Understanding RC Transmitters

Whether you've just purchased your first radio controlled vehicle or you're eager to upgrade your RC cart, gaining a deeper understanding of RC transmitters can have a telling influence on the future performance of the vehicle and future enjoyment of race days and recreational play.

It may seem like a daunting prospect, but mastering the realm of RC transmitters is a lot simpler than you might first fear. Here's all you need to know.


What is an RC Transmitter?

Whether it's an RC car, bike, boat, or drone, the fundamental control system remains the same. It will rely on the use of a transmitter, a receiver, and the communication link between the two.

The transmitter is essentially the controller that you hold when using the vehicle. It is also referred to as a radio controller or a remote controller. You then make your commands via buttons, dials, and other features and the data is sent to the receiver. The receiver itself is connected to the vehicle, and uses this information to power the vehicle and turn the wheels (or equivalent) for turning and maneuvering.

RC transmitters are, therefore, one of the most important features of any RC cart setup. They connect to the receiver via a 2.4GHz radio transmission. Once the link is made, it cannot be disrupted by external radio frequencies. 

While all transmitters provide the same function, there are noticeable differences in performance levels from one model or manufacturer to the next. Some are built for hobbyists, others are designed for racers, and others can be used to control multiple RCs through the use of multiple channels. If you want to unlock the full potential of your RC cart, the right transmitter is essential.


Upgrading RC Transmitters: When To Make A Change

Upgrading your RC transmitter is perhaps the best and most practical way to upgrade the RC driver experience. After all, there is very little point in mastering the other factors if the connection between receiver and transmitter isn't up to scratch. 

The best RC transmitters should deliver fast responses, uninterrupted connections, and the ability to control all aspects of the RC cart reliably. Therefore, the following telltale signs should encourage you to consider buying a better RC transmitter.


  • Your RC does not respond to turns and gear changes as quickly as it should.
  • The RC cart cuts out when it moves a few meters away from the transmitter due to poor coverage.
  • Additional features such as RC lights cannot be controlled by the transmitter.
  • Internal activities are disrupted by WiFi signals and other items that use a 2.4GHz frequency.
  • The type of transmitter feels restrictive in terms of performance or enjoyment.

Upgrading RC Transmitters: Key Considerations

Accepting the need to upgrade your RC transmitter is one thing, but actively doing it is another altogether. There are several key issues to consider, but the following questions should point you to a suitable solution:


  • Which Brand Is Best?

When buying your first RC, you might not care too much about the manufacturer. When upgrading the vehicle or the radio equipment, though, bigger and reputable brands that specialize in RC equipment. Sanwa, Futaba, Spektrum, Hitec, KO Propo, and Kyosho are some of the best on the market.

High-quality transmitters and receivers deliver interference-free performances. However, it should be noted that transmitters can only connect to receivers of the same brand. So, if you wish to change the transmitter brand, you'll need to do the same with your receiver.


  • Which Transmitter Type Is Best?

RC transmitters are available in two main styles. Wheel-and-trigger systems are the most common option and look like a gun with a wheel on the side. The trigger controls the throttle while the wheel is used to control the direction of movement. The self-centralizing attributes of the wheel are the main USP.

Stick controllers are less common but are perhaps better suited to older users as well as those wanting a greater level of customization. Two thumbsticks (one that goes up/down, and one that goes left/right) are supported by a range of other switches for maximum configurability.


  • How Many Channels Are Required?

Most RC transmitters will have at least two channels. Channel 1 is in control of the throttle (speed) while Channel 2 is used to control the direction (steering) of the RC. However, a third and fourth channel may be required for controlling the lights (Ch3) or a winch (Ch4), particularly on Crawlers.

It may also be deemed necessary to use an RC transmitter that utilizes model memory. This enables you to control different RC vehicles from one controller while setting unique profile settings for each cart in your arsenal. The ability to drive an RC Monster Truck and an RC Buggy from one control is cool.

In truth, there are several stunning options for each of the RC transmitters above, which is why you must research several options before committing to a purchase. After all, personal preferences in relation to dimensions and feel will play a key role in the decision-making process. Still, the ability to narrow your search will put you on the path to success.


Binding The RC Transmitter & Receiver

After finding the perfect new RC transmitter (and receiver, if required), you need to set it up. Most bundled transmitter-receiver products are pre-bound, meaning that you can plug and play. However, if you are only replacing one component, you'll need to complete the process yourself.

Firstly, you will need to ensure that both components are suitably charged and ensure that there is easy access to the receiver by lifting the lid. Following this, you'll do one of the two processes:


  • On a Syncro system, you must hold down the bind button on the binding stick until the LED of the transmitter starts to flash. Then turn the transmitter and release the bind button. If the LED lights back up, the task is complete.
  • On a Traxxas system, press and hold the red set button until the LED flashes slowly. Then you can release this and repeat the process on the receiver. When done correctly, the appropriate lights on both components will turn green.

The road to improved RC driving starts here.

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