If you are here, you are probably looking for the best ways to waterproof an RC truck.
Water and electronics are a bad mix. That goes without saying. Considering there is a good number of electronic parts under the body of nearly any RC truck, it is only natural that we seek ways to protect them.
This is why the waterproofing of RC trucks is a popular topic among hobbyists.
You will find that there are many different ways you can waterproof an RC vehicle, but they are not all the same in terms of effectiveness and consequences.
In this article, I will discuss everything you need to know and understand when waterproofing your RC truck.
Do You Have to Waterproof Your RC Truck?
Waterproofing your RC truck is necessary if you are expecting to use it in a wet environment. Even light rain or small puddles of water are enough of a reason to waterproof your RC truck.
Here’s the thing.
Electronics and water do not mix, and RC trucks have several different electrical components that can easily get damaged by water.
The results can be very unpleasant. Often different parts of the RC can get fried, and you will have to replace them.
Of course, there is also a big difference between waterproof and water-resistant.
Some RC trucks can be touted as being waterproof, while others can be water-resistant. And some will be neither. On top of that, even waterproof RC trucks are not going to be 100% waterproof.
This means that all the electrical components, or at least the majority of them, should be kept away from water.
Before we continue, let me mention that you can do everything to make your RC truck as waterproof as possible; however, water may still be able to get inside some of the RC truck’s components.
This is normal.
What you can do, however, is ensure the RC truck gets the best possible protection against water.
It is recommended to go with waterproof parts whenever possible because most waterproofing methods, as you will see, usually also result in you losing the item’s warranty.
When Do You Need to Waterproof an RC Truck?
The environment and atmospheric conditions are the number one reason why you may need to waterproof an RC truck.
If you will be driving your RC truck in rain and snow or if you plan on going through some puddles of water, ice, small streams, or even mud, then you need to protect your RC truck from water damage by waterproofing it.
Keep in mind that salt water is extremely corrosive to metals. And if there is a chance your RC truck will get in contact with salt water, then it is even more important to ensure it has been adequately protected.
What Parts of the RC Truck Need to Be Waterproofed?
The main parts that need to be waterproofed are:
- The ESC
- The servo
- The receiver
- The battery
Getting any of these parts wet is a recipe for trouble, and they should be kept as dry as possible.
Some parts of an RC truck don’t need to be waterproofed, per se. For example, the chassis, the tires, the suspension, shocks, arms, the body, and the wing, are all parts that will be constantly exposed to the environment and the elements. They don’t necessarily need anything more than some routine maintenance, lubing, and cleaning.
However, other parts of your RC truck also deserve some attention when it comes to water exposure. They are:
- The transmission
- The driveshaft
- The bearings
- The differential
RC Truck Waterproofing Methods and Products
There are several different methods for waterproofing RC vehicles. On top of that, there are different products that the different hobbyists use.
These methods and products all have their pros and cons.
Some will offer better long-term protection, while others may be a good short-term solution but could easily lead to overheating of some electronics.
So let’s take a look.
The Balloon Method
The balloon method is an old school method that has been, and still is, used by some hobbyists to waterproof the electrical parts of their RC trucks.
It is often used for waterproofing the ESC or the receiver.
What you do is grab a balloon, place the ESC or receiver inside, and seal it. You can use different products to seal the balloon’s opening, like PlastiDip, GummiDip, FlexPaint, or LeakSeal.
Using the balloon method also means that you will have to use some zip ties or rubber rings to keep the electrical component in place as you will not be able to use the mounting screws.
The advantage of the balloon method is that it is super easy to do. The balloon can later be quickly and easily removed once you don’t need it. However, when used to waterproof an ESC, it can quickly lead to it overheating due to the zero air circulation.
Because of this, typically, it is used on low powered RC trucks. In those cases, they can be run for at least 15 to 20 minutes without any problems.
- Super easy to do and remove
- Less likely to lose parts warranty
- High risk of overheating
- Not visually appealing
- Components are difficult to secure on to the frame
The Two-Part Epoxy Method
Using epoxy glue is a little more complicated than simply putting a few electrical components in a balloon.
However, the epoxy can be used to cover and seal the circuit boards of the ESC and receiver without that causing them to overheat.
