How, When, and What to Upgrade on your new or existing Rock Crawlers a story by Veteran Team Drivers, Randy & Tristen Williams.
When purchasing a new RC crawler, people will generally start thinking about what to upgrade. New folks to the hobby may not immediately start thinking upgrade, however, it isn't long before they realize the rig doesn't preform quite like they expected. Most forums, and social media pages, can offer a plethora of ideas or opinions on what should be first on the list of upgrades. One of the first things we were told to upgrade as newcomers was the stock links. Indeed they were found wanting, acting like wet spaghetti noodles when urged to crawl over a rock. In addition to the links are motors, Servos, BEC, Driveshafts, Chubs, Knuckles, axles, axle housings, and the list goes on.
A year ago I purchased a Gmade Komodo kit. It had a rather new stylish looking body with all the kit to boot. With it being a kit itself I knew I could skip the "upgrade" portion of the build and just install items that I knew would work right off. However, something mean and nasty squashed my dreams of being able to splurge on this build, Responsibility. Yes, the dreaded word that threatens to, one day cause us all to part with our tiny wheeled trucks and get on with paying the light bill. So, I had to continue with the build knowing that the lights must stay on, at least until the battery was charged. I had several miscellaneous electronic parts lying in "the drawer" to put in the kit to get it rolling. Unfortunately, once the truck was built and after a few runs with it I noticed that it didn't preform as expected. Fortunately, it wasn't my hand me down electronics causing the truck to be a total disappointment. During a competition the truck preformed beyond my expectations. It drove exceedingly well, and quiet, until the plastic bumper hung up on a rock. Once that obstacle was cleared the rear bumper caught the same rock and there it sat spinning its wheels supported by the bumpers, both front and rear.
I didn't finish that course. I was disappointed, not in the truck, but in myself for overlooking something. One thing that is universal among rock crawlers is the need for clearance in front and rear of the vehicle. The approach angle and departure angle. The stock bumpers were plactic, looked great, and were attached to the body. The bad thing was, they hang low in front of the tires in front and low behind the tires in the rear. So emails were sent, a little discussion back and fourth, and after a very short wait we had trail armor. Problem fixed, the truck runs great and I often find myself grabbing the radio to the Komodo first thing when we go out. It is so much fun to drive now that the hang ups are resolved.
The point is, out of all the upgrades available on the market today, very few could change the performance of the crawler like the trail armor did. It all depends on the rig of course, but trail armor should be on top of that list of upgrades. If your rigs tires can't get to the rocks than all the other little mechanical bits can't do their jobs.