Saturday, August 13, 2005

Whatever happened to good service?

I spent a few days in Sydney last week for work, and I thought - while I'm there, why don't I go and visit RC Hobbies? For those of you who pay attention to my blog - RC Hobbies was the only RC link that I put in my list of links. The primary reason behind that was the huge range that their website displays.

Now you would think that if a business was to advertise a particular range of items, that you would have them available, or at least be able to get them in quickly.

I had called RC Hobbies on the Monday before I left for Sydney (I flew in on Thursday morning) to order a new body, and a set of particular spares for my BStar. I was told that they didn't have the stock in at the moment, but would have them on Wednesday for me, ready for me to pick up on Thursday night. Well, Thursday night came and I was all ready to go and do some shopping, but they didn't get the stock in yet, and they would call me when it came in. It is now over a week later, and I have been the one calling them, and they still don't have the parts in yet. I decided after Wednesday this week, that I wouldn't call them again, and they would have to honour their promise of calling me - surprise, surprise, I haven't heard from them. Luckily enough, I didn't pay them any money over the phone....I hate to think how long it would take to get that back!

The only reason that I had orded the part from RC Hobbies, was that it is the most difficult Blazing star part to find. The plastic motor plate which holds the motor in is one of the first parts to wear out (yet Tamiya don't make an alloy part for it anymore? go figure?). On a whim, I decided to visit Toyworld at Springwood, which I have been told by my best mate has a great range of RC gear. I couldn't believe my luck when I glanced over the wall housing their spares, and found the exact part that I was looking for! Needless to say, I bought it straight away, and also bought some new chrome wheels, and tyres too! More on those later though..

So I have decided to never shop with RC Hobbies again (unless they decide to give me these parts for free...), and to venture to Springwood, or Hobby Station to do my RC shopping in the future. It's not hard to keep promises to customers, and if you find it that difficult, you shouldn't make the promises in the first place!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Faster than ever

While I was pulling apart the BS to paint it, I got to thinking...I'm basically having to put this car together again from scratch, and I know that I should be replacing the bearings, so what am I doing just sitting here?

The Tamiya BS comes with standard plastic 1150 bearings (16 of them), which on the whole run fairly well. I say that because I really had nothing to compare it to. So I got on the phone to hobby station to find out if they had any 1150 ball bearings in stock. I had gone to see mr toys, and I knew that they had some for $3 each, but I couldn't muster the effort to drive into the city on a weekend. Luckily enough, they had a stash of them put away, and off I went to buy them (for $2.50 each!). I also had to purchase some bearing oil, to ensure that my new investment would work at full capacity.

The bearings came in little plastic tubes, and were covered in grease. Now I had heard from a few people that one of the best ways to clean grease out, is using a product called Shellite. It just happens that on the way home from hobby station is a shell service station, so I picked up a bottle of Shellite to get cleaning.

I found that the cleaning of the bearings was fairly simple - just a quick 30 second soak in Shellite, and the bearings were ready to be oiled and fitted. Luckily I had kept the instruction manual for the BS, so I knew exactly where to look for old plastic bearings, so that they could be replaced. An hour or so later, and all the bearings were fitted, and it was ready for a test run..

Now I had expected a slight (and I do say 'slight') improvement in performance with the new bearings, but I was absolutely blown away by the improvement that I got! Although it is a bit hard to gauge the actual speed of the car running by itself, I'm sure that it is a big increase in speed. I'll have to wait until I catch up with the E-Maxx, and use him as my benchmark.

I will be sure to blog the results as they come to hand...

Silver cars go faster

Sometimes the best ideas come along when you least expect it. I was having lunch the other day with my best mate, and thought that it would look good if I got some silver enamel paint and painted the chassis of the Blazing Star. So after lunch, I popped into Big W, and got 250ml of silver acrylic enamel paint.

At home that night, I started by painting the sides of the chassis. I thought that it looked pretty good, and being someone who can't really do anything by halves, I decided to paint the rest of the chassis and parts.

Work in progress

I think that I hadn't realised what I got myself into! It took me about three days to paint two coats on each part, wait for it to dry, and then reassemble it, but it was definitely worth the wait. About a day into the process, I decided to grab my wife's hair dryer to speed up the drying process - definitely a good idea!

The finished product

As you can see, the finished product was definitely worth the time and effort put into it!

Monday, July 25, 2005

All fixed up...

So after the recent dramas surrounding the new motor for my BS, I was getting a bit frustrated with the lack of playing time, and the amount of time spent doing repairs. I had found that the screws holding the plastic plate onto the motor had gone in a little too far (well, about 3mm from my estimates), which was causing the motor to short circuit.

A quick visit to the hardware store for some spring washers during my lunch break, and a visit to the hobby store to purchase a new motor, and I was just about ready to go.

I had figured that using a couple of washers to stop the screws going in too far would do the trick. So on Saturday morning, I got the new washers, and my new motor and set about repairing the Blazing Star. One issue that I came across was getting the gear spacing right. Without having a spacer to aid the installation, it was a matter of guessing, and then adjusting, and then giving it a trial installation. After about my third or fourth attempt, I finally got it right, and got rid of the grinding sound.

Jaguar Engine and PC Nolimit ESC

One of the major advantages in getting a new electronic speed controller, apart from being able to run my car, was that I could get one that wouldn't overheat the whole motor, including the cables. As you can see from the picture, the standard cable casing is quite thin (this shot is only after running the car once, and you can just make out the casing moulding firmly around the cable). Hopefully I'll be able to do something about that - any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I have tried heat wrap around it, but I don't know if that would provide a suitable long-term solution.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Play time!

Now it's a whole lot of fun putting the car together, and modifying it, but it's not as much fun as the end result...getting to thrash the car out and about.