The downside of using epoxy glue is that this is a permanent solution as it is not easy to remove.
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On top of that, you will be opening the different electrical components in order to reach the circuit boards—this will result in losing any warranty they may have.
- Lower risk of overheating
- Suitable for powerful RC trucks
- It cannot be removed easily
- This will result in a voided warranty
PlastiDip is another popular product many people use to waterproof their RC trucks.
PlastiDip is reminiscent of a rubber coating that, as it dries, will seal the electrical parts of the RC vehicle.
The PlastiDip method is used primarily on the ESC’s, servo’s and receiver’s circuit boards. Their circuit boards are either dipped or sprayed with PlastiDip, which seals them and protects them from moisture.
You can check PlastiDips price here on Amazon.
However, there are some reports that PlastiDip can possibly damage a circuit board. In addition to that, it can take up to 10 hours to dry thoroughly.
- Easy to apply
- Quick and effective
- Hard to remove
- It takes time to dry
- Warranty is lost
- May possibly damage some circuit boards
Liquid Electrical Tape
Liquid electrical tape (LET) can also be used for waterproofing electrical components. However, one of the problems with liquid tape is that it is very messy and hard to apply evenly.
Liquid tape like this one by Gardner Bender on Amazon is cheap and will last you a long time.
- Hard to spread out evenly
- Not a see-through
- It can become hard to remove over time
Hot Glue Gun
You can also use a hot glue gun to waterproof electrical components. Although this may not be the best method, you can use it successfully, and it is an inexpensive and easy method of waterproofing the ESC, receiver, and servo circuit boards.
The neat thing is that you don’t need anything expensive. You can use a cheap hot glue gun like this one on Amazon; it comes with plenty of glue sticks, and it is ready to use out of the box.
- Easy to do
- Not visually appealing
- You will lose the warranty
Nail polish is another quick and easy way to waterproof your RC truck. You can use it to seal the ESC’s, servos’s and receiver’s circuit boards. And nail polish has not been shown to affect the circuit boards negatively in any way.
- Quick and easy application
- Clean look
- It takes some time to dry
- You will lose the warranty of the parts
Arguably one of the best ways to waterproof your RC truck is by using conformal coating.
Conformal coating can be used on the circuit boards of the ESC, servo, and receiver. Again you will need to access the circuit boards and cover them with the conformal coating, which means you will lose the warranty of said parts.
There are a few different types of conformal coating. All of them are good for waterproofing your RC vehicle, and the most commonly used are the acrylic, silicone, and urethane conformal coating.
Acrylic conformal coating is easier to remove, clean, and reapply if needed.
Silicone conformal coating, on the other hand, is more difficult to clean and remove. Thus, acrylic conformal coating like this one by MG Chemicals on Amazon is usually the one most hobbyists use.
Urethane conformal coating like this one by MG Chemicals on Amazon is another excellent choice; it is easy to apply, and it can be removed with a solvent.
Most hobbyists usually do 2 to 3 layers of conformal coating while giving them 20 to 30 minutes to dry between each application.
- Easy application
- Low risk of overheating
- Clean look
- A cheap and easy method
- It can be removed with a solvent
- No stickiness
- Easy soldering and resoldering
- Dries quickly
- You will lose the parts’ warranty
Here’s another old-school method—using wax to waterproof the electronics of your RC truck. Of course, this is not recommended to do on expensive and high powered RC models simply because it is a messy method that should be reserved for cheaper RC trucks only.
Make sure to use an unscented wax candle because the scented ones have oils that can damage the circuit board.
Light the candle and simply drip the wax onto the circuit board of the ESC or receiver while ensuring they are evenly covered.
The advantage is that you can easily remove the wax once you do not need it or from areas of the circuit boards that you don’t want to be sealed.
Part of the reason why wax is good on toy-grade RC trucks is that on higher-powered models (mainly due to the higher temperatures generated by their electrical components), wax can melt.
- Super inexpensive
- Easy to apply and remove
- Not visually appealing
- It should be used on cheaper toy-grade models
- Wax can melt if subjected to higher temperatures
Marine grease like this one by QuickSilver on Amazon is an excellent product that can be used on moving parts like your bearings, bushings, and gears to provide lubrication and protection against water.
