firstly remove the body. Generally there are between two and six Phillips head screws holding things together. There may also be tabs holding the body and chassis together, so if it doesn't come apart easily, have a good look prior to using any force. Then:

Lightly superglue the motor in place - This reduces 'chatter' caused when the motor moves in its housing under acceleration and braking.

Lightly superglue rear bushes in place - Doing this means all the energy bought from pinion to crown is directed into rotational force. As a bonus this will increase gear and bush/bearing life.

True all plastic wheels - Plastic wheels tend often to have 'flashing' from the moulding process. Remove the tyres and carefully cut any flashing off using a hobby knife. By revving the motor you will quickly see if the rear tyres are round and true, and if they are not, rev the motor and using a file gently apply pressure to the wheel until it is round. For the front wheels a dremel with a rubber wheel and sandpaper tends to work effectively

True all tyres - The rear tyres will become round over time, but to ensure all your power is going to the track, place sandpaper beneath the rear wheels, apply full power and apply gentle pressure until the tyres are nice and round. This may take a while, and if it does, pay careful attention to the heat of the motor, and the condition of the gears, we don't want to break it before we race it! Once the tyres are nice and round, you will notice the outside edge of the tyre is square, a light sanding of this will help the car slide more gracefully. To true front tyres follow the same routine as with truing the front wheels. Also be aware that when truing tyres and also wheels that some material may become airborne, so safety first and get those trendy glasses on!

Tyres - depending on how loose your tyre is on the wheel, it may be a good idea to glue the tyre to the wheel. We tend to use four light dots of water based contact adhesive at 90 degree increments, applied with a toothpick..

Lubrication! - All moving parts tend to like some lubrication from time to time. A light oil such as Champion or Mura oil on the bushes/bearings every hour or two of running will ensure your car runs smooth and quiet, a small drop will do. Occasionally a drop on each end of the motor will also be a good idea. It is not advised to oil early 21.5k orange end bell motors from the mid 00's.
For the gears we recommend a heavier grease, such as Parma home set lube, again using a light amount, as any excess will cover the internals of your slot car.

Braid - The stiffness of the braid or pick-ups varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and generally speaking the softer the braid the better the car will perform, but as a result will not last as long. Always keep your braid clean and tidy, and with a little bit of spring so even on a bumpy track or when right on the limit your car is still getting power.

Body 'float' - Ensure the body and chassis make minimal contact with each other. Ordinarily some sandpaper on the edge of the chassis will do the job. Sometimes where the chassis forms part of the body, ie Scalextric Ford GT40, this is not an option for any but the most enthusiastic of butchers.

Screws - When reattaching the body, keep your screws a turn or so loose, which acts as a dampener. If the screw threads bind on the chassis, either replace the screws with MB Slot or aftermarket screws, or using a drill bit open the holes a little, careful not so much that the screw heads go through. Ultimately you want to be able to hold the chassis and rock the body with no interference. Once you've had some practice here you will find the screw settings will act as suspension, so sometimes very loose is perfect, sometimes tight, and it may vary from front to rear. Some Scalextric and Pioneer cars have screws to hold the interior to the chassis, for best performance remove them and leave them off.

Now you have the car on the track. A few gentle laps to get a feel of how the car runs, and should it be a happy car it's time to start pushing, and should it not be happy, the 'black art' of slot car handling commences.

Weight - The following suggestions often defy the laws of real car racing, so before you dismiss these ideas, give them a try.
If the car is spinning out to regularly, and the tyres have grip, some weight either under or behind the rear axle will help the tyres gain traction.
Another trick to reduce oversteer is a small amount of weight as high as you can in the body, a couple of grams should do. When the weight transfer occurs, the body wants to tip, and as a result places pressure on the outside rear wheel, which is where you want it. If your car has set screw aluminium wheels you can bring the rear wheels in a little, this will also help.
If the car is deslotting from the front in an understeering or pushing fashion, some weight close to the front axle will help.
Generally the lighter the car, the more responsive it is, and there is also less stress on the motor and gears, so try to keep the car at a reasonable weight.

Remember it's all about relaxing with a hobby, so whilst we all enjoy fitting performance parts to our cars, often the fun is in getting the standard car running to her full potential without spending a fortune.

Slot Car racing is all about practice and the good old trial and error method. Whilst we are doing our best to make sure your slot car is always running at her best, please be aware that not all methods mentioned will work for all cars, and likewise not all methods will work for you. So please, if you don't think something will work then perhaps have a good think about it, maybe even try something else. After all, it's better to have a car running at a reasonable pace than it is to have one accidently cut in half!

Aftermarket Performance Tips

When we think aftermarket, we tend to think hotter motor. Whilst more power is often more fun, unless your chassis can handle the extra power it is often a good way to slow your car down. Feel free to use the following information to help you on your way to glory.

Guide - If you have a routed track, or a Carrera track, a wood guide will help increase your cornering speed. Should you have a plastic track such as Scalextric, SCX or Ninco, the Ninco suspension guide is a good option.

Wheels - Your wheels need to be round and true, if they are not, your car will have a tendency to deslot at random. A set of aftermarket aluminium wheels is a great way of getting your car smooth and predictable, and there is a good range of wheel inserts available to keep your car looking true to scale.

Tyres - Should your track be clean and in regular use, a rubber tyre often gives you the best grip, something like a BRM, or 'F' series. When using these tyres, take note of the shore rating, the smaller the number, the softer the tyre. Be aware that whilst softer tyres offer more grip, they will also wear quickly, and may overheat, resulting in 'marbles' on the tyres. If your track is used less often, a urethane tyre such as an Ortmann will be most suitable as they aren't too worried by a little dust. Ortmann tyres also offer a great size range, so may be the only option, and will work great on any surface.

Bushes/bearings - The axle should be snug in the bearing, and if there is any movement in the bearing, the car may hop or shudder. A good set of bronze bushes will solve this issue, but bear in mind if your axle is knearled, you will likely need to replace the axle and wheels also.

Gears - Aftermarket gears tend to have a better mesh, so will be quieter. By varying the gear ratio, you can customise your cars speed to best suit your track. As a guide, a large pinion and/or small crown/spur gear will give you slower acceleration but greater top speed, whereas a small pinion and/or large crown/spur gear will give you better acceleration but less top speed. When I say large or small, I'm referring to the number of teeth on the gear, not the diameter.

Motor - Ok, we all want a zillion rpm motor, but this is seldom the best decision to make. Select a motor that will best suit the handling of the car, and the class of cars you want the car to run with. We all like winning, but demolishing the field with your supercar will likely become boring, especially for your opposition. Generally a modern sports car with a wide track and long wheel base will respond well to a high performance motor, where a touring car will simply struggle and spend more time upside down. If you do fit a hot motor, something like the NSR entry level 20,000rpm Shark motor will do wonders, and honestly anything over 25,000rpm is a bit of a risk.

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