Exciting. Thrilling. These are some words you’d probably hear someone say if they were talking about drifting. Drifting is one of the most interesting things you can do with an RC car, which is why we decided to write this guide. We analyzed popular drift cars to see which one’s stood out the most, and which one’s weren’t that good.
After careful consideration and hours of research, we believe the Sakura D4 is the best RC drift car in today’s market. It had the most to offer in terms of performance, durability, and customer service. If you were interested in an RTR drift car, the HPI Racing Sprint 2 Drift Sport was our favorite.
Drifting, in motor sports terms, is the act of making a car lose all traction to the back wheels, or sometimes all the wheels, at the same time while still keeping control of the car. It is an amazingly showy sport, and drifting competitions are held all over the world. These competitions are judged by several factors, including the line taken through a corner or set of corners, and the showmanship with which a drift is done.
However, drifting isn’t just for actual cars. There are RC drifters too. Today we will look at the RC version of this fascinating sport, and you will learn everything you need to know about drifting.
What is an RC Drift Car?
The short answer is that it’s an RC car specially designed for drifting. However, that would be a gross oversimplification of the facts.
An RC drift car either comes set up to make it easier to drift, or if it’s a regular RC car, it will need to be modified for that purpose.
Drivers who plan to drift put special low-traction drift tires made of ABS plastic piping or other similar materials on their cars. They may also replace motors, shocks and brakes and to change the weight balance.
Drifting is usually done on four-wheel-drive electric RC cars. However, some hobbyists choose to use nitro-powered models as well, though these are more complex and not as easy to control. Using a nitro RC for drifting could also burn out the clutch.
Building a Drift Car
For the purposes of this guide, I will assume you are starting from scratch. If this is the case, you first need to pick a base car. Pretty much any on-road four-wheel-drive electric RC car is a good candidate for being a drifter. However, you will have to make some modifications to this base car.
The first thing you should absolutely do when you’ve picked out the base car is to lock the rear differential. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the type of differentials your car has. Some companies even make what is known as a spool. This is a solid axle that you replace your car’s back axle with. This axle will lock the rear differential so that the rear wheels both spin at the same time. This prevents you from doing doughnuts.
There are several ways to lock a differential, and it all depends on the type of car you have. If you are very new to the world of drifting, or to the RC hobby in general, it might be wise to ask a more knowledgeable friend for help determining your type of differential. However, you will know that it is locked if you can turn one back wheel and make the other one spin.
There are three kinds of front differentials, and which one you choose depends on what sort of track you want to drift on.
Ball front differentials work best on wide, sweeping tracks but have problems on technical tracks. They’re some of the most popular types of differentials.
Locked front differentials are locked just like the back set. These work best on technical tracks and aren’t very common.
The final type of front differential is the one-way. Just like the name implies, they allow the wheels to spin one way while not allowing them to spin the other. These can be twitchy, though they’re wonderful if you know how to use them.
A Note On CVD’s
CVD’s (Constant Velocity Drive-shafts) replace the dog bones that fit between the differential cups and the outer drive cups at the wheels. The outer cups are connected to the dog bones, which prevents dog bone slippage. However, the screw holding the dog bone can come out and shred your hubs. Be careful to put a little thread lock on it to keep this from happening.
Types of Chassis: Belt-driven
Choosing the type of chassis on your drift car is an important step, and it all depends on what you want out of the chassis. Belt-driven chassis have better acceleration on throttle, No torque steer and less drive train loss due to a lighter transmission. However, on the downside, the belts in belt-driven chassis often stretch over time and require replacement. Their pulleys are often not closed, leading to debris shredding your belts.
Types of Chassis: Shaft Driven
As with belt-driven chassis designs, there are several pros and cons to shaft-driven chassis. On the upside, they have immediate power the minute you hit the throttle. The differentials are generally enclosed, which prevents debris from flying in. The shafts also last longer. Perhaps the biggest upside to a shaft-driven chassis is that this type of chassis is easier to maintain, and doesn’t have the stretching problems that belt-driven systems do.
On the other side, the biggest con of a shaft car is torque steer. Torque steer is the tendency of shaft-driven cars to steer a bit to one side or the other. The reason for this is that the torque from the drive shaft must change directions several times before reaching the wheels due to the layout of the drive train.
Another con of the shaft-driven chassis is the limited gearing options. For example, the popular TT01 only have three spur gears that you can use.
The final con of a shaft-driven car is the possibility of debris flying into the area where the shaft is. If a rock flies into this area, it can lock the shaft, which could damage the motor, differentials and other important components.
For motors, you will want something that has high torque. Gear that motor for acceleration as opposed to speed. You’ll need the acceleration in order to properly drift.
The Perfect Tires
As stated above, drift tires are made of a hard rubber or alternatively ABS, PVC, or PE and HDPE plastics. All drift tires are hard, unlike the softer compound rubber of racing tires. This hardness means that they slide much better than the softer racing tires as well as having a longer lifespan. However, there are some differences between the three types of tires that must be discussed.
- ABS is very popular for drifting because it has good slide capability and wear characteristics.
- PVC tires are less popular than ABS because they tend to create a lot of dust as you drive on them.
- If you prefer the feel and grip of softer tires but still want to drift, try PE and HDPE. They have better wear characteristics.
Making Your Own Drift Tires
If you want to make your own drift tires to put on your touring car, it’s a very simple process. Go to your local hardware store and ask for ten feet of two-inch PVC pipe. Make sure to buy the roundest pipes you can. Also be aware that not all two-inch pipe is exactly two inches diameter.
