comparison: Where and when to use aluminum parts

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comparison: Where and when to use aluminum parts

Post by crazydave »

I'm blown away by the # of aluminum parts coming out for all RCs now days, it's like the 80s all over again. Back in the early 90s aluminum was on it's way out, and they were doing aluminum VS plastic articles in RC Car Action. So I thought I'd share what I learned so you guys could be more informed buyers.

In general plastic is lighter, aluminum is much stronger and way cooler looking. Plastic is cheaper, aluminum can be a bit pricey.

Screws and fasteners
Screws are generally made of steel, aluminum is lighter than steel. If you compare one aluminum screw to one steel screw it might not seem like much, but if you take 30 screws and compare, you get an idea of the weight your cutting in your car. Because aluminum is not as strong as steel, aluminum screws should not be used in high stress situations. In high stress areas, titanium can be used as opposed to steel to cut weight, and increase strength.

The chassis is a good chunk of the weight of the car, and an aluminum chassis will add quite a bit of weight to the car. More weight means you will be able to carry less speed through the corners. I reccomend graphite for the chassis. It's generally lighter and stiffer than plastic.

Suspension pieces
Because many suspension arms are the weak link on many cars, particularly on the XMod, aluminum suspension arms can be beneficial for durability.

Because they are heavier, they can have their advantages and disadvantages. Advantage is on road racing on smooth surfaces. In this situation the heavier arms will make you car seem more planted, but lighter arms will react to bumps faster, so for racing on rough surfaces or off road, the lighter plastic suspension pieces will react faster, makeing any adjustments you make more noticeable, and the car will react faster.

Shocks are high wear pieces, and aluminum can be beneficial for durabilty in shocks.

Aluminum wheels are stronger and better looking, but are considerably heavier than plastic wheels. This increases rotational mass, which can wreak havok on your handling. Plus if you glue your tires, which if you're generating any kind of speed you more than likely are, it's so much easier to just dispose of the worn plastic wheel with the worn tire. Because of the expense of aluminum, you'll be trying to save your rims with every new set of tires, and that can be a bitch.

I think that just about covers it. This is not entirely from my point of view, much of this I read in RC Car Action years ago, but my experiences have confirmed these findings. Plus, obviously, this is from the point of view of the serious racer trying to shave every second off their lap times.

With that said, if your just in this to look cool, then yeah, aluminum is all advantage. Personally, I'm a sucker for shiny things.
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Post by Bird »

The whole time 219 has been shopping for parts and buying stuff for his mini t, I have been sitting there watching, trying to be the voice of reason...

Bird: "Dude... you need to leave some plastic on that suspension... maybe just the arms... but SOMETHING. Something has to give when you inevitably slam that thing into a wall at 30+ mph... Wouldn't you rather it be an inexpensive plastic piece that you can go grab at HobbyClownUSA than a high dollar, mail ordered, deanodized, mirror polished piece that we put all of this work into?"

sg219: "Fuck that, man... This is going to be the blinginest mini t on earth when I'm done... It'll be worth the expense to replace that shit if it breaks..."

So, yeah... It is all about looking cool.

If I get around to doing a mini t... it will be the antithesis of his... 85% stock chassis with select alloy pieces in the common weak spots, and absolutely no fear of messing anything pretty up.

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Post by SuperFly »

Yeah, the thing about aftermarket alloy (and other) parts is you have to be sure it's actually working better than the stock piece you replaced. I agree with most of what Dave said. I bought a used MR01 on eBay, and it had several alloy parts and suspension upgrades, in addition to a turbo. It's fast, but the extra weight creates the exact problem you mention, it can't carry the speed through a corner. Fortunately it can accelerate quite quickly, but my other mostly-stock MR01 can keep a faster continuous line.

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Post by sg219 »

As far me slamming into a wall at 30 mph, I don't think so. Unless I'm driving in a hallway!!

Open land, whether it be a parking lot or a pile of slag or dirt. I see the body taking the most abuse on my Mini-T, via flipping and sliding.

Plus, as far as weight is concerned, its not going to be that bad. The SSG chassis and other supporting parts and the aluminum for most of the moving and suspension parts, exactly where the durability, stiffness, and lightness, should be respectively.

Yes, I want the looks, but it will also be functional. The Mamba Brushless Motor I have planned will do plenty to compensate for any added ounces. I do plan on getting a set of Titanium screws to use all the way around, just haven't gotten to getting them, I know I've seen them somewhere, just don't remember where.

Oh, if I break something, isn't that just part of driving an RC car?

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Post by HirotoR34 »

I've been studying this aluminum trend closely and have come to the conclusion that much of that stuff is a waste of money. I have however, ordered a few peices (front steering knuckles, axle shafts/cups, and tie rod). The reasoning behind this is simple. I see the front end of my xmod, and the rear axle cups being a weak link. Lots of suspension and steering slop. The tight tolerances of the aluminum peices should correct this. Seeing that I've added lithiums and hopefully soon a nelly turbo, the extra torque will wreak havoc on the stock cups. Now I know that I could modify the plastic peices and get somewhat similar results, but being a bit lazy, I'd rather just buy them.
But that is the end of it. I don't need all the other peices to make my car perform. Most of that stuff is for flash (and possibly bragging rights), not to mention, I'm looking to shave weight, not add it on.
For the price of the tie rod, and the axle cups alone, I can buy VXB bearings, lithium cells, and other performance oriented peices.

And that in my opinion, is money well spent. 8-)

02/22Ok, I broke down and bought a few aluminum parts, more out of performance curiosity. I now have lithiums in my Xmod, so more power demanded stronger components. So far, the only parts I received were the axles and cups ($15 for both), and the tie rod ($5)
I have kind of changed my mind about these parts somewhat. The axles and cups fit perfect, and working with the VXB's and widetrack bearings took all the slop out of the drivetrain. I'm still waiting for the alloy rear gearbox, steering knuckles, CF front/rear decks, and complete titanium screw set.

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