How to Drive Your RC Tanks

Choose a tank. Realistic scale models of many different tanks are available, from the old Tigers and Shermans of World War II, to the most modern mobile armor in the world today. They range in price from around $20 (US) to several hundred, depending on the features and quality of your selection.

Find a suitable location for your outing. Firm clean ground with some contours and plenty of open space is your best choice for learning the ropes of this sport. Grass and weeds can jam the tracks of your vehicle, and soft, sandy soil will cause trouble with the gears that drive them.

Charge your batteries. This step doesn’t apply to fuel operated RC vehicles, and this topic focuses on electrically operated models. For vehicles with Ni-Cad recharged batteries, make sure the first charge is complete before disconnecting the charger. Note that some RC vehicles operate on alkaline batteries, typically AA size, but because they use a lot of power, buying rechargeable batteries in the appropriate size is recommended for these, also.

Install the battery in the remote controller. These are usually 9 volt transistor batteries, and because the power drain on the controller is relatively small, using a quality, disposable battery for this purpose is not cost prohibitive.

Set your tank in a level, open area. This will allow you to get the feel for the controls. Most tank controllers have two small joysticks for steering, and they may take a little getting used to.

Push the steering/drive controls forward slowly at the same time. The tank should begin to roll along. Operate in a straight line for a little while to get the hang of straight travel and to develop a sense of the vehicle’s speed. Many of these travel at deceptively fast speeds.

Turn the tank by pulling the joystick on the side you are turning toward back, doing so slowly to begin with. This should cause the track on turning side to travel at a slower speed than the opposite track, causing the tank to begin to turn. Pulling the stick back beyond the neutral point on the control will cause that track to counter-rotate, spinning the tank in a realistic motion. Pulling both sticks backward at the same time will cause the tank to reverse its direction of travel.

Become familiar with the other functions of your tank. Most have a rotating turret, and may have separate joysticks for turning it, or two buttons, one for clockwise, the other, counterclockwise rotation.

Check other operations your tank can perform. Some fire laser beams for playing high-tech laser tag with other RC machines, some fire plastic shells or soft air bullets. Setting targets for these guns makes the process more interesting, and increases the skill you will acquire for your hobby.

Practice climbing and circumventing obstacles with your tank. Depending on the power of the drive motors, you may be able to climb steep grades, cross very rough terrain, or sprint quickly across open areas.

Clean the tank’s tracks and gears when you are finished. Make sure all power switches are in the off position, and remove batteries so they can be recharged for the next outing.

Leave your battleground clean when you are finished. It is always preferable to leave it cleaner than you found it!


  • Keep the tank and controller clean and dry.
  • Fully charge the batteries soon after each use.
  • For battery operated vehicles that use AA batteries, invest in rechargeable ones.
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