One of my favourite ways to take advantage of the 4wd, all terrain feature of the Blazing Star is to create jumps wherever I can. The first place that I got to try this out was on my next-door neighbours block of land. Conveniently for me, they had just levelled the land, ready to build, on the same weekend that I finished building my car. Needless to say, I needed no encouragement to head over, and see what fun I could create.

My best mate brought over his Traxxas E-Maxx, and we decided to build a jump with some leftover building materials on site. As you can see, the Blazing Star has taken to jumps, like a duck to water..


As you can see, this was in the early stages of buggy modification (old wheels, shocks) but there is still some serious height that the little guy is getting.

The weekend just gone, I took my buggy to it's mechanic to solder on the connections to the ESC. As one of the most recent modifications was the exchange of the tamiya plugs for Dean's plugs, I needed the use of a solder iron before I could keep playing. While I was there, my mate showed me a jump that he had built for his E-Maxx, out of a wooden trestle, and box to support it. So what was the first thing that I did once the soldering was done...that's right, took to the jump to see what I could do!

Serious air over the E-Maxx

We put the E-Maxx underneath the jump to add to the fun, and as you can see, it clearly made it over. I have found that home-made jumps are much easier on the car then racing tracks with jumps on them, as they seem to be less damaging to the car. But then, I have also heard that some of the best jumps can be had on bmx tracks, so guess where my next adventure will take place...

Update: After taking my motor to the mechanic at the hobby store, there was some bad news. The screws which hold the motor support in place went in a bit far (the screws are standard tamiya fit, but obviously don't work for modified motors), which caused a short in the circuit, and hence the motor has been damaged beyond control.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Where it all started...

My Blazing star (aka Allowishis)

This is my RC pride and joy. The Tamiya Blazing star in its standard kit form is a great starter car, and it allows a lot of modifications to be easily made. I've only just started the overhaul of the car, but already the differences from the standard car to where is it now are definitely noticeable.

The first change from the standard pack was the decision to spray the body a metallic purple finish - much nicer than the suggested royal blue. Only asthetics I know, but it was the start of something that I haven't been able to stop!

The next step was to improve the battery that was being used. The kit came with a standard 1900ma 6 cell battery, which only gave about 20 minutes of running time on a standard 21 turn motor. So off to Hobby Station I went to purchase a 3300ma 6 cell battery. Wow, what a difference a battery with good quality cells makes. Off the standard motor, the running time was increased to 30-35 minutes, and there was definitely more grunt in the little buggy.

Top view of my Blazing Star

Now that I was getting more run time, it was time to increase the sex appeal of the blazing star. Thankfully, my best friend, who re-introduced me to remote control cars again was happy to help. The wheels were the next participant in the blazing star makeover. The standard celica wheels which come in the kit are great, and with the standard tyres, provide good traction and control on both dirt and "on road" surfaces. The white wheels though were looking a little plain, so with the help of a can of chrome spray paint, it was time for a new look.

The obvious upgrade that follows the purchase of any standard kit is the motor. Yes, I was definitely getting great run time with the standard 21 turn motor, but a lengthy playing time isn't much fun when you can't compete with the big boys. Enter a new Peak Jaguar 17 turn motor. This simple modification to the blazing star has developed the buggy from a cool little kids car, to a grown ups RC machine. Previously, when racing my best mate's Traxxas E-Maxx, I was only ever able to view the back end of his monster truck. With the new Peak motor though, on a downhill run, he gets a pretty good view of my back shocks!

Speaking of shocks, they definitely had to be upgraded. One of the initial issues that I faced with the blazing star was how to improve the ground clearance that I got. When you have a buggy that rides as low to the ground as the BS does, it can limit the terrain that you play on. After visiting the guys at hobby station again, they helped firstly with advice on raising the shocks, and secondly with supplying me with Team Losi racing shocks (2.5" on the back, and 2.0" shocks on the front). As you can see, they definitely provide a great look to the buggy, but more importantly, the extra strength in the springs provides a much smoother ride over the rough terrain.

The Team Losi shocks, and Stadium Thunder rims and tyres.

After getting a taste of what the racing shocks can do for the ground clearance of the car, I decided that I wanted more height again! So what was I to do? After chatting to my RC mechanic, it was decided that the best thing to do would be to get bigger rims and wheels for the buggy. So off again to hobby station to see what they could do. Unfortunately they didn't have any rims suitable to raise my buggy. The staff there were kind enough to offer advice as to which rims and wheels would satisfy my need though. The rear wheels and tyres for a Stadium Thunder buggy would be exactly what I was after. As the Blazing star is a 4wd buggy though, I had to ensure that I was buying rear rims and wheels for all four axles. A quick spray of flourescent orange paint to brighten it up, and away I went.

Up close and personal...the new Stadium Thunder wheels

Unfortunately after modifying the motor, battery and wheels, the little buggy's standard electronic speed controller just couldn't handle the power output that was required. After only racing the car for a short period, it would overheat, and the temperature cutoff would kick in. Not much fun at all, I must say. That afternoon, the news that I dreaded was delivered. After spending a decent amount on new tyres, wheels and shocks, I had to buy one of the most expensive spares around....a new electronic speed controller. After shopping around on the internet for prices, and different makes and models, I settled for a PC nolimit speed controller. Although the PC nolimit ESC is an older model, it still provides all of the features that I was after, including being able to handle any type of motor, but more importantly, wouldn't overheat after five minutes!

This weekend just gone though has provided me with more work to do on the Blazing star. The motor is now overheating and smoking, and we can't work out why. It overheated to the point where the cables running from the motor to the ESC had fused together with the heat! I have left it in the hands of the trusty mechanic at the hobby store....hopefully tomorrow I'll get some good news from him (good news being that the motor is faulty, and that I'll get a new one!).