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How Does a Remote Control Car Work?

By Paul Bright ; Updated April 18, 2017

RC Fun

For those who want the thrill of driving at high speed but aren't old enough to reach the pedals, remote control cars can be extremely fun. Through a handheld controller, a child can run a remote control car in many different directions, around corners and over obstacles. Here we will explain how remote control cars work via electrical impulses and contacts.

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Sending the Signal

When the power sources are turned on, the car is ready to respond to whatever commands the remote control has sent when the controller’s electrical contacts meet. A different signal can be sent depending on the angle of the contacts and the number of pulses sent to the receiving unit in the car. For example, a forward command could send 14 pulses, while a reverse command's sequence could include 20 pulses. The handheld transmitter's design can vary anywhere from two toggle sticks, one multi-directional toggle stick or a trigger-and-dial set up. Full-control RC cars can send cars forward, reverse, forward left/right and reverse left/right. Some of the more simply designed RC cars have an automatic-forward motion that only changes direction when the transmitter commands the car to go reverse/left or reverse/right.

Receiving the Command and Wireless Options

Once the command is received, the gears in the car activate accordingly. The receiver passes the command through a circuit board that determines which battery-powered motors will drive what gears in the car. A forward-left command would probably tell the rear wheels to keep the wheels straight and forward while the front wheels would both go forward and to the left.
Although RC cars can be fun, the cumbersome wire can limit the range and mobility of the vehicle. Another option would be to use a radio-controlled car. The major difference is that radio-controlled cars are wireless. They use the same transmit-receive signal set up as RC cars, except the transmission is done over specific radio frequencies. Some models even have one controller that can operate six different vehicles at six separate frequencies.

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About the Author

Paul Bright has been writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment and mental health. He works for a mental health non-profit in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.

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