If your pipe diameter is too large to fit properly onto the rims of your car, simply wrap duct tape around the rim three to four times and then attach the pipes to the rims.
You can also make drift tires from the caps of old spray paint cans. Simply slide them over your car’s normal rubber tires and glue them on.
If you don’t want to make your own tires, several companies make specialized drift tires, or feature plastic drift rings that can be inserted over the tires.
There are several types of drift setup, depending on your car’s configuration and your experience level. The normal type that beginning drifters work with is 50-50 drifting. In this way, the power is evenly split between the front and back differentials. This is the kind of setup for most cars, whether they are drifting or not.
As you become more adept at drifting, you may wish to change this setup. You might choose to go with a specialized chassis, one that will allow you to change the amount of power for each differential. For example you could have a 70% power to the back differential and a 30% to the front. This will change your drift characteristics.
Where and How To Drift
Technically, you can drift anywhere. The key here is having a large, smooth space. If you have an on-road track, check to see if they have drift events. The key to learning to drift is to practice, perhaps while exiting a corner. Start by accelerating. The more you accelerate, the more stable your car will be. When you hit the corner, accelerate more to break the rear traction. Your car should start to tail slide. This is what you want. Countersteer back to normal and accelerate away. You’ve just completed the first step of a drift. Practice this step until you can do it consistently.
To actually drift around a corner, drive into the corner but instead of braking and turning like you would in normal racing, hit the steering and the brake at the same time. This’ll break loose your rear end and start your drift swing. Countersteer to keep the car’s nose pointed toward the apex of the corner until you’re around it, then steer back to normal and accelerate away. You can also use this technique to get you through a set of curves. The more angle you can get through the corner, and the more gracefully you can do this, the more points you’ll get from any judges, even if that judge just happens to be your best friend.
Don’t stop there. As you get good at beginner level drifting, it’s time to switch to the high-performance stuff. This is where you need to start making changes to your car. To make sure you use as much counter-steer as possible, keep the front differential standard, but tighten the back differential. To get a bigger drift angle, brake before the corner and then use the throttle to get past the apex with a large angle.
Drifting With Friends
The ultimate challenge when drifting is to do it with other cars, two cars sliding through a corner at the same time. It takes a lot of nerve and guts and ability to do this. You have to carefully balance the brake and throttle, and doing it with a driver whose drift style is wildly different from yours can be nerve-wracking. However, it can be an excellent challenge.
Using PVC tires will create a fine dust as they scrape against the cement. It is advisable that you make sure your transmission is firmly sealed against small, fine dust particles to prevent problems.
Also, there are tracks which will not allow drifting. The PVC tires leave a fine dust on the track. That is why it’s a good idea to check with your track before you do any drifting.
This article had quite a few technical terms. If you are confused on what the meaning of any of them is, here is a small glossary to help.
Countersteer: Corrective steer used to balance and maintain an oversteer condition.
Dogbone: The shaft that transfers power from a transmitter’s out drive to the drive axle.
Doughnut: Causing the car to burn rubber and rotate around the front tires again and again.
Drift: To allow a car to exceed its tires’ adhesion, causing a lateral slide.
Oversteer: Causing a vehicle to over-rotate while cornering.
Best RC Drift Cars Reviewed
First on our list is the Sakura D4, which is an updated model of the D3. When you get the D4, you’ll notice that the chassis is very similar to that of the D3.
What’s interesting about the D4 is that it can support both Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) and All Wheel Drive (AWD).
A neat feature of the D4 is that it has a double wishbone suspension, which is great for drivers who are looking for increased stability and handling when drifting. The design of the D4 also gives you the ability to place the battery in the front, rear, or middle of the car. That way you have the ability to move the battery around to provide the perfect balance in your car.
The one downside to the D4 is that it doesn’t come with a body, which means you’ll have to purchase it separately. Other than that, the Sakura is definitely worth getting if you’re in the market for an RC drift car.
The Mission-D is another great RC drift car. If you’re looking for an affordable drift car, the Mission-D is worth taking a look at. This car has a locked rear axle and adjustable front ball differentials.
Another positive is the fully adjustable suspension this car has. The adjustable suspension allows you to both adjust the height and distribute the weight of the car evenly.
Keep in mind that this car uses cheap plastic for parts, although you can upgrade them to aluminum parts if you wanted to.
The HPI Sprint 2 Sport is a 4WD electric RC drift car. It has adjustable turnbuckles so that you can modify the suspension. It also has a waterproof receiver box, and comes with a transmitter. In terms of speed, I’d say this car can go up to about 30-35 mph.
What I like about HPI is that parts are easy to find, and are pretty durable. They also have a lot of upgrade options.
As an entry-level car this car is pretty good, but it might need some work in order to drive really well.
The FXX-D is a 2WD RC electric drift car. The FXX-D is another good choice for those interested in drifting. Assembly is pretty easy, and the instruction manual does a really good job of being straightforward.
You’ll find that the motor is located at the center of the axle, and powers the rear wheels (RWD). If you’re a beginner with RWD, you’re going to need to practice a bunch to be able to master it. You’ll also need a gyro to properly drift.
This drift car does not come with a body, so make sure you find one that’s about 7.5 inches (190mm). You should also consider upgrading parts to aluminum for extra reliability since many people have complained that the driveshaft has a tendency to snap. Also keep in mind that you’ll have to do some tuning for optimal performance.
Drifting may seem overwhelming at first. However, it is a lot of fun once you get into it. Start slowly, and seek help if you find you need it, and you’ll be sliding through corners in no time.