Best Upgrades for your Ready to Run Vehicle

Most of the time, buying a Radio Controlled vehicle is just the beginning of the voyage. We all seem to fall victim to upgrading these vehicles to meet three different categories:

  1. Upgrading to enhance performance (Faster, higher, louder…)
  2. Upgrading to enhance visual looks (Aluminum Orange Beadlock wheels….)
  3. Upgrading to make it personal/unique (You drive an F-150, your RC should be an F-150)

Axial SMT Custom Monster Truck

Ready to Run (RTR) or a KIT

First there’s the choice of Ready to Run (RTR) vs. a KIT (Build it yourself).

If you’re dead set on upgrading out of the gate, a KIT version is typically the best option, mostly because they usually already include upgrades, clear bodies and leave you the options to choose electronics yourself. But if your RC skill level isn’t quite to the build it, outfit it and fully setting up the electronics (or you just don’t want to), then here a few things to help you upgrade the performance of your RTR.

Best Performance Upgrades

Tires ($30-$60)best-upgrades-for-your-ready-run-vehicle-tires-proc

Typically RTR tires (KITs sometimes do not include tires) are made for that “do it all” type of traction. When that company designed the vehicle, they had no clue you wanted to run your RC in a dusty abandoned parking lot. Upgrading the tires on your RC typically will be the best “bang for your buck” upgrade of all time. Many Tire companies like Pro-Line Racing, JConcepts and AKA have specific tire compounds, tread designs and style of tires to take care of almost every RC enthusiast. Look for the best tread design and compound for where you run your RC most.

Steering Servo ($40-$100)

RTR vehicles usually have very underpowered, plastic geared and SLOW servos. Installing a new Servo can be quick and simple and great improve the handling and response of your RC. Many Servo companies like Hitec, Futaba and Savox have budget-minded servos that pack in some serious technology in a small package. Look for steel or titanium gears for durability, increased torque and a quicker response time for your RC.

Shocks ($50-120)

Most RTR vehicles skimp on suspension components like shocks and use non-threaded, plastic small-bodied shocks to take care of the bumps. Upgrading to aluminum threaded bodied shocks that have a larger capacity for dampening oil will improve the suspension, feel and response of your RC. It’s not a plug and play procedure, you will have to do a bit of experimenting with oils and springs, but it can be very rewarding. Check out you RTR manufacturer’s website for direct fit option, along with Pro-Line Racing and their PowerStroke and Pro-Spec line of shocks to fit many vehicles.

Best Visual/Bling Upgrades

Wheels ($60-170)

Yes, wheels. Now-a-days, there are hundreds of options for the newest fangled aluminum, beadlock, anodized, officially licensed wheel to give your RC that “Scale” look. Now, these heavier expensive items may not enhance the performance – since it is rotational weight, but they sure look good! Companies like Vanquish Products, Incision, RC4WD and others have many options to give your RC that killer look. Make sure and look for hex sizing, offset and whether it will fit your RC before you buy.

Lightbars / LED Lights ($20-$80)


With the advancements in LED technology, LED lightbars, and lighting kits in general have come way down in price. Although this could be a performance enhancement – driving at night, most of why we put lightbars and lights in/on our RC’s are for looks. Team Associated, Pro-Line and Vanquish Products are on the cutting edge of LED’s to the masses allowing you to plug in play these lights straight off the power in your receiver. No more splicing and dicing like I did just a few years ago!

Best Upgrades to make your RC Personal and Unique

Bodies ($25-$45)


With so many RC’s replicating our 1:1 vehicles, it’s not impossible these days to get that “mini me” version of what you drive (or what you dream about driving). Companies like JConcepts, Pro-Line Racing, Axial Racing and RC4WD have aftermarket bodies for many RTR vehicles. You can turn that RC that everyone has – you know the Lime Green one – into a custom painted (videos will be out soon) work of art! Anyone can paint an RC body – it’s easy. Pick up some Pactra paint and get painting!

Body Wraps ($45-$75)


If painting is not your thing and you want to really customize/personalize your pride and joy, Freqeskinz can make a 100% custom wrap for your RC and include an animated version of your dog, Fido on the hood! No, really, Neal at Freqeskinz can do that! If 100% custom isn’t in the budget, Freqeskinz has hundreds of stock art wraps that can fit a variety of RTR and aftermarket bodies by applying it just like a sticker pack.

So tell me what upgrades are on your list? Comment below.


  1. thanks for the awesome tips but i have a question, i have a 1/8 buggy and i cant find good shocks could you help me?

    • Hi Jean,

      Every 1/8th scale Buggy have slightly different shock lengths and mounting styles. If you were really trying to find the best universal 1/8th buggy shocks, the Tekno RC versions are quite nice and really offer the best suspension and tuning.

  2. William Martinez

    I haveLhave Losi dbxl(gas) & want to up grade steering & brake, throttle servos on a budget . What would you get on a budget? Your input would be very much appreciated

    • Hey William – I’m not the best versed on 5th scale gas…..but value wise on Servos take a look at Savox. They tend to pack some good punch for the buck.

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