- Ideal for moving parts
WD-40 is, as the name suggests, a water displacement formula. However, it is not supposed to be a waterproofing agent. Because of its ingredients, WD-40 also tends to leave a residue once it dries, which can cause some problems like gunking up the circuit boards, electrical motors, and bearings.
What this means is WD-40 may be useful in a pinch. However, as it stands after a while, WD-40 will dry and evaporate, meaning you will need to either apply more WD-40 or find a better way of waterproofing your electronics.
Although people have been using it fairly successfully, there is no guarantee for how long it can provide acceptable water displacement capabilities and whether it will not damage the electrical components.
- Short-term solution
- May damage some circuit boards and electronics
How to Waterproof an RC Truck
In order to waterproof an RC truck, you need to:
- Waterproof the ESC, receiver, and servo
- Waterproof all the bearings and bushings
- Waterproof the RC truck’s battery
- Waterproof the electrical connections and connectors
- Keep the motor clean and lubed
Now let’s take a more detailed look at how to waterproof all parts of an RC truck, what are the best methods to do it.
How to Waterproof the ESC
The ESC is possibly the most important component that needs to be waterproofed.
ESCs are usually one of the components that break the most from water.
Check your ESC. Many of the more expensive modes can already be waterproof. If that is the case, there should be a label on the ESC stating that. If not, you are probably dealing with an ESC that is not waterproof.
One of the problems with waterproofing an ESC is that while you want to protect it from water, you also want to ensure it doesn’t overheat.
On some of the low powered RC trucks, you can cover the ESC with a small plastic bag or even a balloon, and while the risks of it overheating are low as long as you do not push your RC truck too much, on more powerful RC vehicles, you will quickly run into some temperature issues.
In any case, to waterproof an ESC, you need to access its circuit board.
Open the case of the ESC. One of the best ways to waterproof an ESC is by using conformal coating, but PlastiDip, glue epoxy, hot glue, nail polish can also be used. You can also use the balloon and wax methods on low powered ESCs.
Check out my related post: How To Tell If Your ESC Is Bad
The important thing with ESCs is that you should never cover the heat sink and the programmable button. The heat sink is used to dissipate the heat generated by the ESC, and if it is sealed, there is a high risk of the ESC overheating.
If you are going to be using a more powerful ESC, it is recommended to go with one that comes waterproofed from the factory.
How to Waterproof the Servo
The rule of thumb is always to buy waterproof servos when possible.
But, the thing is, waterproof servos are not exactly cheap as they can cost between $50 and $100 depending on where you get them from.
The good news is that cheaper servos can also be waterproofed relatively easily.
First, you want to waterproof the servo’s circuit board.
Unscrew the servo’s bottom case cover to access the servo’s circuit board and proceed to waterproof it. You can use conformal coating, liquid tape, or even nail polish to seal the circuit board. Let it dry and close the bottom cap.
Next, open the top of the case where the gears are. As you open it, be careful not to displace any of the gears.
What you can do here is place a small rubber o-ring on the top servo gear where the horn goes (if it doesn’t already have one) to prevent water from seeping in around the gear. Next, apply a thin layer of Marine grease on the gears and spread it evenly.
Close the servo and proceed to cover the seams of the case with PlastiDip or silicone sealant to seal the servo completely. However, ensure the heat sinks are not sealed as otherwise, the servo can overheat. The PlastiDip and silicone are ideal in this case as you can easily remove them later.
How to Waterproof the Receiver
Many hobbyists may not realize that even if their RC truck is touted as waterproof, it may not actually be 100% waterproof. Here’s what I mean. Although the ESC, servo, motor, and batteries may be waterproofed, often, the receiver will not be.
This is why it is recommended to inspect the receiver and receiver’s box regardless of what RC truck you have.
Sometimes manufacturers may consider the fact that the receiver is placed in a receiver’s box to be enough of protection against water splashes and rain. However, water may still be able to get inside and potentially damage the receiver.
There are a few things you need to do to waterproof your receiver.
Unscrew the receiver’s case, open it (receivers usually have a few tabs on the side that keep the case closed, too), and take the receiver’s circuit board out.
While opening the receiver, be careful not to scratch the circuit board or damage any of the pins, the antenna, or break any of the tabs on the case.
You can use conformal coating to waterproof your receiver. (However, PlastiDip, hot glue, epoxy glue, or nail polish can also be used.)
Apply a thin layer of the conformal coating across the whole bottom part of the receiver. Allow it to dry completely, and then apply a thin layer of the coating on the circuit board’s top part.
However, do not cover the reset button and the connector pins. You can use masking tape to cover the pins and the reset button to protect them and keep them clean.
If you are using PlastiDip, you should also consider not covering the LED status light. Covering the LED light or the reset button can prevent you from operating the receiver later.
Let some conformal coating drip underneath the connector pins bed box and the circuit board while ensuring the contact pins remain as clean as possible.
Leave the receiver to dry thoroughly and close the case. You can again apply a little PlastiDip around the seams of the plastic case if you wish.
How to Waterproof the Electric Motor
Electric motors cannot really be waterproofed, but they also don’t have to be.
Here’s the thing.
One of the ways people break in some electrical motors is by submerging them underwater and running them for a few minutes.
So water will not necessarily destroy an electrical motor.
What can damage the electrical motor, however, is poor maintenance and care.
After each run, you should run the motor through some clean water, use compressed air to dry it, and lube the bearings and the bushings.
Removing all the dirt, sand, and crud from the inside of the motor while keeping the bushing and bearing clean and properly lubed will prevent gunk build-up and corrosion.
Of course, it is important to use the right type of electrical motor. Usually, non-rebuildable brushed motors are best for this application as they handle water really well, and, on top of that, they are also very cheap.
You can use rebuildable brushed motors, too. You still have to take them apart, clean, dry, and lube them. However, the problem with these is that the brushes tend to wear out faster.
Sensored brushless motors, on the other hand, should not be used in a wet environment because the water can damage the sensors, preventing them from operating properly.
Sensorless brushless motors can be used in a wet environment. However, just like brushed motors, they need to be properly cleaned, dried, and lubricated after each run.
How to Waterproof the RC Battery
Although NiMH batteries don’t necessarily need to be waterproofed, LiPos can actually short if water gets inside the hard case as there are parts inside that can wear out and corrode over time.
To waterproof your RC LiPo battery, cover the case seams with a layer of silicone sealant. Do not forget to put some around the wire terminals, too. A clear silicone sealant like this one by Gorilla on Amazon can be used.
However, other sealants like PlastiDip or conformal coating can also provide good results.
It is not necessary to cover the whole battery as this can cause it to overheat.
Do not store your batteries wet. Make sure to always dry them thoroughly before putting the vehicle away, and if you are often driving in a wet environment, consider purchasing waterproof batteries.
How to Waterproof the Electrical Connections
To waterproof your electrical connections and dean and tab connectors, you can use a little dielectric grease. Apply some grease to the connectors and then connect them again.
Make sure to reapply the dielectric grease every once in a while as it can start to wash away over time.
How to Waterproof the Gears, Bearings, and Bushings
With time water and dirt will make their way inside the bearings and bushings, slowly wearing them out, introducing corrosion and rust.
Bearings and bushings can be found on the motor, axels, wheels, differential, and driveshaft. And applying a little dab of marine grease on them and working it in can work wonders in extending the life of your bearings and bushing.
If the bearings are worn out and are getting a little wobbly, it is recommended to change them. Consider using dual rubber sealed bearings as they will have better protection against water.
The transmission should also not be neglected.
Water can get inside the transmission and cause rust development around the gears. It is recommended to grease the transmission gears using a little Marine grease, too.
Ensure the grease is evenly spread all around the gears (as they too have bearings), and do not use excessive amounts of grease as it can cause binding.
How to Waterproof the RC Winch
If your RC truck has a winch, you may also be wondering how to waterproof your RC truck’s winch.
RC winches usually have a brushed motor that does not need to be waterproofed as it can work even when submerged underwater. However, you should waterproof the circuit board connected to the winch; you can do that by covering it with PlastiDip or conformal coating.